I have been lucky in that I have been afforded the chance to teach classes for a while now at the dojo.
This has helped me quite a bit in my own training as in order to explain something to a student I have to understand it first (there have been many times when I find things in my own technique which need improvement through teaching others). It also gives me a chance to work with the kids (I started off teaching the kids class because Nana was training, alas she has moved on to Jump Rope but that is another post).
I mention this because I got to have one of those “this is why I teach” moments in kids class a while back.
One of the moms came up to me after class and asked if she could have a moment to talk about her child (obviously I said of course) she looked concerned and my first thought was that something had happened in class. She then proceeded to tell me that there was an issue with bullying going on at school and asked if there were things we had to offer that could help. She outlined what had happened at school and the response her daughter used (all verbal, no physical aspect at all)
I had another student start the next class so I could sit and talk with the student having trouble. We talked for a bit and I told her that she did exactly what she should have and asked if she was OK talking about it with me (again she obviously said yes).
I then pointed out that she could also use the same voice we practice on the mat to make sure her teachers knew something was going on at which point she said “we aren’t supposed to talk when we are in seats”. I let her know that
- I was very happy with how she had responded so far (again, she didn’t try to escalate things, merely used words to try and defuse the situation)
- she needed to let her teacher know this was happening when she wasn’t supposed to be talking
- if it DID happen when she was supposed to be quiet, it was OK to break the rules.
- she was welcome to talk with any of the instructors about any issue at any time
Mom and I talked for a bit afterwards so she knew what I knew and they left.
A week or so later I asked how she was doing and things were getting better, the other girl had apologized and stopped bullying her and the student seemed relived and empowered knowing she had grown ups on her side.
Finally I talked with she and her dad earlier this week and she is doing great at school. No more bullying and she seems to have more confidence both at school and at home.
To me that is what all martial arts training should give to kids, the ability to eliminate conflict without needing to resort to violence and a belief in themselves.