Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Martial Arts For Disadvantaged Youth?
Has anyone else recieved an e-mail like this? Boy, what an opportunity!
I am a senior at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington and have
recently been presented with the opportunity to receive a $25,000
fellowship to research a topic of sociological importance abroad. My
interest lies in the ability of martial arts to improve the quality of
life of individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Very little real
anthropological research has been done on the subject, and I would like
to explore martial arts from an academic viewpoint. I'd focus on
questions like: Does training in martial arts produce positive social
outcomes? Does training produce dedicated and respectful individuals?
And when does training fail- effectively arming the student with
dangerous technique but no sense of restraint?
The project is quite vague at this point, but what are your opinions?
When is training a good thing, and when is it not? How should the
philosophies to martial arts be imparted? And lastly, where would you
go in the world to study the interactions of martial arts and culture?
Right now, I'm thinking Brazil and Israel for Capoeira and Krav Maga.
Any advice you might have would be greatly appreciated. My deepest
respect for your arts,
And my response:
I would loved to have recieved such a grant, what an opportunity.
The martial arts are historicaly filled with stories of wayward youth that have found focus and a sense of self through guidence and training.
My feeling is that many aimless youth are ready to fall into lockstep with anything that represents family to them, replacing troubled relationships with actual family members. This can obviously lead to criminal elements and an unmotivated life.
The other aspect of this is that troubled kids are often picked on by others. Some may join gangs for protection.
While not a complete family, the martial arts Dojo may provide elements that disaffected youth may be drawn to in a respectful and healthy way. While the instructor may not (and perhaps should not) be seen as a father figure, he (or she) may be thought of as a big brother/sister/uncle. This places a great deal of responsability on the instructor, who is already dealing with many levels of human interaction. Much must be assessed about the character of the youth. Nobody should teach a bully how to be a better bully. The instructor must also have clear communication with the youth's parents, even if the parent/child relationship is problematic.
With dicipline, guidence and trust, a troubled youth may indeed find a sense of self, gain confidence and develop relationships with people outside his or her normal circle of family or friends. These may include unrelated adults, who have no familial expectations of the youth other than behaving in a socially responsable matter with the rest of the group.
These are valuable life skills that go beyond mere fighting or self defense ability.
As far as my training, I fought hard in tournaments ages 19-28, fought in my last tournament at 38, won my division and have no further need for tournament fighting. I was 2nd Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and went on to get my 3d Dan in Kenpo, studied two years of Aikido and now mostly persue the Chinese Internal Arts of Tai Chi and Bagua. If I had the opportunity, I would go to China and Taiwan to study those arts.
I am very interested in your project, please keep me updated and let me know if there are any other questions you have.
Good Luck, John at Dojo Rat
If anybody has any other thoughts or Ideas, you can leave them in the comments section, and I will foward Curt the link for this post.