Life Ki-do Classes for Children
Hello and Welcome to Life Ki-do as offered by Austin Systema and Tai Chi. Given the number of different styles of martial art and the different ages of today’s participants, I thought it might be helpful if I introduced myself and my approach to the Life Ki-do ideal. People coming to study, or bringing their children to study martial art have incredibly diverse expectations about what exactly we do here and how we go about it. Hopefully this will answer some of your questions and explain some of the reasons we do martial arts the way we do.
My name is Gene, Sensei Gene if you are a student in the Life Ki-do Youth Program. Sensei as it is currently employed simply means teacher. I am 55 years of age. I have twin 15 year old boys, Jack and Elias, and they are absolutely my light and my teachers.
I have trained in the martial arts for 41 years and taught for approximately 13 years. This is the first school I have ever owned and I am grateful, overjoyed and humbled by the opportunity. I currently train and study under Vladimir Vasiliev. I also teach classes for Life Ki-do at Austin Martial Arts Academy and WAYA . I work with Sensei Jonathan and Sensei Doug on a daily basis and our sharing of information and ideas deeply influences my teaching methodology. For those of you who know these excellent teachers, you know that we are different in our approach not our goal. If you have more questions about me, ask me.
Life Ki-do is a martial arts organization dedicated to teaching life skills to youth through the martial arts. The Life Ki-do method differs from many schools you may have visited. We as teachers don’t yell or shout orders at our students , we don’t run classes like boot camps or demand that we be called sir. Instead we seek to encourage students to learn for themselves how good it feels to focus and train. We do lead students to understand that all people should be respected and that disrespectful or potentially dangerous behavior cannot be allowed in the context of a martial arts class.
What about the Martial Arts?
Depending upon the age of the student we use the following types of drills.
First and foremost is breathing, no other skill can come close to giving students such an immediately accessible and profoundly useful tool . We use a wide, wide variety of breathing exercises to help students integrate this tool into their martial arts, and more importantly into their lives.
Secondly, movement drills. These drills are designed to expose a child to as many different types of movement possibilities as we can come up with. Falling, rolling, moving on the ground, standing, through crowds and around obstacles, moving through these same situations while remaining connected to a partner…which brings us to something a lot of people don’t expect when they sign up for martial arts.
You may notice that there are no mirrors or hanging bags in our dojo. This is by design. It is my belief that martial arts have to come from inside a person and regardless of how they look, they must experience the being of a martial artist from the inside, not in a reflection. We do not use bags to pound on and we do not throw punches or kicks in the air, except on rare, rare occasions.
Life is about relationships, your relationship to yourself and to others, and your relationship to the divine in which ever form you find it.
As you have or will observe, almost all of our drills are done with a partner or partners. Right away we want children understanding that it is the relationship that is important. In our culture we have a larger personal space than most. While there is nothing wrong with this, I have seen repeatedly, a learned reluctance to interact with other people. In my opinion this is not healthy and it certainly leads to some interesting interpretations of martial arts. For a person frightened and uncomfortable with proximity, doing any effective form of martial arts is impossible. We use wrestling in pairs and in groups and many other types of drills to help children stay comfortable with proximity and touch with another human being.
Are effective martial arts desirable for children?
We are careful to keep our approach as child friendly and age appropriate as we can. That being said, this is a martial arts school. And martial arts are fundamentally different than soccer, tennis or gymnastics in the insights they have to offer and the means they use to achieve those insights and growth. I do want to make three points about martial arts that I feel are important as regards children.
One, we want real growth and a real sense of confidence for our children. These things don’t come without real challenges. It is an amazing and beautiful thing to see a child realize that he or she can do more than what they thought, and that it feels good to try, really try.
Two, our culture from childhood to adulthood tends to have serious misconceptions about violence. The good guy always wins, one kick and the bully will crumble and never bother you again. People training against bags or in the air never experience the realities of human interaction, the unpredictability of it all and they tend to have unrealistic ideas about what happens in real confrontations. It is incredibly unfair and damaging to children to convince them that they will never be afraid, or never be less than triumphantly heroic in difficult situations. By doing the drills we do, with partners, they learn that it is never …if he does A then I do B, they learn that fear is an absolutely normal thing to feel and does not mean you are weak or less than you should be. I wish that adults could understand this as well. They learn in a very safe, fun and nurturing way that violence is no fantasy. And that it is to be avoided if at all possible. And they learn that almost always it is.
Three, unfortunately our children are much more likely to experience physical or emotional violence than are we as adults. Children internalize these events and live with shame or a sense of inadequacy, that we as adults are probably familiar with. The training I offer here should ease or erase these feelings, by getting rid of unrealistic expectations about performance in these situations, and by building a true respect for oneself built on overcoming real challenges using methods that work.
In our classes it is made clear, that the study of martial art is to evolve as a human being. And you will be more prepared to deal with life’s stressors in whatever form they take. The vehicle we use to impart this self awareness is the martial art that we do. Our method will not appeal to everyone, that’s fair and truthful. Our method may be very different than what you employ at home. But I assure that our method is based on genuine concern and respect for your child. And yes, love, much more quickly than I would have imagined.