Through Kung Fu, young students develop the habit of pro-actively improving themselves, while building a good physical base for health and fitness for the rest of their life. I also make my students do blocking and striking drills. When they are ready, they can get sparring experience on my close watch. This lets them become more self-aware and learn very quickly how to handle conflict and manage tensions. They also learn how to respect an opponent and to win or lose with grace.
Importantly, they can become confident individuals who can stand up for themselves and others.
In Singapore, there has been news reports of late highlighting how the typical way of bringing up children has too much of a lopsided focus on academic results to sometimes tragic consequences. The focus on results is lamented to have thwarted the nurturing of a creative, problem solving mindset and instilling an interest in acquiring knowledge for its own sake. I agree with this.
It is in my own experience in my extended family and school environment to see that a typical education path has shown better results for daughters who tend to be more obedient and conforming than their male counterparts. There are always exceptions of course.
In my experience, we males tend to want to rebel more and parents should guide their boys with reason, giving them learning hands-on experiences to understand the realities of life.
I have met parents who prefer their children to develop traits of courage, resilience and street smarts through ‘experience learning’, or so I call it. They like their children to grow up strong and healthy, putting equal priority in well-being and academic results. Especially their sons, they want them to be strong enough to take on the responsibilities of manhood, which includes how to take care of others, and earn the trust of those around them. There are some couples in which both father and mother agree in such an approach in bringing up children.
The other type of parenting sees more importance in completing university education than psychological maturity and health. If at any point of time their grades do not meet expectations, all the 'secondary' activities gets cancelled to face an existence of school and tuition centres. We have seen too many timed how this 'pressure cooker' situation adversely affects parent-child relationships, emotional development and self-esteem.
People tend to associate this kind of parenting to Asian parenting. But mind you, this is not our true Chinese family upbringing.
Wanting our children to excel is a given through all ages and cultures. But when we study the family values of past, fathers make a man of their sons by letting them actively take on hands-on tasks to learn from experience.
History may not be as kind to girls who were limited to playing a support role to their family. They have a choice now and in many ways its a welcomed advancement. Which also means, boys, you better up your game to keep up.
Boys back then were encouraged to learn Kung Fu or otherwise be physically able. Kung Fu is the most common activity that a pre-Qing Chinese male will adhere to. The traditional Chinese sees a weak body that is unable to play sports a misfortune. Even a boatman or a farmer is more respected than a rich man's son who does nothing but nurse his illness at home. Sons of nobles are expected to possess greater physical finess than the average commoner, hence the emphasis of hiring Kung Fu tutors for their sons.
I strongly encourage parents to allow their children to experience doing things and getting along with people to develop a positive character. It is better for the children and for society when our children are well-rounded.
Even in the past, children tend to spend much more time with their mothers. But men played a stronger role in the family and they tend to set the tone for the upbringing. On paper we have moved into a more equal gender role and that should be a good thing. But a more common trend has become the dominant mother passive father scenario. This makes it really hard to keep the yin yang balance in the family that is so important to character development, especially for sons. If we want our sons to grow up to be a man, parents must jointly agree on the importance of roles of security and leadership in their son's lives that they strive to grow up into that kind of man.
I have been very lucky to have had great father and son teams come learn from me. I always encourage parents to learn Kung Fu together with their children, or if not, help them keep track of their notes and revision. Parents who have done so helped many of my students excel in Kung Fu. They also pass on the learning spirit to your children.
In an ideal world, society will place the same importance on academic and arts and sporting education to address the imbalance we see now.
I would also like to address the issue of bullying. It is much more common than many parents would want to believe it is. Even when relatively mild but unaddressed or repressed, these emotional scars do not easily go away into adulthood. Physical violence is never the solution but many parents do not understand the importance that physical confidence and savvyness plays in helping a child stand their ground or to avoid being a target in the first place.
Bullying has inspired many people to pick up martial arts. It is more often than expected to be a reason for parents to bring their children to the class. I would always advice that it is never the goal to encourage direct confrontation. Boys often build up this false movie fantasy about landing the perfect punch when a bully comes.
More importantly, it is about building the confidence and charisma to stand firm and negotiate. To be strong in mind and body for the long term but that one fantastical moment. With this, they also have the ability to help others.
Any parent should cultivate the positive mindset of facing problems instead of avoiding them. It calls on us to be that inspiring figure that shows them concern and that we have a part to play in raising up our children in a difficult time. If we can give up on our problems, why can’t they give up on their grades?
Building that determination and righteousness to face problems than to simply avoid them is what a Kung Fu education is for. It cultivates the warrior in the scholar. The ultimate Kung Fu warrior is fearless, rugged and of course, possess great physical prowess. You know it when you see one, you do not dare to try anything malicious under his watch, much less confront him on your own.
How does your son become that warrior? He must never expect to finish that journey in a flash; we will make him take steady steps towards that goal. In the first year or so, he will improve his fitness while building the physical foundation for the powerful skills to come. In the second year, he will learn techniques and how to apply them, while constantly doing interactive training with his peers. This builds his confidence in engaging with other people. In the third year or so, he will combine his techniques and start to lead juniors while learning with seniors. This will improve his social skills and learn how to organize himself. At this point, he is expected to have a strong body; self-esteem should have very much increased.
While conquering our physical barriers is a great achievement, Kung Fu is already a process where one grows stronger than their problems. Don’t you think it is a valuable learning experience?