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Martial Arts Mama

Earlier this week I was chatting with one of the other moms at pickup. She had been at last week's Learning Leaders training session (if you are not sure what I am talking about read this and she wanted me to know that she agreed with me. She also said I was "different from the normal tone of this country" when it comes to parenting.

I took that as a compliment. But in truth, I do not think my parenting views are all that radical. I just don't believe in frivolous lawsuits. I don't believe that there is a bad guy lurking at every corner waiting to abduct my child. I believe in common sense safety and street smarts. I believe in letting my child make her own choices, and yes, her own mistakes. But I also believe in rules, and respect. I believe in chores. I believe in consistent bedtimes. I believe in kindness above all, but I still want her to work hard to do her absolute best at everything. I guess what I am is pretty moderate, but it is just not the norm for where I live, here in NYC where testing four year olds is considered normal and ice cream trucks are the minions of Lucifer.

The truth is, a lot of the way I parent comes from the way I train. 

People often wonder what it is like to raise a child in the martial arts world. Whether I feel weird about letting my child see people punch and kick and choke each other on a regular basis. Whether I ever worry that she is going to get the wrong idea. Whether I am some kind of control freak, insisting that she do everything according to a specific code. No. No. And Yes. It just isn't quite the code you think.

Here are some things I have learned as a martial arts mama. Consider it a summary of my entire blogging existence.  So, if you know me well, or you have been reading my blog forever, feel free to skip this one. Really, I'll forgive you.

By the way, I am still learning. Every single day.

1. You can't stop every punch from hitting you. And really, why would you want to? The getting hit part sucks, but it is how you learn how to block. I will not raise my child to fear the world in which she lives, I just won't. But I will teach her what danger looks like. Despite the fact that I know it is a losing battle, I will try my damnedest to raise a teenager who does not walk around with her face in her smartphone and her ears in her I-pod. I will teach her how to say no, loudly. I will teach her how to fight back when she needs to. I will do all of these things and then I will send her out into the world and hope for the best. To do any less would be unacceptable. 

2. Winning is fun but you learn more from losing.  So get out there and compete. Not for a trophy but for the pride that comes with accepting a challenge and doing your very best, win or lose. Also, guess what, you aren't good at everything. In fact, sometimes you suck. And that is ok too. Just keep trying. And the scary stuff? That's the most important stuff to do. 

3. S--t happens. Sometimes accidents occur because the other guy was going too hard. Sometimes they are your fault. But sometimes they are just accidents. Grab an ice pack and move on. 

4. Sparring is useful but fighting is stupidIn some ways raising a kid in a dojo is like raising a kid in a house with a gun. From an early age you have to explain how it works, instill the rules, make it perfectly clear that it is a deadly weapon, one which you are never ever allowed to play around with. I punish Maya severely any time she swings her fist in anger, more so perhaps then another parent would. She gets a time out for every hit, no matter if it hurts or not. She is allowed to play fight but the minute her face changes in the slightest the game is over. In other words, there is a zero tolerance policy for a loss of self control. And I extend that to the rest of the world too. A normal person who gets drunk in a bar and punches someone is an idiot. A martial artist who does so should be ashamed of himself.

5. But not all violence is bad. I respect pacifists, I do. But if you told that boy in the playground over and over to stop chasing you and he didn't listen and is now gleefully holding you by the arms and won't let you go, hit him. Its ok by me.

6. We're all in this together. When you and I are sparring together we are partners. It is my job to keep you safe and vise versa. This attitude extends to everyone in the room. If we are all working as a team, everyone's game improves. Anyone who is just in it for themselves brings the whole group down. Parenting should be like this. Sometimes it is f--king hard! Sometimes it feels like you are stuck under a two hundred pound dude and he is cutting off all of your air with his leg. (Or maybe it is just that a two hundred pound dude is trying to choke me with his leg.) In any case, who cares if you didn't turn your boobs into your baby's own personal grocery store. Your kid screams, my kid screams. Why not work together to shut them both up?

7. No one cares what you look like. Really. Everyone is so busy trying to not get knocked out themselves. So drop the act and just admit that you spent the night on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and Abby Lee Miller. I did.

There's more. So much more. I could write a book. I should write a book. I am working on it. But for now, I will leave you with this:

As a karate mama I have to be even more careful to teach my daughter the right message. She is going to see punching and kicking all of her life. But I love the fact she sees her mom doing pushups on her knuckles, sweating hard, being active. She will grow up around people who for the most part eat healthy and who view exercise as a joy rather than a chore to struggle through. This is a huge gift to give to a young girl and I am proud to be that mom. But I am in no way perfect. For as many things that I do well, there are a million "bad mommy" moments.

But I am proud of my daughter, of who she is, sass-mouth and all. She is smart, compassionate and confident. Like all parents, I do not know how much of her successes are due to something we did right, and how many are lucky breaks.  Perhaps she was just born that way. But I would like to think that she will succeed in life not in spite of the dojo environment she has been around since birth, but because of it.

It has been good to me so far.


  1. Martial Arts is just like any other sports that run the risks for the players of getting physically hurt, especially when they failed to follow proper movements and rules. Maybe, you can invite your Dad to watch Martial Arts movies with you, and convince him to let you continue with your classes.

    Hugh Motz


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