Sitting in on a Wednesday after school class at King’s School in Auckland, it’s not hard to spot the slightly bigger samurai – the student with years of discipline and training under his brown belt.

The warming up and concluding sections of the class are run by 12-year-old Finn Matheson. With a sense of calm and confidence, he takes his fellow students through their paces.

“Karate teaches me discipline, focus and self-defence,” Finn says, going on to explain that it’s also very helpful in schools.

“Kids come because their parents want them to learn discipline and sometimes they come because they want to stop being bullied.”

He agrees that karate instils confidence. And it spills over to other aspects of life, like learning how to be responsible and helping others – not just in playground bullying situations, but with their school work as well.

Teaching comes naturally

As for the teaching aspect of his karate, well that’s just normal for Finn.

“You are teaching and you are learning all the time, honestly,” he says.

“You’re teaching and you’re learning even in your family. As the world goes on new things are invented – and if people don’t learn them at one stage, kids will eventually tell their parents anyway. That’s just how it works.”

Finn ponders the question of whether he ever gets tired of karate. “Yes… but no,” is his eventual answer.

“Sometimes it can be a little repetitive but that’s what karate is all about. You’re not going to get something on the first try; you can never be completely perfect. That’s why we go over things again and again. Otherwise we are going to stay the same forever and not get any better.”

Keeping it in the family

Finn has been doing karate since the age of five and practises the Goju Ryu style originating in Okinawa.

At six, he came to the notice of a visiting Japanese sensei (teacher) who referred to him as a “little samurai”.

“Karate is what we do as a family,” mum Lexie explains.