Don't be fooled, Taekwon-do is a contact sport. Although we may safely practice no contact sparring in the dojang, eventually we will all get kicked and punched...hard! I mean think about it, we put on protective gear and throw our hands and feet at faces. Contact will happen, and when it does it's normal to get angry. Whether you are a 5 year old white belt just starting your journey toward black belt, or a wise Grand Master with unwavering self control, we all get angry. So what exactly is anger and how can we control it?
Anger is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. This best describes getting punched in the face. But what's the root cause of anger? In the brain, the amygdala releases catecholamines preparing you for physical action. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are also released, increasing your blood pressure and accelerating your heart rate pushing blood to your extremities. This chemical reaction prepares the body for what is known as the 'fight or flight' response. When we get angry our judgment can become cloudy, causing us to be more reactionary than rational.
To tame anger we use our prefrontal cortex which is responsible for controlling our judgment. In stressful situations, studies show more brain activity in the prefrontal cortex in rational people than aggressive ones. This is not to say that if you react with an angry kick to your opponents gut you have an antisocial personality disorder, rather it means you may need to practice more mental focus. So how can we practice mental focus to keep us calm in times of anger?
Tips to Control Anger
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You're in it for the belts
Setting out to attain your black belt in any martial art is a monumental task and indeed a legitimate reason. If you maintain focus on advancing to the next level through hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears, then eventually you will succeed. However, if you have joined purely for the power of belt promotions, then you will find out quickly that you won't have what it takes to be a genuine black belt. If you have this mentality and find yourself still being promoted, then the problem is not only with you but is also rooted within your instructor. If this is you, then quit before you hurt yourself or others.
You're being abused
It's not uncommon for student's to get injured in class through sparring and self defence drills. In Taekwon-do we kick and punch at people, eventually you will get hit. Accidents do happen as we are still learning. However, if an instructor or fellow student purposely causes you pain, discomfort and/or humiliation after you have repeatedly asked them to stop, then this would be an appropriate time to remove yourself from the environment. Remember, it's OK to tell the instructor or a fellow student to stop. Quitting your instructor may be a good idea if you are given the following excuses:
A good instructor will acknowledge your discomfort, apologize, take accountability for their actions and take proper precautions in the future to ensure your physical safety.
Taekwon-do is also a business. I understand that instructors need to be paid as this may be their livelihood. They are providing a service and understandably need to be compensated for their expertise. Fortunately, Taekwon-do schools are a popular business and prices can be compared. A legitimate school will be upfront and honest with all of their business practices. But buyer beware!
Suspiciously Over Qualified Instructor
Beware of the 'over qualified' instructor. It takes a lifetime to master ONE martial art, so why would you want to invest your time and money in an instructor who claims to be a master of all of them? Taekwon-do schools are a dime a dozen and business owners will try to stand out above the rest. Beware of the instructor who boasts about all of their certificates and the many federations they belong to. If they brag about being a provincial, western, national or even a world champion odds are they may very well be, be aren't we all? A good instructor will be humble and prove their character by how they treat you in class. Rank, certificates and titles are sales tactics. Don't fall for them.
Self motivation, a willingness to learn and perseverance are all determining factors for success. However, these attributes may not be enough. A student will look to authority both inside and outside the classroom for guidance. It's unfortunate when a student's true potential is jeopardized by no fault of their own. Taekwon-do has its challenges and not everyone is successful. But with proper guidance students can avoid these three common ways of failing Taekwon-do.
1. Lack of Encouragement
When children first start Taekwon-do, it's fun and engaging. They meet new friends, play fun games and are motivated by belts and awards. Over time, the novelty will wear off as classes become difficult and repetitive. Upon hitting this 'road block', children tell their parents 'they're bored' and wish to quit. This is a common occurrence. Some, but not all parents, bend to their child's demands, pull them out and enrol them in the next activity only to repeat the cycle. Parents who understand the benefits of Taekwon-do are less likely to remove their child simply because they are bored. Involved parents watch classes, ask questions and even join. Success in Taekwon-do is a collaborative effort between the student, parents and instructor. Consequently, there's a high probability that this lack of involvement could promote failure.
