Age 5 - 11 (for age 12+ see Kung Fu for Adults)
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Confucius
You’re expecting me to tell you how your child will get fit, grow in self confidence and become a disciplined, well balanced young person by training in Kung Fu. The thing is - you know all that. So indulge me and read on anyway.
When my wife first found out that I tinkered with a bit of martial arts, she expressed a not uncommon view, that fighting was the lowest activity of humans and was when we were closest to animals. I had to think about this, first because she had a point, and second because I needed to convince this woman that being a martial artist was not incongruous with being a civilised gentleman.
A gut reaction to martial arts, by non-practitioners, is often to consider it as close as we get to being animals; “they solve disputes by fighting because they don’t have the intelligence to discuss and negotiate.” But do they? Actually, mostly, they don’t. They size each other up, and the one that believes they have the best chance of winning stands his ground and the one that feels himself to be weaker, backs off. Animals, even the big scary ones with big teeth, hardly ever actually fight and when they do, they keep in ritualistic so that neither party gets really hurt. Not so very different to humans. (Obviously if they are carnivorous they regularly attack other creatures, but this is seldom a fight, it’s usually an ambush and lunch. Such animals don’t fight their prey, they just kill it.)
And even if training in martial arts were animalistic, base and appealing to our crudest natures; would that be so terrible? In this age of mechanical and electronic machines we have become so detached from the natural world that it would do most of us good to get dirty, to feel the earth beneath our feet, the wind in our hair and run barefoot on grass, to really feel the air in our lungs and the blood pumping through our muscles; to get in touch with our animal side again.
On the other hand, historically, most martial arts training has not been about crude aggression. Perhaps because we recognise the baser side of aggression, we have tended to develop the more disciplined, even the spiritual, aspects of human nature alongside the fighting skills. Picture the Medieval knight spending all night praying for the soul of his enemy before a battle. On the battle field he’s ruthless; highly skilled, but savage. But in court, he’s almost a dandy, eloquently reading poetry and playing a lute. Or think of the Samurai warrior, smoothing out his perfectly pressed silk robe, daintily brushing a speck of dust from his sleeve and trimming his bonsai trees, or painting a watercolour before going to war. Consider the Spartans, Greek gentlemen, utterly superb warriors who’d wash and brush their hair the evening before a, ‘no surrender’, ‘fight to the death’ battle.
In many cultures it was the norm that those who trained in fighting skills were also trained in the most esoteric disciplines and developed the most spiritual aspects of their character; those features least animal. It is the lowest and the highest aspects of humanity that are developed in Kung Fu. This training enables the practitioner to get in touch with his/her basic emotions by becoming more in tune with how these emotions function at a bodily level and in doing so develops greater control. At the same time the disciplined development of complex skills along with the emotional control techniques embedded in the training encourage the very highest aspects of humanity. This dual aspect of our training is reflected in the Yin/Yang logo of the style.
This is an entirely personal view and I don’t intend to justify it, merely to offer it for your consideration. I believe that we are living in a time when a generation are being separated from their heritage, the traditions of their own culture; cut adrift from common human values that have been present in virtually all human societies. Our young people have a firm hold on the physical to exclusion of their higher potentials. They are motivated to fulfil all the physical requirements that money can buy, but often don’t see a need to improve their character. However, even the hold they have on the physical is very artificial, they are more likely to desire a car to travel somewhere than the fitness to be able to run there. They are more likely to appreciate the quality of an HD screen than the smell of an early morning in a garden.
It is the highest and the lowest that our children are being deprived of. Their connection with both the earth and the heavens, the crudest aspects of human nature and the most sophisticated aspects.
My own children are now in their twenties. I taught in high schools for over a decade. It is my strongly held belief that if there is one thing I could do that would make the biggest positive difference to the way our young people are developing, it is to make available the training we offer at Norwich Kung Fu Academy.
If none of that made any sense to you; let me assure you that your child will get fit, grow in self confidence and become a disciplined, well balanced young person by training in Kung Fu.
By Jo-Sifu Mark Ringer
All beginners classes are held at the Jessopp Road Studio on Tuesdays & Fridays.
Children's classes are at 4:15pm
Call free: 0800 145 58 44 or 07788 408 159 at standard rate