By Erin Dallin. Taekwondo has been wonderfully life-changing for our family. Off and on throughout my life, I have taken part in martial arts—karate as a child, and kickboxing and taekwondo as an adult. I have always enjoyed the mental and physical challenge of martial arts and knew that it was something to which I wanted to expose my children.
Sean, now 10 years old, has always been athletic and willing to try anything. One of the hardest parts of parenting Sean is saying ‘no’ to some activities, as he would eagerly join EVERYTHING!
Ethan (8 years old) is an entirely different creature. He finds joy in more solitary ventures, and it is often more challenging to find activities that he likes. His discerning nature has led us to try (and stop) many different activities.
When Ethan was 5 years old, I suggested martial arts, and he was keen to try. We went to 3 martial arts facilities in Victoria, and after each visit, I would have a chat with him to see if he wanted to join. Usually, this involved a seemingly adult conversation with a very persuasive 5-year-old. This ‘wise man in a small body’ would inform me of his opinions: “no, that one was too hard,” or “that one was no fun.”
I was beginning to give up. Finally, I stumbled upon Cascadia Martial Arts. Right after the first introductory class, Ethan was excited to continue. He was proud of how he was ‘being tough and kicking stuff’! I was excited that HE was excited –especially about something physical that involved working with other children in a collaborative and team setting.
A few months after Ethan began taekwondo, my keen-for-all-activities son, Sean, convinced me to let him join. Initially, I was thinking of taekwondo as an activity for Ethan to do on his own where he could be autonomous and not compared to his brother. As I suspected, Ethan’s interest in taekwondo seemed to diminish once his brother joined. He was still usually excited to go, but the enthusiasm waned with time. Ethan was still taking pride in his training, but he was starting to come up with excuses to take breaks during class. I began to wonder if was actually still enjoying taekwondo…
At the start of Grade 3 this year, Ethan was asked to write a paragraph about something that happened over the summer which was meaningful and important to him. He started by writing about travelling to the family cabin and enjoying time on the boat. I know that this is something that he really does treasure, so, I was not at all surprised this is what he picked to write about. However, all on his own, he decided to erase everything he had started writing. In its place, he wrote about how he is proud of himself getting a new belt in taekwondo.
“This summer I went to my belt test. At a belt test you need to have all your tips on your belt and bring your belt. I was excited because I can only try for a new belt four times a year. I value being a risk taker.” 8-year-old Ethan Dallin
This surprised me quite a bit, as I had no idea the depth to which he values taekwondo. His sometimes-apathetic behaviour in the class leads me to believe that he is going through the motions instead of really trying. What I failed to notice is that he is progressing in his own way—internalizing and thinking deeply about what he was doing.
And that is the beauty of taekwondo. It can appeal to the athletic, the extroverted, the introverted and the ones that like to contemplate life. Ethan can be a man of few words, but his artwork and writing show me how much taekwondo means to him.