A few months ago, one of my neighbors, Wills, was told by his parents that I had a number of swords. He’s been watching various shows about metalworking and swords, and his mother asked if I would show him some of the swords I have collected through my years of training. Wills showed a greater knowledge of metallurgy and various types of swords greater than many of the adults I’ve spoken to, and his attention never wavered while I showed him short and long swords, wooden swords, practice swords, and some live-edged swords.
Wills is still interested in martial arts, and in the tradition of many teachers, I’ve agreed to start training him and any other children who would like to start serious training. This class will be on Tuesday evenings, starting in November 2019, from 7 – 8pm, at the Riversbend Studio. We’re allowing other interested kids (girls and boys) to join Wills and me if they are between the ages 9 – 15. (Older teenagers should join our Monday adult class.) We’ll also accept parents who want to train with their kids on these evenings.
It’s been several years since Piedmont Bando has had a children’s class. I’ve been proud of all of the boys who I had the honor to work with. My son, Tristan, has become a respected martial artist and instructor in his own right. One of my students ended up working for me at the systems engineering firm I used to work at, supporting my business accounting needs. It was wonderful to see how he had matured, and to know we had a bond even before he started working with me. I’ve seen may other of my students grow into young men who I admire.
We’ll be calling this class the Bando Chinthe Children’s Class. The Chinthe is a mythical creature in Burmese lore that protects pagodas and other sacred places. With this class, I hope the kids learn to protect sacred places as well, starting with their own selves, and extending to the ones they love.
I’ve come across, and heard of, so many kids who have become “burned-out” on martial arts, having attended after-school martial arts programs for several years. Many of them were given black belts as a result of their training. But sadly, many of these young ones have developed the belief that they’ve achieved the pinnacle of training, and that there’s nothing worth continued training. Or, after so many afternoons in a dojo, they’ve just tired of the format. Our class is once a week, and we’ll occasionally have extra opportunities to dive into a specific skill. In my martial arts system, Bando, we don’t award black belts to minors, but we do respect the skills that our youth develop and given them opportunities to learn advanced techniques.
One thing I’ve learned is that children are often better than adults at following directions. Plus some of the games I’ve developed for teaching kids end up being fun to include in the adult classes I teach. I’m looking forward to seeing another young generation grow and discover their own strength, discipline, and true pride in learning something challenging. And I’d love to hear about any recent experiences you’ve had with children classes (positive or negative) or any especially helpful teaching techniques or games you’ve used. Thanks!