How I Used Lessons from Judo to Practise Mindful Parenting

By Kay Newton

It was the Spanish Championship finals and our youngest son was on the tatami mat, one judo throw away from winning the match. His coach shouted an instruction and something switched in his demeanour. In the next 30 seconds, the reigning champion was on the floor. Our son had won.

I often look at my son’s life so far, and I can see defining moments and stages where he became the man he is today. Judo was one of those defining stages. Not only did it teach our son many lessons from the moment he first stood in a dojo, it would also teach his parents many lessons too.

Kano Jigoro said of judo, “If there is effort, there is always accomplishment.” What a great lesson to learn at a young age. Our son has applied effort to all parts of his life, his studies, friends, maintaining a long-term distant relationship with his girlfriend and to being a role model. Our effort as parents has been to let him go free, to fly the nest and to experience life with all its ups and downs for himself.

At times this has been hard for all parties. When things go wrong you want to step in and still be the parent. And yet, holding back and letting our children sort ‘stuff’ out for themselves in their own way is the greater skill. There is also another judo phrase that’s equally meaningful for parenting: “The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”

Too many parents these days are ‘helicopter’ parents (doing literally everything for their kids, so that they do not have the basic skill sets to live away from home such as preparing a healthy meal, balancing accounts, washing clothes or using public transport). Releasing the apron ties can be an anxious time, even if you know it is part of the natural cycle.

Making sure that your child has the basic life skills can take away some of the pain when they leave. Self-sufficiency is not a skill taught in schools, it is something they need to learn from home.

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Photo credit: Arnold Exconde on Unsplash

Finding a mentor outside of the family is also a must for young people. One life-defining aspect of judo for our whole family was the fact that our son had another male role model in his life apart from his father. A mentor who not only taught him judo’s discipline and focus, he also taught him judo etiquette and behaviour, which gave him life skills outside of the gym.

Parents can find it hard to teach their own children such skills. The rapport this surrogate father figure had with our son certainly took away many stresses of the teenage years.

Last month our son turned 21 and on the same day, his three years at University came to an end. Judo lessons remain permanently in all our lives. Before and after practising judo or engaging in a match, opponents bow to each other. Bowing is an expression of gratitude and respect. In effect, you are thanking your opponent for giving you the opportunity to improve your technique.

I bow to my son with gratitude and respect.

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Lead image credit: Pixabay. First published in the June 2018 issue of eShe magazine