AIK Kenpo Kids: Loyalty

Kenpo Kids Blog - Loyalty #1

The longer you train in martial arts, the more you realize that your physical skills are the least important part of the training. It’s what you do with them, and why you study them that matter the most. In Japan, the code of Bushido was a way of thinking about what and why to help warriors make good decisions with their skills.

Loyalty is one of the most important parts of Bushido. It helped warriors use their skills to protect people and make their home towns better.

What is loyalty? Loyalty is being true to something important.

A person can be true to another person, the way a parent keeps promises to her child.

A person can be true to an idea, the way a warrior refuses to misuse his skills.

A person can be true to a country, the way a soldier gives his life.

A person can be true to a responsibility, the way you sometimes do your homework without being asked.

You might have read a book by Shel Silverstein called The Giving Tree. If not, you should read it. But here’s the basic idea.

The story is about a tree that loves a little boy very much. It gives him shade to rest under, and limbs to climb in, and fruit to eat. As the boy grows older, it gives him wood to build a home. It gives and gives and gives to him, until in the end the tree is just a stump. And the boy, who is now an old man, gets to use the stump to sit on and rest.

That’s an example of loyalty. Giving everything you can to somebody you love. Even when it’s hard. Even when you might not want to.

Loyalty is the Bushido Value for this testing cycle. During the next three months, think about loyalty from time to time.

Who are some people who you are very loyal to?

Who are some people who are very loyal to you?

Are theyre people you are loyal to, who aren’t loyal to you?

How does that feel?

Are there people who are loyal to you, who you aren’t loyal to?

How do you think they feel about that?

Are you loyal to an idea? What idea? Why?

In what ways are you loyal to your martial arts training?

In what ways are you loyal to your school work?

You don’t have to write down your answers to these questions, or even talk with somebody about them. But think about them once in a while. Thinking about the Bushido Values is one of the ways martial artists teach themselves to make good decisions.

And as a warrior, it’s important for you to make the best decisions you can.

Parents’ Corner

Loyalty is a pretty abstract concept to explain to kids and tweens, and there’s some research that suggests a human mind hasn’t developed enough to understand it fully before adolescence.

But as a parent, you’re used to that. There are things your child can understand fully, and there are other things that need a summary or partial answer until he has the experience and mental development to grasp it fully.

In our experience, loyaty is one of those things...but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to teach loyalty to your child.

When dealing with abstract things with a younger person, the best way to teach a concept is through concrete examples. That’s why we used the Shel Silverstein story. It’s a concrete example of unconditional and undying loyalty. Some other examples include being nice to a sibling even when it’s hard, rooting for a sports team even when they’re losing, and saying “sorry” for something that isn’t your fault because it’s important the other person feel better.

Life is full of chances to be loyal or not be loyal. That means it’s full of opportunities to demonstrate and explain loyalty even to littler, growing minds. And, of course, it’s full of opportunities to lead by example by showing loyalty in action.

As always, our team here at American Institute of Kenpo is here to help you with this and anything else you might need.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Loyalty #2

By now you understand the basics of loyalty, the Bushido Value for this testing cycle. It’s being true to a person, an idea, a promise, or a country, or a group, even when it’s difficult.

One interesting thing to think about with any Bushid Value is what to do when the value has a conflict.

Your loyalty can be conflicted when you are loyal to two different things, but those things don’t agree.

Imagine you are with your two best friends. You are loyal to each of them the same amount, and they are both loyal to you. Imagine they both want to play first base on your baseball team. You can help them both practice equally and stay the same amount of loyal to each. That’s easy.

But now imagine the coach comes to you and asks which of your friends should play first base. If one is a better first base player, that’s easy. You can be equally loyal to both, but tell the truth about your opinion. But what if they’re equally good players? How do you help coach decide.

There isn’t really one good answer to this question. But it’s good to think about it, or talk about it with your parents or teachers.

You can also see loyalty conflict with other important Bushido values, like truth. What if your best friend and somebody you didn’t like wanted to play first base, and the person you didn’t like was the better first base player. Imagine your coach asked you who should play. Will you be loyal to your friend and say he should play first base? Or will you be truthful and tell coach the person you don’t like should play first base?

Again, there isn’t really one good answer to this question. But it’s good to think about, and talk about with your parents and teachers.

