My all-time favorite task as a martial arts teacher is proudly wrapping a new belt around the waist of a deserving student or adding a hard-earned stripe to the well-worn belt of someone who shows progress and fighting spirit. But where there’s a yin, there’s a yang, and that means sometimes I have to later demote those same students for a variety of character-related mistakes. The main violation for kids involves a lack of respect. Siblings are usually the targets. Anger is oftentimes the source.
One time, I bumped a student from probationary black belt all the way down to white belt for bopping his sister on the head with a bo. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do as an instructor. I was afraid that this kid – a really great student in so many ways – would not return to train. But I knew that if I didn’t help him learn a lesson in self-control now, I’d be setting a Taekwondo Tasmanian devil out onto an unsuspecting world later.
After a long talk about "Star Wars" and the dangers of going over to the "dark side" of martial arts, that boy did return. Today he is a 19-year-old second-degree black belt and sophomore at Yale University.
When students misuse their Taekwondo skills, belt demotion is oftentimes automatic, but some students benefit more from telling me (and themselves) what went wrong and what to do right the next time.
The following is a short essay one of my students wrote regarding why it might be a good idea to treat his sister with respect.
Why treating my sister better can benefit me
“If I treat my sister better, then I do not have to get into trouble with my parents. It also will make my sister want to be nicer to me. Like when I was nice to her and she let me play with her brand new toy. I feel good when I am nice to her, but I only feel bad when I am mean to her. Also, if I want her to respect me and my rules about my room and my toys, then I should respect her as well.
“Also, if I keep doing this to my sister, then I cannot study Taekwondo anymore. Taekwondo is helping me a lot with self-control, which is helping me act better to my sister. It is also helping me with my endurance, strength, and self-confidence.” – E.A., age 10
So my question of the day is this: How can treating YOUR siblings with respect benefit YOU?