Our children started tae kwon do at the Gatlinburg Community Center in January 2016. It all happened because our son got interested in ninjas through the LEGO Club magazine (thanks a lot, Ninjago!). Also, because my husband insisted we let them do this. I have allowed eight months to go by before I blogged about this, as I was not very sure about it myself. So far, I am very pleased with the results.
Have you read Wild At Heart? I read it before I was married with children and it helped me understand men – their desire to fight, to protect, to be bold and gallant knights.
I feel like my son is a knight-in-training. He loves war. He has dreams of training the Gatlinburg Police Force as ninjas to fight bad guys. His sister imitates him in everything he does, so they both had a desire to learn martial arts. Since most of the things we do in our homeschool require lots of motivating on our part, we were very happy to provide one activity the children were eager to do.
Let me tell you something in case you missed it: I am homeschooling real children – the kind that do not always show enthusiasm for math or violin or spelling. This mom gets weary of cajoling and looking for the right buttons to push in order to extract willingness to “do school” from her children. It is refreshing to have one thing they rush to with eager hearts.
My husband and I both took karate in our adolescence. Some Christians believe martial arts are wrong because of underlying Buddhism/Confucianism and the whole idea of fighting/self-defense. I do not have an agenda to change anybody’s mind about anything. To each his own.
We would have preferred karate instead, but the closest program was 30 minutes away. Also, the kids would have been separated by age, which meant more time.
So here’s why we do tae kwon do:
- Because we can. (Ha!)
- My husband wanted it. I trust his judgment.
- It is five minutes from our house by car.
- It is later in the day, so it does not interfere with our morning and afternoon activities.
- It is affordable.
- It provides physical training for our children. Most class time is taken by pure physical exercise. Hiking and biking can only take us so far and, in all honesty, I don’t have the inclination to hike and bike with them as much as they need it.
- The kids get “play time” (read “supervised socialization”) with other children. It’s five minutes before and after class, but it counts.
- They use sparring gear. It is a combat sport and a contact sport, but no real injuries happen. My children have gotten hurt more in soccer than in tae kwon do. Before we started, I asked Coach Evans if they get kicked in the head. He laughed and said, “If they are lucky!” Most of the students are small children with not a whole lot of fire power. It’s not what you see on youtube.
- They can be together in the same class. Laurence Evans, the black belt who leads this program, knows how to integrate different levels and ages in the same program simultaneously. It’s a multi-level classroom and it works just fine.
- It teaches them the process of earning something through hard work. They love going to the next level and have started to associate training with being prepared for the test. There’s merit in the process.
- It teaches them to make decisions based on principles, not feelings. After every class, they repeat the values of tae kwon do together, in a chorus: “modesty, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit.” In their binder, Coach Evans added “kindness” as a vital value to cultivate in their lives. No matter whom you meet, if you show them kindness, you will take a path toward a good relationship. Who can argue with that?
- I can sit on the sidelines and observe everything or I can drop them off. I usually stay and read a book, while half listening to what is going on. Now and then I raise my eyes from the book to see how my children perform a certain task. It helps me to observe their behavior under somebody else’s leadership. It confirms certain things I know about them or it teaches me new things.
- I can hear their conversations with other children. It’s a large room, but not huge.
- It helps us connect with the local community. I knew some of the people in the program, but we made some new friends as well.
- We live in a strangely violent world. People get attacked with knives and axes on trains in Germany and France, countries in the heart of the “civilized” Western Europe. Some self-defense skills may come in handy when you least expect it.