The Importance of Homework in the Martial Arts

Some teachers assign their kids homework; others don’t. Some even say they “believe in” homework (or that they don’t “believe in” it, which gives the idea of homework a kind of moral weight).

Homework is a reflection of the nature of how something’s being taught, and this includes martial arts training. Legendary black belt and professional kickboxer Joe Lewis talked about traveling from the U.S. marine corps base in Okinawa to attend karate and judo classes, three times a day, seven days a week, for months at a time. With no break in training, not even a single day.

Lewis doesn’t mention homework, per se, but suffice it to say that the nature and consumption of hardcore, old school training for dozens of hours per week doesn’t leave much room (or time) for extra practice. Or so you would think.

Actually, Lewis and the marines that trained with him would devote time on base to training specific moves, kicks, punches, blocks and footwork. They would stay after students had left the dojo to practice forms. They’d wake up early to squeeze in extra exercise sessions of squats, push ups, sit ups and runs to make themselves stronger for the battles in the dojo later in the day.

There’s a lesson here for karate kids (and karate parents) in this modern day and age. Homework enhances kids’ experience of learning in class, and it accelerates kids’ progress toward earning their next belt rank in karate.

Just like advancing from kindergarten through the grade levels in school, the homework load grows: At white belt, kids are doing 3 push ups a day and practicing the use of their 12 Words of Respect every chance they get. By purple belt, students already know about a dozen different moves, combinations, stances and forms, and these all need repetition and practice at home between classes. At red belt, the curriculum has almost doubled; by the time you’re at your black belt test, it’s doubled again.

It’s an increasingly challenging (but increasingly manageable) workload. You just need to keep up and make sure practice at home is a part of you and your kids’ karate routine. Bottom line: If you’re striving to earn your black belt, make sure you’re doing your homework.

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