AIK Kenpo Kids: Courtesy

Kenpo Kids Blog - Courtesy #1

The Bushido Value for this cycle is Courtesy. You already know what it means – being polite – but you might not know why it’s important for a warrior to be courteous.

During Samurai days, it was for safety. When a group of armed people who are good at fighting it was important to keep them from getting angry with each other. If they got angry with each other and started to fight, some of them would probably die. Warrior cultures all over the world, including the Samurai, developed rules of how to talk with each other and how to act so those fights wouldn’t happen.

That’s less important today because fights happen less often and even warriors don’t carry weapons around all the time. In modern martial arts practice, courtesy is important for two reasons:

It helps you get along with people. Saying “Please” and “Thank You” or holding the door for people, and using a polite voice in conversation, are all ways to show people you want to get along. It does a lot of good and helps make new friends and keep the old ones.

It’s one of the best ways to practice discipline every day. Discipline is the foundation that builds great martial artists, helps you get good grades, and supports the life you want to live when you’re an adult. Courtesy is sometimes hard, and being courteous when it’s hard builds your discipline “muscle” the same way pushups build the muscles in your arms.

Remember how we just said that practicing courtesy builds discipline? Here are some ways you can practice being courteous every day. Building this habit will be harder than learning your next kata, and probably a little less fun. But once you’ve built this habit, it will do you more good in your life than all the katas you will ever learn.

Look people in the eye (or at their nose if eye contact freaks you out a little) when you talk with them

Say “Please” when you ask for something, every time.

Say “Thank you” when somebody gives you something or does something for you, every time.

Say “You’re welcome” when somebody says “Thank you” to you

Practice doing small favors – like giving up your seat on the bus and holding doors for people – whenever you get the chance. Remember number four (above) when thanked.

Try to ask people two questions about themselves for every one thing you say about you.

Get in the habit of complimenting people at least once every time you speak to them.

Always return a greeting. When somebody says “Hello”, say “Hello” back.

Pay attention to how people act in formal situations, and imitate the people who seem to be the most courteous.

If you’re feeling angry or silly, count to ten before saying what you have in mind.

Later during this testing cycle, you’ll have a chance to practice these and other courtesy challenges. For now, just think about them and look for opportunities to exercise your courtesy muscles.


Parents’ Corner


Teaching courtesy is one of the biggest challenges parents face, for three reasons:

Courtesy isn’t really a defined set of rules. It’s complex, and situational, making it tricky to model and teach.

Courtesy isn’t well-supported in media and daily life. People, especially people on TV, are rewarded more for being funny, cynical and snarky than for sincere politeness.

Courtesy doesn’t come easy to us as parents, especially when our kids are being discourteous.

We talked to a few experts on teaching courtesy to kids and found a handful of great dos and don’ts.

Do ask your child for her opinion when the opportunity to do a small kindness, like holding a door or giving up a seat, appears.

Don’t show anger when your child isn’t courteous. It’s hard to be courteous when you’re angry.

Do eat dinner as a family whenever possible. This is the best chance for you to model and for your kids to practice basic polite conversation, and courtesy cornerstones like Please, Thank You and complimenting people.

Don’t push too hard for young and shy children to make eye contact and return “hellos.” Most experts agree that pushing when they’re very young just delays their development into somebody who does so easily later on.

Do role-play practice courtesy for particular situations with your child, so they know what’s expected and have done it at least once before they put it into practice.

As always, remember that the teaching staff at AIK are here to help you with this just as much as we with technique knowledge and bully advice. We’re not perfectly courteous all the time, but we can promise to give our best.





Kenpo Kids Blog - Courtesy #2

Last month we learned about courtesy and why it’s an important part of the Bushido Values and the life of a martial artist and warrior. We especially looked at how courtesy is a kind of exercise for your mind.

Practicing regular acts of courtesy is a way of building a positive habit. Positive habits are healthy things you do automatically, without thinking about it. The positive habit of courtesy will help make others feel safe and help you develop a group of positive friends who can help you have a better life.

