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What were you doing in 1998? My four sons were 6, 5, 4 and 2, and and I had realized that they needed a physical outlet that I could not provide.  So they started training in ATA martial arts. 

 

Son Number 3 was the quiet, wallflower kind of kid, who always had his blankey and his thumb.  He was a cuddler, and loved to encase his bunk bed with hundreds of Chubs Wipes containers…do you remember those? The ones that looked like enormous legos? They are collectors items. You can get them on ebay these days.The rest of the boys and I would be happily doing boy things, and then we would notice that Noel was missing, and that’s when the manhunt would begin.  “Go find Noel, boys!” and they would scatter in our small little house and find him encased in a fortress made of Chubs wipes boxes and blankets, quietly building his sixteenth lego creation of the day.  

 

You can understand, then, how nervous I was when I put him into martial arts.  I don’t know if it was the hormones from my last pregnancy with my fourth son, or just that I was that emotional and nervous for him, (probably both) but I frequently would be at Master Patti Barnum’s ATA school which was in Burr Ridge at the time, and cry, as I watched my little son in Tiger class. My other sons had been older, and bigger when they started.  This one was just FOUR YEARS OLD for Pete’s sake.  And so little and cute.  Nonetheless, my heart’s desire was to teach my sons to be like what the good fairy said to Pinocchio.  

“To become a real boy, you must prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish.”

 

Many years later, in college, as a barista, my introverted son told me that although he doesn’t particularly like to deal with lots of crowds, he has learned how to be flexible and serve people. The style we train in is called Songahm, which means pine tree and rock, and this is my son.  Strong, brave, flexible, loyal, solid, creative, with deep roots of faith and service.  He gives the credit to the taekwondo training he had, since it pushed him to come out of his comfort zone, perform in front of others, and build those character traits of leaders.  My quiet, introverted son achieved his third degree black belt, graduated college with a degree in music, performs on stage, and is a percussion teacher for special needs. He might be soft spoken, but he beats a big marimba!

Parents! Look for your kids strengths, and grow those gifts! And never give up.  Keep listening, and pointing them toward their dreams, not your own. Their personalities might never change, but you can help them have confidence, self esteem, flexibility of character and the resilience to bounce back from the fears and disappointments in life. Doesn’t every parent want that for their kid?

Here’s to quiet, shy kids! Parents of these children need to dig deep to help their kids stay safe, and know who they are in the world. If you know someone who has a shy kid in their house, forward this blog post to them! We need all the hope and inspiration we can get.

Of all my sons, my oldest has incredible amounts of belief in himself.  He is a vivacious, happy go lucky, hard working, intense kind of guy. He was good in school, but he loved sports and working out much more. He was pretty good at the saxophone, but he preferred to play football. Even as a small boy, he believed in himself. He had oodles of self confidence. When confronted with something which made him nervous, he inevitably defaulted to a Yes I Can attitude. 

His favorite story from the Darien ATA school where my sons trained was the story of Naci and Tnaci. One of the instructors at that time, Ms. Kelli (now Master Shoup), would tell the students the story of two brothers who trained in martial arts, but each one had different attitudes, and each one created a different future as a result.  When their master instructor asked Naci to do 20 pushups, he said “Yes, I Can!” But his brother would sadly respond, “I Can’t.” Their master instructor would tell the class to go to set and stand tall like a leader, and Naci would say, “Yes, I Can!” whereas Tnaci would quietly mutter, “No, I Can’t.”  Finally, one day, Naci was ready to receive his black belt, and their master instructor gladly awarded it to him.  But Tnaci sat on the sidelines, unhappy, because he had always refused to have a Yes, I Can attitude.  And so, he did not get his black belt. I believe this story made a huge impression on him as a young boy, and he exemplifies it with his life.

One of my deepest prayers for my children has always been that they grow up to become warriors of God.   Well, he took this to a very literal, physical level by taking his martial arts training to the next level and fighting in Mixed Martial Arts. I don’t know too many moms who would really like to see their sons fight in octagons, but when I see him living his dream, and enjoying his life, I can’t help but be proud.  In the case of Son #1, his Yes I Can attitude has carried him through his Bachelors in Athletic Training, and is now a driving force in his MMA pro fighting career. I see him take his positive attitude into his mental training through his visualization of his future success. I have watched him face circumstances which cause me to doubt and worry myself into a shaking mess of nerves, and yet he still exudes that indomitable Yes I Can attitude in all aspects of his existence. He does so physically through his training commitment, mentally through his inner game of repeatedly visualizing his future successes, and emotionally through his full passionate belief in his art.

Tell your children the story of Naci and Tnaci.  It just might imbue then with the Yes I Can attitude of Belief.  Because it sometimes only takes one person believing in someone to push them towards greatness. 

 

Weapons for my kid…seems counter intuitive.

After all, aren’t we as parents interested in promoting cooperation, non-violence, and happy days?

Yes, we are.  Still, we live in a scary world, and the more we shine light on things that might be frightening within the safe circle of our adult presences, the better equipped our kids will be when faced with the inevitable negative parts of life. 

When I worked through my color belts on my path to black belt what seems like a century ago, (everyone knows I am ancient) we did not have weapons or chestguards or faceshields.  (Thank insurance companies for the additional gear.) Back then, weapons training was reserved for the black belt.  So, when I achieved my black belt, my instructor, Chief Master Patti Barnum handed me a Ssahng Jeol Bong (nunchuk) with a broad smile.  I asked her if I had to do weapons.  (Hear the whine?) She grinned and said, “yes, ma’am!” Grudgingly, I proceeded to drop my weapon over and over as I tried to master a 360 during that class.  Geeze, I thought. What a pain.

I am so glad she pushed me to do weapons and here’s why:

  1. I learned more about personal space and how a weapon extends my reach. (Think, self defense)
  2. I grew in perseverance through something I did not initially enjoy. (Bearing with uncomfortable situations)
  3. Training with weapons helped me face my fear, gain control of my aggression, and respect my power. 
  4. Weapons work improved my martial arts practice.
  5. I eventually achieved a district championship in Ssahng Nat (kamas)!!!!! Who would’ve thought!!! Certainly not me.
  6. I grew to love weapons, and have become very proficient in them.

I am so glad we teach weapons to color belts! It only makes our students better martial artists, and more respectful human beings. Which is exactly what our purpose is for our students. I expect that each student has a special place at home for their weapons, belts earned, and equipment.  I expect that each student must ask permission of their parent to work with their weapons.  In this way, we teach our kids respect for authority, a reverence for things that can harm others, and a measure of self-control that is lacking in many people today!

Parents, please comment on your experience with our weapons training!

Mrs. Streacker

Fifth degree black belt owner

Full Life Martial Arts

815-254-8224