Health & Fitness

Self-defense a first-rate cardiovascular workout

What do most parents want for their children? When I pose that question, parents usually tell me they want their kids to be healthy, to be safe and to have self-confidence.

As a physical education teacher, I have been witness to an activity that helps improve kids in all three areas — self-defense.

Self-defense offers an excellent cardiovascular workout. With all the punches and kicks it involves, anyone can get their heart rate into the target zone very quickly and can keep it up for several minutes to an hour. This will help condition their heart as well as burn calories. Students who find running, jumping rope or swimming difficult or tedious often will find enjoyment and benefits from the muscle strengthening and flexibility developed through self-defense or martial arts classes.

Safety is always a major concern for all parents. We want our kids to be safe at all times, yet we all know that many unexpected dangers can occur in an instant. Not only does self-defense prepare kids for the unknown and give them options if they ever encounter an attacker, but it also teaches them how to be aware of their surroundings and where to seek help should they ever need it.

Kids who take self-defense classes are taught to walk away from danger whenever possible, but if it's not possible, they're taught how to think logically, offer resistance and get to a safe place quickly. Kids also learn about peer pressure and alternatives to violent reactions when they feel threatened.

Another important benefit that self-defense offers is building self-confidence, something that is very difficult to teach and not always easy for someone to develop.

To me, self-confidence is knowing you have the ability to complete a task before you even begin.

Self-defense allows you to practice at your own level and if you cannot complete a specific task one day, you can continue to work until you become proficient at various moves and tactics.

When students start to see results and see themselves being successful, it boosts their self-confidence. The hope is then this confidence will spill over into other parts of their lives, too.

Wichita has many places where self-defense, martial arts or similar programs are offered. Many of the city's recreation centers offer aerobic classes like kickboxing, karate or tae kwondo.

Of course, there are also many individuals who offer private or group lessons. You can even buy a DVD and practice in the privacy of your own home.

Self-defense is fun, challenging and rewarding, and there is no shortage of ways kids can learn about it. The important thing is that they learn.