AIK Kenpo Kids: Truth

Kenpo Kids Blog - Truth #1

One of the teachers from our karate family used to say “Martial arts without philosophy is merely brutality.” What he meant by that is that you don’t really come to class here in Tucson just to learn how to beat people up. You come to learn to protect yourself, but more importantly you come to learn how to be a happy, kind, caring and responsible person.

Bushido – the Code of the Warrior – is one way to learn that. This month, we focus on the Bushido principle ofTruth. Telling the truth is an important part of being a warrior, and about learning martial arts.

If you’re not truthful in your training, you can’t learn because you can only get better when you admit your mistakes. If you don’t tell the truth to your teacher and yourself, you can’t learn.

In the old days, warriors had to be truthful about their martial arts skills. If a warrior pretended to be more skilled than he really was, his first day in battle would not go well for him. There’s an old samurai saying that “You can’t lie to a sword.” On the battlefield in the old days, or sparring in class, everybody knows the truth about how much somebody has practiced.

Story Hour

You’ve probably heard about The Boy Who Cried Wolf. In that old fairy tale, a little boy lies about a wolf coming to the village because it gets him lots of attention. One day later, when a wolf does come to town, well…nobody believes him when he calls out for help. The wolf ate the little boy.

It’s unlikely that you’ll get eaten by a wolf if you tell lies, but being truthful is still important in your daily life.

As a kid, you have two jobs:

  • Learn all you can in school
  • Help your parents

Being truthful helps you with both of those jobs. At school, like in karate class, being honest about your homework and when you need help means that your parents and teachers can give you what you need to do well in class. If you fib and hide your homework, or don’t ask questions because you’re embarrassed, the adults who care about you don’t have the information they need to help you.

At home with your parents, telling the truth helps make all the other parts of their lives easier. Even if it means getting in a little bit of trouble, admitting your mistakes or reminding your parents about a rule, is something you can do every day. It helps them make the decisions that will help you grow into the best you you can be.

Tell the truth. Even when it’s hard.Especiallywhen it’s hard. Telling hard truths is the Way of the Warrior.

Parent’s Corner

Ready for a hard truth you already know?

Your kid’s going to lie to you. A lot.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that this doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It just means you’re a parent. Kids lie. The question is what to do about it when you catch them.

Family communication specialist Pearl Simmons recommends ignoring the lie and moving on to the problem at hand. If your child accidentally breaks a dish, then denies it, she would suggest just moving right to cleaning up the dish and assigning a chore or other way to earn the money to replace it. Remember that kids want your attention more than anything else. An argument about whether or not she’s telling the truth is a form of attention, and if it lasts long enough you might forget to hand out a consequence or run out of time to do it right.

If you catch your child telling a difficult truth – admitting a mistake or wrongdoing, or even ignorance, Simmons recommends to immediately make ahugedeal out of it. Call it out and explain how and why it’s helpful. Praise their honesty, especially in a tough situation. Come tell us here at American Institutes of Kenpo. We always have time to reinforce positive choices like that.

It can be frustrating and confusing when your child lies to you, especially about something that’s blatantly obvious. Just remember that at this age, they are learning how to interact with the people around them. The more you teach that lying doesn’t prevent the natural consequences of a mistake, and that telling the truth is a laudable and rewardable choice, the better they will internalize the Bushido Value of Truth.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Truth #2

Truthis the Bushido Value for this testing cycle. Like all Bushido Values, it’s a tool that helps warriors use the power of their martial arts training for good in their lives and the others.Truthmeans saying what is true even when it’s hard, and admitting what’s real even when you wish things were different.

Truthis telling your parents that you accidentally broke or spilled something, even when you could get away with blaming it on your little brother or the dog

Truthis looking at finished homework and accepting that you did a C+ job, then going back to work until it’s an A.

Truthis telling a friend that she’s making a bad decision, even if it means she’ll be angry with you for a while

Truthisn’t always easy, but it’s always important. Without truth, you can’t form trusting relationships where you and your friends and family can rely on each other. You can’t perfect your martial arts technique, or grow in any other skill. You can’t be a trusted advisor to the people you care about.

