Tuesday, 07 December 2010 18:50 Written by Steve Rowe


Karate, Martial Arts, Taekwondo, Tai Chi, Ju Jitsu

“C’mon kids – let’s go, basic techniques!”  Sifu’s voice was infectious; the kids loved the repetition of basics and counting in various languages….

“Punching in Chinese!”  The children all shouted as they punched…

“Yat – yee – sam – sei? – ng – yuk?- chaat?- paat?- kau!”

“Good….. Front kick in Japanese!”

“Ichi – ni – san – shi – go – rokku – zitch – hatch – kyu – jyu!”

“Well done guys!  Sit down…. legs crossed and arms folded.” The kids sat down immediately with their legs crossed and arms folded, wide-eyed and eager to learn.

Sifu looked around at the group and absorbed the eager energy. “What do you have to remember when you do the front kick?”

All the hands shot up….. “Sir, Sir……”

Sifu looked at little Damon and smiled, thinking that he might burst if he didn’t get the chance… “Damon….  It’s ‘Sifu’ – not ‘Sir’….”

“Sorry Sifu”, said Damon, “You have to remember to…” Damon started to count on his fingers… “pick the knee up to the highest point..”

Sifu smiled… “Good…..” but Damon hadn’t finished..

“Don’t fully extend the leg and pull it back to the knee high position,” he went to the next finger, “put the supporting foot directly to the finished position and don’t move it again, oh…. and hit with this part of the foot, he pointed to the ball of the foot just behind the toes. ”  Everyone clapped and cheered Damon as he waved his arms and whooped, obviously pleased with himself.

Sifu nodded, “well done Damon, okay then guys let’s get up and do it!”

The rest of the session was spent on improving the basic techniques, working on pads, putting them into workable combinations and then using them for self defence drills.

At the end of the class Damon’s mother approached Sifu.  “Can I have a word?”

“Sure” replied Sifu, “what can I do for you?”

“We’re a bit concerned that Damon isn’t working enough on his grading techniques and form..” said his mother in a concerned tone.

“Damon’s very happy with his training, he’s doing well for his age and needs to work on his basic technique to get it right” answered Sifu.

His mother responded; “I understand that, but he’s not getting the training he needs on his grading syllabus.”

“He is…” replied Sifu; “It’s not what he knows, it’s how well he does it that counts, all grades have to consistently work and improve on basic technique to get to each grade.  Therefore most of their work is on basic skills, he’s being taught appropriately, both physically and mentally for his age, as he progresses through the grades, it will take longer each time, but he’s mentally prepared for that.  He’s 7 years old and an orange belt, we aim to get him to black belt at about 12 years old, it’s going to take time, work and repetition particularly on those basic skills to get him to that standard.”

Damon’s mother was getting a bit frustrated by now… “But he needs more work on his green belt form…. Otherwise he will be getting fed up and bored…”

Sifu’s eyes narrowed, “Damon is perfectly happy and perfectly placed right now, his new form is made up of the basic techniques and skills that we are working on at the moment, he is learning the valuable lesson of never neglecting the basics in anything that he does, quality repetition is the cornerstone to success.  It’s not good to try and rush progress, as you will only have to return to it later to improve and then it will require a lot more work.

The truth is that you are getting impatient, not him.  He’s fine.”

Damon’s mother’s face reddened, “you’re holding him back, kids at the other clubs are progressing through the grades faster, he’ll get his black belt next year in the club down the road.”

“Indeed he will,” replied Sifu, but his standard will be the same as a green belt here and in any other quality martial art club, he will also be the laughing stock of his friends that practice good martial arts, he will think that everything in life is ‘easy’ to get – and never stick at anything that requires real effort – and heaven help him if he ever has to use his skills to save himself from serious injury or from being killed…”

“Can’t you at least teach him more of his form as a result of this conversation?” His mother asked.

“Madam,” Sifu replied, “I’ve been teaching children successfully for over 30 years, I only know how to do my job properly and to tell you truth.  I wouldn’t tell you how to do your job, and I’m quite happy for you to question me on mine and I will explain the reasons for my actions to you, but I can’t do my job badly to please you, or lie to you or your son. I have to live true to my art and pass it on the best way I know how.”

“Well I’m not happy with that,” retorted the Mother and stalked away.

Sifu shook his head as he watched her leave knowing the light was about to go out for a lovely, bright, talented child….

Parents…. Who’d have ‘em?