The performance pressure…the anxiety…the politics…the physical drain and the unknown dangers of the competitive environment are terrible!

That’s a fact and it sucks.

BUT, in this age of declining strength and values, competition maybe one of the last things that can save our children.


Learning to compete properly (and by properly I mean by a benevolent coach and system that ultimately wants the athlete to be a better, stronger, community member) can expose a student to what I’ll call the ESSENTIAL FOUR “F”s of LIFE.

1.  FEAR

As a culture, we have done a great job of smoothing out and padding every hard edge of life for many children.  However, this act of kindness has backfired somewhat as we now have youth that have no reference for dealing with fear and anxiety which is an essential skill for achieving anything worth while.  There is a quote “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”…true story.  Competition is a safe environment to begin to learn to face, accept, and be awesome in the face of fear.  Ask anyone who’s achieved anything and they’ll tell you about fear…it’s not the absence that counts, it’s the ability to act anyway.


I have had too many experiences in our recreational martial arts classes over the last few years where children literally break down crying in a game of tag.  They have had no run in with loss or failure and the idea of being “it” comes as a shock that they can’t handle.  Worse still, some of these students were even pulled from the program by their parents for their children’s reaction… we hadn’t even got to the part of karate where we actually hit each other yet!

Life is full of hardships, many you can’t control and it’s the ability to get back up when you’re knocked to the ground that makes all the difference.  How do people expect kids to do this if they’ve never been given the chance to fall down (read more here).  That’s why in our competitive martial arts program the first thing I address is how to fail…with that out of the way, we can move on to how to succeed.

After all, isn’t it that in harsh conditions we meet true heroes?


We live in the best country in the world.  Anyone can be anything.  This abundance of opportunity can often lead to action paralysis.  What do I focus on?  …and what if I make a mistake (see above)??  Competing in sport gives you two cures… the chance to act and make mistakes and the opportunity to learn from them.  Sport provides an analogy for living so, when faced with anything from learning an instrument to getting a new job, our athletes, turned young adults, will have learned how to break a challenge down into obtainable, trainable steps.


There are two types of family.  Those you are born with and those you connect with through shared challenge.  Both are of great value to the athlete.  Nothing is more comforting to someone stepping on the mats than a family member that genuinely enjoys watching them compete and loves them no matter what and a team mate who’s got their back despite the odds or results.

Only when faced with adversity do we learn and appreciate who our real family is.  When it comes to performance I teach my Cambridge athletes that “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind (about the results)”


Competition is a tool that parents and coaches can collaborate on to offer youth a stage for learning self awareness and self reliance for life.  It is a difficult path wrought with peril BUT so is anything worth doing and now is the time to explore.

While your thinking about competition, take a second to e-high five these kids in our competitive karate program who are taking to the mats to grow stronger while representing our community!  Read the Cambridge Times article HERE.

Our Cambridge competitive karate programs for kids and youth have try outs and information sessions throughout the year… Learn more by clicking below.


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