Developing Self-Confidence, Self-Discipline & Self-Esteem in Children


          Karate has a history that dates back several millenniums. Its tradition cradles the sacred teachings of the discipline of the body, mind and spirit, and its development as a way of life in the orient. The transformation of karate from the orient to the occident exposed karate to western culture, and commercialism altered its sacredness and tradition in America

          The sacred art of discipline was not a marketable feature of karate as was the art of self-defense. The escalation of violence and fear cast a widespread interest for self-defense, and karate sprung into a national popularity, with a profitable demand for instructions and training in self-defense. Although the development of body, mind and spirit is quite often mentioned in the marketing and advertisement strategy of karate schools of self-defense, very rarely will you find any self-defense studios truly cultivating the discipline of body, mind and spirit of their students. There is simply not enough clientele demand for self-discipline or self-development of body, mind and spirit to make it worthwhile for self-defense studios to gear their format of instructions beyond self-defense.

          Discipline is the foundation of karate in all of the traditional systems of martial arts. Becoming a harmless human being and accomplishing the control of one’s emotions, speech, thoughts, and actions is the ultimate objective of traditional martial arts training.

          The geometrical movements of the body, legs, feet, arms and hands are coordinated and developed to precision of balance, form, speed and power by repetition of practice of martial arts techniques. The level of development of these techniques determines the students’ rise in martial arts rank, which is signified by the color and number of stripes on their belt. The higher the student climbs in rank the more skillful and capable the student is of directing these techniques in a lethal manner toward another human being. In fact, a three year old after twelve months of rigorous training under my Nungkyyii system of martial arts has the skills to execute extensive harm toward another four or five year old. This potentiality of harmful action lingering in the expression of techniques that have been so skillfully developed by my students must be rendered harmless by the cultivation of discipline, empathy and compassion. Here is a very memorable and sagacious quote from my Chinese master while studying with him in China,

"To teach a student self-defense without teaching the student self-discipline and a philosophy of life is like blind folding the student and handing him or her a loaded gun."

          In my experience of teaching children karate techniques that are purposely taught for self-development, which can easily be executed injuriously in self-defense situations, I place tremendous emphasis on harmlessness. I rely heavily on the careful cultivation of my students’ character as martial artists and as moral human beings, as their body, mind and spirit is put to rigorous training during class. Respect, reward and recognition are showered upon my students for character development as well as for advancement in martial arts ranking. At their belt promotions they receive special certificates and awards for their deeds of benevolence in their community. A triangle of support is established between the dojo, home and school. Between myself, the teacher and the parent I create a consciousness of guardianship for the student’s character. When the teacher, parent, family and friends show up for martial arts promotions and congratulates the student for his or her achievements, the student experiences progression in self-esteem. Self-esteem is the most valuable asset derived from martial arts practice. A student’s development of self-esteem increases when his or her self-worth and self-respect progresses. Self-respect promotes respect toward others. When progression of self-development continues along these lines I can rest assure that my students will demonstrate the developed qualities of their character when facing adversity and confrontations.

          Self-confidence is a very fragile aspect of self-development in the very beginning of martial arts training. Six months of progression of the development of self-confidence can be destroyed in a single injurious confrontation either by a bully at school or an overly matched competitor in a karate tournament. The eyes of my students are the windows of their souls. Thirty eight years of teaching martial arts has given me an intuitive talent of looking deep into their eyes and measuring the degrees of fear or confidence that grip their being.  Cultivating self-confidence is the most sensitive area of self-development. At karate tournaments I have been accused of being overly protective of my students, and sometimes this sensitive guardianship of my students has upset some of my parents. When a student of mine steps into the ring to fight an opponent that is overly matched, and I recognize that the level of fear in his or her eyes has dimmed their ray of self-confidence to such a level that the student’s performance of defense does not satisfy my standard of expectation for a safe match, I will immediately without hesitation, jump into the ring and stop the fight causing my student to lose the match. Then I have to spend the next half an hour or more calming my parents down from the disappointment of their child having no opportunity of winning a trophy. I strive diligently to get my parents to share with me the value of their child’s self-development. The child’s self-confidence is much more valuable than a trophy. I am a fanatic at safeguarding my students’ levels of self-confidence. I work too hard to cultivate and develop it!

          The cultivation of self-consciousness, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-respect, self-worth and self-esteem are the products of my students’ self-development in which I cherish so dearly. Watching them grow and blossom in character and become skillful and talented martial artists is the pride and joy of my work as a Grand Master of the Nungkyyii System of martial arts.