Experts say building a positive habit takes about three weeks of regular practice -- round that up to a month to make room for mistakes and forgetting. That means that if you work your hardest to practice one courteous habit every day this month, by the end of the month it will probably be something you do automatically.

Your assignment for this month is to choose one simple act of courtesy and do it all the time, every day. Choose from the list below, or work with your teacher and parents to come up with your own:


Say “Please” and “Thank You” when asking for and receiving things

Say “Excuse Me” if you need to speak when others are talking

Hold the door open for people if they’re using the same door as you

Whenever you’re talking with somebody, ask two questions about them for every statement you make about yourself

Say “I’m sorry” if you accidentally bump into somebody

Cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze or yawn


Once you’ve chosen your Courtesy Habit for the month, make a chart using construction paper, a journal or a whiteboard. For each day, give yourself a Smiley Face, a Frowny Face or a Flat Face:


Smiley Faces are for days when you observed your Courtesy Habit all of the time, or most of the time

Flat Faces are for days when you observed your Courtesy Habit about half of the time

Frowny Faces are for days when you observed your Courtesy Habit only occasionally, or not at all


You don’t have to be perfect every day to develop a positive habit. In fact, simply keeping track of how you did will almost always mean you do better on average over time. Your job is never to be perfect. It’s to know how you’re doing right now, and to work toward doing better with each new day.

Get your parents’ help with making your chart, and with filling it in each day. They can also help you choose your Courtesy Habit, since they watch you every day and know the places you’re doing great and the places you could improve. Be sure to tell your Instructor at the karate school about your habit, too, so he or she can help you look for opportunities to practice.

Bonus points for challenging some of your friends at school do do this project with you.


Parent’s Corner


We have a Courtesy Habit for our parents to develop this month as well, and boy is it a doozey.

We here at American Institutes of Kenpo in Tucson dare you -- no, we double-dog dare you -- to make it a courtesy habit to be courteous when reminding your child about courtesy.

Most parents (and that includes our instructors on bad days) tend to be downright rude when reminding their children to be courteous. They use aggressive tones of voice, interrupt their child when the child is talking, use threats instead of reasoned argument, and often intentionally belittle the person they’re speaking with. Not everybody does this all the time, and usually it’s not on purpose.

But it is counterproductive. The best way to teach courtesy to our kids is to demonstrate being courteous through our own actions.

We set up the Courtesy Habit challenge as a family exercise to give you and your child an opportunity to discuss courtesy in a positive, courteous way each day. If you accept our dare (you know what? let’s make it a triple-dog dare) you’ll not only be encouraging courtesy in your child by participating in the project, you’ll be demonstrating courtesy at the same time. Kids pay attention, and parents who lead by example generally get better results.

As always, our staff is here to help you in any way you need with the Courtesy Habit Challenge or anything else.






Kenpo Kids Blog - Courtesy #3

Kenpo has sometimes been called an “alphabet of motion.” Each basic is a letter. Each combination is a word. Each technique is a sentence. Kata are poems. In keeping with that idea, some of the words in the names of our techniques apply to a specific move or concept. Here is your glossary of Kenpo Keywords, to help you remember what each technique is.(Click Here for Part 2) (Click Here for Part 3)


Bowrefers to any technique where you work or start from a kneeling position. The name comes from how kneeling and the traditional Japanese bow look very similar.

Bow of Compulsion

Bowing to the Buddha


Branchrefers to the leg, as opposed to “twig” for arms. Both are similar, but branches are larger, stronger and heavier.

Buckling Branch

Spreading Branches


Circlesor Circling mean a technique including circular blocks or strikes, as opposed to the linear movements more commonin Kenpo

Circling the Horizon

Circling Destruction

Circles of Protection

Circle of Doom


Clawsrefer to using your finger tips as a weapon, usually in a claw hand strike. Hence the name.

