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A sign hung on the wall of the karate studio I attended as a child that read, “House of Discipline”. These words were simple and direct and every student knew what they meant.

The meaning was taught the first time I walked in the door which was when I was only five years old. It was my responsibility to dress myself in uniform, tie my belt (a traditionally disciplined craft unto itself), and thank my parents for bringing me to class. At 5:00 pm sharp the group of us would form a perfectly straight line, stand at attention and bow to the Karate Master as a sign of respect. Throughout class we were expected to listen and goofing around was NEVER allowed. After all, we were in the “House of Discipline.” Anytime someone was caught being disrespectful (even yawning), they would spend time in the corner doing knuckle push-ups. As an avid “talker” I learned quickly that my knuckles did not enjoy paying for my flapping gums.

As an adult who now watches my own children perform in sports, I oftentimes witness the fragile mindset imposed on this generation. It is easy to fall into the trap of assisting with their uniforms, catering to their demands of lacing skates and cleats, and watching them walk away without so much as a “thank you.” I watch kids disrespect coaches or teammates; oftentimes coaches will reprimand by giving out suicides or burpees in response. Parents of those children tend to grumble from the sidelines as their child rolls his/her eyes while performing the punishment.

I participated in various tournaments throughout my 10 years in karate and, just like any sport, I was expected to give 100%. They did not hand out participation medals; therefore, my only chance at walking away with an award was to earn 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. There were times when the only thing I left with was a few bruised fingers, broken ribs and disappointment. However, those losses helped improve my performance for the next time around. Losing helped create opportunities for me to work harder and become more self-disciplined.

It’s my perspective that our children live in a world of instant gratification which inevitably kills long-term dedication, effort, and, ultimately, results. I believe that delayed gratification teaches the fundamentals of discipline. Two of my favorite awards sports teams distribute at the end of the season are most improved player and the academic award. The most improved player doesn’t indicate that child was the worst player at the beginning of the season. Instead, it rewards the individual who worked hard all year to become better, stronger and smarter. The academic award is presented to a child who achieved superior academic success while continuously thriving in their sport. Both awards are clear indications of hard work and a great deal of discipline.

As I look back at the lessons I learned in karate, I remind myself it is not too late to instill these values in my own children. Discipline not only brings stability and purpose into a child’s life, but it teaches them to be respectful and responsible – attributes far more important in life than medals, trophies, wins or championships.

–Jen Knuth

 
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