AIK Kenpo Kids: Whatever It Takes

Kenpo Kids Blog - Whatever It Takes #1

As a member of Tucson, Arizona’s top martial arts community, you spend your time in class learning secrets about safety, discipline, focus, fitness and who you are as a person. You might even end up ablackbeltinstructor yourself one day. You learn the most important values of martial arts study, and how to use them in everyday life.

This semester’s value is a single sentence taught to me by my instructor, Lee Sprague. One sentence that can change your life:

Martial Arts Value: Whatever it Takes!

Say that with us.


Learning martial arts gives you lots of tools. Some of those are tools for staying safe in an emergency, but most of them help you do the right thing at home, at school and in life.Whatever it Takes!is an important one you can use every day. It means that if you make a promise to anyone, even if it’s just to yourself, you do everything you can to keep that promise.

  • Promise to help clean your room? DoWhatever it Takesto get it clean!
  • Promise to brush your teeth every night? DoWhatever it Takesto remember!
  • Promise to practice your martial arts lessons a little bit every day? DoWhatever it Takesto find the time!
  • Promise to pay attention at your school? DoWhatever it Takesto stay focused and respectful!
  • Promise to help a friend? DoWhatever it Takesto help!

We know that’s a lot of responsibility, but you have a lot of help. On the deck while you’re learning your new martial arts lessons, your karate teacher doesn’t only teach you kenpo. She or he teaches you how to remember to stay focused and keep safe.

In class, you have other students right beside you. Some days they help you doWhatever it Takesto make the most out of every training session. On other days, you help them. Helping each other is part of being a team, which is what everybody does at AIK in Tucson.

People outside of class will help you doWhatever it Takesto keep your promises. Your parents, school teachers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends and neighbors can all help you remember to do what you need to do, when you need to do it.

With all that help, you’ll be surprised at how much you can do.

So what will you do to keep the promises you make to your parents, school teachers, karate teachers,friends, family and to yourself? Say it loud:

Whatever it Takes!

Parents’ Corner

Bill Packer, the founder of the martial arts organization from which American Institutes of Kenpo came, used to say “Martial arts without philosophy is merely brutality.” Because of this truth, each month of your child’s time studying martial arts with us will include learning and thinking about a life skill.

You’ve probably guessed by now that this semester’s theme isWhatever it Takes!

This value is a tool that supports all the other values. It means exactly what it sounds like it means: use every resource at your disposal to accomplish what you must accomplish. As a parent, you’re already familiar with this even if you’ve never explored it in exactly those words. If your child needs something, you make it happen no matter what. You do Whatever It Takes!

Your child will need your help internalizing this lesson. Most kids we teach at our martial arts school understand the concept right away. The trouble they have is understanding how many tools and options are available to them. As a parent, you can help them become more resourceful and disciplined by talking with them about how they might solve a specific problem or keep a specific commitment. You can also share stories of how you rose to an occasion, or walk them through your decision-making the next time you’re in a challenging space.

Likewise, our staff at AIK in Tuscon is here to doWhatever it Takesto help your child succeed in our program, and in life outside. If you think a pep talk, email, social media ping or Serious Meeting will help provide the motivation to succeed, don’t hesitate for a second to ask. Martial arts training is about more than kicking and punching, and we are here to help our students improve and succeed in all aspects of life.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Whatever It Takes #2

Last month, we talked about the Bushido value of Whatever it Takes. It’s an important part of learning martial arts for kids or adults. If you missed it,Whatever It Takes #1to read it and catch up. It will only take a few minutes.

Whatever it Takes is about doing what you need to do to succeed, and to help the people in your life. It’s a skill, like kicking and punching and tying your shoes. Like any skill, you get better at it with practice…so this month you’re going to practice doing Whatever it Takes. Here’s how it works:

Step One:Sit down with your parents and make a list of five things that are hard for you, but important. Maybe you have trouble remembering to wash your hands after using the bathroom. Maybe you need practice at turning off your video game when asked. Maybe it’s saying “please” and “thank you,” or doing the right thing in class at school. Everybody has a list of things like this, so be honest and help make the list. If you have trouble thinking of things, ask your parents for ideas.

Step Two:At night before you go to bed, choose one item from the list you want to focus on for the next day. Write it down on a piece of paper, or in a notebook you choose for this assignment.

Step Three:The next day, whenever you end up in a situation that involves the thing you’re working on, do Whatever it Takes to make the right choices. Sometimes you’ll succeed. Other times you’ll fail. Your job is to work hard to succeed as much as you can.

Step Four:Keep track of how many times you succeed, by making a checkmark or a smiley face or something else like that in your notebook.

Step Five:Before bed, choose another item from the list for the next day.

Step Six:Keep doing this for one month. Once you go through every item on your list, start over at the beginning and do them over again. By the end of the month, you’ll have done each six times. Watch as the number of good marks grows. You’re practicing this skill and you’ll get better with each day of practice.

Step Seven:Show your karate teacher your progress once a week or so. If you have trouble with any one thing from your list, ask your parents and karate teacher for help. That’s what we’re all here for.

As you do this challenge, you’ll probably notice something really neat. After you’ve practiced doing Whatever it Takes for the things on your list, you will start succeeding at other hard things, too. That’s because skills don’t just improve the thing you’re practicing. You’ve probably already seen how getting better at karate means you also get better at other sports. This works just that way.

Parents’ Corner

The challenge for this month is a tall order, since it’s based on remember things in the moment. We here at AIK of Tucson don’t need to remind you how hard that is on school-aged children. The best thing you can do to support your child in this is to create a system of blame-free reminders.

