This post is part of a collaboration with Colin Lee at Joong Do Kwan and handful of other bloggers taking part in a blog carnival to help do our part in preventing bullying. This is an important topic to many of us and we all have our own angle to offer on the subject. Take a few minutes and check out some of the other posts. If you want to help us in this effort, do your part and share it around Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Together we can make a dent in bullying, especially within the martial arts community.
To preface my section on philosophy, I want to talk about teaching kids in general. This is something I have always dreaded doing. It has also been a point of great humor in my old dojo. My instructor would routinely pick out the smallest, cutest, five year old girl from the group and send her to me for one on one instruction. Why? Because I told him I don’t like teaching kids and he knows I can’t send her away. It is very different than teaching adults. Their attention span is significantly shorter, they attention to detail is almost non-existent, and their feelings are hurt very easily. For someone like me who tends to be a bit blunt when teaching Karate, this is a nightmare.
This however has been an area of great personal development in my learning experience. What I have found that works great is: Stories, Games, and Focusing on Concepts Instead of Techniques. Below I will explain the stories aspect of this.
I have always enjoyed incorporating stories into my Karate classes. There are so many great ones to explain things like awareness (zanshin), dedication, and morality. For kids, these tend to hit the mark, especially if they are short and involve animals, magic, or samurai. In keeping with the anti-bullying theme, I am going to highlight two short stories to teach kids the importance of not getting into the wrong crowd and about not being a bully. I am not a children’s author and the best stories come from the heart, so always feel free to deviate when telling the stories.
The Crane and His Flock
Once upon a time, there was a plain white crane who was in search of a flock. This white crane had always had trouble finding other cranes to be around because he did not fit in being a plain white crane, but he was determined to find himself a flock to eat and fly with.
One day he came upon a very popular group of red headed cranes who were catching fish in the river. He landed next to some of them and asked them if he could be part of their flock. The leader of the flock agreed to let him join despite being a plain crane, but only if he would go take some of the fish the black necked flock of cranes had caught down river.
At first the white crane refused. He said he would not steal fish. The red necked cranes said he could not be part of the flock unless he did. Every crane had to steal fish before he was accepted into the flock. The white crane worried this would be his only chance to be part of a flock, so he finally said he would go steal the fish.
He flew down the river to where the black necked flock was. He soon spotted the fish they had caught and he moved closer to take some. The black necked cranes were talking and did not seem to notice him, so he grabbed some of the fish in his beak and began to fly away when suddenly one of the black necked cranes caught him.
“Why are you taking our fish?” the crane asked. The white crane told him he did not want to, but it was his only way to be part of a flock. “That is not true. There is no reason to steal fish. If you would have asked, we would have let you be part of our flock.” Realizing how wrong he had been, the white crane put the fish down and apologized for stealing. The black necked cranes forgave him and let him be part of their flock from then on. They accepted him for who he was, a plain white crane, not because he could steal fish for them.
After you tell the story, you ask the children what the moral is. If they are having trouble putting it into words, you explain that your friends should like you for who you are, not because of what you can give them. Anyone telling you to do things like stealing to be part of the group is not really a friend and should be avoided.
The Crane and the Tiger
In a distant land there once was a plain white crane. Every day this crane would fly down to the river and make a game of snatching the fish. The fish would regularly complain and tell the crane that it was not fair to pick on them just because they were smaller. The crane would always reply with, “I am bigger, this is just how life is.”
One day while having his fun with the fish, the crane felt a tug on his feathers and was suddenly upside down looking down at the river. He looked up to see a big tiger holding onto his feet. He shouted up to the tiger, “Let me go!” To this the tiger replied, “I am bigger, this is just how life is.” The tiger tormented the crane for the rest of the day before finally letting him go. The crane never picked on the fish again.
Once finished, it is again good to explain it to the kids. A simple story about not bullying other people around and how there is always someone who is bigger, so it is important for the bigger kids to make sure other people aren’t getting picked on too. (Probably smart to emphasize that hitting isn’t the answer).
You can find many other stories for kids by searching Aesop’s Fables on Google. Adapt them and make them your own, it comes across as more genuine.