Shoka Magazine – It’s a Wild World, Karen! Thanks in part to you.

Sensei Smilling 

Marty Callahan

8th Degree Black Belt

“Ooh baby baby, it’s a wild world It’s hard to get by just upon a smile. You know I’ve seen a lot of what  the world can do, and it’s breaking my heart in two because I never want to see you sad girl.” -Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens, British singer-songwriter

Karens, if you don’t know, are generally middle-aged white women who use their privilege as a weapon  to belittle others who they deem are not living up to their expectations. She’s often entitled, ignorant and  racist. A 9-year-old black girl was reported to the police as a suspicious person putting her at risk as she  worked to eradicate her town of invasive insects. A neighbor called the police on a mom for allowing her

under 12 aged child to walk to school alone. She’s now looking at jail time. These are often minor or  even fictitious infringements on social conventions, but they can have serious and life changing impacts  on the person who is being reported on. Well, I just had a mother tell me that I abuse children. I  understand how a person unfamiliar with what we do may think that training a child in the martial arts is  abuse. But, why don’t they ask questions and try to understand.

The highest purpose of our art is to develop character. And we use the platform of Shotokan Karate, an  Art of Self Defense, to do it. I’m not sure what that mother was thinking. There is nothing sweet and  cuddly about defending yourself when your life is in danger. Some kids are highly aggressive from birth,  other kids are gentle and caring. The only way these aggressive kids are going to be able to function in a  free society is if they learn self-control. Which can be done and is best done early. If you wait until the  child is a pre-teen or older, you’re going to have a much harder time. Studies show that kids who don’t  learn self-control, turn into adults with poor health, suffer from substance abuse, have financial troubles  and who have a criminal record by the time they reach age 32. To avoid this future these kids, need a  strong, competent, and compassionate teacher.

The student-teacher relationship with the wild child often begins with the child challenging the teacher to combat. You see this portrayed in movies all the time where the young warrior challenges the master to a  duel. In these portrayals if the master deems the young challenger worthy, he will accept the challenge  and proceed to defeat the challenger without seriously hurting them. When this happens, the student  recognizes defeat and that they have something they can learn from the teacher. This process is very  exciting for the wild child. We use foam noodles, leg sweeps, kicks, throws, take downs, holds, chokes,  etc. to playfully overpower the child. If the child isn’t enjoying it, we don’t do it. The teacher has to win the  child over with play. To the overprotective parent this can look and sound like abuse, but to the child, it is  great fun. This is a scenario that has been played out in thousands of martial art settings over hundreds  of years in cultures all around the world.

So, to the mother who thinks what we do is child abuse I would say study warriors. Study who they are  and how they are trained. Study character development. Study personality traits. Then when you know  more of what you’re talking about come back to us and we’ll see if we can help your child. And, just to  avoid any further misunderstanding, we only do this with highly aggressive kids, not the sweet ones.

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