The Silliness of Kids – Children and Martial Arts
Sifu Declan Lestat is the founder and chief instructor at The Forge in Minneapolis, specializing in Jeet Kune Do and Lau Kuin Kung Fu. He is a student of world renowned JKD instructor, Sifu Lamar M Davis II and a proud member of the prestigious Five Thunder Chinese Martial Arts Association. His website can be found here at www.theforgeacademy.com Here he speaks about children and the martial arts…..
I spend a lot of time teaching children. In fact, my time is probably split 50/50 between children and adults at the moment. As much as I love teaching adults – there’s always something new to challenge me when training a fighter of police officer – I’ve always felt that, when it comes to martial training, we have a lot to learn from children.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spoken with an adult who, when they find out what I do for a living, shows great interest and enthusiasm for martial arts. More often than not, they’ve even trained in an art some years ago. Unfortunately, within minutes of their interest catching light, the flame quickly dims as real life dumps a bucket of water over their aspirations. I’ve heard it all, and you probably have as well:
I’m too old to start all that Bruce Lee stuff now.
Where would I find the time?
I’d never be able to do that, I’ve got a dodgy hip (Back, knee, shoulder, whatever)
I haven’t got a clue where to begin, I’d look stupid!
I can’t afford it right now. Maybe after Christmas (Easter, holidays, etc)
I have asthma
I’ve got two left feet!
I’m too tall/short/fat/thin/female
The list goes on, and I’m sure you could add to it with reasons you’ve heard too. It’s not much different for existing students who hit a plateau, or are about to be challenged in a new and different way as they advance in grade. It’s important to note at this point, that these reasons aren’t always excuses. They’re often genuine beliefs and fears held by the grown up in question, so I’m not passing judgment on anyone who offers a line similar to one of those above. Just making an observation.
Now, compare this to children. Children are notoriously unreasonable, in my experience. Wonderfully unreasonable. Over the years, I’ve trained children of all ages who you would never expect to see in a martial arts class. And if they were grown ups, you probably wouldn’t.
I’ve trained kids with learning difficulties and physical disabilities (From the partially sighted to the asthmatic). I’ve trained kids who were overweight, and some who were skinny. Some were tall, some were shorter. I’ve taught kids with anger management issues, dyspraxia, various degrees of Aspergers syndrome, and diabetics. I’ve had burly junior rugby players sharing the mats with dainty girls who would have loved to have frills on their uniforms (I actually had that request!)… This list, too, goes on.
But whatever the challenge, the child has seen what we do as martial artists, and said to their parents “Gimme some of that!”. They just want to have fun and train. Their personal shortcomings don’t even enter into their decision making process. Like I said, they’re wonderfully unreasonable. Not to mention unrelentingly optimistic.
But of course, they’re just children and aren’t old enough to know better.
As we continue our journey in the martial arts – or if you’re thinking of starting your journey – I suggest we do our best to not know better. We may just surprise ourselves.