Kids and Kung Fu

The practical (and personal) benefits of Kung Fu are not limited to adult students; kids of all ages have been shown to benefit greatly from the study of martial arts. These benefits are not only from the physical exercise that is integral to Kung Fu – there are as many benefits of meditation and mindfulness for children and teenagers as there are for adults!

Though we do not focus specifically on meditation when working with children, mindfulness is an integral aspect of Shaolin-Do; to do one’s best and truly learn, a student must be in the moment. We encourage and teach mindfulness – listening and watching – as a part of every lesson.

For more information on the benefits of martial arts for kids, these articles are a great place to start:

Kids and Our School

Our philosophy for teaching children and teens does not differ significantly from that of teaching adults – we encourage all students to work their absolute hardest and demonstrate good discipline, but always while having fun! For all students, the benefits of martial arts are numerous, including:

Exercise – Kung Fu is an energetic and acrobatic martial art

Strength – We work hard! Strength comes naturally.

Flexibility – It’s necessary for many techniques, and every class starts with stretching

Coordination – Techniques range from simple to very complicated sets of movements

Spacial Awareness – Minding our own actions and the actions of those around us

Discipline – One must show commitment to learning in order to advance

Empathy – By learning about our self, we learn about each other

Personal Achievement – Skill cannot be given, it must be accomplished by the student

Teamwork – Partner exercises are a part of every lesson, and no one hurts another

Confidence – Achieving mastery of a complex skill builds a sense of self assurance

There are, however, some differences in how we teach kids versus how we teach adults, as well as some important points we feel any parent should know about Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do when considering enrolling their children:

  • Teaching is always supportive, never punitive. We encourage students to do their best and push the limits of what they think they can do, but never push harder than a student can bear.
  • Kung Fu requires hard work and discipline, but more than anything it should be FUN! We work hard, and we play hard. All students are expected to pay close attention and to take the learning process seriously, but we want everyone to enjoy their time at the kwoon (kwoon is what we call our training space, similar to dojo for Japanese styles). We love what we do as much as the kids do!
  • Teach our traditions and teach each student. Shaolin-Do has a long and extraordinarily rich tradition, and it is an art which every student strives to preserve. We teach this tradition; we teach every technique and idea as they were taught to us. But we also strive to teach each student in the ways that work best for them, at a pace that works best for them.
  • Respect in all things. Respect is a very big part of everything we do at Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do. It takes years of hard work and commitment to learn Kung Fu, and our teachers have earned the respect of their students. We show them that respect. We show respect for each other. We show respect for our school. But more than anything, we all respect our students for their attention and their efforts.
  • ‘Kung Fu’ is a way of looking at the world. ‘Kung Fu’ does not mean fighting, nor does it mean ‘martial art’. Translated to English the closest would be ‘Mastery through time and effort’; anyone who commits themselves to mastering a skill demonstrates good kung fu. We encourage our students to take the lessons of the kwoon and apply them to any and all aspects of their lives.
  • Personal growth is at the heart of all we do. In many ways, Kung Fu is a solo sport – each student must work and train hard to achieve proficiency. But it is also entirely a group effort; our school is a community, and we succeed together. In every way we try to create an environment of support to help every student grow – physically, emotionally, and mentally – and become the person they want to be.

Teaching Not to Fight

Every teacher of martial arts has, at one time or another, been presented the argument that, “Martial arts just teaches kids how to fight and hurt each other”, or “How is teaching kids fighting techniques teaching them how not to fight?”. When seen from the outside, this appears to be a valid argument; the techniques we teach are techniques for fighting. However, as with most things in life, there is far more to it than that simple observation.

The techniques we teach are physical techniques, and those techniques can be used in a physical confrontation. But the techniques also teach confidence – physical and emotional. Students learn confidence in their bodies and their movements, and they learn confidence in their ability to handle any situation in which they find themselves. When we feel threatened, most people (adults and children) react with fear; fear of injury, fear of pain, and fear of humiliation or shame or ridicule. Our natural instinct is to run from the threat, or to fight. And too often in our modern world running away is just not possible; we cannot leave our workplace or school permanently, and we cannot run away from the Internet. So most people, when faced with a physical threat, stop thinking and simply lash out, harming themselves as well as others.

By training in the martial arts, and attaining that self-confidence, we are also training our students to move beyond the instinct to lash out. When a person is less afraid and more secure in their abilities to handle a situation, they are far more likely to think their way through the confrontation and find a non-violent solution.

This is what we teach at Fingerlakes Shaolin-Do. This is why we train.

We hope to see your child, and you, in class. Come join us!