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children & kung fu

Although I am a martial artist from a profoundly traditional Kung-Fu school, I am more importantly a Father. Therefore, I obviously wanted my three children to learn martial arts as soon as they were able. All three of my children have trained since the age of 3 or 4 years old.

importance of self defence

  • In my opinion, it is important that both boys and girls are able to defend themselves as they wander through life, in this increasingly violent world. Being able to look after themselves in the face of bullies for example is unfortunately wholly necessary. This is not to condone violence but it’s important to remember it can happen and often in the most unlikely places.

 

confidence

  • My approach is to give children enough self-confidence, combative/defensive skills and awareness to steer clear of trouble in the first place. If they do find themselves in a situation they will be able to protect themselves.

 

  • Most bullies when seeking out a target, like a Lioness on the plains of Africa, search for weakness in their chosen prey. Generally, bullies are weak minded, they do not pick on those that have an air of self-assurance that walk around with confidence. 

 

  • Confidence gives off an outward subliminal message that tormentors, often without understanding why, steer well clear of. Bullies prefer an easier target they do not want to get hit back while they are showing off.

 

  • There are many other important reasons young children should take up such an interest: It is central to a Child’s development that they learn body skills in a cognitive manner on a physical level as well as an academic one. It must also be said that health aspects both physical and mental are greatly enhanced whilst training in the martial arts, if taught properly.

discipline & learning

  • A child also needs to understand what it is to have to work at any given thing to achieve realistic goals and that these goals are not always made too easy for them. Unfortunately, in my opinion many children are left to their own devices too often and end up lacking in discipline and drive.

  • As with teaching any subject on a physical level or otherwise, it is vital to understand how people learn, adults as well as children. Some adults/children are audible learners, some visual and some have a more physical responsiveness. So you must watch closely as to how the child responds to the various directions and prompts you provide them. To see whether they are grasping the point in question. If not, you must change tack by using differing often imaginative techniques applicable to the individuals favoured method of learning until you see a positive reaction. Clear evidence that they have understood the information, they can then progress.

 

  • Even a basic understanding of body language and an ability to read facial expressions is a crucial tool in any good instructors’ armoury. Facial expressions are the most obvious and readable signs of any human. With the face being the most expressive part of the human anatomy many things can be learnt by studying it, after all it’s how Humans interact from birth. The onus then is on the instructor, to look for the signs and use them to guide his teaching. An important element that also needs to be understood are that girls’ and boys’ learn in different ways.

spatial awareness

  • A boys’ spatial awareness is frequently more expansive than a girls’ this can often cause them to be easily distracted. They often find it hard to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Consequently, if you do not have the boys’ full attention, i.e. if he is not looking straight at you or is otherwise occupied, chances are he will not have heard a word you said.

  • With girls’ however, due to the different synaptic response development in their brains, they see things in greater detail within a closer proximity and therefore have a narrower and shorter field of spatial awareness, but at the same time excellent peripheral vision. They are much more adept at multi-tasking and can be listening to you even when their attention seems to be elsewhere. Also, in my experience, girls are more readily able to understand instruction in greater detail from an earlier age than boys.

self awareness & confidence

  • Another great benefit of studying traditional martial arts from a young age is that there comes about in a relatively short space of time an assured kind of non-egotistic confidence and with that a certain self- awareness within their body movements.

 

  • There is something deeply sad about a child with poor self-confidence and this can lead to a damaging time throughout their childhood which will almost certainly progress into adult hood.

  • Often this lack of confidence can be no more than feeling awkward when moving, engaged in sport for example. The brain can take longer in some kids to fine tune and develop coordinated movement. The synaptic neurological responses from brain to muscle haven’t quite developed fully. So movement looks and feels cumbersome and clumsy. Children are very aware of this but don’t understand why it is happening.  

 

  • With proper training they begin to feel good about how they move, less self-conscious of their often ungainly movement, which is felt due to bones and muscles growing at a rapid rate and the brain learning to move them efficiently. As they start to control their muscles and tendons, confidence, poise and self-belief grows within them.

 

  • This is easily remedied with physical exercise such as football, gymnastics or Martial Arts to name a few.  Even simple things like learning to catch a ball or ride a bike can help a great deal.

  • Children in my opinion should be exposed to discipline combined with elements of hard work followed by a sense of achievement and earned praise. I feel they must also know what it is to lose occasionally. When a child comes to understand that through diligent effort they can actually excel or at least do better in what it is they are doing, everything else in their lives will take on a more purposeful meaning. This physical aspect then reflects back into their studying and socialising. There are possibly thousands of highly intricate moves in a style such as Kung-Fu and the fine motor skills required are intensely developmental and beneficial when practiced with proper tuition.

teaching children

  • When teaching children, it is imperative to embrace play and have fun whilst learning. Kung-Fu must always have a disciplined approach and the children must know and understand this from the outset. Once discipline is firmly established, to keep a child interested it must be enjoyable and entertaining as well as structured and well-organized.  It helps greatly at a subconscious level if whilst training, the young student is learning without really realising it within a fun activity.

  • The younger the child the harder it can be to hold their attention for longer periods. Approximately ten minutes, if you’re lucky, in my experience, and that’s when they are interested in what you are teaching them. If, however an element of mutual amusement is incorporated the Child’s attention span may lengthen quite considerably. When concentration begins to wane something else must be introduced quickly to maintain attention on the lesson in hand.

  • It must be said at this point that the young pupil must learn to do as they are told and have due respect for what the teacher requires of them, it is a fine line. Various and imaginative ways should be used to teach the same thing, to cut down monotony and a loss of interest. It is the required skill of an instructor to be able to maintain the discipline whilst keeping the child learning and engrossed.

  • When teaching Children, the obligation of a traditional martial arts instructor must be far from replicating violence and developing ego driven aggression, rather it is teaching a child to be respectful to themselves and of others and to know when and when not to use their skills. To educate them to strive for goals through hard work and dedication. They will in time feel confident and respected by their peers and elders. Confident that they can protect themselves from danger. To have no reason to pointlessly harm others.

  • The children must be aware that they are a part of an ancient Chinese tradition and all that encompasses. Spanning two thousand years or more, the depth of martial arts is immeasurable. It most certainly is not just a method of learning to fight.

teaching adults

  • Whereas, when teaching adults, it is necessary within a traditional style to concentrate on repetition of techniques often for extended periods. Whilst teaching children however this is practically impossible. Quite often an adults mind is no longer readily open to learning as a Child’s maybe but, adults have a far better comprehension of why repetition is necessary…sometimes! Long periods of reiteration can seem tedious to a child, very often because after doing something for a few minutes they think they know it all anyway.

Written by Shifu-Neil Webster.