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Muaythai: Positive Impacts on Character Development of Adolescents
Written by: Yolanda Schmidt
Muaythai, or any martial art for that matter, develops more than simply the ability to defend yourself. I am convinced that by the end of this article you too will agree that Muaythai can positively impact the future of our youth, and is equally, if not more, beneficial than any other sport. In fact, I am certain that your opinion will transform (if not already) as your knowledge evolves and that you would consider encouraging children and even your own children to partake in Muaythai. Unique learning opportunities can be offered through the study of the art of eight limbs.
What makes Martial arts equally important in developmental stages of our youth? Much research has been conducted that supports the benefits martial arts can offer. Children are provided with the opportunity to develop physical, emotional and intellectual ability through the study of such an art (character development).
Some parents are weary of enrolling their child into Muaythai, with the thought that it also promotes violence. Studies have shown that this is a myth. Martial arts can assist in further developing self-discipline, social skills, respect, focus, team work and self-confidence. It is training of the mind, body and soul.
In fact, children who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have shown great success with these programs. Self-control and concentration are exactly the skills underdeveloped in ADHD kids and Muaythai requires a vast amount of that. Children will learn how to maintain focus until conclusion of a task.
The discipline required in martial arts will carry through to other aspects of their life such as their academics, house chores and, in later years, work. Children are
encouraged constantly to work on techniques to experience success. The “practice makes perfect” phrase comes to mind. Martial arts fosters drive and discipline to follow dreams, and set and achieve goals. Muaythai has provided assistance with troubled youth or at-risk youth by teaching the art of discipline. It has been reported that children who study the art of Muaythai are less likely to drop out of school, they have greater academic achievement, their sense of self is better developed and they are less likely to report of boredom than those children whose learning is not embedded within the arts.
Promotes physical activity
Muaythai makes use of contextual and practical study, which provides opportunity in the development in physical, social, aesthetic and cultural aspects. With the growing obesity epidemic in Australia, Muaythai promotes healthy lifestyles, physical fitness and wellbeing by providing students with the opportunity to make healthier life-style choices. Too often in modern society children opt for sedentary activities such as PlayStation games and mobile devices. Muaythai gives them an avenue to engage in physical activity while having fun and interacting with others.
A very necessary skill, required in later life, is also acquired through the study of martial arts. Children will learn how to fail, a skill that aligns with competition. Today many sports go the route of every child being awarded a prize. Muaythai allows children to be accountable, develops resilience, determination and goal setting ability.
Every child has a different learning style, kinaesthetic, visual and auditory. Muaythai caters for all those learning styles, including every stage of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Muaythai is linked to Gardner’s multiple intelligences in different ways, for example, bodily-kinaesthetic allows a child to think through the body, Muaythai allows problem solving of movements through feeling and exploring their own body. Intrinsic feedback is developed, the ability to recognise and feel when a technique is performed incorrectly and making the necessary adjustments. As well as extrinsic feedback, whereby the mirrors and trainers provide instructions on how to better their technique. This allows a child to value other’s feedback (and in other contexts, other’s opinions). Visual-spatial links to the awareness of where the body is while moving through the space (distance from partner or opponent to effectively land shots when hitting pads and sparring), with the ability to recognise, recall and manipulate movements.
Another example of the multiple intelligences is the rhythmic component; children work with rhythm, vary tempos and learn about timing, when to execute techniques with sparring, bag work and pad work. Children also develop interpersonal skills through the study of the art form, providing them with the ability to relate to others through interaction, observation and collaboration with various different people, trainers and professional fighters.
Instills Respect & Boost Self-Esteem
Within Muaythai children are taught to value, respect and appreciate their trainers, themselves, their own achievements and the work of others.
Many non-martial artists out there see it as simply learning combinations of skills. However, not only do children learn techniques, but develop their self-confidence and self-respect. Researchers back up my strong opinion that Muaythai provides children with the ability to observe critically, and exercises that promote a positive self-esteem and values, which fosters personal growth in their developmental stages. Your child’s self-esteem can be improved through the feeling of achievement and success during skill acquisition. The sense of accomplishment experience by a child is a feeling that encourages further goals to be set and achieved.
As you can see, Muaythai provides many learning opportunities for our youth, mental alertness skills are stimulated through attention to detail, modelling, sequencing, and memory of movements and combinations of techniques. The study of the art of eight limbs promotes team work, negotiation skills and understanding of other’s opinion during partner work and group activities.
Muaythai is not purely about getting in the ring and fighting. Muaythai places emphasis on the processes of the experience, not only the end goal. Elements such as deep knowledge, cultural knowledge, deep understanding, engagement and problematic knowledge are incorporated into Muaythai classes. Then, the integration of the elements of performance (sparring days, demonstrations at festivals, amateur and professional bouts); encouraging confidence, projection and focus and the integration of the elements of appreciation, whereby students learn to appreciate their own work and those of others (YouTube videos of fighters who may inspire them). Muaythai promotes critical thinking through the reflection and analysis of their performance and those of their team mates.
Communication and Social Skills
Further research supports my belief that Muaythai enables participants to articulate, communicate and comprehend emotions and ideas in an engaging manner.
Muaythai is a means of communication that is more powerful than that of politicians, regardless of the language spoken. Social skills are further developed along with team work.
This statement is supported by researcher’s who believe that our lives are enriched through the engagement of our emotions projected through the study of the art form. Therefore, the opportunity to express movement symbolically within aesthetic and cultural contexts is provided in Muaythai (also evident in the Wai Khru Ram Muay). The study of Muaythai encourages expression of emotion and promotes subjectiveness of everyday events, which allows us to better understand ourselves, the world and our role in this life.
Cross Curricular Links
Children are able to develop interpersonal skills through Muaythai, including body awareness and body exploration. Muaythai can even be linked to other key learning within the school curriculum. Such as logical-mathematical links to Muaythai where children learn about movement patterns, rhythmical ideas and geometrical shapes. Geometrical shapes and lines associated with Muaythai skills allows students to think of abstract ideas linked to Mathematics. Linguistic development is supported through the learning of Muaythai techniques and movement names.
Muaythai adds a cultural element to physical activity, providing children with the opportunity to learn about other cultures which can assist in reducing prejudice. Not only does this provide deep knowledge about culture, but it also creates the link between Muaythai and geography and history.
Muaythai is a universal language, let us teach everyone!
Written by Yolanda Schmidt
Muaythai Fighter : 36 Fights (29W-6L-1D-9KO)
- WKN Australian title
- WMC NSW State Title
- WKA Australian Title
- Thapae Stadium title
- 2x MTA Gold medalist (2014, 2015),
- 2x IFMA Bronze medalist (2015, 2016)
- Australian Female Muaythai Fighter of the year 2015
- Australia’s most inspirational fighter of the year 2016