I have a memory from elementary school that is as vivid now as the day it happened. I was a kid that befriended anyone, didn’t belong to any one “click” but wandered as I pleased and I feel like I was accepted by most in this role. I remember one day at recess I was with a few friends, one of which I considered my best friend. I don’t remember the circumstances but I do remember the girls I was with started picking on another girl, calling her names, pushing her to the ground. I was young, I didn’t know what to do but I knew instinctively that it was wrong. But I didn’t do anything about it. I stood back and watched it happen with wide eyes and later when this girl reported what happened I was named as one of the girls that was bullying her. I remember being called into the office, the incident went on my report, my parents were contacted and I felt so ashamed but I also felt it was unjustified, it was not me! I didn’t do it!
This was before Kung Fu but I still had the understanding that it was wrong. I just didn’t know what to do and even if I had I didn’t have the confidence to stand up to my best friend and risk the fallout.
When I see all the kids lined up in front of me I can remember what it was like at that age. Nothing was more important than acceptance from my peers. When I was older I remember being on the other side of the fence but it never bothered me. It just didn’t bother me if someone didn’t like me and I always knew that they’d come around or just quit. I had good friends and I felt secure in who I was. No one else could tell me who I was.
What do we teach? Too many just see the kicks and the stances and the pushups and the punches. They are only tools. The physical skills that we teach and develop are only tools to teach real Kung Fu, real self defence. In our lessons we encourage personal excellence, and make sure we acknowledge the big and little milestones alike. The words we use will never break a child or student down. We ensure we build up confidence, the real kind of confidence that comes from competence. Not the phony kind that stems from low self esteem. We teach the kids to love themselves, and if they can’t in the moment then we will for them. We temper this with a drive to always improve because no one is perfect. We’ll be excited for them at the things they achieve, especially if they’re too shy to be excited for themselves. We will accept them for who they are in each moment.
Do we teach kids how to handle conflicts and bullys? Every day. You may not hear the term or even see the dots in any given class. Given time these kids will not only have the skills to deal with conflict, but they will also have the conviction to do what is right but hard, the passion to excel at what they love, the confidence to admit and accept their faults, and the determination to never quit trying to improve.
I know now that I was rightly named and I acted no better than the girls directly involved. It felt horrible in my heart but I did not have the skills to handle the situation. As a result I feel shame when I think about it. If a child has a similar memory when they’re an adult, I want them to be able to think about it with pride instead of shame. This is what we do in Kung Fu.