KIDS KUNG FU
Can it help prevent bullying?
“Wing Chun Kids love hard work”. Well, if Kung Fu can be roughly translated to ‘Hard Work’, then our Wing Chun kids do indeed love hard work. The enthusiasm they demonstrate is surprising in such an environment where discipline and good behaviour is demanded. But, self defence, is only one tiny aspect of the benefits gained from training children in martial arts. The children are open to so much more in their development, and particular changes we observe over time are:
- Social interactivity increases
- Self Confidence to talk
- To have opinions
- Not afraid to be wrong
- They are willing to demonstrate their new skills to the class
- An increased awareness of their health and fitness
- A respect for hierarchy and transferring this to mum, dad and siblings
- Increased concentration periods
- Encouraged to Focus these abilities into their school studies
We sometimes wonder if the child wants to do martial arts, or it is the parents wanting something for their children, that initially brings them to us. However, the reason is not as important as the person and that is what we, at the UKWCKFA, aim to develop.
A kung fu class is a very different environment to a schoolroom as, on the whole, the child likes, and may choose, to be here. This gives us a clear head start and enables us to have a more profound impact on their development, as they are more open to our influence. But, this also emphasises the requirement that we accept the responsibility all the more seriously and never abuse the trust that both child and parent have placed in us.
Throughout our web site you see constant references to self-defence and how, if it should work for an adult to overcome a difficult situation, then surely the same general principles apply to children?
Wing Chun can be a complex and intellectual system and it is often the intellectual side that appeals to the adults. But children will not enjoy being lectured to and require a lot of interaction and prefer to be very hands on.
As we get older, we get wiser! But, we have also had longer to build patterns of behaviour that are harder to change. Adults tend to want a lot of detail to fully understand the minutia of a technique. Wing Chun does make a lot of sense as an adult, but unfortunately adults confuse this intellectual ‘understanding’ with potential ease of use, and this is quite simply incorrect. It is the hard training and repetition of drills that build skills, developing applications that can be applied without thought.
Children will tend to dash in making mistakes and learning from them as they go. This is only a problem if discipline is not maintained in the class. Training the children in this great art is a real pleasure as you almost start from a clean drawing board and they are not so ‘set’ in their ways. Children are adaptable, are openly encouraged to be confident and try things, and to realise mistakes are also great learning opportunities.
Adults have so often met the psychological bully who is happy to tell them what they can’t do, they can allow their pride to get in the way and so often find it hard to answer a question or demonstrate a technique for fear of being wrong! Adults also tend to feel that mistakes are unacceptable and become frustrated when progress is not a swift as they had envisioned, because they can ‘understand it’. But why should martial arts be different from any other part of our life? Throughout our life so many things happen to distract us from our path, and we sometimes feel down. This is not usually a problem until we forget that it is not feeling down that is a worry, but how continue to react to the stimuli that caused it. If someone hurts us emotionally or physically it is only normal that we feel pain, it is how we react to that pain that makes the difference. It is not what we feel that matters as much as what we do about the way we feel. Here, once again martial arts lends a strong helping hand with a good teacher. A good teacher will help you understand that your present limitations are not your future constraints, and with your hard work you will come to see you can succeed. We may as well stop teaching our blind, paraplegic and cerebral palsey students now, if we don’t believe that…… we wont because they wont.
A typical children’s class differs from the adults in that we take time to introduce simple anatomy and physiology. Naming muscles, explaining how they work and what their actions are in a warm up etc. encourages them to realise that school is more than a playground. In the right circumstances children absorb this information like a sponge. We also have a ‘quiet time’ when a little attempt at meditation is made. It is used to help the children ‘visualise’ themselves training and try to hold a simple chain of thought.
The children particularly enjoy the padwork as can be seen in the various photos below. With so many facets developed such as:
Hand to eye coordination
Speed of thought
Speed of hand or foot
Focus and control
Release of frustration or energy
There is a lot to glean from a constructive and progressive training schedule that includes impact training. The children can see each other improve and as long as it is shown that they are ALL improving no person will feel weaker slower or more fallible. These small reinforcements to the child’s self esteem build character and build a more vibrant person, not an egomaniac or arrogant individual.
Self confidence takes its form in may ways. One story that comes to mind is of an individual offering to help an old lady cross the road. The old lady used foul language to decline the offer. Although surprised the individual walked away and realised she may have been frightened. Would you tell the old woman where to get off, or never offer to help another older person again for fear of rejection? A good person would not, and a well trained martial artist aims to be a good person.
If an art says that it is good for ‘self-defence’ then surely that should also equate to it being useful for kids? We know children are not as strong or heavy as their adult counterparts and they HAVE to develop skill and discipline in order to stand any chance in adversity. But surely all martial art styles attempt to beat an aggressor who is probably bigger or stronger, and if not they may attack from out of your vision, or have support from others or have a weapon. You are unlikely to meet an opponent who starts on you thinking you will give him a good thrashing!!! Bullies pick their victims…
Bullying is of great concern to the parent, and a child can be affected greatly. The fear bullying causes is likely to make the victim introverted, have poor body image, feel unsupported and alone, and leave them in a position where they do not ask for help even when it is available from parents who have total love and support to offer.
It matters not that a 10 year old is bullied by other 10 year olds. Who is to say what scale their fears should measure up to? Fear can be irrational, but does not mean it is any less of a powerful emotion. Sometimes it is the very fact that it is irrational that is hard to bear. The child may feel at times that it is not that bad, but then the cascading emotions well up each time the trigger is set again.
So how can martial arts help individuals come to terms with such feelings? The most common way is to rebuild self esteem through positive feedback, encouragement and hard work. By changing the body language you effectively change the individual at some level. By talking of such subjects in class and getting the children to chat to each other about what they think of bullying makes the subject less a personal pain and more a shared experience. It is remarkable how so many people who suffer at the hands of bullies feel it is only them going through it. By building new friendships, realising not everyone is the same and training in martial techniques the child has the tools to deal with the bully by walking away and when absolutely necessary to take physical action to defend themselves.
One of the most difficult things to deal with in self defence, whether it be a physical attack or emotional bullying is the fact that you do not understand why a person should act as they do. We can argue that it is a persons insecurity that causes them to be aggressive toward you, or make excuses that they don’t have a stable family etc. but that is just rhetoric for Courts, probation officers and child protection. It is not for you to understand the why until you take up one of the aforementioned careers.
You have to look after you.
Dealing with an aggressive individual is a subject that will be discussed on another page. keep an eye open for the link that will be placed here and on our contents page.