Pursued Principles when Introducing Martial Arts to Newcomers

by Jason Colson

I began my Martial Arts career at the age of 8 and was assisting teaching newcomers at the age of 12. Over the course of the last couple years I have embarked on two life changing journeys in Martial Arts. My first was to seek out my estranged Tae Kwon Do Master and rekindle my education from him following almost exactly a twenty year hiatus. Secondly was to start a Tae Kwon Do class at his school geared specifically toward ages between three and six.

This experience has truly been one that has dramatically changed my perspective about Martial Arts fundamentals on several levels. One particular experience is embracing a Martial Arts career no longer solely based on my own needs, but rather the needs of others in order to help create a similar experience given me as a newcomer. I have identified three key principles of which are most important to me and that I focus on as an instructor of young minds. Respect, Confidence and Determination are the principles I intend to explore in this paper.

Within the context of my “Kinder Kicks” class I believe ultimately the parents are who Martial Arts is required to appeal to initially, for the commitment and burden often falls on their shoulders in the beginning. One principle repeatedly recognized as a driving force for parents to help their child with when seeking out a Martial Arts school is Respect. Whether teaching respect from scratch or reversing a disrespectful attitude, respect is viewed as a fundamental principle in Martial Arts. I believe our media influence has portrayed Martial Arts as a forefront for respect based principles. Hollywood in particular portrays almost every Martial Arts protagonist character as having an underlying foundation based on respect.

I believe respect has three intricate parts found in Martial Arts.

First being self-respect, for without this any of this getting through the door and actually participating can prove to be impossible. Self-respect is then built upon by including the young child in class and educating them in our most basic traditions such as bowing and stretching.

Next peer respect including recognizing the higher ranks during line-up in order to honor individual accomplishment. Peer respect is again displayed by bowing before and after partnered exercises in order to identify value of one’s opponent.

The last part and arguably the most important is respect for one’s instructor or authority. In a society intent on demolishing figures deserving of authority, I feel it necessary to identify the definition of authority as a respected source of information and not an individual deciding your fate. I believe a common misconception is that the instructor or master is an authority because he/she in fact can dominate a battle with any of his/her students, but more so for the immense knowledge that should be tapped into. A student quickly learns to appreciate their Master as a wealth of information, especially in the capacity of a battle.

Self-confidence is my second most important principle taught in Martial Arts. I often debate if self-confidence can be taught with longevity. I more often than not conclude that one can spark self-exploration and discovery in another, but one cannot instill self-confidence. I try diligently to challenge my young Martial artists to attempt something new and then follow up by praising their efforts and accomplishments.

In my opinion positive affirmation is crucial in developing a healthy self-confidence level in young children! I base this statement having experienced several children enter our “Kinder Kicks” class very reluctant to even attempt our exercises. Following only one class for some, there is a complete transformation. For some it takes more time, but a select number of student’s parents have shared their experience of transformation outside the class. One particular parent experienced positive results with the toilet training at home after their boy and I had a discussion about Martial Arts principles and the rest of his responsibilities.

The most recognizable transformation is the way in which our young students will carry themselves after having participated in just a few classes. The chin will begin to rise up the shoulders won’t sag so far forward and start walking with a more confident posture. One last example is the voices of our young students seem to find themselves. Not so quiet anymore, they now speak up with more presence and Kia from deep in their core. This attribute can quickly go from a blessing to an annoyance in the “Kinder Kicks” class.

The final principle I feel is a fundamental aspect and should be given proper focus is determination. I believe one must be motivated before he or she can be determined, but once motivated to participate then determination takes over and these kids want to duplicate or emulate their peers. For instance a great many of my young Martial Artists begin class not knowing how to do a summersault. However after watching the other students perform a summersault they are instantly determined to duplicate. Another activity that tends to illustrate determination is our self-defense technical exercise. After showing them the proper procedure for exiting a bear hug, they seem to be determined to get themselves out.

I have re-evaluated my perspectives regarding an individual’s Martial Arts journey, and have come to realize people progress at their own pace. Most have something they use for inspiration, such as a peer they appreciate their style and choose to emulate. For some they set goals of where they want to go with their Martial Arts experience and become determined to meet those goals as quickly as possible. For some it is a way to kill time during the summer break.