When my 5 year old son came to Oom Yung Doe several months ago he was having a lot of difficulties at school. There was a lot of bullying and he felt confused as to why the children were being so hurtful to him and to each other. He internalized this confusion and began to have outbursts of anger and was falling asleep at 6pm every night absolutely exhausted.
decided to enroll him at Oom Yung Doe; my hope was that he would have additional adults and a larger community which could support him as a person. He had a difficult time at the beginning of his sessions. After 3 weeks and very little participation he told me that he liked martial arts, but that it was “too hard” and he “couldn’t do it.” I suggested reviews that he talk to the head instructor and express his concerns. It took a lot for this 5 year old to express his insecurities to another adult. The head instructor took my sons concerns very seriously and explained that most things worth doing are difficult and that the goal was to simply “try our best.” By trying our best he would undoubtedly improve over time.
Being taken seriously by another adult has deeply impacted my son. He not only continued with martial arts, but began using the language of just “doing one’s best” for other things that were difficult for him. I have heard him use this language when he approaches writing and reading (other activities he had pronounced where “too hard”).
While my son has always been a person who is well disciplined, he now has pride in his ability to be disciplined – he now knows this is strength. My son has also been a person who is interested in “doing the right thing,” but was confused at school when he witnessed bullying in multiple forms. The school of Oom Yung Doe encourages and supports his interest in basing one’s action on principals in a number of subtle ways:
Children are not allowed to criticize each other and are immediately redirected to supporting each other in doing their best. The instructors model how to support each other, rather than let the kids try and “figure out” what this might mean.
Children are not rewarded for the highest kick, best jump, being first – but for being the most focused and doing their best.
The etiquette they learn may be simple (where to neatly place their shoes, care for their uniform), but it teaches them that the small things we do in life are important and can be beautiful.
My son still witnesses bullying at school, but is now more certain that this is not right; he is more certain in choosing what he feels are the correct actions. He also seems to know that choosing what is right can feel more difficult. For example, another student at school told him that he needed to “be careful” because he “knew judo” and could hurt him. My son told me this story later and added, “He must not have a very good martial arts teacher because you never use martial arts to hurt others.”
Since practicing Oom Yung Doe I have noticed other changes as well. My son’s energy level is more “even;” he can now stay up later without the frustration that accompanies an exhausted kindergartener. I feel that the addition of Oom Yung Doe is helping my son feel stronger as a person, and to use this new strength to approach the difficulties of reading, writing and relationships. I also feel that the school of Oom Yung Doe supports qualities that I would like to see my son embody: respect, discipline, that concentration takes practice, and the idea that learning is a privilege.