How to Balance Training and Studying

“No matter how you excel in the art of “Ti” (Okinawan precursor to Karate), and in your scholastic endeavours, nothing is more important than your behaviour and humanity as observed in daily life.”  Junsoku Uekata (Confucian scholar), written in 1683

We are always aware of the increasing demands on children’s time. As schools introduce more and more tests while slashing down on break time, children have less time than ever before to just be children. Our teens have not only increased workloads, but social pressures that we are all still learning to navigate, especially the tricky ground of social media.

On top of this, it always feels like students are busy with cycle tests and exams. The tests are starting sooner and sooner, and like American schools, South African schools seem to be developing a toxic culture of test-taking that has 9 and 10 year olds swotting an unrealistic amount for tests that seem to have little value other than teaching them how to cram. But, whatever difficulties the school system presents, wherever you are in the world, school still has value in transferring knowledge and skills, and failing finals has very real consequences. We definitely understand that schoolwork comes first.

However, we also believe that the time students spend in the dojo is incredibly valuable in managing their stress. It is an hour away from a screen and from the books, spent challenging entirely different parts of their brains and keeping their bodies moving. It is also an opportunity for socialising and relaxing, for them to see friends and to share some of their frustrations. A good dojo always feels like a refuge from the challenges and pressures of daily life, and this is especially important during times of relentless stress.

It is also an ideal way to teach time management, as children who love the dojo will quickly learn that if they get their homework and studying out the way, there will be time for karate. Teaching time management from a young age will ensure a life-long discipline that will carry them through the challenging years ahead, especially at university!

Here are some tips for balancing training with studying:

  • Chat to your instructor about changing class times to earlier or later just over the exam season, or to reducing classes to just once a week for a month. We would always much rather be flexible in our schedules than lose students!
  • A disciplined study routine will ensure that time is set aside for karate – you only need to find 2 hours a week out of 168 to maintain your progress.
  • Kata are the living textbooks of karate – a student can do kata at home during study breaks, which helps combat the effects of sitting too long as well as restoring mental focus and energy through increased oxygen intake. Five kata per 15 minute break x 5 a day = 25 kata! That’s a wonderful way to keep up with training when it is impossible to get to the dojo.
  • Take study materials to the dojo so that some extra work can be done while waiting for class
  • Stay involved in the dojo – once you lose momentum, it becomes too easy to quit, and that path is filled with regret. For advice on how to prevent this, read this post on Returning to the Dojo

Parents, we really do get it. The schools are piling on the extracurriculars and reducing the amount of time kids have to play and explore their interests. And now, you’ve got to help them get ready for the umpteenth test of the term. On top of that, you’ve got to get them to the dojo as well.

It is up to us as instructors to offer high-quality karate that serves as a vehicle for important life skills such as discipline and self-confidence. However, developing these skills takes time, and this is why we always insist on regular attendance.

Slow or fast doesn’t matter – progress is progress, but it can only be made when students continue their training with patience.

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Bunny Majaja: My Friend, and South Africa’s Idol

Bunny Majaja has been my friend for almost fourteen years. This is why.

I was not the most elegant, or capable, or even tolerable of teens. I was gawky and shy and used to being the butt of the joke. Primary school hadn’t been kind to me, and I had hoped that changing schools would change my fortunes. So there I was, with braces and bi-focals and a school dress that went way past my knees and made me look shorter than I already was.

And then my fortunes slowly began to change, and a great deal of it has to do with Bunny.

I was pretty good at history, and like Hermione Granger, my hand went up nearly all the time and it helped me stand out amongst the blue-dressed crowds. At some point in mid-standard six, Bunny moved her chair to next to mine, and we started to share notes and sweets from the veritable tuck shop inside my blazer. (I had an unholy love of sherbet – ask her to tell you the stories someday.) It was not long before I counted Bunny as one of my dearest friends – it was she who introduced me to punk rock and the wondrous world of stand-up comedy. In turn, I shared my history notes with her, as illegible as they were, and I began to blossom. I had spent my Pre-teenage years trying my hardest to shrink behind the pages of a book, hoping no one would notice me. It was Bunny, with her inner light and easy laugh, who gave me a friendship I so badly needed. And when she began to believe in me, it became easier to believe in myself.

She has time for everyone, regardless of their differences and their awkwardness. She has a beatific smile, a soaring spirit and a heart as big as her voice. And long before Idols started, she was inspiring her friends and her family, not just with her voice but her determination to use it to make others happy, to resonate the essence of a song’s meaning right through the hearts of her listeners. I remember when she sang at our old school friend’s wedding, and how very special that moment was for everyone in the room. She has that beautiful talent, and it suits her right down to the ground.

Bunny has been my friend a long time, and it is an honour to be hers.