AIK Kenpo Kids: Until the Last Day

Kenpo Kids Blog - Until the Last Day #1

The core Bushido values we like to teach our students are simple concepts. One word to think about, act upon, and make part of your life.

This value -- Until the Last Day -- is a little different. It’s a more complicated idea. Even worse, it’s an idea you can’t really practice today. It’s something you practice for the rest of your life.

It works like this.

“Until the last day” means that you will be a martial artist until the last day of your life. At least we hope you will.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a student at AIK for your whole life. We’d like that, and we love it when that happens. But people move. They grow up and live in other places. They decide martial arts isn’t their favorite hobby. They have families and jobs and don’t have time to do karate.

Sometimes they decide to do martial arts, but at another dojo.

All of these are fine with us. There are many different ways to be a martial artist, and our is only right for some people.

But we hope that, whatever you do, you stay a martial artist until your last day.

For some people, that means practicing martial arts their whole lives. That’s what Mr. and Mrs. Knight and Mr. Pilch do. They made their jobs and their lives about being martial artists and teaching martial arts to others. Some adults with other jobs still train every week and become expert, lifetime martial artists.

But even if you don’t do that, we want you to still make martial arts part of your life.

Maybe you stop training, but remember one technique or kata that helps to keep you safe

Maybe you stop training, but the discipline helps you be better at the job and hobby you do have as an adult

Maybe you stop training, but you make physical fitness part of your life forever

Maybe you stop training, but still live the bushido values to make your life better

Maybe you simply live your life with a little more respect for yourself and others

There are many, many ways to be a martial artist “until your last day.” We don’t mind which way you choose. We just hope you’ll choose one.

But there are also many, many ways to choose to stop being a martial artist.

When will be your last day of taking classes? The last day you tie on your gi and take lessons with your teachers and fellow students?

When will be the last day you practice a kata or technique, or work on your basics? The last day you stop giving your time to the martial arts?

When will be the last day you use your fitness, discipline, and focus to succeed at other tasks? The last day the mental lessons of martial arts help make your life better?

When will be the last day you live by the Bushido Values? The last day you let the spirit and ethics of martial arts push you to live a better life?

When will be the last day you think of yourself as a martial artist? The last day you make it part of who you are?

Put another way...when will be the first day you say “I used to study karate.”

That’s what “Until the Last Day” means. It means making martial arts a part of your life until you run out of days. Even if it’s just a small part of your life.

As your martial arts teachers, we dare you to take that challenge. You don’t have to study with us your whole life, but we hope you’ll study somewhere and practice for as long as you can.

Parent’s Corner: We Are a Black Belt School

Don’t get me wrong. We love to make black belts. We hope your child will become one, and we’ll do everything we can to help. But not every child in the world is cut out to be a black belt. Every child who’s destined to become a black belt is destined to become a black belt in kenpo, and not every kenpo black belt gets their black belt as a child at AIK.

But that’s okay.

We want your child to be a martial artist “Until the Last Day,” but even more we want to work with you to give your child everything she needs to succeed in life. During your child’s time with us, we will all make Black Belt Effort for your family.

And it’s our hope that what your child learns here will stay with him or her Until the Last Day.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Until the Last Day #2

Living Bushido Until the Last Day

Bushido practice is our favorite way to remain martial artists Until the Last Day.

Even the most athletic martial artist eventually grows older and can’t break bricks, do splits, and jump high anymore. Even the sharpest teacher will grow old enough to lose time and energy for the mat. These are truths about the circle of life.

But at our oldest and most worn out, we can still live our lives according to the values of Bushido. The seven principles of living as a warrior each have their own ways of being expressed, and you can express them even as other parts of your martial arts begin to fade.

Truth might be the easiest to live in until your last day. Simply keep telling the truth, even when it’s hard or scary. Do that every day, no matter what, and you’ll be a warrior your whole life. 

Bravery changes with stages of life. As a child, bravery might mean facing a fear of the dark. As a teen, it’s being brave enough not to bully. Adults have their own fears, and seniors have different fears. But a lifetime of living Bushido will help you face them all. 

