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Need the Perfect Gift for a Hard-to-Please Teen? Try a Black Belt

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  • Mark Kennedy
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      Article Title:
      Need the Perfect Gift for a Hard-to-Please Teen? Try a Black Belt

      Article Description:
      Oh, I know you can't give someone a black belt, any more than you
      can give them a high school diploma or a college degree. But you
      can give them a nudge in the right direction along with the
      financial resources to make the journey.

      Additional Article Information:
      1680 Words; formatted to 65 Characters per Line
      Distribution Date and Time: Mon Dec 5 23:38:25 EST 2005

      Written By: Mark Kennedy
      Copyright: 2005
      Contact Email: mailto:mark@...

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      Need the Perfect Gift for a Hard-to-Please Teen? Try a Black Belt
      Copyright � 2005 Mark Kennedy
      Harmonious Warrior

      Oh, I know you can't give someone a black belt, any more than you
      can give them a high school diploma or a college degree. But you
      can give them a nudge in the right direction along with the
      financial resources to make the journey. And the martial arts
      journey is a secret dream of a surprising number of teens and
      preteens. So if you're looking for the perfect gift for a hard-
      to-please teen or 'tween'; if you want something they'll like
      which will also help them (and maybe you!) through a tough stage
      of their life, give them a martial arts membership!

      It doesn't need to be extravagant, such as paying a whole year's
      dues. Three months, one month, or even one or two introductory
      lessons will do. After all, the quest for a black belt will take
      a few years, and can only be sustained through the internal
      motivation of the individual. No external motivation is going to
      last. But if the way is mapped out, if they are gently bumped
      into taking the first step, and if the destination is made
      tangible, they are more likely to begin. The complex chore of
      finding a school, talking to the adults there, breaking the news
      to parents or friends, and then getting the money together, can
      make it too overwhelming a task to attempt. If all this
      groundwork is done for them, though, a teen is much more likely
      at least to give it a try.

      And there are solid reasons that go far deeper than the clich�d
      list we've all heard: discipline, self-defense, higher self-
      esteem, etc. Yes, with a good school and instructor, these can be
      true. But why? How? Here are seven can't-miss benefits of the
      martial arts.

      Can't-Miss Benefit #1: A Healthy Alternative To Electronics

      Martial arts practice is a fun, healthy, natural hobby. It makes
      a good alternative to kids living inside a video game, computer,
      television screen or cell phone. The martial arts get kids up,
      moving, and noticing the world around them (actually a
      requirement, since awareness is 90% of self-defense). I won't
      trot out the statistics and details about child and adolescent
      illnesses, as in the areas of obesity, diabetes, ADD/ADHD, etc.
      You've heard them. But whatever concerns you may have for a
      teen's health-or their future health given present habits-
      practicing the martial arts is a good antidote. Martial arts
      practice (even home practice): helps to even out moods,
      especially important for teens who feel emotional highs and lows
      so passionately, and whose hormones are often raging (MA also
      produces endorphins); speeds up metabolism, which burns excess
      calories; acts as a natural anti-drug/alcohol agent (it's
      impossible to advance much in the arts when doing drugs or
      drinking); builds flexibility, endurance, and strength; increases
      red blood cell production; and lowers blood pressure. And this is
      only the tip of the iceberg.

      Can't-Miss Benefit #2: Increased Respect For Self And Others

      Many kids, for a plethora of reasons, don't believe they are
      entitled to be respected and appreciated just for who they are-
      for being themselves. Almost all kids have been teased by peers
      at some point about a 'flaw', which turns into self-consciousness
      and can grow out of all proportion in the kid's own mind. This
      lack of self-respect and self-appreciation if left unchecked over
      time can manifest as either anger, or feelings of insufficiency.
      Through good martial arts instruction in a positive atmosphere,
      teens learn that they are neither more nor less 'flawed' than
      anyone else. This healthy sense of self, that to be normal is not
      to be perfect, is an important element in the development and
      maturation of teens and preteens.

      Can't-Miss Benefit #3: Learning To Earn Their Way

      There is a dangerous trend underway in many kids' basic outlook
      on life: that they are entitled to something for little or
      nothing. This attitude may be caused either by things coming to
      them too easily, or by things being too difficult. Perhaps they
      may feel like failures in one or more areas of their young lives:
      school, socially, sports, dating, or maybe embarrassment over
      some family or home situation (e.g., not as rich as the 'rich'
      kids; not as poor as the 'cool' kids). Over time, I've become
      convinced that the more kids find themselves feeling on the outs
      from success, the more shortcuts will seem acceptable, even
      normal; and then the more easily they will give up on earning
      their way. I believe that as these teens work toward and earn
      martial arts achievements, they learn they can be successful the
      old fashioned way. They don't need shortcuts. They are capable.
      They learn to earn their way, and this instills confidence and
      pride of achievement.

