L.A.W.S. of the Scholar & Warrior
Kenpo Kids Blog - July to October 2020: Bravery #1
Bravery is at the heart of being a warrior because a warrior is somebody brave enough to do the hard things other people won’t and can’t do. To begin with, a Brave warrior understands the different kinds of fear:
Worry and Anxiety -- these are little fears where you’re afraid of something that could happen, maybe, some day. They aren’t likely things to happen. They’re the “what if” fears that sometimes pop into our heads for no good reason but if we let them they can control our thoughts and decisions.
Physical Fear -- these are when you’re afraid of getting hurt. Sometimes it’s a fear that won’t happen, like when you get that funny feeling in your stomach when you’re about to jump off a diving board. Other times, it’s a warning about something that could hurt you, like a bully or angry dog coming at you.
Social Fear -- is the fear of being embarrassed or made fun of. You often feel social fear before speaking in front of class, or talking to somebody you don’t know, or talking to somebody you have a crush on.
Emotional Fear -- is the fear of experiencing sadness, or disappointment, or of seeing other people feel sad and disappointed. Kids most often experience emotional fear when they need to tell parents or friends something they won’t like to hear.
Each of these different kinds of fear can make you want to not do things, sometimes important things. Sometimes you should listen to your fear, and other times you should ignore it. It depends on the situation, and the kind of fear.
Worry and Anxiety should always be ignored. They’re nothing but a mental monster under your bed, your imagination playing mean tricks on you. The best way to ignore worry or anxiety is to take action. Do something. Anything. Just getting busy with something else will make the worry and anxiety go away.
Physical Fear is a warning sign from your body that something could hurt you. Even when it’s a stomach butterflies on a high dive, your body is reminding you that being up high can mean falling, and falling can hurt. If you feel physical fear, stop and look at the situation. Then decide what the best and safest thing to do is. Ask your parents or other responsible adults if you’re not 100% sure. Sometimes that means jumping right the heck off that diving board. Other times it means running away as fast as you can. A lot of the time, it’s something in the middle.
Social Fear is a lot like worry and anxiety because you should usually ignore it. Social fear is worrying that people might not want to be friends with you...and people who would be mean to you or not like you because of a small social mistake aren’t the kinds of people you want as friends anyway. It’s not as easy to ignore as worry and anxiety, though, because social rejection and teasing hurts. The best way to deal with social fear is to have a good group of caring friends around you. They’re like the social version of karate training: great self-defense against social pain.
Emotional Fear is sometimes harder to face than physical fear, because the hurt from grief and embarrassment can last a lot longer than the hurt from a bruise or even a broken bone. But there’s a trick to emotional fear: you experience the pain even before you do the thing you’re afraid of. The best way to handle emotional fear is to do the thing you’re afraid of as soon as possible. That way even if it does hurt, it hurts for the least amount of time and you’ve talked to the people who can help you get through it.
Next month, we’ll look at a special tool for dealing with all kinds of fear. For this month, just think about Bravery and how to use it for all four types of fear.
This month you have a simple, but powerful (and a little time-consuming) piece of homework. Go buy or check out a copy of Gavin deBecker’s Protecting the Gift or The Gift of Fear. Read it, or listen to it on audiobook. There is no better guide for understanding and helping your child deal with fear, and no better way to teach you how than to say “Go Read This Book.”
So...um...go read that book.
L.A.W.S. of the Scholar & Warrior
Kenpo Kids Blog - July to October 2020: Bravery #2
There are two kinds of fear: fear you should listen to, and fear you should ignore.
Fears you should listen to are the fears that come from real dangers that can really hurt you. If you feel nervous standing near a cliff, step back. It’s your body telling you that falls are dangerous. If a person you meet scares you, stay away from that person. It’s your body telling you that person shouldn’t be trusted. You get that feeling in your stomach when you almost get hurt because you were in danger of being hurt.
When you feel fears you should listen to, get away from the source of that fear as soon as possible and tell your parents or another trusted adult about it right away. It’s their job to deal with scary things, whether that’s teaching you new skills, calling the police, or repairing something that’s broken or dangerous. Your job is to listen to that fear and stay away. Being Brave with real fears means doing the right thing even if part of you says you’re being “chicken” or “stupid.”
But there are also fears you shouldn’t listen to. Things like fear of the dark, or of monsters under the bed, or of not being good enough to try something new. Some psychologists call these fears “anxiety” to make sure people understand the difference, but “fear” works just fine. This is where Bravery calls for just doing what you need to do even though you feel a little bit afraid.
Your Bravery assignment for this month will help you be Brave with fears you shouldn’t listen to. This month, you will memorize a poem by Frank Herbert about how to deal with fear. It’s called the Litany Against Fear and it goes like this:
I will not fear
Fear is the mind-killer
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration
I will face my fear
I will permit it to pass over me and through me
And when i turn to look
The fear will be gone
Only I will remain
Practice this poem until you can say it by heart, then tell your teacher when you’re ready to say it out loud. The next time you’re faced with a fear that you should set aside, use this poem. You’ll be surprised how well it works.
Teaching kids the difference between fears you should listen to and fears you should ignore is a serious and important parental challenge. On the one hand, you want them to grow into effective, empowered adults who don’t let petty anxieties get in the way. On the other hand, you want them to listen to their intuition and fears in ways that keep them safe. On the gripping hand (because we’re apparently going Full Metal Sci Fi Geek this month), some of those anxieties can get pretty annoying for you and other adults in your child’s life.
