Martial arts children and kung fu training. This article tells the reasons why children should participate in kung fu.
The training of children in martial arts has been the source of contentious debate within the community. It sometimes is incorrectly attributed to the development or encouragement of violence in children. This is not an accurate assessment of the practises that are instilled in children who participate in kung fu and those who formulate such opinions often do not have a full understanding of what this ancient Chinese martial art form aspires to teach.
One of the fundamental aspects of kung fu training is the teaching of discipline. This discipline is intended to incorporate all aspects of their lives. Students develop their ability to control their minds and bodies whilst meditating and visualising the techniques that they have learnt during that session. They must resist external distractions; to focus their energies internally and increase strength not only in their bodies but also in their minds. A strong body is nothing without a mind that is focused and clear and is a valuable strength that not all people command.
Kung Fu martial arts Children are taught in the very first level of grading that they must respect others. Not just those at kung fu classes but their parents, their teachers at school and their peers. Children who harness this level of respect in their lives are in turn respected by others; as they show an internal strength that is valued and admired. There is a saying that your kung fu age refers not to chronological age but instead to the time and experience that you have acquired in kung fu. By recognising those of higher experience and appreciating the knowledge that they share, children will develop a sense of leadership as they extend their own experience and tolerance towards others in a lower grade. Children who show tolerance towards others understand that everybody is different and that everybody has the right to be treated with dignity and honour.
This sharing of experience and development of knowledge directly engages the children in a sense of pride and accomplishment with all they have achieved. Children who have a lower self-esteem or are lacking in confidence in other areas can appreciate their own development and can help other newer students develop their techniques. This passing of knowledge helps to support the children’s validation of themselves as worthy members who can contribute to others’ wellbeing and development.
We, as a society, seem to be allowing technology to surpass our needs as human beings for interaction with each other. Children become teenagers in a society where the ability to bully or harass someone is easily facilitated when you can hide behind a computer screen. By training the mind and body in kung fu you are also training children to believe in themselves and to have an outlet aside from these online personas where they are valued members of a community. If children have a place in the community, outside of their school peers, where they are taught that they are valued and strong, they will have a deeper resilience when their egocentric sense of themselves feels like the world is against them.
Self-defence is an integral part of kung fu where children learn techniques that they can use should they find themselves in a situation where they must protect themselves from harm and disable an attacker in order to escape. Often the awareness developed through this training can keep students safe in itself; as they are able to be aware of situations that they should avoid but always enable them to protect themselves should they need to.
Pride and respect for oneself also relates to the way in which we treat our bodies. By participating wholly in kung fu classes, children will exercise their muscles and joints as well as their brains. Increased flexibility, strength and fitness through vigorous exercise has immeasurable positive effects on our brains and bodies. Our bodies release endorphins when we exercise making us feel good about ourselves and can directly combat mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Children who regularly exercise will be stronger and physically fitter, be less likely to be overweight, sleep better and be better equipped to handle the physical as well as emotional challenges that they may face in their lives. If these practises are begun at an early age they are more likely to develop and continue these healthy habits as they grow into adults.
My Martial Arts Children
I have three of my four children enrolled in the children’s class with my fourth child extremely eager to start. I have seen in my own children a development of strength, confidence and commitment to succeed. In each child there have been benefits that are unique to their own individual personalities. In my daughter I have seen a gradual strengthening of the mind and body whereby lately I have seen her lift her chin in determination to be stronger rather than dissolve into tears over minor problems in class. My stepson, who used to lack confidence, has completed his first grading and has found pride and assurance in his techniques as they develop. His attitude towards classes has become more resolved to try harder to succeed as he has seen within himself that he has the ability to do well. In each child as they develop over time I see a light in their eyes that grows brighter as time passes by, as their experience deepens and as they achieve their goals.
I believe that through Kung fu they are learning they can meet challenges with determination and a belief that they can achieve whatever it is that they most desire.
Jayanna Koppel, Golden Lion Kung Fu Berwick Centre