Raining Claw

Obscure Claws


Cranemeans you will spend part of the technique standing on one leg, in crane stance. Why is left as an exercise for the reader.

Leaping Crane

Unfurling Crane


Crossappears any time you use crossed arms to generate power or torque in a technique.

Cross of Destruction

Fallen Cross

Fatal Cross

Defensive Cross


Dangerrefers to techniques where you fall to the ground. They chose the word because falling can be harmful, and because being upright and mobile is safest in a fight.

Encounter with Danger

Leap From Danger


Darkor Darkness appear in defenses against an attack from the rear. The word refers to the blindness associated with being attacked from that position.

Thrust Into Darkness

Dance of Darkness

Unfolding the Dark

Escape From Darkness


Deathdescribes techniques where either the attack or your response to the attack is potentially fatal. Care should be taken whenever practicing these attacks on a live partner.

Grasp of Death

Dance of Death

Grip of Death

Leap of Death

Escape From Death

Cross of Death

Twirling Death


Fanor Fans describe techniques where you perform a circular, open-hand parry, because the motion resembles the arc of a traditional Chinese fan.

Circling Fans

Protecting Fans

Destructive Fans


Feathersrefers to the hair. Specifically, a defense against a grab to your hair. (Perhaps oddly, the word does not appear in techniques where you grab your attacker’s hair).

Clutching Feathers


Gifttechniques all start from an aggressive or false handshake. The term comes from the “gift” of false friendship offered by the “recipient” of the technique.

Gift of Destruction

Gift in Return

Gift of Destiny

Broken Gift






Kenpo Kids Blog - Courtesy #4 (Assignment)

Your next belt promotion is coming, which means there’s a lot for you do to make sure you’re ready. It’s your job to show up on testing day fully prepared to give the best test you can. It’s not your parents’ job, of your sisters’ and brothers’. This is up to you.

To make sure you’re ready, follow this checklist in the weeks before the test. Write it down and post it someplace you can see it so you remember to work a little extra every single day.


Confirm with your Instructor that you are ready to test

Invite your parents and other important people to come see the test

Finish your Courtesy project (see below)

Practice all of your material by yourself three times

Practice all of your material in front of somebody else one time

Make sure your uniform is clean

Arrive on test day fifteen minutes early

Have a Great test


Besides that, like with each testing cycle it’s also your job to complete your Bushido Challenge for the Bushido Value of this testing phase: Courtesy. For this time, your challenge will be to to you perform a Courtesy Experiment.

You’ve heard of experiments in science class, or on TV, but you might not know what an experiment really is. An experiment is when you do two (or more) different things in the world or in a lab, and pay attention to the different effects of those different things. In this case, you’ll spend two days using different levels of courtesy.

On day one:do everything the way you normally do. Use “please” and “thank you” as much as you do on a regular day. Open doors when you regularly would. Say “sir” and “ma’am” when you normally would. Just have a regular day. That night, talk with your parents about how other people treated you.

On day two:spend the whole day looking for extra ways to be courteous. Hold doors. Say “please” and “thank you.” Compliment people on their smile, or a good job. Look at peoples’ eyes when you talk with them. Basically, use the courtesy you would in the dojo everywhere, all day long. That night, talk with your parents about how other people treated you throughout that day.

Some time in the week before your test, speak with one of the coaches at AIK about your experience. Tell them how it felt to be “normal courteous” and “Bushido courteous.” Tell them how adults treated you, and how other children treated you. Talk with your coach about your experience with this assignment, and anything you discovered from your experiment. You may also draw a picture that depicts what you experince when showing Courtesy.


Parents’ Corner

It can be extremely tempting during this assignment to “play up” your reaction on your child’s extra courtesy day. But don’t give in to this temptation. Remember: kids are smart and observant, and they will notice the change in your behavior. This assignment is a great opportunity to let your child see the impact of her choices, so as much as you can just react as you normally would when receiving the extra courtesy.


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