This month, we’ll do an exercise to build our “truth muscles” so that telling the truth gets easier. Like other values, the more you practice this the better you’ll get at it. You do pushups in class to make your muscles stronger, and run kata to make movements a habit. If you practice Truth every day, on purpose, you’ll get better at it, too.

For your Truth exercise, we’ll borrow from Benjamin Franklin. Old Ben was a big believer in exercising his mental, physical and values muscles. Once thing he did was keep a journal where every day he rated how he did on his own list of important values.

Ben’s values were: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility. Each day he reviewed what he did that day, and made a mark in his journal next to the areas he made mistakes on. Over the years, he wrote in his autobiography, he had to make fewer and fewer marks.

For the next four weeks, keep a journal of your personal truthfulness. You can use an actual physical journal, a spreadsheet on the computer, or any other thing you want to keep track. For each day, make a box for “Morning,” “Afternoon” and “Evening”. Each evening before bed, make a happy face (or any other mark) for each part of the day where you were truthful.

You’ll notice that we make one big change from Old Ben’s method. Where Benjamin Franklin marked the areas where hefailed. We want you to celebrate the times where youdid well. In the 300 years since Ben was around, science has figured out some things about how people learn. One of those things is that we learn better when we focus on what we’re doing well, rather than on what we do poorly. We still have to make changes where we need them – but we think about it asdoing right more ofteninstead ofdoing wrong less.

If you want, you can show your journal to your parents or a teacher in school or here at AIK, but mostly this between you and yourself. It’s important that you be truthful in your journal – and another thing those scientists figured out is you’re more likely to be truthful in something like this if you keep it private.

Even though you’re keeping this journal on your own, you can always come to your parents or a teacher here if you have questions or problems.

Parent’s Corner

Truthfulness is a tricky balance to strike as a parent. On one hand, lying is a Big Deal. If your kid lies, there must be some kind of consequence. On the other hand, you want your kids to be able to come clean if they stared to lie but thought better of it, and to tell the truth about things that might get them or their friends in trouble.

Expert educator Katherine Lee has a few pieces of advice about how to strike this balance:

Deal with the behavior, not the child. Don’t call your kid a liar, even when he lies. He’ll believe you. Instead focus on the lie itself. If you can say it with a straight face, even go so far as to say “It’s not like you to lie, but in this case…”

Establish amnesty.If you suspect your child is lying about something important, make a deal. Promise that if she tells the truth, she won’t be punished for the lie. There might still be consequences for the behavior she was lying about, but there won’t be “extra trouble” if she comes clean.

Pick your battles. Think about when you were a kid. Did you tell the truth all the time? Your kids are going to sneak around a little, and tell lies a little. It’s part of growing up. Let it slide when it’s not important and save the “Big Guns” for a serious lie.

Understand the why of it. Find out why your kid is lying – both what motivated a specific lie and why a habit of lying might be starting. If you can identify the root cause, you can change the behavior. If not, you’re just treating symptoms while coming no closer to the cure.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Truth #3


The good news about school is it’s a place to make friends and learn the things you need to know to be a successful and happy adult. The bad news is that most schools have at least one person who doesn’t quite understand what school is for. Often, that person is a bully.

A bully is somebody who feels so bad about himself (or herself) that he tries to feel better by making other people feel bad. Sometimes he does this by telling mean jokes or saying mean things. Other times, he does this by attacking people with his body. Either way, that’s not okay.

As a martial artist, you will feel like you should do something if somebody bullies you or a person you know. You’re right to feel that way, but attacking a bully is never the right idea. It’s not the right idea for two reasons:

Reason #1:Bullies know how to fight. And they’re mean. Even with some karate training, you might get hurt fighting a bully.

Reason #2:Your school will punish you.Most schools don’t care who started a fight or who was being a bully. If you use your karate on a bully, you will usually get in as much trouble as the bully did. If you “win” the fight, maybe more trouble.

Instead, this is what we recommend you do if somebody bullies you. Remember that this advice is from your karate instructors, and from their teachers. People who know how to fight, but know better than to do it in most situations. We recommend you use 3 steps (and one bonus step).

Step One:Use a clear voice to tell the bully to stop. Say “You are being a bully. Stop it right now.”

Step Two:Walk away from bully. If you’re being bullied, just go. If you’re seeing somebody else be bullied, take the victim by the arm and walk away like you’re best friends.