Courtesy is tricky. You’ve probably noticed that some people feel like they can be less courteous to anybody younger than them. Seniors and elders are older than most people, and some are discourteous to everybody as they get older. The good news is this is an easy trap to avoid. Just remember your martial arts courtesy every year, in every situation. 

Compassion is a special challenge as you get older. You’ve probably noticed that our culture often shows less compassion as people get older. We ask you to practice this value today, and until your last day, by being compassionate to your seniors and elders whenever you get the chance. 

Sincerity as you get older means being honest with yourself in each stage of your life. Now, and as a teen, you’ll be tempted to think you can to things you’re not ready for. As an adult, you’ll want to do more things than you can because you don’t have the time. Many elders wish they could do the physical things they could as younger men and women. Remaining sincere keeps you healthier, happier, and safety at all stages of your life. 

Discernment comes easier with each passing year, as long as you practice it vigilantly. Experience helps you make good decisions, and comes automatically as you age. Like truth, this is one of the simpler values to live until the last day. Just remember your life lessons and apply them wherever you can. 

Loyalty might be the most fun value to practice your whole life long. Living many years means gathering many friends and loved ones around you, if you stay loyal to them. It’s a matter of practice, and paying attention. Luckily, living your martial arts until the last day means you’ll be loyal until your last day, too. 

This month, we challenge you to explore the seven principles of bushido by looking for them in your mentors, elders, parents, grandparents, teachers, and other people who further along the path of life than you are.

Look for people who seem to live one or more of the values. Think about how they do it, especially if they do it despite some kind of challenge. Can you live your life that way even as it gets harder to do so? Will you?

And what can you do now to make that more likely?

Parent’s Corner: Valuing Elders

One theme of this month’s blog post for kids is the importance of paying attention to adults who have lived a value into their senior years. That’s important to us, and we hope to you.

Something I personally love about martial arts is that it’s a culture that values our elders. Young students look up to their adult teachers. Adult teachers look up to senior ranking teachers and try to live by their wisdom. Even cocky 20-something athletes learn a few hard lessons at the hands of men and women well past retirement age, and are better for the (sometimes painful) experience.

Most of our families have elders either in the family or in their expanded community. We encourage you to help your child spend more time with them, to find ways to serve them and learn from their example. If you don’t have any local elders in your sphere, come talk with us. We have plenty involved in the AIK family.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Until the Last Day #3

Enrichment Topic - First, Second and Third Person

It might surprise you to find out that the best martial artists practice different kinds of martial arts in different ways.

This is a very complicated situation that takes years to learn, but we can start with the basics. As you grow in your practice, you will understand this better. As you understand it better, you will be able to apply it more.

Kenpo Karate is made up of three sorts of training:

Techniques -- a specific response to a specific attack, which you practice over and over

Kata -- a sort of dance where you use a series of kenpo movements to help memorize and understand them

Sparring -- using some of your kenpo skills against an opponent in a safe, supervised environment

Unless you are a brand-new white belt martial artist, you already knew this. If you area brand-new white belt martial artist, you’ll see it soon enough. Either way, kenpo masters for decades have found ways to practice each that make them more effective ways of getting better at your karate skills.

When we practice, we practice using one of three kinds of training: first person, second person, and third person.

You might remember these ideas from language arts class in school. They’re similar, but not exactly the same. They work like this.

First person training is the simplest kind of training. You work on just what your body is doing. Which basic movements of kenpo do you do, and in what order? Is your stance perfect? Do you cover out properly?

As you begin to master each technique, you begin to think about how a movement affects a person. You might also practice it on a partner to better improve your kenpo. But even then, your focus is on what your body does. Because your focus is narrow, we call it first-person training.

Although you can use first person training for any kind of practice, it’s best used to practice your techniques.

Second person training expands your awareness. Usually kenpo students use it when practicing their kata.

Although kata consist of a series of techniques, they are longer and they take more room on the floor. Because you’re taking up more room, you have to expand your awareness to know what’s happening in the area around you. You want to avoid accidentally kicking somebody, or bumping into your bedroom furniture.