2. Chasing Belts, Badges, Stripes and Patches
Taekwon-do is extremely visual. From its aerial kicks to snappy uniforms, Taekwon-do has an attractive curb appeal. It's no wonder why people are attracted to Taekwon-do. But have the reasons become more about flash than function? Taekwon-do is a military art, thus following a standardized system of rank. Unfortunately, this system has been altered and exploited by greedy instructors. A bad instructor will bribe their students with belts, badges, stripes and patches rather than teach proper Taekwon-do technique. At a poorly ran dojang, promotions will come quickly to keep students interested. Students become accustom to the promotions and find themselves chasing the next belt. This results in a dangerous student with a large ego who may go on to open their own dojang thus repeating the cycle. If a students adopts this attitude regardless if they have achieved a black belt or not, then they have set themselves up for failure.
1. A Bad Instructor
An entire post in and of itself, bad instructors are more common than not. It should be noted that there is a difference between quitting and failing. So for this post I'll focus on how a bad instructor will help you fail at Taekwon-do. In short, an instructor is responsible for a student's knowledge, attitude and technique. If an instructor is teaching incorrect technique, handing out early promotions and instilling false confidence as an incentive to keep students in the dojang, then this type of environment is a breeding ground for future 'watered down' instructors. Although a student may be promoted to black belt from this environment, there will come a time when their knowledge and abilities will be put to the test. Eventually, a bad instructor will leave you wondering what exactly is wrapped around your waist.
We can all agree that these are crucial years for child development. You are a loving parent and want what's best for your child. Nowadays, parents are inundated with countless activities that are marketed toward them and their children on several platforms (like this one). So how is it that parents can decide what activity is best suited for their child? The answer is to research the activity, its leaders and their core values. But how do you find the time?
Surprisingly, parents rarely ask me questions about Taekwon-do, my background, or the long term benefits for their child. The most common questions are about class times, prices and if they can try a class before they join. This leads me to believe that most parents have a vague or stereotypical understanding of what Taekwon-do is. I understand that parents are busy and they may not have sufficient time to do in-depth research into the art, school and instructor, so this article is a starting point for the busy yet involved parent. Although there are many advantages to practicing Taekwon-do, here are FIVE important benefits that may be appealing to parents.
From the moment they step into the Dojang (training hall) children are taught to bow as a physical sign of respect for the education they are about to receive. Respect is encouraged by bowing to and addressing the instructor as Sir or Ma'am. A respectful instructor will always return the bow. Students also bow to one another as a sign of mutual respect. The act of bowing teaches children respect in and outside the dojang.
2. Physical Fitness
Taekwon-do in known for its aerobic, acrobatic and aerial kicking techniques. Children love to jump, spin and kick things. The dynamic kicking and punching techniques of Taekwon-do will help children with balance and coordination, strength and conditioning while providing an outlet for stress.
3. Self Defence
Students of Taekwon-do are encouraged to talk their way out of a confrontation first. Unfortunately, we can't predict that this will always work. Taekwon-do provides children with the confidence to not only speak up for themselves and/or others, but to also have the skills necessary to defend themselves against a would-be attacker.
4. Winning & Losing
'Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing'. - Vince Lombardi.
Through Taekwon-do competitions, children will experience winning and losing. Of course we want to see our children win as it builds their self esteem and reinforces their hard work but losing is always a risk. Taekwon-do teaches that losing opens the door to self improvement. Through proper instruction, perseverance and positive encouragement from involved parents, a student will learn from their losses, be accountable and ultimately be guided to success.
Taekwon-do cultivates long lasting friendships in a fun, respectful and safe environment. The relationships and bonds don't just stop at the dojang. Tournaments encourage respectful competition with children their own age and belt rank on a provincial, national and international level. It's not uncommon for meaningful friendships to form across borders.
In conclusion, extra curricular activities should not just be something that fills your child's calendar. Whatever activity you choose, assess the benefits and be sure they meet the expectations for both you and your child.