During this month, your job is to think about conflicts of loyalty, and to talk about them with your parents, teachers, and friends.

One great place to do this is while you watch television and movies. Many, many shows include a conflict of loyalty. Some are where a character is loyal to two people, things, or ideas and has to choose. Others are where the character has to choose between loyalty to a friend and something else that’s important.

So this month, while you’re watching shows, pay attention for conflicts of loyalty. When you find one, pause the show for a little while and talk about it with whoever you’re watching with. Say what you think the conflict is. Talk about what you think the right decision is. Predict what you think the character will do about it.

And when the show is over, talk about what the character did about the loyalty conflict. Did you agree or disagree? Did watching what the character did change your mind about anything in the show? How do you feel about the character’s loyalty before and after the show ended?

Parent’s Corner

I have to admit, this is one of my favorite months in our whole Bushido Values Curriculum. I’ve always found questions to be more interesting, and more important, than answers. So this month we get to talk with our kids about one of the most fascinating questions about the values of Bushido.

But there’s a danger zone here, one which I fall into even though I know it’s there because I’m a parent too. And that danger zone is answering questions too quickly.

When this question comes up, please take the time to let your child explore the question fully. Do that other parent thing of answering questions with questions, and see where your child’s thoughts take the conversation. It’s not only more useful for helping your child explore this concept, it’s fun to see where you end up.

As always, you can come to us for help, thoughts, and ideas. We’re here to serve you and your family any way we can.

Kenpo Kids Blog -Loyalty #3

Enrichment Topic -Five Ways to End a Fight

Lee Sprague is one the important teachers in your kenpo lineage. You can think of him like your Grandfather in kenpo.

Mr. Sprague was a skilled martial artist, and an experienced warrior. He was in the US Marines, and worked as a bodyguard, bounty hunter, and bouncer. When he taught martial arts, he taught as somebody who had tried his skills out, learned what worked, and learned what didn’t.

As part of being a martial arts teacher, he wrote about the “Five Destruction Elements.” You might hear about those in class, or from an older student, or read about them here on our site. Those concepts are for adult martial artists who are protecting innocent people from harm or death.

They’re not exactly okay for handling a bully at school.

But, those five desctructive elements can be used in a better way that doesn’t badly hurt somebody, but ends a fight quickly. That’s important because a warrior’s job isn’t to fight. It’s to avoid fighting. Sometimes the fight can’t be avoided, and when it can’t a warrior’s job is to make the fight as short as possible.

Here are five ways to end a fight as quickly as possible while doing the least harm you can:

Interrupt the Breathing

A person who can’t breathe doesn’t have much fight left. A punch to the solar plexus (that’s the center of the body, in the stomach just below the rib cage interrupts somebody’s ability to breathe.

If you’ve ever had “the wind knocked out of you” that’s what a hit to the sloar plexus does. It’s scary, and makes it hard to move. You stop being able to breathe for just a few seconds, but during those seconds it’s very hard to do or think about anything else. It’s pretty easy to leave a fight once you’ve done that to a bully.

Take Away Movement

Remember: your goal in any fight is to leave that fight. If you make the bully unable to move, you can get far enough away to run away.

Tripping and throwing are the best ways to take away movement without badly hurting somebody. From your kenpo training, you know several techniques that include tripping and throwing your opponent to the ground. If you use one of these and the bully hits the ground, you will have taken his movement away long enough for you to go someplace else.

Make Lots of Noise

Bullies are cowards. They won’t attack you if they think a teacher, adult, or other helper is coming. That means loud noise and plenty of it can end a fight quickly without you having to hurt anybody.

Make a lot of noise all the time if you end up in a fight, and before the fight stops. Shout “I don’t want to fight you!” over and over. Look at somebody nearby and shout “Go get help!” Use your kiais to make extra noise every time you move. The more and louder noise you make, the faster somebody will come and make the fight stop.

Numb the Limbs

If a bully can’t move his arms or legs, he can’t fight you very well. At the adult level, techniques called “limb destruction” make an attacker unable to use their arms and legs. Sometimes for the rest of their lives. You don’t want to do that to a bully, but you can use a simple technique to numb a bully’s limbs so the fight can stop.

If you’ve ever gotten (or given) a “dead leg,” you know how this works. A solid punch on a large group of muscles can numb the entire arm or leg. Two of the best ways to do this are to punch an arm that’s coming at you with a punch or a push, or to kick or knee the thigh. Once you’ve numbed the bully’s limbs, you can leave the fight.

