Thursday, 28 March 2013

Peaceful Warriors

Blogger's Block tonight. Must have been that exhausting spin class - the first after a two-week break. (I wore my new minimalist running shoes to spin. They say you should break them in slowly...). Had lots of half-brewed ideas about what to write. Went to a great nutrition seminar last night hosted by my son's soccer club. I will write about that eventually. It was so informative I don't just want to rush into that article. Suffice to say, for now, that my family will be consuming a heck of a lot more fruits and vegetables than they currently eat. Easter Bunny may be hiding carrots this year....

So tonight I thought I'd talk about my son's other sport, tae kwon do. He's been a student for almost five years now and loves it. It is a non-competitive club; they are called "Peaceful Warriors." It's been great for his self-esteem (which is pretty much off the charts now, but not in an obnoxious way), his physical strength and his flexibility. As he says, "It's great cross-training for soccer." (His favourite sport).
Flexibility demo. I remember when I could do this, a mere 35 years ago.
I admire his sensai, Antonio, who has such control over the class and runs each session with his usual calm, non-threatening demeanour. He is not overly strict, but just enough to let the students know he expects them to be respectful towards him and their fellow classmates. Great skills for life are learned here. Older students work alongside younger ones, and they all learn from each other while gaining self-confidence. The younger ones learn that the older ones aren't "scary big kids" and the older ones learn to be patient with the younger ones, and that they are in the position to be great role models. My son has grown from being one of those little kids that looked up, wide-eyed, at the older students to being one of those role models himself, often stepping in to demonstrate how a kick or a certain move is done.

Peaceful Warriors is a little unique in that our sensai combines the traditional teachings of tae kwon do - thus allowing the student to progress towards a black belt - with the self defence tactics of Russian martial arts (inspired by Vladimir Vasiliev of the Russian Martial Arts System, based on the training of the Russian Special Forces.) It's all good to my son. He enjoys the variety and judging from the repeat business year after year, so do a lot of the kids. And the child's level of flexibility is amazing. (In fact I wince at how close he is to being able to do the splits.)

Sometimes, at the end of a class, Antonio will light a candle and have all the students sit in a circle around it. He will ask them to focus on the candle, and be absolutely still and quiet for one whole minute. What an awesome sight to see (and hear)! How many times can you count when you've seen a room full of kids sitting still and not talking for an entire minute? Beautiful. He should run day care. (Peaceful Wee Warriors?)

Positive self-image and pride, courage to overcome fear, self-discipline and respect are all taught, practised and encouraged at the school, which offers programs for families and adults as well. I love this quote from the sensai, who is big on giving students the confidence to stand up against bullying: "Fear is a natural part of life, but it can drive you to perform better if you have the courage to face it."

Below is the student creed from Peaceful Warriors. The students (from about ages five to 12 in my son's class) stand in a circle at the end of each class, and recite this, with a lot of energy and conviction. It always puts a smile on my face when I hear it. We could learn from them:

I intend to develop myself in a positive manner
And to avoid anything that will reduce my mental growth
Or my physical health.
I intend to develop self-discipline in order to bring out the best
In myself and others, through honesty,
respect, courage, compassion, commitment and self-sacrifice.
I intend to use what I learn in class constructively
And defensively in order to help myself and others
And to never be abusive or offensive.
We are a black belt school. We are dedicated,
We are motivated,
We are on a quest to be our best.

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