“Time to get ready for Taekwondo!” My daughters eyes light up as she peels off her high heels, crown and whatever princess dress she has chosen to wear that particular day and quickly puts on her little white Taekwondo uniform. Though this has been a “norm” for us twice a week since we started class last fall, I still can’t help myself from smiling when I see how her personality transforms when she puts on her uniform (not to mention how stinkin’ adorable she looks in it!) In all honesty, when she asked me if she could try Taekwondo last summer I was initially pretty hesitant as our daughter has always been a very shy and passive little lady. But, since she was so determined (mostly because the neighbor girls did it) we thought we’d let her give it a try.
We walked into the first class at Moh’s Martial Arts not really having any idea what Taekwondo was all about. The first thing we noticed was how the kids (aged 4-6 in this particular class) were all standing up completely straight and were respectfully giving the instructor their full, undivided attention. Their voices were loud and strong when they addressed him and happily followed his direction. I have to admit, there was a part of me that was just waiting for our daughter to get scared and come running into my arms in tears, but to my surprise… she didn’t. Instead, she carefully watched how the others moved and began to follow their lead. The class was filled not only with martial arts but also with positive messages about respect, self-esteem and how to handle themselves in tough situations. My husband and I were very impressed but we had no idea just how much of an impact that class would have on our little girl. In the few short months that have passed since she started lessons, we have watched Taekwondo compliment nearly everything in her life.
Growing up, one thing I always lacked in was self-esteem. Looking back on my life, I can see where my low self-esteem hindered experiences and altered decisions I made as a young adult. Now that I am a mother, my fear is that my daughter will suffer from the same lack of self-esteem I had. However, since starting Taekwondo, we have watched our once timid, hesitant child truly come out of her shell. She has transformed into a confident little girl who is no longer afraid to use her voice and be heard.
In each class, special attention is paid to reminding students how awesome they are. They are provided with encouragement on how to be their best self. They radiate confidence as they strongly repeat in unison oaths like, “self esteem is the joy of being myself”. They learn that feeling good about themselves projects positivity not only onto others but onto everything they do. Now, our once fearful little lady is no longer scared to raise her hand to volunteer at preschool or speak up to make sure her peers and teachers hear her. She no longer fears standing up for herself if she feels she has been treated unfairly. Her confidence has grown, but most importantly, she feels good about herself, which makes my heart just about burst.
In just about each class, with strong, confidently raised voices, the students say, “Respect is not what you know, it’s what you do.” The message of this oath is carried throughout each class teaching students the importance of not only respecting others but also respecting themselves and their body. Though my husband and I have been attempting to instill this in her since day one, something about her Taekwondo instructor saying it made the concept sink in for her. Respect has become a big deal to our daughter in the past few months – she now notices and points out actions she sees on TV, movies or real life of people being both respectful and not. When we need to correct her behavior, we often only have to calmly ask her “is that respectful behavior?” and it often does the trick (well, not always… she is 4.) Though she is one of the youngest in the class, none of the kids treat her any different – they all have a mutual respect for the person standing next to them no matter their ability, gender, race or age – how can a greater life lesson than that be taught?
Let’s face it, we live in a scary world. A VERY scary world. In the blink of an eye, the unimaginable can happen. What I love about Taekwondo is that it assists in establishing a strong foundation in developing defense techniques that will hopefully arise naturally if a bad situation ever occurs. It teaches them that no matter what, it is important to use their voice and fight back if a bully or stranger suddenly grabs them. They learn how to assertively and loudly yell “LEAVE ME ALONE” and “YOU ARE NOT MY DAD” along with physical defense moves that could possibly save their life. It reinforces lessons we all teach our kids – that their body is theirs and ONLY theirs.
Our daughter loves to be active! Since the time she could walk, she has been involved in numerous activities including dance, soccer, gymnastics and swimming – she has loved every one of them. Since starting Taekwondo, the physical activity (they definitely get a workout in!), balance, coordination and fine motor skills she works on in class have only complimented her abilities in other sporting activities. She has become stronger, faster and more confident in her body and isn’t afraid to challenge herself. After class, she always asks to stay and watch the older kids train with complete admiration for their form, physical abilities and dedication.
SHE LOVES IT
Our daughter is a girly girl… pink, glitter, princess everything all-day everyday but during those 45 minutes of Taekwondo class, she is a little warrior and I think that is awesome! Her silly personality still bubbles through (she can’t help but hop, smile and excitedly wave at us every time she does a new move correctly.) Being a strong, confident girl is the greatest thing I could hope for her.
One thing we have learned for sure is that Taekwondo has taught our daughter not to be afraid to be her unique self. Everything she does, she owns it. I admire that about her and I hope she never loses that. Taekwondo has encouraged her to embrace who she is because there is no one else on earth like her. And, as I sit writing this, I smile as I hear her (again, dressed head to toe in princess gear) compliment her Barbie’s on their perfect black belt form as she sates the Taekwondo oath…
To Be a Good Person,
With Knowledge in My Mind,
Honesty in My Heart,
Strength in My Body
To Make Good Friends,
And to Become an awesome black belt, SIR!”