In Karate There Is No Bench

By Sensei Dave Hanson

The wonderful thing in karate is that there is no bench.  In karate, with the right instructor, everyone gets an opportunity to shine.  Kids are like flowers and they need constant water and sunshine to grow, otherwise they will wilt under the weight of discouragement.  What can be more discouraging than working your heart out in practice and doing your very best just to be put on the bench by the coach with never a chance to play in the game.  The bench is a statement that shouts out to the child and all his peers, “You’re not good enough!” This happens at one of the most fragile times in a young persons development.  They need that encouragement and the affirmation that they are valuable and have something to contribute.

Karate offers an avenue for kids who are forced on the bench in other sports to play right along side the “star players” and when you get an opportunity to play you naturally improve.  One of the problems with competitive youth sports today is that the coaches don’t allow failure.  The first mistake a child makes and they can be on the bench.  Sometimes it can be even worse with a coach who they look up to that may humiliate them and reprimand them in front of the rest of the team.  In karate you perform up to your potential and not up to the expectations of a coach.  Students are not judged based on the performance of their talent, but on their individual potential, their character and their hard work.  They have the opportunity to fail, with out failure being fatal.   Fatal to their confidence and their opportunity to continue to participate and improve.

Many parents are under the assumption that if they choose a team sport like football, baseball, valley ball or the many other options available to parents today that it will give their child a chance to be a star and one day earn college scholarships.  Unfortunately that dream is greatly over rated.  Out of all the kids who earn a scholarship for their sport, there are thousands who do not.  Karate in contrast may not give students the opportunity to earn scholarships, but it does help them gain something far greater. At our school, Dave Hanson’s Gateway Karate, students in karate gain the life skills that are required to succeed inside and outside of the dojo.  Skills like self-discipline, confidence, loyalty, honesty and persistence.  We develop their character by helping them to own and master these and many other traits.  It has been said that character is the some total of a person, which includes their beliefs and values.  These beliefs and values are developed at the dojo and reinforced by teachers who are models of character. Sure these skills may not earn a student a scholarship, but they are attributes that will benefit them the rest of their life. You combine that with the hard work ethic they learn in the dojo and they can definitely apply these skills to be successful academically too.

In addition to these many benefits of children participating in karate, we cannot forget about the self-defense skills.  In an ever increasing dangerous world, learning practical self-defense is a valuable asset at any age and especially for children.  When I speak of self-defense I am not just talking about learning how to punch and block, but more so how to use common sense and develop a spirit of confidence to defend one’s self and not be a target of an attacker.  These are skills learned in the karate school and not on the bench.

The karate school, with a good instructor, is a place where kids can grow up and flourish.  A place where they find their identity and build their self-esteem.  A second home where they can develop life long friendships and skills that will take them far beyond the doors of the dojo.  To give your child the gift of karate is a far greater gift than having them sit on the bench, just because their friends do.  I believe in the gift of karate and I hope you will too. The many gifts that karate offers a student, cannot be attained by sitting still and watching everyone else play. You have to be involved. With karate the only limits on an individual is the limits they place on themselves. Everyone in the karate class has the opportunity to reach their full potential.  One of the greatest gifts of karate is that there is no bench, and everyone plays.  I encourage you to look at a new path for your child to reach their full potential.  In stead of the traditional route of team sports, give karate the opportunity to change their life.  Find them a good school with a great instructor that matches the values you desire to instill in your child and it will be a worthy investment into your child’s future.

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