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Martial Arts Training for Children: A Perfect Match for Traverse City Kids!

Crisp white uniforms, colored belts around the waists neatly tied, straight formation lines, resounding confident “yes sir’s” echoing through the dojang, smiling anticipated faces confidently held high and bright eyes fixed forward on the black belt instructor’s every word and movement. The setting: a beginning child Taekwondo class for 7 to 12 year old students at the Seung-ni Martial Arts Academy in Traverse City on a brisk late fall afternoon. Parents and grandparents fill the viewing chairs in the back of the gym watching intently as the Taekwondo class gets underway. Asian character scrolls hang upon the wall and kicking bags line the perimeter. The martial arts class is filled with all types of youngsters just beginning their journey. Some are there to work on physical skills like balance, strength, flexibility and hand-eye coordination. Others are there for the multitude of mental benefits like confidence, focus, respect and self-control. Regardless of why they began Taekwondo – they are on the right path.

In Traverse City, the youth are bombarded from their peers, media, society and essentially all sides with confusing and unproductive messages about how they should act, what are appropriate priorities and when to be a leader. I am sure this comes as no shock. Sometimes I will walk through the mall on a Saturday afternoon with my family and simply scratch my head at the behavior of children and teens in Traverse City. Sassing off to parents, not obeying, poor language, bad posture, no pride in their appearance – are just some of the easily identifiable signs of trouble brewing.

The Seung-ni Arts Academy in Traverse City, where I am a Master Instructor teaches way more than just kicks and punches to the kids. The exciting world of martial arts with its cool kicks, fun weapon training, board breaking and earning belts and trophies is the perfect vehicle for engaging kids and instilling in them the important life skills of Taekwondo. For instance, respecting parents is one of our essential curriculum items. The kids learn that obeying their parents is the non-negotiable part of a trade with their parents. Parents take care of them, buy them stuff, help them with homework, wash their dirty clothes, cook food for them – in return they have to do as they are told {even if they don’t like it). Taekwondo kids at Seung-ni embrace this old fashioned idea and live it.

Bullying in Traverse City is on the rise. Bullying whether it’s verbal, physical or mental takes its toll hard on the self-esteem of children. You can tell your kid to stick up for themselves. But, that is the equivalent of yelling from the edge of a pool “swim” to a child who is struggling to stay above the water and has never been taught how to swim. Confidence stops bullying. Learning martial arts teaches youngsters that they can defend themselves and are strong. This knowledge in turn creates a strong foundation of self-esteem. This confidence now allows a 4th grader to stand a bully down with just their words, posture and presence.

I am bored … I want a new video game. There is nothing to watch … I want a new dvd. I have nothing to do … I want a new toy. I am tired of that activity … I want to try something new. Today’s child is not being ingrained with grit. Instead they are being programmed that when bored or making no easy progress at a sport or other undertaking -- simply find something new. Watch a kid hop from game to game on an I-Pad, it’s crazy. Martial arts is old, Taekwondo is old, saying “yes ma’am” to your mother is old, taking pride in your homework is old, sticking with a challenge until you master it is old. Martial arts instills in a child that long term dedication to something worthwhile is the only way to get anywhere in life.

Traverse City children need martial arts. They need its structure and focus on the positive things in life. Bullies don’t pick on Taekwondo students. Peer pressure does not phase a black belt. Hard classes and demanding school teachers do not dampen the spirits of a Seung-ni peaceful warrior!

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