It’s a tough balance to strike, so we reached out to some experts on safety and fear to find three pieces of great advice on how to teach both the lesson of Bravery and the lesson of Listening to Fears:
Err on the Side of Caution. This is simple good sense. The worst case of listening to fears too much is difficulty growing and challenging yourself later in life. The worst case of listening to fears too little is injury and death. Especially with young children, practice teaching when in doubt, stay away. Some of the complexities of this are best saved for when your child is older.
Use Context. Especially if the context is “are you, the parent, present?” Teach your child to face his fears when you’re there to help, or another trusted adult is there. This helps in two ways: you can help identify which fears should be listened to, and kids usually find it easier to be brave when a parent is nearby.
Lead by Example. Explain to your child times you feel afraid or anxious -- both those where you ignored the fear and those where you moved forward in spite of the fear. Do this both in real time (when opportunity presents itself) and in “after-action” considerations. As with everything else, your child will imitate you whether you want her to or not. Make sure she understands why you act the way you do, so she can imitate the best parts of you.
Note for hard-core geeks: Yes, we know that we altered the poem a little bit. We like it better this way. Don’t bother flaming us over it. We’re not afraid of that.
L.A.W.S. of the Scholar & Warrior
Kenpo Kids Blog - July to October 2020: Bravery #3
Practicing your kenpo moves can feel a lot like dancing, but it isn’t just dancing. We hope you’ll never, ever have to use them this way, but each of those moves is made to help you protect yourself from somebody else who is trying to hurt you.
If you want them to work, you need to practice adding power to each move. This is especially important for kids, because you haven’t grown big yet. Small people have to work harder to move with power…and kenpo has four “Power Principles” to help you do that work. They are:
Memorize that list. Once you can say it without peeking, come back and read what each of those things means.
Moving in a straight line is powerful if you have room. If you don’t have room, moving your body in circles gives you extra power. This is why your teacher has you turn your hips when you throw your jabs and straight punches.
Practice this when you open doors. First try to open by pulling on it in a straight line with just your arm. Then do it by holding the handle and rotating with your hips and legs. Can you find other ways to use rotation in simple tasks?
The more of your body you put into any action, the more power you put into the action. That’s because extra weight equals extra power. Think about your snap kick versus your front kick. The snap kick is faster, but the front kick has your hips and body behind it. It hits harder. Much harder.
Practice this when you have to pick something up. Try lifting with just your arms. It’s hard. Then try lifting with legs. Easy. Now, think of other examples of using inertia to make jobs easier.
What goes up, must come down. The earth pulls everything on it, all the time. Anything you do with downward force hits with extra power because you have gravity on your side. It’s why stomps and downward punches hit harder than upward punches and wheel kicks.
You don’t have to do much to practice seeing gravity work in everyday situations. But sometimes pay attention while you’re walking. See how working with gravity can make that easier than working against it. Can you think of other examples of working with gravity?
When an opponent attacks you, he is sending lots of power in your direction. If it hits you the way he wants it to, that hurts you. If you can use that power against him, it hurts your opponent. If you put your foot in front of somebody’s ankle when they’re standing still, that person will look at you funny. If you put your foot in front of a running person’s ankle, that person will fall down.
One place to see borrowed force in action is when it’s windy. Go outside and walk into the wind, then walk with the wind. What other situations in life can you find where borrowed force can help you?
The bad news is these are advanced concepts, typically beyond what adults ask kids to be able to understand.
The good news is this is an opportunity to talk with your child about core concepts from physics and engineering. When you have time, we recommend spending some of it exploring rotation, inertia, gravity and borrowed force with your child in a series of science experiments at home. Not only will it help your child’s kenpo, it will give her a leg up in science classes at school.
L.A.W.S. of the Scholar & Warrior
Kenpo Kids Blog - July to October 2020: Bravery #4
What do you think of when you hear the word “bravery”?
Do you think of soldiers in a war, maybe even a soldier you know? Do you think of knights or samurai fighting evil? Maybe of police or firefighters facing danger to keep people safe? All of those people are very brave, but that’s not the only kind of bravery.
That’s a good thing. Your assignment this month will be to do something brave every week. If putting yourself in danger was the only way to show bravery, that wouldn’t be a very responsible assignment, would it? Instead, we’re going to ask you to show your bravery in another way.
Once a week, all month long, you have a simple job:
Eat something you haven’t eaten.
Or something you have eaten, but you don’t think you like. If you don’t think that requires bravery, it’s been a while since you tried it. You have to look at the new food and think about what it might taste like. Some people have to work their way up to it before they can make themselves take a bite, chew and swallow.
Your job is to be as brave as possible with it, and to eat it quickly and without making any “yuck” noises afterward. You don’t have to take a second bite after you’ve given the food an honest try, but no taking a little bite and pretending you were brave.
Once you've tried your new foods, draw a picture or make a collage that shows how you felt before and after trying the new food. Show it to your teacher the week before testing, and answer any questions he or she has about your brave food-tasting experiment.
This is important for two reasons.
First, practicing little bravery like this exercises the same “mental muscles” you need to do bigger brave things like standing up for a bullied kid, or telling the truth when it’s hard.
Second, you will have a happier life if you’re good at trying new things. Everything you love now is something you had to try for the first time at some point in your life. If you’d never tried it, you couldn’t love doing it now. The more new things you try, the more things you’ll find in your life to love.
One of the most powerful things about martial arts training -- and most other sports -- is that it teaches students to try new things often and not fear failure on first attempts. Every new basic strike or block, each new technique, each new kata is an invitation to try and fail, and fail, and fail again. And the failure is okay. It’s encouraged. It’s part of the journey, and “Even Monkeys Fall Out of Trees.”
Brave children are raised to try new things and not fear making mistakes. You’ve already done some of that by encouraging your child to try karate lessons, and to keep practicing even the skills that need improvement. This assignment is another angle at the same kind of practice.