There are many reasons to train in the martial arts, and one popular reason that people begin their study is because they want to learn self-defense. I’ll admit it—I like the idea that with each class that I work hard in, I elevate my chances a little of being able to handle a threatening situation if one were to arise. I like feeling strong and I like being strong.
Self-defense, however, is actually just as much about the ability to mentally identify potentially harmful situations so as to avoid them as it is about physically punching and kicking one’s way out of an attack—and it is this ability to detect harmful situations that we are more likely to use on a regular basis.
One such situation happened to me last week: I was food shopping and had a sudden, unsettling interaction with another shopper. Ladies, you know the kind—the odd comment dropped on the fly that too closely rides the line between compliment and creepy, leaving that unsettling feeling in its wake. You also, perhaps, might be able to relate to what I did next. As awkward and unsettled as I felt, I tried to talk myself into believing that “it was nothing,” and then berated myself for being worried, for watching over my shoulder for this particular shopper, and for purposely avoiding the side of the store where I knew he had gone. I mean, what good is all this kickboxing training if I can’t even walk over to another side of a giant food store, out in the open, amongst a whole host of other people?
Ultimately, however, I need to remind myself that it was my training keeping me on the other side of the store. We are frequently reminded in class that it’s OK not to get ourselves in a situation where we need to use our physical training. We are, in fact, advised to run. (“Throw something at them and get out of there!”) We are also encouraged to use our ability to listen to our gut and to trust that we know when something is wrong.
Martial arts training creates confidence, and it is this confidence that makes a student carry herself in a way that sends the message, “I’m not the one to pick on.” And though it might not always mean that nobody bothers us, training does mean that we increase our chances of handling whatever comes our way with a certain determination and self-preservation.
Once I listened to myself and trusted that something really was wrong, I acted with the same sense of determination to defend myself that I practice building while I am on the mat. I clearly decided, “No, I will not be the one you pick on,” and I defended myself in what felt to be the safest option possible.
I left the store.
-Kristin Veenema, Kid’s Instructor
My son doesn’t always perform at the same level as the rest of the class. Is this something that I should talk to him about, or is it normal?
It’s normal. And it’s normal for two reasons. First, being a parent is being a spectator. So while you’re watching, you have a sense of what is going on in class but not a complete picture. The reason being: you are not in the class and attempting to perform the skills and drills that the kids are. This can often times be confusing for parents since the drills can look easy. But then again, golf looks easy on TV.
Second, children are constantly in a state of growth and development. Either their body or their mind are developing: sometimes simultaneously… other times individually. But if you notice, there are times when your child will seem kind of “floppy” meaning they seem to be all limbs. While other times, their movement seems sharp and crisp. The same can be said for their behavior. Sometimes they are well behaved and sometimes it seems that no matter what you do, you can’t get them to listen. Most of these issues are developmental and there isn’t much you can do to influence that; therefore, speaking to them about it doesn’t make much sense.
Here is when you should speak to your kids:
When there is a consistent behavioral problem. How will you know the difference between a consistent behavioral problem and one that is a growth phase? It will be blatantly obvious. Simply listen to the instructors on the floor. Both Ms. Sarah and Ms. Kristin are trained in child development. They know the difference between age specific behavior that is appropriate, and behavior that is not. If the instructors on the floor are repeating themselves or even sitting your child down for some reason, then chances are there is a behavioral issue that is not developmental.
If you have any doubt, then you are welcome to ask the instructors.
Remember that training in the martial arts is a team effort and we are on your side. Our job is to confirm and reenforce what you are already doing outside the karate school. To put it simply, our job is to “back you up” as parents. Children don’t always take what parents say at face value. But when they enter the karate school and the instructors are telling students that they need to clean their room and say please and thank you; this gives the requests more weight. In essence, the kids say to themselves, “Hey wait a second, it isn’t only my mom that thinks I should do these things. My karate instructors say I should as well.” And the chances of it happening increase. That is what makes our school unique. Your child will participate in no other activity that provides you with this level of support.
I would strongly suggest that you use the projects that we have been talking about with the kids as a reference. I do with my kids and it works great.
Finally, my main job is to ensure that you are provided with the highest value martial arts program available. It is what I have spent the last 16 years doing. I know that we are not perfect and I have never insinuated that we are. With this in mind, I truly value and appreciate everyone who trains here. I fully believe that training in the martial arts requires a team effort and I am proud to have teamed up with the majority of the parents in the school.
At the same time, some parents/grandparents have chosen not to team up with us. This is where you have seen repeatedly bad behavior on the part of the kids and nothing is being said or done off the mat to negate this behavior. Or repeatedly bad behavior on the part of the parents/grandparents where they sit in the viewing area or outside our door and talk poorly about our instructors or our program. Whether they expect us to do the job alone or are simply negative people, I don’t know. Yet, if you have noticed, these people are disappearing. The reason is that I have told them to leave the school and therefore, they no longer have the privilege of training in the highest value martial arts program available. They will be forced to train at a substandard school and start over at white belt.
This is the way I look at it. If you had a party and the kids behaved poorly, what would you do? Or if, at that same party, the adults sat in your living room and talked negatively about you, what would you do? Honestly, I don’t think you would invite them back. That is all I do. People who behave badly don’t get invited back… to their next class.
Here is another way to look at it: Being negative is easy. It is a cop out. It takes no skill whatsoever. Being positive… or finding the good in a situation can be challenging. Sometimes even much more challenging. I invite you to accept the challenge. I think that once you look for the good in any situation… more of it just keeps showing up.
Parents, you are part of our team and while we are “backing you up” on the karate floor, we would appreciate it if you would do the same for us: both with your kids and other parents. We are working very hard to bring you great martial arts training. Take pride in that training and help us spread the benefits of our program with others.
P.S. Be sure to forward this to any grandparents involved. Lets make sure they stay educated as well.
**If you have a question for Master Dan, be sure to email us!
Eight kickboxing students joined Master Dan yesterday for an afternoon of instruction, sticks, and fun!