AIK Kenpo Kids: Sincerity

Kenpo Kids Blog - Sincerity #1

As you continue to study how to protect yourself with your body, it’s your job as a young warrior to learn how to protect your mind. Our Bushido Code does that by helping you build mental and ethical muscles the same way your pushups build your physical muscles. This cycle’s Bushido value is Sincerity, which Lee Sprague defined as “Truth in Action.”

If you’ve been studying at American Institutes of Kenpo in Tucson for a while, you may have already trained during a time when we studied about Truth. Truth and Sincerity are related but different. Truth is not telling lies.

Sincerity is living the truth. For example:

If your parents tell you to clean your room, they might give you a checklist. You could go through that list and do everything on it, then tell your parents truthfully that you finished cleaning your room. But what if they left something off the list, like cleaning the floor of your closet? With sincerity, you would realize your room wasn’t actually clean yet. You would finish cleaning your room before telling your parents you were done.

If your teacher gave you an assignment to write a one-page paper about karate, you could truthfully say you’d written one page after the page was full of words. But were they your best words? Was it your best work? Sincerity demands that you ask yourself if you could have done better, then write the best page about karate that you can.

If you’re practicing your karate, you can move through the motions of your kata just to get it done. You could truthfully say you’d practiced your kata. But a sincere effort would mean really focusing on your practice. It would mean exploring the movements and learning something new each time.

Sincerity might be one of the most difficult Bushido values to learn, because it’s one that people can’t always see from the outside. It’s pretty easy to tell when somebody is being courteous, but do you really know how hard he’s trying to do something? That makes sincerity your job.

It’s up to you to understand sincerity, and to use sincerity in your life. Nobody can do it for you.

Parents’ Corner

Sincerity is a tricky value in Bushido, and part of the trickiness is language. In Japanese, the two words that were translated into “truth” and “sincerity” meant neither, but rather more complex ideas that we had no direct translation for in English.

In many ways, the concept that was translated to “sincerity” is probably more closely related to “discipline.” Discipline has been described as “doing the right thing even when nobody is watching.” It’s learning to apply the truth to your own thoughts and actions. 

We don’t have to tell you how much discipline is a part of parenting. It’s what keeps you from yelling at your child when she’s frustrating, and what gets you out of bed when he wants to play on a Saturday morning. You are very, very familiar with the Bushido value called “Sincerity.” You live it every day.





Kenpo Kids Blog - Sincerity #2

There is an old story from Japan about sincerity, about living the truth in your actions and words. It goes like this:

Once upon a time, there was an old zen master who had gone blind. Despite not being able to see, his hearing was excellent. He taught in a temple on a high mountain, and students came to him from all over to learn about philosophy and right action.

One day, a student of his named Bankei died from disease. The old master was asked to say some words at Bankei’s funeral. The old master accepted.

“Bankei was sincere,” he began. “When I heard other students tell somebody congratulations, I heard a tone of jealousy also in their voices. When I heard other men and women give condolences, I heard a tone of satisfaction or relief. When others would say I’m sorry, their voice would say they weren’t sorry. It would say they were only using the words because it was expected of them.

“But Bankei always meant what he said. When he said congratulations, I heard only joy and happiness for the person he spoke to. When he gave condolences, I heard only sadness that his friend was hurting. When he said he was sorry, I only heard regret at the wrong or hurt he had done. Bankei was sincere.”

Many of the old master’s students didn’t like to hear those words. They knew he was talking about them when he said “other students.” But they knew in their hearts that he was right. Some of those students left his temple that day, because they were afraid to face their own truth. Others heard the words and changed inside, vowing to become more sincere from that day forward.

Looking at one part of this story, saying “I’m sorry” is one of the best places to practice sincerity. If you’re like most people, you have a chance to apologize at least once a week. When you say you’re sorry, do you just mumble the words because somebody told you to? Or do you think for a while about how you could make it up to the person you wronged, then say you’re sorry and really mean it?

Even more important: did you know that you can choose which way to do that? Try it next time you hurt a friend’s feelings or accidentally break a rule. You might be surprised how well it works.

Parent’s Corner

Another aspect of Sincerity is being emotionally invested in your choices. For kids, this is easiest to understand in the context of apologizing. You’ve seen your child apologize with a half-hearted “sorry” then move on without really meaning it. And you’ve seen your child apologize when she really meant it, because she felt bad for hurting the feelings of somebody she cared about. While your child practices the exercise for this month, that’s the key we’re hoping he will get out of it.