You also have to pay attention to your breathing, and your mental state. Because the katas last longer, they give you a chance to practice those parts of your kenpo training.

Third person training is when you pay attention to another person. When you spar, you’re not only responsible for yourself. You’re responsible for the safety of your partner.

Part of your partner’s safety is first and second person training, when you pay attention to what you do and to the space you do it in. But there’s a third level of awareness you must think of.

You have to watch your partner. Make sure he isn’t getting angry, or frustrated, or scared. Make sure your hits aren’t so hard they’re injuring him. Watch how he’s moving so he doesn’t accidentally step into something dangerous.

Third person training is the most complicated and challenging kind of training, but it’s the only way to spar safely. And safety is your most important priority when you spar.

Parents’ Corner

This is a fairly advanced idea to apply for children of the age for our kids program, but that doesn’t mean they can’t understand it. But your child will need your help with this.

If you have the chance, we encourage you to watch your child practice her kenpo. Keep the idea of first, second, and third person practice in mind. Ask leading questions about each to see if your child is applying these concepts, and talk through any problems or challenges she encounters.

Once your child gets it, you can even discuss applying these concepts to other kinds of practice. How might first, second, or third person practice inform or impact argument or planning a day? How might it impact homework, or behavior at school?

These kinds of conversation are a big part of how our kids can take their training out of the dojo and into the world. As always, if you want any help in getting those conversations started, our staff here at AIK is available to help at any time.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Until the Last Day #4 (Assignment)

Testing day will be here soon, which means you need to spend this month getting ready for your belt test.

Each kenpo student has a different way to get ready for their next belt test, and there is no wrong way to do it if you’re happy with the results. But we recommend doing at least this much:

Ask your instructors how you can improve your techniques, basics, and katas

Practice everything you will be tested on at least once a day

Show somebody else all of your testing material at least once

Fill out any paperwork you need to fill out with the dojo and at your school

Help your parents wash your uniform

Invite friends and family who want to watch your test

Help your parent the day of the test so you can leave home and arrive at the test on time

As always, you will also have a personal assignment to turn in. For this testing cycle, your assignment will be about the value of “Until the Last Day.”

You’ll remember from earlier months that “Until the Last Day” is the idea that a martial artist keeps training in martial arts until the very last day of his or her life. He might not be able to jump in the air and do a spin kick like when he was a young man. She might be in a wheelchair, or in bed. But both still use and practice the mental discipline of martial arts to make their lives better, and to help the people they love.

“Until the Last Day” doesn’t only apply to martial arts training, though. Everybody who has a true passion practices it until the last day.

Your assignment for this month is to make a collage about the idea of “Until the Last Day.” You can cut out pictures from magazines and newspapers, or print images out from online, or include drawings or paintings you do yourself. Whatever makes the best collage you can make is fine.

How you explore and express “Until the Last Day” in your collage is up to you. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, here are a few of our favorites:

A collage about the life of a person you think showed the idea of “Until the Last Day” in his or her life.

A collage of images you think represent a person living a value fully. 

Collect images that show what you think your life as an adult will look like if you train in martial arts “Until the Last Day”

A collage of senior citizens practicing art, music, athletics, or martial arts

A collage telling the story of somebody who kept practicing something even after an injury made it hard

If you have trouble coming up with ideas, ask an instructor here at American Institutes of Kenpo. We’ll brainstorm ideas with you.

We do ask one thing. Although “Until the Last Day” includes the day of somebody’s death, it’s not about death. Your collage shouldn’t have a lot of pictures of death or violence. That’s not the point of the value, or of the assignment.

It should instead be something that celebrates living a whole life of study and focus.

Once you complete your collage, bring it into the dojo. We are excited to see what you come up with and be ready to tell us all about it!

Parents’ Corner

Sometimes we find this assignment can be a little harder on our youngest students. Thinking about practicing anything until the last day of our lives means thinking sometimes about death. Some youngsters haven’t thought much about death, so they might have some questions or be otherwise troubled by the topic.

We’re sure you’ve got this, but since we’re the ones who brought the topic up we’re here to help in any way you need with this, or any other difficult conversation.

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