I have two sons and, like any decent parent, spend a fair amount of time worrying about the world they’re growing up in. When I was a kid, things seemed safer. It was rare that we heard of someone grabbing a kid. Getting flashed was about the worst thing to happen and I didn’t hear about any of that until I was almost a teen. Things are different now, whether the actual number of incidents has risen, or because the media has constant access to us and in their search for content, they report on things like this a lot more.
Regardless, I am determined that my children will not go out into the real world without the tools they need to survive potentially bad situations. But training them for such things is a science unto itself. For me, the martial arts have been a lifelong pursuit of constant study and training. But I’m also a fully grown adult. I know what my body is capable of doing; and I know full well what my own responses will be in any number of very bad situations due to a rather colorful canvas of past experiences.
But kids are a different story. I train my oldest for about twenty-thirty minutes each weekday morning before he gets on the school bus. We run through a variety of physical techniques that are designed to give him a foundation in the martial art I study. He is now familiar with the basics of proper footwork, distancing, and timing and angling (even if he doesn’t recognize them as such.) He knows how to throw a solid jab and a decent simple kick. He knows several hand release techniques in case someone grabs him. And he knows how to use a staff about as long as his body and improvise that weapon in the form of an umbrella. Again, he doesn’t necessarily “recognize” that he knows this, but this is all in his neurology right now.
Here’s the problem: he’s a child. And these physical techniques won’t mean a whole lot unless he’s mixing it up with someone his own size and age. It’s never too early to build a foundation, of course, and the time will certainly come when his techniques work on adults. But it’s not here yet. And relying on only the physical to help protect him would be doing him a grave disservice.
At his age, the single best thing I can do for him is to teach him how to be aware. His awareness is his equalizer given his stature. If he is able to see or sense danger coming before it gets to him, he can avoid it. And by developing his wareness, he is helping himself in ways he can’t yet fathom.
Examples abound of supposed adults who wander through life with their heads in the clouds, oblivious to all but their own selfish inclinations, uncaring of the effects of words they utter without regard or actions they take or don’t, and disdainful of those whose perspectives they lack the ability or inclination to grasp. We all know these people – whether they’re co-workers, friends, or – regretably – family.
What I hope to accomplish with my sons is to teach them that awareness is their best defense – not only against the external dangers that exist in the real world, but also against the internal danger of becoming a lazy, rude, complacent idiot.
I instituted a new drill today with my oldest son. Each morning his task is to locate an index card placed somewhere around the house. On each side of the index card is written a code word. Every day, one side of the index card will be faced up with that day’s code word on it. My son is to locate the card, read the day’s code word, and then at some point later, when I ask him, repeat the code word back to me. Each day the location changes and the code word may or may not change as well.
The drill works on several levels: he must first locate it by paying attention and actively searching it out. He must then read and remember the code word for the day, knowing that he will be asked at some point later on. There are a few other levels built into it as well that we’ll talk about in future installments.
I’ll talk about this topic again, since it’s obviously something I believe in quite strongly. Thanks for reading!