Your child begins learning traditional Chinese martial arts

full picture of master bu and young master wu

Grandmaster Bu Xuekuan (布學寬) with his students, including a young Master Wu Chaoxiang (武朝相).

If you plan on signing your child up for Chinese martial arts lessons at a traditional school, there are a few things all parents must consider.

“Study as if you have not reached your goal, as if you were afraid of losing what you have.”

Analects 8:17 – Confucius (孔子)

First, and foremost, ask yourself, as a parent, who are you doing this for?

Is it for you or for your child? If your child wants to study martial arts, great, but if YOU always wanted to study it (or used to), don’t force it on them, and don’t expect them to have the same, enthusiasm, experience and journey as you have or had.

Second, be careful with what your concept of “traditional Chinese martial arts” or “Kung Fu” means. 

A traditional Chinese martial arts school is not what people read in print or see in movies or on TV, which is simply a choreographed portrait of a romantic idea or image. Traditional schools are not interested in making your child a “superstar”, or give them “superpowers”, they are interested in students that will work hard and respectfully in learning the art as well as being a willing participant in the school’s community and activities. What your child will truly get out of it will be a cultural experience like no other. Depending on the school, your child may get a basic understanding of the culture, from which the art came from, or even a full immersion with many cultural experiences that will open a whole world of opportunities including not only the martial skills, but also language, music, travel and much more.

Third, leave the teaching and coaching to the teachers.

This is not just true for traditional Chinese martial arts schools, but in fact applies to any martial arts school. When you sign your children up, let them learn from the teachers, if you, as a parent, try to coach them during the class, you are not only making it more difficult for them to learn, for a variety of reasons (including making them feel embarrassed) but also make it harder for the teacher to teach. This doesn’t mean that you can’t help your child at home, you should encourage them to practice and offer them any valuable insights, however you should never do it in the classroom, unless asked for by the instructor. You should always try to watch your child’s class and get to know the instructors and understand how they instruct your child.

Fourth, avoid the “Three Don’ts”:

Don’t compare your child to other children in the class. Only compare them to what they were like when they started, cherish their accomplishments and support them through their struggles. Each child in the class has their own struggles and triumphs in the school, that does not make them any better or worse than other children in that class. In my many years of teaching this is the number one reason for a child to quit, because, over time, they feel that they’ll never meet their parent’s expectations. Support them, don’t contrast them.

Don’t rush them to the next level and/or sash. Focus on how well they can do the material taught at their level and how much they enjoy practicing. Invest in long term commitment and not short term gains. It doesn’t matter how fast they are learning, what truly matters is how they’re growing

Don’t judge your child as either being a prodigy or hopeless in physically learning the arts. A good teacher will always take into consideration much more than just a child’s physical ability. Good character and a positive attitude are much more important in determining the long term success of a student than simple physical ability.

Lastly, belts, sashes, ranks, titles, etc… mean nothing compared to the experience that they have in the school over the many years (yes, many, many YEARS) of study.Remember that when your child achieves a high rank in the art, that is not the same as being an adult with a high rank in the art. Life experience and physical maturity, as well as psychological and emotional stability, are paramount to the mastery of any art. The serious study of Chinese martial arts is much more than exquisite displays of physical skills, it’s about becoming a successful and accomplished human being over a long period of time, it’s about Kung Fu (功夫).

Remember that the study of Chinese martial arts (Kung Fu) is a process, not a product.

Last modified on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 10:06

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