Today in kids class we focused on understanding the importance of respect in our daily lives and how it will make us great martial artists! We practiced Cuong Nhu bows by doing them with each other (developing new friendships). We talked about what words we can use to be more respectful – kids in class answered “please”, “thank you”, “can I help you”, “excuse me”. We discussed the 5 Firsts of Friendship: Communicate, Smile, Share, Care, and Forgive. Isobel (my 4 year old) whispered in my ear “Mommy, add hugs, love and be nice to your brother”.
We worked our minds with thoughts of respect and friendship and the student creed (obey your parents, respect your elders, use good manners at all times with all people, help others, do not fight). We worked our bodies with drills like jump the wet noodle, team balloon chop, jump duck dodge block, and breaking off into rank curriculum work. Then we all huddled closely on the floor so I could whisper the secret of a really great martial artist. The kids got so close I thought we probably looked like one big mound of white karate uniforms with black and red ying/yang patches. They eagerly waited for the secret……. so I told them “the secret of a great martial artist is to give 100% effort to everything you do.” We start class by shouting Gang (effort in Vietnamese) so we can remember to give 100% effort during class. We end class with Gang to emphasize the importance of taking effort back home, back to school, back to life!
Finally, we checked off our training books, animal stamped our theme page (Respect), decorated our books with stickers and read a great story called Winning by Losing. In this story, martial arts students practice in the rain and mud. Falling down. Never beating the rain and wind with their chops and punches. The kids liked the idea of falling in the mud! This story goes along with giving 100% effort in everything you do. When you play a game, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you win by playing! You win because you participate and you learn and get better, which makes you a winner regardless of what the outcome is. It is always important to know the score of a game and have pride in that accomplishment, congratulate others for their accomplishments (good sportsmanship) but there are so many other moments of winning. From the moment you start the game until it ends. Failing just means you are trying new things. Without failures your successes are limited. I remember a student of mine in Paris that always struggled to learn new techniques, always lost the sparring match, always finished last in the mat crawls. One might have thought at first blush that he lost. Many years went by, he struggled and improved. Each time he failed at doing something he looked deeper into the technique, practiced it harder, found a different way, a different approach. He became a much more successful Sensei/teacher than some other students who “got it” the first time. Students who naturally would excel and win sparring matches or finish the race first. His understanding was more profound. He was a winner by having failure along the way. He also grew internally with modesty and a non-defeistist attitude and was a true pleasure to work out with.
Class ended with everyone going home with a balloon, a smile, new friendships and a glimpse into winning by losing! Gang!