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Kids, Martial Arts, and Life Lessons (Part 1)

April was Prevent Child Abuse Month. I want to highlight the fact that martial arts not only teaches children to defend themselves, if necessary, it instills a level of confidence that will ensure they will be far less likely to be a victim to such abuse.

Personally, I have always been drawn to martial arts. As a teen, I took Kung Fu, then as a young adult, I found my way to a Taekwondo studio. But it took until I had children to fully investigate what it would take to see the study of martial arts as a lifestyle choice. When my children were much younger, I enrolled all of us into a local studio that promoted family values, character, discipline and many other favorable traits. We attended regularly for about six months before I had a knee injury that forced me to quit. My oldest son was just six and the others stepped down in age to just over two, therefore when I was no longer the motivating source of our attendance it was easy to put it on the back burner. After a year of jumping around from activity to activity, we received a postcard mailer from a different Taekwondo studio promoting a special invite for children to come try classes for a month. I was intrigued and re-inspired to try again. We went to the intro class and decided to sign up. Our two boys went into the older group of kids and my older daughter started in a preschool-designed program to develop the skills she would need later. Things like body awareness, confidence, eye contact, answering questions, and how to deal with bullies. Our youngest was still too young but watched every move attentively.

As I sat there watching for the first two months, I realized that it was me that had always wanted to study martial arts, so why was I sitting in a chair watching. The school was very family-oriented and I could take the same classes as my kids which was very appealing to me. I worked hard to catch up and promote into the same level as my boys. Over the next year, the lessons learned became priceless. Their attitudes have always been good, but this new endeavor was solidifying many qualities and traits we were also expecting outside of the studio. As homeschooling parents, this also became an additional social arena for our kids and their P.E. for school. By the time my youngest was ready to join, we had steadily promoted to higher and higher ranks. A very admirable expectation within the martial arts community is to serve; therefore at a certain belt rank you are asked to learn to be an instructor and give back that which you have been given. It was a fantastic opportunity to grow. At this point, I became the instructor in my youngest daughter’s class. This was a very rewarding time to really focus on her and the achievements she was earning in TKD. I was able to help her move past shyness, stubbornness and an unwillingness to learn from any other instructor. I watched her mature from a small child into a strong confident young woman who has spent most of her life taking martial arts. Her very countenance exudes confidence.

Halfway through our second year, I lost my resolve and let my oldest son “take a break” from the program. He had developed a vision problem we did not know about, it made twelve inches of his central vision disappear. He would work so hard in class and grow so frustrated from the sheer amount of over movement he was doing to compensate for being completely uncoordinated. It was very hard for me to watch how difficult everything was for him, he would be soaking wet and in tears every time we got in the car after class. He would beg me to stop. I truly felt it was just a stage that he would get over. He grew worse and I grew tired of worrying about it. Three weeks after I let him have his “break,” he was diagnosed with a rather common eye muscle condition that affects one in four boys, but it would need about a year of physical therapy to correct it. When sitting in the Optometry office discussing symptoms and issues with both the doctor and therapist, they were both amazed at his mental resolve to have done anything at all, especially Taekwondo, learning to ride a bike (although he crashed it at least 5-6 times everyday), and most amazingly, to hit eight out of ten pitches in baseball. It was determined that he was far above average but that it was all being lost in his inability to make his eyes work and the overwhelming frustration that causes. We only looked into the possibility of a problem because he stopped reading. He had taught himself to read at four and was whizzing through more books than I could provide until he turned six and then over the next year he went from excelling to digressing at such a rapid rate, we had to do something. It was such a tremendous blessing to find exactly what was wrong and what to do in a matter of days. It was truly a miracle.

After the condition and behavioral issues that result from contending with eyesight difficulties were relieved, I didn’t think to get him right back into classes. He had had such a negative experience that he would not even consider going back. I decided to try a little experiment in positive affirmation. I bought a new uniform and placed the package in his room, the next day I found it in the kitchen. I did it for another week and he finally confronted me with the fact that he was not doing it and to stop putting the uniform in his room. I smiled and did not say anything, I unwrapped it, washed it and continued to place it neatly in his room again. After another couple of weeks of moving the thing back and forth, he asked why I was trying to drive him crazy with “THAT” uniform. Again, I smiled and told him that on Monday of next week he would start classes. He emphatically told me, “NO.” Nine days later, on the designated Monday, I asked everyone to put on their uniforms, including him and low and behold, he did it with a smile.

Part 1 | (Part 2)

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