As many of you know, I instituted a coloured bracelet system for the Bamboo Shoots (5 to 8 year old) program as this addressed several issues. At the time that I wrote the post, all of the kids were wearing white bracelets signifying that they were beginners. The kids have been absorbing and executing the required material with gusto. Repetition, repetition, repetition until they get it right. I’m not teaching them to give them a false sense of confidence or accomplishment. I am teaching them to get a real sense that they CAN do it if they listen and trust the instructors (myself and two fantastic teenage volunteers). While some instructors denigrate games, I believe that this is an important tool so long as it involves martial arts techniques and movements. This really helps to solidify the physical literacy skills they are learning.
Recently, two members of the Bamboo Shoots program, Naomi and Marseilles, recently were promoted to Yellow Belt, meaning that they can now wear yellow bracelets. They were bursting with pride over their achievement. Naomi, for example, watched her older brother in the adult class for months. Naomi was shy and content to watch her brother. Then her two cousins, in the same age range, joined the children’s class last summer. Halfway into their first class, Naomi asked to join. “Why yes, you can!” Since then, she has gotten into Modern Arnis with gusto and often practices with her father in the hallway after her class ends and while her older brother, Nathan, is participating in the adult class. She’s got the fire! Marseilles is bilingual (French and English) and is working on her ambidexterity. She’s a natural lefty. Her focus and attention span in class is quite impressive. I’ve had her do the 12 angles of attack and block, check, counter drills left handed. I’ve encouraged her to think about doing the same drills right handed. So it pleased me recently when she said that she’d like to do some techniques right handed. She’s going to be good! Both of these girls were so proud and happy when they got promoted to yellow belt, meaning that they can now wear yellow bracelets.
To see these two girls bursting with pride after their promotion (and you should have seen them in the first class after their promotion) is one of the reasons that I enjoy teaching kids. My aim is to give them real confidence that they are capable of anything with practice, focus, and patience. No “gimme” promotions. Most of them understand that they must be technically proficient before being promoted. I hope that I can play a small part in helping them grow into confident teenagers and adults.
What I have in mind are the amazingly confident teenagers of the Stronger You dojo in Nepean (Ottawa), Ontario where I have taught numerous Modern Arnis seminars since 2008. Many of these teenagers started at a young age and Renshi Janet Heffernan and her staff of assistant instructors have done an incredible job with these students. I remember the first Stronger You Christmas party that my wife and I attended. We watched the teenagers of this dojo dance up a storm and carrying themselves with incredible confidence and poise. My wife turned to me and said “Wow, I wish that I had that much confidence during my teenage years.” I responded that I felt the same way. Kudos to Stronger You for doing an amazing job.
The Stronger You model is what I have in mind when teaching the children’s Modern Arnis class. What’s the use of teaching martial skills if instilling confidence and other life intangibles are not taught? To see these two young girls’ confidence grow, after their promotion, is a huge reason why I enjoy teaching this class as well as the adult class. I also see the other kids’ confidence growing by leaps and bounds as their stick handling proficiency improve. They’ll be ready for Yellow Belt sooner rather than later! 🙂