In the topic of stories, zen is (of course) not the only tradition with stories about sincerity. Whether you like the Bible, Greek and Norse mythology, the Quran, Aesop’s fables or any other set of stories with ethical morals attached, it might be a good idea to look for sincerity-related tales to share at bedtime. If you need help finding some, ask the staff at AIK. We’re huge geeks, and love to talk about books and stories of all types.





Kenpo Kids Blog - Sincerity #3

Enrichment Topic - Methods of Execution

You’re going to learn some new vocabulary this month, beginning with the title: Methods of Execution. You might already know what these words mean, but for those who aren’t sure:

Method means a way, or option. For example if you’re reading a book you can choose the method of reading out loud, or the method of reading silently to yourself.

Execution used here doesn’t mean killing. It means doing something, especially finishing something.

So “Methods of Execution” means “Ways of Doing Something.”

When we talk about Methods of Execution in Kenpo, we’re talking about different ways of performing one of your basics. Master Ed Parker made a list of over 20 Methods of Execution. Some of these applied to one kind of move. Others applied to several. Of those 20 Methods of Execution, 7 were the most common. They were:


Thrusting -- moving in a straight line

Hooking -- swooping upward from underneath

Whipping -- moving loosely, then tightening at the end

Round-Housing -- moving in a curved line

Slicing -- moving through a target with light impact

Hammering -- moving with the motion of hammering a nail

Clawing -- digging with the fingers


Think about the basic moves on your yellow belt chart. When you do an inward block, what method of execution are you using? When you do a front kick, which method of execution does it involve? Is it possible to use two methods of execution at the same time? Is it possible for the same exact motion to use one or the other of two different methods of execution, and for your choice to make the motion have different effects?

Give this some thought, and tell your teachers about it. We’re eager to hear what you learn.

Parents’ Corner

It’s not coincidence that we’re discussing methods of execution during our exploration of sincerity. Both are ways of talking about the motivations and reasons behind the actions you see. If you can, find some ways to talk about how the intent and method behind a kata or strike can make the moves powerful or weak...and how that’s equally true of words or actions or decisions that aren’t part of karate.

If your child is ready, it sometimes works to talk about “methods of execution” for things like homework, chores, talking with family, and getting along with siblings. Over the years, we’ve found a conversation like this can really drive the lesson of sincerity home.





Kenpo Kids Blog - Sincerity #4 (Assignment)

Promotion time is coming. Whether this is your very first test (for yellow), or you’re getting ready to get promoted to black belt, it’s an exciting time. You have to take responsibility to be prepared to test. An interesting thing about Sincerity is how every step in getting ready to test can be a way to practice and demonstrate this important Bushido value.


Check with your Instructor that you are ready to test

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

Finish your Sincerity project (see below)

Practice all of your material by yourself three times

Practice all of your material in front of somebody else once

Make sure your uniform is clean

Arrive on test day fifteen minutes early

Have a Great test


Besides your practice and physical test, you have a Sincerity project to complete. If you’ve been with AIK for a long time, you already know this is a part of every test. If this is your yellow belt time, then this will be your first one. Either way, it’s a little different from the others because your project happens at the same time as your other preparation for your test.


For each stage of the testing, think about sincerity and how it impacts that part of your getting ready.


Check with your Instructor that you are ready to test.

Did you ask all the questions you weren’t sure of? Or are you just hoping he won’t notice?

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

Was there a friend or family member you forgot who might have really liked to come?

Finish your Sincerity project

Are you really putting your mind into this assignment? Or just “going through the motions?”

Practice all of your material by yourself three times

Did you think about Methods of Execution while practicing your material? What did you learn?

Practice all of your material in front of somebody else once

Is the person you chose somebody who will help you grow and point out mistakes? Or just somebody you wanted to impress?

Make sure your uniform is clean

Did you check after it was washed? Or just assume washing would be good enough?

Arrive on test day fifteen minutes early

What did you do specifically to help ensure you got there when you needed to be there?

Have a Great test

Are you giving your test your all?


After your test, your Instructor will ask you about some or all of this assignment. Be ready to talk about it, by thinking clearly and deeply about Sincerity as you prepare for your test.

Parent’s Corner

To keep mindful attention on every aspect of such a complex task is a big ask for a kid, even a karate kid. We’re asking you to help keep your child focused on this assignment by asking from time to time about his sincerity, discipline and approach.

Sincerity is a habit, like all value behaviors. It’s a tougher habit to cultivate because it’s harder to spot from the outside. With your help, we’ll work together to build it in your child. As always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to our staff.

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