As parents we want the best for our kids--the best education and the best experiences. That's why we try to provide all kinds of opportunities for them to explore and experience, including various sport activities. One of the most enriching one for us has been doing Taekwondo. In taking martial arts, the kids gain physical fitness by learning the skill of kicking and punching and doing self-defense. They also experience competition and sportsmanship at the tournaments. They gain mental training, with all the patterned movements, self-defense and one-step sparring drills they have to memorize and do, and also when studying the history, rules, and various aspects of Taekwondo for the written tests. They learn and experience so much at Taekwondo!
But these are outside qualities. As parents we can only do so much in taking them to classes and encouraging them to do their best. Somewhere along the way, the desire to do well in Taekwondo, and to succeed in life, to achieve EXCELLENCE in whatever one does, has to come from inside. What I didn't foresee, was how much the kids would learn about various qualities and values, and also experience character building and growth from the Colorado Taekwondo Institute (CTI).
Every month at Colorado Taekwondo Institute, including our Lakewood location, the students do CTI Excellence sheets. These are either a worksheet for the younger students, or written assignments for teens and adults on various values and characters such as integrity, courage, responsibility, honesty, attitude, perseverance, respect, potential, dependability and leadership. By completing these assignments once a month, the student earns a yellow stripe to go on the end of his or her belt. 5 yellow stripes equals 1 black stripe, so a student with one black stripe and 1 yellow stripe has done 6 assignments. This also means that 6 months has gone by if all of the assignments were turned in each month. The stripes on that particular colored belt can indicate how long that student has been at that belt color level. Pretty clever way to glance at a student to see how long he or she has been at that belt level, and whether or not he or she has done her homework! The stripes are important because it goes towards reaching the next belt level.
At first, the assignments seemed to take much time and thought. How to explain "Integrity"? What are some examples of "Random Acts of Kindness" you have done in your life? And goodness gracious, do you admit in "Anger Management" that mom yells at the kids? Sometimes we had discussions over them, and sometimes not. As time went on, the kids did them more and more on their own and it became easier to do because they got used to thinking about them and doing them. When life got very busy, sometimes it was enough "just to get them done" each month. But somehow, over the years, doing these homework sheets and having similar discussions while at Black Belt Club, the character values had sunk in. Just like a seed that is planted, watered, and then turns into a tree bearing fruit, I was pleased to see some of these qualities emerge!
During our recent black belt testing period, talk about perseverance and diligence! There were a lot of requirements to get done along with the physical testing, and the kids did very well in completing them and not giving up. Certain situations would arise and the kids would say, "Is that Integrity?" or "I really want to reach my full potential, so I think I should do this or that instead." Really? It could have been easy to take shortcuts or not to do one's best, but that's not integrity. There has been such a huge leap in maturity in the kids, and even though it is difficult to tell if it was just because of the Excellence sheets, I'm sure that all those homework assignments and discussions have helped.
Since writing this article I have been more aware of how everyday situations brings up issues of responsibility, leadership, follow-through, courage, and attitudes and how frequently and easily we discuss them. The kids are open to growth in character and are very aware of these character issues. It makes life much more pleasant and rewarding when everyone is trying to do their best and is courteous and supportive of each other. After all, these qualities are very much needed in life and helps one to succeed, too. Gratitude is another topic covered, and right now I am very grateful for the Excellence Sheets and character building that we got to experience at the Lakewood location or the Colorado Taekwondo Institute. Excellence in what is done on the outside comes from excellence of character on the inside!