Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Atheism, Parenting, Karate

"Your boy is pretty smart," I looked up from my magazine with a raised eyebrow. I was at the dojo (karate studio) and waiting for my son, Will.

The Sensei (karate teacher) is a big guy. Height wise we measure up but be has - what do you call it - oh yeah muscle. Lot's of muscle.

"Thanks, what did he do?

"We were practicing his wrestling..."

STOP! I am going to bring all of us up to speed on the style of karate Will takes. As any fan of mixed martial arts or grade B martial arts movies knows there are many "flavors" of fighting. A buddy of mine is a  brown belt in Tae Kwon Do which is a great style of fighting as long as you stay on your feet. If somebody tackles him, he's like a turtle on its back (OK not that bad but you get the picture). Will takes Tama and it incorporates the traditional kicks and punches as well as jiu-jitsu moves (what to do if you are fighting on the ground).

Back to what the Sensei was saying.

"and he had another student mounted (quick definition of the mount: remember the time that bully sat on your chest? He was in the mount. You? You were screwed. The moral is don't get mounted.) and Will turned to me and asked, "Is this where I hit him a lot?""

Hmmm... you all may find this surprising, but I feel conflicted quite a bit... about everything (most everything). Was I happy that Will was in the mount to begin with? Yes. Am I happy that Will had the common sense to ask the Sensei if it was OK to let the punches fly before letting loose with the aforementioned punches? Yes, very much so. Was I happy that Will lives in a world (he's only 8) where he needs to know that one launches a flurry of punches when he is in the mount? No. No I am not.

The Sensei continued, "I told him not to punch the other kid. Right now he should focus on staying on top while the other student tries to get out from the bottom. He did a good job today."

"Thanks," I replied.

See, I bet you're wondering to yourself, "What does this have to do with Atheism? The title of the post is Atheism, Parenting, and Karate and I've spent quite some time now reading about your boy not hitting another kid."

Fear not, here is the rub.

Acting in a moral manner requires several skills and one of them is not breaking the, Screw It! Barrier. You may not have heard the term, but we all know what the Screw It! Barrier is. It's when a person is so frustrated,  angry, or drunk that they say, "Screw it!" and do something stupid. Sometimes it's violent and stupid, other times it's self-injurious and stupid. The common thread here is stupid. The Screw It Barrier can also be breached when a person is afraid and not in control of themselves. Karate is a discipline where fear is taught to be managed. A person who feels confident and sure of themselves has less to prove (in that monkey-like testosterone way) and less likely to get into a fight.

The US Justice Department publishes a Child Delinquency bulletin (click here to see it). In it are listed risk factors that can predispose a child to delinquency (fighting, stealing, etc.). Amongst those factors listed are not connecting with the community that they live in as well as falling in with the wrong crowd. Will's karate school offers a way that he can be involved  in a positive social environment as well as being learning to defend himself.

What else can you ask for...

in Purgatory.


  1. From experience, i would say that martial arts (and most kinds of disciplined physical exercise) are great for the development of a kind of "relaxed confidence" that makes it way easier to be a good person, at any age... A nice link between morals & physical there guy!

    i like the concept of the "Screw It! Barrier", break it once and you may pay loong time... Thanks for the introduction :)

    Would you consider leaving the dojo if the sensei condones full-flurry punches at any stage?

  2. Thanks for the comment!

    I would definitely take my boy out if there was full contact/full force contact. At this age sparring is done very lightly and in full gear (head, chest, hands and feet protection).

    As a side note I work with men who have brain injuries and I am very aware what happens when the brain gets knocked around... very bad things.

    Thanks again.


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