Chief Instructor: Sifu John C. Loupos - Since 1968

Resilience for Your Kids

by Sifu John Loupos

We live in a very different world these days as compared to the world I grew up in. In my day - we're talking the 50's & 60's here - on weekends or during summer vacation it was not uncommon that I would be out the door first thing in the morning and then not see or hear from my parents until darkness forced me back inside. Parents didn't worry about their kids because it was understood that everyone would keep an eye out for everyone else's kids. It was not a dangerous world. I spent untold hours by myself, or with my various best friends, digging holes for underground forts, building tree houses, catching tadpoles or crawfish or going for long hikes in the woods with my slingshot and generally being a boy. By age 14 I had my own shotgun which I would sling over my shoulder and hike through downtown Plymouth and up to the state forest on Sat mornings, where I imagined myself a worthy hunter (dream on). I did much better with my fishing pole. It was a lifestyle that in many ways set the stage for personal autonomy and independence. If I fell down, I picked myself back up. I learned to be resilient. So it really was no big deal back then that I actually 'inherited' a martial arts school at the age of 15 and proceeded to run it on my own for the next several years, simply figuring it out as I went along. Then, at 17, I stuck my thumb out and hit the road (remember, this was the 60's). I travelled around the country for a couple years, occasionally visiting other martial arts schools to keep up my training, before finally settling down at age 20 to resume teaching and building what was to become a rewarding career.

In retrospect, and by today's standards, that early lifestyle seems, shall we say, a bit surreal. Today, the very idea of shooing (or allowing) your young child out the door to basically fend for himself in an internet world smacks of neglect or abuse. And assuming the helm of a business at 15... forget that! As the world has changed, so by necessity have social mores and parenting methods. And yet the virtues of personal autonomy and independence remain ever so just that - virtues and measures of one's personal strength.

In today's world kids are much more closely monitored, and orchestrated conformity, especially in terms of academic strategies and paths, is thought to be the best means of preparing our kids for the world that awaits them. Nowadays, it seems there is a certain different kind of mental callousness that must be tacitly cultivated if one is to truly 'make it'. Hints of this callousness can be seen as well in the media with rap lyrics, video games, action films, and socially with us/them-ness or even gang mentalities. And this does happen in the suburbs. However, even given this callousness, there is often an undercurrent of fragility, as if the callousness were but a facade. Many kids today are today are lacking the resilience that would allow them to otherwise excel even in the face of adversity. One important component of resilience is a 'can do' belief in one's self.

It is this very 'can do' belief, more so than any other aspect, that I try to instill in children of all ages in our Jade Forest Pee Wees, Childrens, & Jrs programs. Kids need to have their bar raised high, high enough so they often succeed, but occasionally fail, so that the message - that they can do it, that they can reach the bar on their own if they believe they can and make their best effort - becomes reinforced. It is by their experience of continually rehearsing and striving that kids learn to believe that they can pick themselves up after they fall down. It is in this manner that they can be guided in developing resilience and perseverance as these virtues hardwire into lifelong assets, As children grow into adults their capacity for inner strength and good decision making, not to mention a reduced susceptibility to stress and depression, et al, works strongly in their favor. Certainly, Jade Forest is not the only resource for developing these qualities in our children, but our Jade Forest Kung Fu training ethic does represent one big step in the right direction.

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