As a Taekwondo instructor I teach life skills. I’m not talking about how to cook a meal, clean a house or even manage a family budget with finesse. No, the life skills I teach are far broader than this. You see, what happens during training goes way beyond kicking, punching, breaking wood, or even self-defence. When I get to the heart of it, what Taekwondo really teaches, above everything else, is purely and simply, mindfulness.
Mindfulness, is, in its essence, self-awareness. It begins with breathing and from here extends itself into every facet of an individual’s life.
During training, Taekwondo students undertake a range of movements requiring a combination of mental focus, technical skill and endurance. We perform these repetitively, until what is an activity requiring an immense amount of self-awareness, becomes instinctive. The ultimate outcome of this, is the development of a martial artist who can access an array of skills in any given situation spontaneously.
As I have suggested already, Taekwondo does more than create martial artists. This same focus upon self-awareness also develops the very real life skills of self-control, self-discipline, resilience and perseverance. Unfortunately we live in a world which values a high IQ as being the sole determining factor in success. Consequently, society often undermines the importance of self-awareness in achieving goals and succeeding in the School of Life.
I have often heard parents suggest about their children, “he isn’t very resilient,” or “she gives up too easily.” While this may be the case, and certain individuals may be inherently predisposed or not, to these and similar tendencies; participation in activities such as Taekwondo can assist to awaken or activate latent qualities related to self-awareness. Furthermore, there exists strong neuroscience to suggest significant correlations between children who undertake physical activity which specifically develops mindfulness, with the development of self-control. These same children have been found to be better equipped in later life to manage finances, succeed academically, while being less likely to engage in recreational drug use or smoking. Self-control, it follows, is the determining factor to success in life, not IQ as we are often led to believe.
This is significant evidence that all parents would do well to observe.
While it seems that any physical activity is beneficial, Taekwondo was isolated as having heightened benefits in the development of self-control, particularly where boys are concerned.
As far as I am concerned, the above is great news but I am hardly surprised. For many years I have observed the magic that is Taekwondo, for both children and adults. Of course talent can be an advantage, however this is irrelevant when it is not coupled with self-control and discipline. Taekwondo makes goals achievable with each grade (or belt) level earned, representing a chunking of skills that become more sophisticated as the student progresses through them. In fact, the grading system stands as a pertinent reminder of how our art imitates life.