I am a martial arts instructor. Even though most people think martial arts means only punching and kicking, for me, martial arts is a smart tool for teaching children virtues such as politeness, self-control, helpfulness, respect and patience and help them to develop an empathetic personality. I treat martial arts as an inner journey for me and for my little students, too.
I’ve been working mainly with kindergarteners and that means I receive this special famous box of chocolates at every lesson. I never know what will happen next, and every lesson is completely different although I know the kids pretty well after a while.
Of course, I prepare the lessons. However, when the children are very restless or too emotional, I need to change my lesson plan and improvise because I want them to have fun, which makes it a lot easier for them to learn. And because I never know exactly who’s coming, there’s a different group dynamic for every lesson. For example, when I think we could practice kicks but the kids are totally overexcited and giggly, I need to switch to simpler exercises so they don’t hurt each other.
On days when I’ve planned to teach my little fighters some self-defense skills, I cannot do that when they arrive having had a bad day in kindergarten. Practicing self-defense means a bit of psychological stress for the children and I feel that it would be too much under those circumstances. I notice that immediately because there are little ones who are very sensitive to any change on those days: “Why is there another punching bag hanging today?“ or “Why don’t we play ‘turn into stone’ ?”, and then it takes them several minutes to relax and play along.
On the other hand the children give very direct feedback which is helpful for me, although many other adults find it rather exhausting. If an exercise requires a lot of concentration and the children have reached their limits, they either start laughing or make a bit of trouble. The youngest might shout: “I need to go to the toilet!“ And because the kindergarteners imitate everything and everybody, I suddenly find myself standing on the mat and in the bathroom there is a traffic jam.
I have to admit I don’t feel certain if I always reach my goals of teaching the children respect, helpfulness or patience. Parents of my little students usually don’t come to me and say: “Wow, my boy is so respectful since he attended your class!“, or: “Thank you, the girl is so much more patient!“ That would be great feedback, but teaching virtues is a long journey and needs a lot of my confidence that I’m doing the right thing. I can’t do it alone either. I think it is very important we remember that education always starts at home.