Whether you use the proverbial string around the finger, a sign in the restroom, or simply ask when appropriate if your child remembered, that help will go a long way toward forming a habit of success. This kind of behavior change follows a simple pattern:


Occasional success with reminders

Frequent success with reminders

Occasional success without reminders

Frequent success without reminders

Consistent success

The more you can give reminders as a “cheerleader” instead of the “town sheriff,” the more successful your child will be with this. And of course, if anybody at American Institutes of Kenpo can be helpful with this you only have to ask.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Whatever It Takes #3

Spirit, Honor, Discipline, Oos!!

At the beginning and end of each class, we say those four words to mark the end of the workout and to prepare ourselves for going out into the real world. We call those words our “closing pledge.” What’s a pledge? We’re glad you asked.

A pledge is a promise you make, usually one you make in an official way, to remind yourself of something important. At school you say the Pledge of Allegiance all together to help remind yourselves how lucky you are to live in the United States and enjoy the safety, clean water and great education that Americans get to have.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a bit longer than our pledge, but the idea is the same. When we say “Spirit, Honor, Discipline, Oos!!” we’re reminding ourselves of three valuable tools that you can apply every day to your training, to your schoolwork and to your life.

When you make any pledge, it’s important that you understand what your pledge means.

Spiritmeans your attitude. On the deck, you make the best progress when you admit mistakes and learn how to fix them. In the rest of life, it can be easy to deny mistakes or cover them up. This makes it hard for you to learn and improve, so your pledge is to admit and fix your mistakes whenever you make them.

Honormeans being honest with yourself and others about everything in your life. You are surrounded by people who can help you with anything: parents, teachers, karate instructors, friends, grandparents and many others. If youaren’t truthful with them, they can’t know how to help you. If you aren’t truthful with yourself, you can’t know how to ask for help. Your pledge of honor means that you will tell the truth and even look for it when it is hidden, even when doing so is hard.

Disciplinemeans applying yourself 100% to whatever you’re doing. If you’re practicing your kenpo, practice with focus and intent. If you’re doing your homework, concentrate and make sure you do it well. If you’re playing video games, play well and with good sportsmanship. Without discipline, you not only get worse results, you’re not able to enjoy doing it. Your pledge of discipline is to give everything your absolute best.


Like we talked about in our Coaches’ Corner, Oos!! Is an expression of commitment and enthusiasm. Think of it as saying an exclamation point out loud. Saying it at the end of the pledge means that what you said before is important to you.

Parents’ Corner

The reason we end each class with the pledge is so that our students leave the deck with those four words in their minds. It’s our hope that this will subtly color actions, perceptions and attitudes through the rest of the day and we would love your help in making that hope a reality.

Here’s a secret about martial arts: the kicking and punching is fun, but it’s not all that important. How many times this year – how many times in your child’s life – is he or she going to use kicks and punches and blocks in real self-defense? Once? Twice? Most likely, it’s zero unless he or she takes an adult job as a police officer or something similar.

But Spirit, Honor and Discipline? Your child can apply those every day to homework, chores and relationships to make his or her life – and the lives of those nearby – better. When you can, please remind your child about the pledge made by saying those words, and the tools they represent for getting the most possible out of life.

Kenpo Kids Blog - Whatever It Takes #4 (Assignment)

As you get ready for your next promotion, there’s a lot you’ll need to do. Here’s your checklist to make sure you are ready to 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, 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 the test

Finish your Whatever It Takes project (see below)

Practice all of your material by yourself three times

Practice all of your material in front of somebody one time

Make sure your uniform is clean

Arrive on test day fifteen minutes early

Have a great test

Your Whatever It Takes Project

The theme for this promotion cycle is “Whatever it Takes.” By now you understand what it means, why it’s important, and how to make it part of your life. You’ve heard about it, thought about it and practiced it the same way you’ve learned, thought about, and practiced your physical martial arts techniques.

On test day, you’ll show your learning, thought and practice of your physical techniques. In the same way, this project will show your learning, thought and practice of the value “Whatever It Takes.” By your blue stripe test, you’ll turn it in for your Instructor to review and discuss with you.

Your project is a visual display of what “Whatever it Takes” means to you. This can be a drawing, a painting, a collage, a calligraphed poem or a photo you took. It can show you doing “Whatever it Takes,” tell the story of somebody else doing so, or anything else that you feel truly shows what this value means to you. What form your project takes isn’t very important. It just has to tell the story of what you’ve learned about “Whatever it Takes” and how it plays a role in your life.

And of course you need to do “Whatever it Takes” to make it the best project it can be.

Parents’ Corner

Scaffolding is a trade term teachers use for helping a student with the tasks surrounding an assignment without actually doing the assignment for him. An example would be looking up all the websites for the research on a report, but not actually writing the report.

It’s tempting to scaffold for our kids, and in many cases it’s necessary and helpful. For this assignment, though, please try to let your child do as much as possible on his or her own. Provide materials, help brainstorm ideas, and definitely be the grownup about scheduling and due dates – but remember the value for this semester is “Whatever it Takes.”

It’s not “Whatever mom and dad can help with.” A project that feels like a B+ to you, but your child did on her own, beats an A+ production value where you helped with the hard parts.

As always, we’re here to help with any part of the project. We won’t scaffold either, but will answer any questions and provide ideas and encouragement as often and as well as we can. After all, our main job is to do “Whatever it Takes” to help our students succeed.

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