Martial arts enjoy summer surge, but instructors caution parentsPark Eun-jeong, a 34-year-old mother living in northern Seoul, began sending her 14-year-old daughter, Sae-rom, to a judo gymnasium this summer.
“I guess I was afraid to send her to school without knowing that she knew one or two ways to defend herself,” she said. “You hear all these stories about classroom violence and how physically weak children are ostracized. Since she started attending the gymnasium, she has gained more confidence and is more healthy, so I feel much relieved.”
Ms. Park is just one of many mothers who are sending their young ones to study martial arts during summer vacation. Taekwondo, judo, fencing, hapkido and other self-defense arts are the most popular ones. Specialists say that martial arts are best for children older than 11, since physical contact is involved and there is the possibility that joints may be injured while exercising.
“In the lower grades of elementary school, it is better to do sports that don’t have a lot of direct physical contact,” said Yoon Young-kil, a professor at Seoul National University’s sports science center.
But physical exercise is not the only advantage of martial arts classes for children. By taking such classes, children can gain self-confidence, make friends and become more coordinated.
Before 13-year-old Dong-guk first began taekwondo, he could hardly eat in the presence of others because of his shy personality. Now, he gets along well with his friends. “Now he feels better about himself and doesn’t have that complex,” said Dong-guk’s mother, Kim Min-nyu, 43.
Because martial arts involves action, however, parents are concerned that their kids may become more aggressive. Although specialists say that there are no studies yet that show participation in martial arts makes children more violent, many parents take turns staying around the gymnasium and looking out for any suspicious behavior.
Martial arts instructors appreciate parents’ concern, but are worried that they set expectations too high for their children.
“It is impossible to work on something for a short time and hope to see some sort of result,” said Lee Kwang-hee, director of the Seoul Dobong Judo Gymnasium. “Parents should not expect their children to pass some sort of martial arts course during a short vacation period but use that period to motivate the child to continue sports.”
by Ahn Seong-sik