AIK Kenpo Juniors: Bravery

Kenpo Juniors Blog - Bravery #1

Here’s the thing about bravery. You’re already familiar with the sorts of bravery they show in movies: feats of physical courage where the Good Guy risks harm and death to save the day from the Bad Guys. That’s what most people think of when they think of bravery, and it’s definitely the kind of bravery warriors stand out for. This kind of bravery is the reasons Bravery is one of our Bushido Values that we teach at American Institutes of Kenpo.

But life in middle school and high school doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to show that kind of bravery (at least it shouldn’t). In fact, if you’re showing that kind of bravery often that’s a good sign that you’re making some mistakes that could impact your life for decades into the future.

Instead, a Bushido Warrior in middle and high school shows a different kind of courage. To understand this kind of courage, we need to know what Bravery means in the Code of Bushido.

Bravery is doing the right thing, even when it’s hard and especially when it’s scary.

Let’s look at each part of that definition:

  • Doing the right thing means choosing the right action, then actually doing that action. For example, if your grades are in the tank you need to ask your parents for help with your grades even though they might ground you.
  • Even when it’s hard means doing that right thing no matter what obstacles or difficulties stand in your way (Whatever It Takes, remember? (Whatever It Takes Juniors #1). When something requires Bravery, it’s easy to let small excuses let you off the hook. If you need to talk with your parents about your grades, you can’t let a busy schedule mean you never sit down with them.
  • Especially when it’s scary means doing that right thing even if you’re absolutely scared of what comes next. With that grades conversation, getting yelled at or grounded are possible consequences of doing the right thing. You know you will survive them, so there’s no reason not to go straight ahead and start a conversation about your grades.

In later weeks during this cycle, we’ll talk in detail about some of the ways Bravery is important and how to be Brave in the face of real fears. For now, think about Bravery that’s physical and Bravery that’s mental, and how they’re the same and how they’re different.


Parents’ Corner

Teaching kids about bravery was one thing: you basically led by example, and did everything you could to hide the source of fear from them. With teens, though, you need to start teaching about fear by first admitting something scares you, then showing how you deal with that fear to do the important things even though you’re scared.

This is easier said than done, but we’ve talked with a few experts who have the following suggestions:

  • Invoke Culture -- whether it’s a family history, a national identity or simply being a martial artist, you can use pride in those things to remind your teen why we do things even when they’re hard or frightening
  • Show Real-Life Examples -- one of the nice things about Facebook and other social media platforms is that about once a day we get some news item about a person being brave. You can share these with your teen and talk about what you admire in that person
  • Discuss Foolhardiness -- this is especially important with teens, because even smart teens lack long-term decision making skills. Take time to talk about where the line between Bravery and foolhardiness is, how to recognize it, and what to do when that happens.

The media makes Bravery hard to discuss and think about sometimes. The staff here at AIK is always available to help with that discussion any time you need. Just ask.






Kenpo Juniors Blog - Bravery #2

Let’s talk about bravery. When you think of bravery, you probably think of soldiers and firemen. Those are perfect examples of physical bravery -- bravery in the face of the possibility of injury and death. But there are two other kinds of bravery: social and emotional.

Social braveryis doing the right thing even when people might make fun of you or think less of you for doing it. Standing up for an unpopular kid in school, or even saying you like a band that other people are talking down about, are examples of social bravery.Emotional braveryis doing the right thing even though it might make you sad or disappointed, like admitting you got a bad grade on a test when you know it means you’ll miss out on a privilege because of that.

As with each cycle of your Bushido Journey, this second month of the value comes with a bit of homework. Your Bravery homework is to read about and tell friends about three different brave people in the news right now. Look at Facebook, and the news, and search the web for an example of one of each of the three kinds of bravery: physical, emotional and social.

Read enough about each Brave person to be able to tell somebody the basic story, and answer questions you might anticipate. Then start two conversations about each.

You should be able to talk about:

  • Who the brave person is: her name, where she lives, what she does normally
  • What the brave person did that qualifies as brave, and when it happened.
  • Why you think that person was brave, and how it inspires you
  • What happened as a result of those brave actions

Start one of those conversations about each Brave person at your own dinner table. Tell your parents about the person, answer questions, and ask if they know of anybody who was Brave in a similar way. Talking at the dinner table is one of the most important things families can do together, and as a teen in your house it’s part of your duty to your family to help keep that conversation interesting.

The second conversation you should start at school. Maybe that’s at the lunch table, or hanging out before and between classes. Maybe it’s during some down time before practice. Yes, some people might hassle you a little about bringing up such an honest and emotional topic. No, you shouldn’t let being afraid of that stop you.

Because that’s what Bravery is, right?


Parent’s Corner:

Who are your heroes?

The word “hero” means different things to different people, so specifically who are the people who have inspired you through being courageous? How about Tienanmen Tank Guy? Or Malala? Martin Luther King? Soldiers you know who may or may not have been lucky enough to come home? A single mom who provides for her kids by working two jobs and still volunteers at the school?

Your child’s assignment for this month is to talk about courage at the dinner table with you and the rest of your family. We’re asking you to think a bit about the people who inspire you, so you can carry on the conversation about courage and heroes with people you admire for their Bravery. We talk a lot about leading by example, and this is one of those examples you can lead through.






Kenpo Juniors Blog - Bravery #3

You’ve spent some time memorizing the various kicks, blocks, punches and footwork of your techniques, basics katas. By now, you’re ready to start thinking about not just what to do but how to do it.

