Western Maine Teens in Trouble: Karate Is Not the Answer – But It’s a Step in the Right Direction

A few weeks ago the Sun Journal published an article called Troubling trends among Western Maine teens, tweens. Here’s a few excerpts:

Too Risky, Too Young: Western Maine Teens in Trouble

  • 1 in 4 high school students who’ve tried marijuana smoked it for the first time before they were 13
  • 1 in 10 middle school students has smoked marijuana
  • 1 in 10 middle school students has had sex
  • 1 in 5 middle school students has seriously considered suicide
  • 1 in 4 middle school girls has seriously considered suicide
  • 1 in 8 fifth & sixth grade students believes they don’t have parents who are trying to help them succeed
  • 1 in 5 high school students feels like they don’t have a loving and supportive family

As the parent of two Western Maine teenagers, this article obviously upsets me. As a children’s karate instructor, this article makes me want to cry.

I don’t want any one of my students to become one of these statistics.

However, I see how easily some of my students could fall into any of these categories. I’ve taught many at-risk youth, and I understand they have horrible home lives. I’ve watched them struggle with simple tasks because they have zero self-confidence. But what can one small karate school do to help improve the situation?

The simple answer is I do my job. 

We’ve had many parents call us frantically trying to find an answer to help their children. From abusive situations, mental illness, bullying, shyness, self-confidence, drugs…the list is endless. And we’ve always had the same response:

Karate is NOT the answer. It’s a step in the right direction.

Karate cannot cure mental illness, or prevent bad things from happening. Karate cannot solve parenting issues, or eliminate drug addiction. No matter what they see in martial arts movies, karate will never be the answer to all their problems.

What karate can do is help improve a willing students determination, focus, self-reliance, and fitness level so they may be able to have the confidence to make better choices.  It teaches students how a strong spirit can help conqueror life’s challenges. It can be the platform a student can use to build a different kind of life.

Karate can put kids on the right path.

I’ve seen an overweight student, who didn’t believe he could do anything, blossom into a great leader in karate. I’ve seen a troubled, shy, and depressed girl light up when she earned a new belt. I’ve witnessed kids accomplishing things they never thought possible.  I’m both humbled and incredibly proud of these kids. It’s amazing to watch them grow into strong, capable young people.

Every child in Western Maine is at risk.

If it’s not my child, it’s their friends. It’s our neighbors kids, and our coworkers kids. We believe karate can truly help kids move towards a better path. Karate is not for everyone, but for those who are willing, it can be an important and positive way to improve their life.