Step Three:Walk straight to the nearest adult you trust. Tell the adultwhat happened, who did it,andwhat you did about it.

Bonus Step:Tell your parents about it when you get home. The more your parents know about what happens when they’re not around, the better they can help you and your friends feel safe at school, on the playground and in other places.

Practice these steps with your classmates and with your parents, just like you would a technique you learned in class. The better you know them, the more likely you are to remember them when you see bullying or get bullied.

Remember:school is a place where you’re supposed to feel safe. If you don’t feel safe it’s harder to learn the things you’re supposed to learn. You can’t make all the bullies in the world disappear, but if you remember and use this technique, you’ll help make school feel safer for everyone in your class.

One last piece of advice:bullies don’t pick fights they can’t win. If you look confident, and act like somebody who wouldn’t be bothered by bullying, bullies will usually leave you alone. Practicing karate, doing well in school, and choosing friends who help you feel good about yourself are all ways to be that confident person who bullies leave alone.

Parents’ Corner

As a parent, there are three things you can do to really help your child avoid being bullied and be mostly okay when it does happen.

#1: Raise your child to know you love them, and to have the confidence to not listen when bullies put him down. The good news is putting them in karate classes like ours at American Institutes of Kenpo is a good step for the second part of this.

#2: Talk with your child about her day.Listen to how he/she describes what happened at school, and ask leading questions. The more you know about what’s going on in their life, the better you can help with bullying – and with bigger questions and problems that happen with older children.

#3: Hold the school responsible for your child’s safety.If you hear about bullying, ask the teacher and principal immediately what they are doing to keep your child safe. Remember: they are civil servants and they work for you. It’s perfectly okay to respectfully insist that they do that part of their jobs.

None of this means your child will graduate from high school having never been bullied. That’s a nearly impossible task. But if you do your part in making these things a reality, your child will have an excellent chance of getting through school okay despite the fact that bullies are a part of the experience.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Truth #4 (Assignment)

As you get ready for your promotion, there’s a lot you’ll need to do. Here’s your checklist to make sure you do your absolute best on test day. This list is your responsibility – your job to do whatever it takes to make it happen. It’s not your parents’ job, or your teachers’, or your Instructor’s.

It’s yours.

We recommend you print this out and put it up somewhere you can see every day this month, so you remember to do everything you’re supposed to do.

Here’s Your List

  • Confirm with your Instructor that you are ready to test
  • Invite your parents and other important people to come see the test
  • Finish your Truth 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

Your Truth Project

You know already that the theme for this promotion cycle is “Truth,” one of the eight ethical principles of Bushido – the code of the warrior. You’ve read what it means, heard about it in class, talked about it with your parents and instructors, and thought about how it applies in your life.

Your Truth project is to make a project that tells the story of somebody telling the truth even when it was hard, or not telling the truth and suffering a consequence. The story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf is an example of the second idea. The story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree is an example of the first.

You can take this story from your life, or another true story from a person you know. You can take it from fiction in books, movies or cartoons that you enjoy. You can make up the story. It’s not important where you get it – only that the story you choose is important to you and says something important about Truth as a value for warriors.

You can tell the story any way you want to. If you write well, write the story down. If you like comics, draw a short comic strip or comic book. You can tell the whole story with a single painting or drawing, if you like. Again, how you tell the story isn’t as important as making sure you tell the story you want, in the way you do it best.

Talk with your instructor about your project in the weeks before your test, so they know what to expect and can help you with any problems or details you might have. Come to test day with the finished project, and be ready to talk about it.

Parent’s Corner

We’re going to encourage you to push your child a bit on this assignment. Truth can be a hard concept for kids to embrace fully. It’s one of the first moral dilemmas of our lives, and many kids aren’t sure what to do with that dilemma.

If you think your child is opting for an “easy way out” of this – for example, by retelling a folk tale or story from history when a more hard-hitting personal anecdote might be better – encourage her to go ahead and tell the harder story.

Building the muscles of truth begins with saying what’s hard and necessary because it’s the right thing to do. This assignment is an opportunity to help your child build those muscles. As always, let us know if we can help in any way. We’re here to serve, and that’s the truth.

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