Specifically, let’s look at ways to add power to your kenpo. As a junior student, you haven’t fully developed the strength and mass you will have as an adult. This puts you at a disadvantage against larger, more fully developed opponents. By practicing the Four Kenpo Power Principles in your motions now, you’ll overcome that disadvantage. Better yet, you’ll still have that power incorporated into your movement when you are fully grown – making you powerful for an adult kenpoist.


The four Power Principles of American Kenpo are:


Rotation and Torque

Inertia and Backup Mass

Marriage of Gravity

Borrowed Force


Let’s look at them all through the lens of a straight right punch, one of the simplest basics in your kenpo toolbox.


Rotation and Torque


Throw a straight right, using just your arm. Now, bring your right shoulder forward when you punch. Use your hips for a third punch, and start the fourth with rotation of your right ankle. Each punch is more powerful than the last, because each rotation engages more muscles and provides more power.

Now, try the same thing with an inward block. Move on to Delayed Sword, again looking for ways to use rotation and torque to improve power. Finally, work the kata for your current belt rank. And just for fun, spend an hour in regular life looking for ways to apply rotation and torque to everyday actions.


Inertia and Backup Mass


Do the same drill you did for rotation and torque, this time paying attention not to the muscles you engage but to the mass those muscles bring forward. Force equals mass times acceleration, and the more mass you put behind that punch, the harder you will hit. For a fifth punch, shuffle forward slightly as the punch lands and see how you generate even more force.

Try this with a front kick as well, then apply it in Delayed Sword and your favorite kata, and again look for ways to use inertia and backup mass in regular life. The key to making this an integral part of your kenpo is repetition.


Marriage of Gravity


Stand in front of a punching bag. Throw three punches in a straight line, then three punches angling upward and three angling downward. Which punch lands hardest? The one angling downward, because it joins with the force of gravity that pulls everything on earth in that direction.

Sometimes it takes practice to make this true for every strike you know how to throw, because the body mechanics change when you alter the line of your punch. Practice until you make this true for your punches, paying special attention to the movement of your hips. Then move on to techniques, kata, and day-to-day application.


Borrowed Force


Punch that bag again, hard enough to make it swing. Now, punch it while it’s swinging away from you. Punch it a third time while it’s swinging toward you. That second punch barely landed, didn’t it? And the third hurt your wrist a little, right? That’s borrowed force: the difference between rear-ending a car in motion and getting into a head-on collision.

Borrowed force is tough to practice on its own, but you can see it in motion with careful partner work. Ask your teacher in class for drills you can use to practice borrowing force safely. In regular life, look for safety situations where borrowed force might make a situation more or less dangerous.


Parent’s Corner


Remember in The Karate Kid when Mister Miyage had Daniel-san do all kinds of chores to practice his karate? You can absolutely do this with any number of household tasks you want your teen to help with:


Sweeping the floor is an opportunity to use rotation and torque

Moving boxes helps understand marriage of gravity

Taking out the garbage is an opportunity to practice applying backup mass


The possibilities are endless. Use this. Abuse it. It’s our gift to you.






Kenpo Juniors Blog - Bravery#4 (Assignment)

“Bravery” calls images of physical courage: soliders, knights, jedi, samurai and other warriors in mortal combat with the enemy. Martial arts and athletic champions going for the Gold while hurt and tired.

That is legitimate bravery, and all of those people should be admired. But it’s not the only kind of bravery.

Social bravery is just as important. You might have read about Rosa Parks and Mahandas Ghandi, or Julia Hill. These people stood up and said something was wrong even though many people disagreed. They risked being made fun of, being hated, even being arrested or hurt, because what they believed in was important to them.

Social bravery can be as complex and far-reaching as refusing to move to the back of the bus. It can be as simple and local as telling some bullies to stop calling a small child names. Social bravery isn’t more or less courageous than physical bravery...but it’s more important because people have far more opportunities to be socially brave than to be physically brave.


And that’s where your assignment for this cycle comes in.We’re going to ask you to be socially brave by making a sincere apology for something you did wrong.

Don’t pretend you have nothing to apologize for. Everybody does. It might be something you’ve felt guilty over for a long time, or it might be a mistake you made just yesterday. If you have trouble thinking of something right away, take time to think about it. You’ll find something.

When you think of the thing, you need to apologize, and we don’t mean just mumbling “I’m sorry” and moving on.

A true, Brave apology takes three steps.

Look the person you’re apologizing to in the eyes.

Say specifically what you did wrong, and how you think it hurt the person you’re apologizing to.

Say “I apologize,” or “I’m sorry.”Some people like to add words like “really” or “sincerely” but you don’t have to unless it feels right to you.

Anything less than this is failing to be brave about your apology.

If you think this sounds hard, you’re right. Many adults have never figured out how to make a brave apology. But you’re a martial artist, a student of Bushido, and you are brave enough to do this.


Write a short paper -- just a few paragraphs -- about your experience.Tell about who you apologized to, how it felt, how it was received, and what (if anything) you might do to follow up on it. Sometimes the reasons for the apology might be too personal to share. If so, that's okay. If not, go ahead and add a sentence about that at the beginning of your paper. Turn it in the week before testing.


Parent’s Corner


If your child has trouble thinking of something to apologize for, it can be tempting to start listing examples. Every parent has a much longer list labeled “Stuff my kid should apologize for” than the kid’s list of “Stuff for which I should apologize.”

Thing is, for this to really hit home it has to be for something that comes from your child. Only something he or she truly regrets and feels bad for has the emotional power that makes it hard to apologize...so only something like that requires real bravery to apologize for.


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