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Growing up these days is hard

This is a hard time to grow up.

We all know why, I won’t list the reasons here. Open a news site, or ask a teenager.

You could go all Monty Python on it, and go back to how hard you had it when you were a kid. Social Media pressures is it! Well when I was young we didn’t have any shoes! We used to walk to school in one shoe that we shared among 10 of us!

And of course, you can cast a look back to just a couple of generations ago to find true hardship. My Dad had tuberculosis as a young man, and was born just before the second world war. Fear of dying by what we would term easily preventable disease? Food rations and fear of conflict?

Now that’s hardship.

And yet… One day as I was telling him a story of the teen troubles of his grandkids’ generation, he looked at me and said, you know, I used to come home from school and just bring the dog down the fields. Then head off to play football.

That was his teen years. No troubles. No modern hassles. he was pretty happy.

So it’s not fair to compare like with like. Yes it’s a softer life, but is it a happier life? Data would suggest not. Rates of depression and anxiety have skyrocketed in the last 2 decades, in the very time when life has become easier.

When I started working with kids, I just enjoyed it for what it was. I like coaching them, it’s a lot of fun. I still enjoy the buzz of a class full of energetic kids.

As we’ve got to my 20th year of coaching martial arts to kids, and watched a lot of them grow up, I’ve come to realise that what we do is more important than just being fun. Some kids find themselves on the mats. What they find, I cannot say. Belonging? Confidence? Friendship? A mentor? A role model? Maybe.

But what I think it is but cannot prove, is that they find a mind-body connection. A sense of calm from being in control of their physical and mental self during struggle.

That they find in panicky scenarios, when your opponent piles on the pressure and you think you are about to lose, that you can find a chink of space, a millimetre maybe, that gives you a chance to escape or turn the tide in your favour.

And that when you can’t and you have to tap and give up, that there’s always another round. That losing doesn’t make you a loser.

I suspect this, because that’s what I found, and still find, on the mats.

A thought for Monday- Get your kid into Jiu Jitsu

See you on the mat,


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