Steal the Sight

No. This doesn’t mean you should blind a bully. It just means that if you can make it so he can’t see you for a little while, you can escape the fight without having to hurt him any more.

One of our favorite tricks for this is to throw a jacket over the bully’s head. You can toss your own coat over his head, or pull his own coat or sweater up and over him. Either way, by the time he gets it off his head, you’ll have had a chance to get away.

Parents’ Corner

Sometimes, our kids can end up in a situation where they are attacked by somebody who means them actual harm. Usually, and terrifyingly, that person is an adult. Even with karate training, it’s unlikely that a child will successfully fight off an adult who intends to harm her.

The best advice is to make as much noise as possible while going totally limp and thrashing around. Your child must make it as hard as possible to mover her at all, while attracting as much attention as she can. Like child bullies, adults who want to harm children are cowards. They will disengage if your child makes it difficult.

At AIK, we run occasional seminars where your kids can practice this. See your child’s instructor for details on this.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Loyalty #4 (Assignment)

Testing time is coming up soon. In the coming weeks, you will need to do everything you can to get ready for your testing day. Some of the things you need to do to prepare include:

Practice all of your testing material alone 5 times a day for one week

Performing all of your testing material in front of parents or friends

Checking with your sensei to make sure you understand your material

Asking your parents if they think you’re ready to test

Making sure all of your school work is finished as well as you can do it

Double-checking the time for your test

Making sure your parents can drive you to your test

Getting your gi washed and ironed for your test day

And you’ll need to finish your loyalty assignment for the cycle. This is an exercise for you to explore, and show your exploration, of this Bushido Value. Your loyalty assignment is this:

Remember a couple of months ago when you watched some tv shows or movies and looked for conflicts of loyalty? Choose one and write a short paper about it. That paper should include:

A short description of what happened in the story to make the character have a conflict of loyalty.

What loyalties were in conflict for that character.

What you think the character should have done.

What the character actually did.

If you want, you can close with what might have happened if the character did what you think she should have done, and how that might have gone better. If the characted did what you agree with, you can write about what you think might have happened if she chose wrong.

For example, in the story Beauty and the Beast, Belle falls in love with the Beast. At one point in the movie, she has to choose between staying in the castle with the Beast and returning to town to save her father. If you wrote your paper about that, it might look like this:

A short description of what happened in the story to make the character have a conflict of loyalty

In Beauty and the Beast, Belle has to choose between staying in the castle so the Beast can end his curse, and going to town to take care of her sick father.

What loyalties were in conflict for that character

This is a conflict between Belle’s loyalty to her father, and her loyalty to the Beast.

What you think the character should have done

I think Belle should return to town and take care of her father. Her dad has done things for her for many years, but she just met the Beast.

What the character actually did

Belle returned to town to care for her father.

What might have happened if Belle had chosen wrong.

If she had stayed in the castle, nobody would have rescued her father. He might have died, or gotten even sicker. That would have been bad.

Write or type, or draw a cartoon, of your thoughts for this assignment. When you think it’s ready, have an adult you trust look at it for one final check. On test day, bring your assignment to the dojo with you. We will hang it up with the other projects, so people can look at yours and see how you’ve been thinking about loyalty and the martial arts.

Parent’s Corner

In the years we’ve done projects like these, the thing we’ve seen the most is kids going for the low-hanging fruit: picking their favorite movie and using it for the project. This is great, especially if the movie has a really interesting or important loyalty conflict somewhere in it.

But it’s often not as good as looking at something newer.

As you know, the stuff we think about a lot is stuff that doesn’t always do us a lot of good to think about again. Heck, in this case it’s a little against the grain of the assignment because your child’s opinion of what the character should do is colored by already knowing what the character is going to do.

So we recommend encouraging your child to do the assignment with a movie or tv show that’s new to her. Some we recommend:


Harry Potter (especially Prisoner of Azkaban)

The Sand Lot

The Goonies

The Lion King

The Iron Giant

Bridge to Terabithia (more suitable for older kids)

The Incredible Journey

There are many, many more of course. And it’s also perfectly okay if life is so busy the report ends up being about something your child has already seen one million and seven times. The point is to think about loyalty in as concrete a way as possible.

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