      Can't-Miss Benefit # 4: A Rite Of Passage

      Many indigenous cultures have rituals established whereby young
      people can prove they have earned the right to be seen as adults.
      Our 'advanced' society has a gap here, especially for those teens
      extremely at risk of not transitioning into mainstream society.
      That is, those with little hope of on-time high school
      graduation, no vocational apprenticeship or schooling awaiting
      them, or little chance of or desire for college entrance, also
      have little hope of proving their worth to peers and adults. That
      is, they have no access to a culturally approved rite of passage
      into adulthood. This creates a vacuum during a very critical
      time/stage of life. Unfortunately, those who can find no
      traditional, socially-acceptable way to make this passage, may
      turn to such things as tagging/party crews or even gangs (with
      their initiation ceremonies), girls to pregnancy (proof of
      womanhood), boys to impregnating someone (proof of manhood), and
      either gender to 'anti-approval' (vandalism, wreaking havoc in
      classes or at home, body piercings/ tattoos/bizarre hair and
      clothing styles). Earning their way up the belt ranking system-
      ideally all the way to black belt-offers a powerful rite-of-
      passage alternative for our teens and tweens.

      Can't-Miss Benefit #5: Team Work And Etiquette

      Many kids have had to scrabble for respect from peers, have been
      teased as mentioned earlier, have had to compromise their true
      feelings in order to fit in, or have struggled and perhaps been
      made to feel inadequate in school. Any one of these situations
      can cause them by the preteen/teen years to have adopted an 'each
      one for himself/herself, and forget the rest' survival mentality.
      Martial arts instruction and practice generally requires either a
      whole-class or two-person team format. In both cases, each
      student necessarily takes responsibility for the well-being of
      classmates and partners. To do less when practicing potentially
      dangerous techniques, would put others-who have become their
      friends-at risk. Wholesome martial arts instruction naturally
      counteracts any me-first attitude.

      Can't-Miss Benefit #6: Increased Safety In A Dangerous World

      While there is obviously nothing that can guarantee that our kids
      will always be safe and protected, the one who is better prepared
      will better respond to a sudden, dangerous situation, or even
      better handle a verbal assault or provocation. Stories abound of
      teenagers, many of them girls, who have fought off grown men
      attempting to attack them or family members. Again, this is not
      guaranteed to happen, but it is much more likely for those who
      have trained and prepared, mentally and physically.

      Sure-fire Benefit #7: Personal Empowerment

      The martial arts paradox is that those who know how to fight
      rarely need to do so. Learning to defend oneself takes away the
      need to 'prove' ones toughness on the street, in the classroom,
      or at home. Learning martial arts is a counterweight to violence.
      In my almost 20 years of working with kids full time, I've found
      that bullies are often past victims of bullying; abusers are past
      victims of abuse; etc. So, we can promote the health of the kid
      who becomes a martial artist, as well as making them a beacon of
      anti-violence for their peers. In a sense, the presence of
      someone who refuses to become either bully or bullied, is a
      powerful force for their friends, acquaintances, siblings and

      A Personal Note From My Wife: How To Find The Right

      This topic really deserves a separate article, but my wife, an
      early-childhood specialist concerned for all children and
      parents, gently hinted that it would be less than helpful to
      leave you without some guidelines on how to choose a martial arts
      program. I have studied four Asian arts seriously over a dozen
      years in probably 8-10 settings, and have seen the best and the
      worst of schools and instructors. Here is how I would distill
      that experience and advise you to begin.

      1. How do you feel when you walk out the door of the studio
      for the first time-not what do you think, but how do you
      feel? Is it the right one or not?

      2. Is the would-be instructor for your teen a good fit? Or is
      he/she too demanding? Too sloppy? Too macho? Too competitive?
      Too young/old?

      3. Are the promises they make realistic, or are they trying too
      hard to sell you? And how long have they been there? You
      don't want a place that closes its doors as your teen is
      halfway to black belt.

      4. Is there a good balance between teaching self-defense (will
      it work?) and having fun?

      5. Will it promote health if your teen continues for years, even
      decades, or will it wear down joints-is it too youth-oriented,
      too dependent on external strength/size, or is it an art that
      can be practiced by anyone for a lifetime?

      A kid's thrill at having a chance at a life-long dream-earning a
      black belt-may be the solution to your gift-giving dilemma, and
      your gift may have far-reaching benefits for someone you care
      about. I hope that if you've been wrestling with what to give a
      hard-to-please teen or tween, this article may help you to nudge
      them toward beginning a lifelong journey to better health, self-
      awareness and understanding, compassion and confidence.

      Mark Kennedy, M.Ed., twice teacher of the year, is a
      nationally certified black belt instructor, author of
      two books, and Founder of Kempo Kung Fu. For questions
      visit http://www.harmoniouswarrior.com
      or contact mark@...

      --- END ARTICLE ---


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