Independence through Self-Discipline, Concentration, and Fun

You’ve heard it before: Black Belts (including black belts in training) take responsibility for their own actions. What you may not have heard (or seen) is that this nascent self-discipline, this budding independence, comes along within weeks or months or even days for some kids after they become active in martial arts. This includes some kids who are very, very shy, and/or very, very young.

Ms. Carlota Ponds of Fort Collins talks about the the independence she’s seen in her pre-school-age grandson after he started the Little Ripples martial arts program. We’ll leave it to Ms. Ponds to tell the story of growth, fun and independence in her own words:

“A Year in the Life of a Little Ripple”
by Carlota Ponds

You may be questioning if 3 (or 4 or 5) years old is “too early” to enroll your youngster in the martial arts. You wonder if it could be dangerous to get them started “fighting” when they don’t yet have control over their emotions and sometimes, haven’t even developed good eye-hand coordination. My grandson, Mekhi, became a “Little Ripple” when he was three years and three months old. He is now four years and two months old. Here’s a brief summary of what I have observed in his development over the past year.

On his first day of class (actually his first week), Mekhi wouldn’t even go out onto the mat. He cried LOUDLY and hid behind his mother, a pretty embarrassing display that almost caused her to give up on classes before they began. Thankfully, this was no concern for the program leaders and they coached mom and family to bring [Mekhi] back every few weeks and let him come along at his own pace. Two months later he did his courtesy bow and stood at attention on the mat with confidence. Now he likes to arrive early to be one of the first ones in line to go onto the mat.

As a boy with a sister 20 months older than he, Mekhi is often frustrated that she is taller, faster and, because she’s already a good reader, (so he thinks) smarter.

The Little Ripples instructors praise the things each student does well. They have fun ways to coach improvement in areas that need it and they NEVER compare one student’s pace or progress with that of another. They teach Mekhi to value his gifts and talents and to not worry about what (he thinks) someone else is doing better. Mekhi and his sister still compete at times but now he doesn’t come unglued if he doesn’t win.

His vocabulary has also improved as a result of the Little Ripples program. The Student Creeds and Black Belt Creed are recited at each class session. There are many words in the Creeds that I thought were too advanced for his age. Mekhi always has great ideas and understands concepts beyond his years but he can’t always express them verbally. I was surprised when I first heard him confidently recite the creeds with the class.

I took the challenge on myself to help him know what each word means and to explain words the instructors use in class. Last week we were riding in the car and his sister was singing. He said to her, “Sister, can you sing quieter? I can’t concentrate. So much for the four-year old with limited verbal skills. Mekhi was also showing creed traits of modesty, courtesy and self-control.

I haven’t yet mentioned “fighting,” which is the activity most people first associate with martial arts. That’s because, at his level, fighting isn’t a strong component of his learning. It’s actually non-existent. What Mekhi is developing is, “a strong mind, body and character” so he can “always reach for [his] fullest potential.” If these are characteristics you desire for your pre-school aged child, I encourage you to add Little Ripples to your toolkit of aids (and aides) to help her/him grow.

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