Learning Martial Arts as a Family


When you think of a sparring partner, you think of a fellow classmate or trained fighter. But, what if that trained fighter is your spouse, child, or sibling? At our dojo, we strongly encourage families to train together which means you will eventually spar your family members. 

Will sparring encourage fighting? Won’t sparring your spouse hurt your marriage? These are questions that we’re asked regularly, and honestly this hasn’t been the case for us. In fact, we’ve found that sparring each other has helped improve our family dynamic in several ways.

Being aware of your feelings

We have one unbreakable rule in our family when it comes to training: never spar someone when you’re angry. With the adrenaline and excitement of sparring, negative emotions will quickly come to the surface. If you’re upset with your sparring partner, friendly sparring can easily turn into a full on fist fight! Disrespectful conduct could cause injury and will lead to disciplinary action for all parties involved, so it’s in your best interest to resolve any disagreements before class. 

Sometimes when we spar each other, one of us will say “we need to stop, I’m mad at you.” You need to exercise self-control and respect to stop before the fight becomes personal, and the reasons for the anger have to be dealt with before sparring can resume. Sparring has proven to be an effective tool to identify negative feelings, and it forces us to talk through our issues.

Apologies and forgiveness

Unless you plan on spending every sparring class arguing with your family members, it’s important to learn to apologize right away. A proper apology will allow both sides the opportunity to explain their actions, express their feelings, and feel assured that the conflict trigger will be dealt with in a more constructive manner in the future.

Sincere forgiveness is also important as many people tend to reflexively brush off an apology with words like “don’t worry about it”. Forgiveness is easier if the other person fully understands why their actions hurt you, and acknowledge how it affected you mentally and physically. True forgiveness isn’t about letting the other person off the hook, it’s about you feeling validated and respected.

Limitations and Personal Growth

It’s hard to admit that we’re not able to do certain techniques or drills, and it’s even harder when our family is watching. Whether it’s due to injury, lack of experience, or other circumstances, we all have our limitations. Martial arts is about achieving your personal best and pushing our limits as far as possible. We can do a technique to the absolute best of our ability and it may only be half as good as our classmates. A good martial artist will recognize the personal victory and a good Sensei will acknowledge your achievement while giving you tools to develop your strength, flexility, endurance and stability.

Instead of hiding your current limits and being ashamed of them, you should be proud of your progress and keep pushing yourself as far as you safely can. Your family is there to support your personal development and health, so be honest with them and trust that they have your best interest in mind. Most of all, remember that just because you can’t do something today, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it tomorrow.

Through learning martial arts as a family, we’ve learned to be more considerate of each other, how to encourage one another, and how to ask each other for help. It’s a healthy boost for a child’s self-esteem when a parent or older sibling asks them to help them learn a new kata or technique. It also gives the opportunity to reverse the student/teacher roles that parents, children, and siblings naturally fall into. Best of all, taking martial arts as a family allows you to bond with your family while increasing your mental and physical health!

Litorco Martial Arts offers 1 hour Family Karate Classes on Tuesdays/Thursdays at 7pm-8pm, and Saturdays at 11am-12pm. If you and your family members are interested in karate, please contact us at info@litorcomartialarts.com to sign up for a free class. We also offer 90 minute private classes that are perfect for a family activity or birthday party activity (please note, we are not permitted to have food on location). Contact us for more details.