Encouraging Kids Through Martial Arts

            Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is not a name we readily associate with martial arts, nor do we think of German Romanticism as having an influence on Sijo Bruce Lee, yet Goethe is the writer from whom Sijo quoted when he said, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply.  Willing is not enough, we must do.”  After all, in addition to being an artist who studied philosophy, Goethe was also a trained fencer.  Perhaps it is no surprise then that Sijo was inspired by him. What other wisdom can we gain from this German Romantic philosopher-poet on the path of Jeet Kune Do?

 

Goethe was a German civil servant, diplomat, natural philosopher, novelist, playwright, and poet of the German Romantic era and Weimar Classical movement.  As a young man, he undertook studies in Classical language, literature, and other subjects, before moving on to study law at Leipzig University.  Even though he was intelligent and well-studied, he struggled at school, being more interested in learning and practicing poetry rather than his legal studies.  As such, and due to failing health, he was forced to withdraw in August of 1768.  Later, in November, he wrote a letter to one of the few professors at Leipzig who inspired and encouraged him in his studies.

 

            “Instruction does much, but encouragement everything.  Who amongst all my teachers has considered me worthy of encouragement, but yourself.  They either altogether blamed, or altogether praised, and nothing can be so injurious to progress.  Encouragement after blame is sunshine after rain—fruitful increase.”

 

            One professor out of all the ones Goethe studied under encouraged him in equal measure with his instruction.  Thanks to this professor, Goethe went on to becoming synonymous with some of the greatest literature in German culture and history.  More than a century later, his writings on art, nature, and philosophy even influenced Bruce Lee!

 

            When I encourage young students in our kid’s martial arts classes here in Millersville along with instructing them, I move them along the path toward achieving great things for themselves.

 

            When I ponder this revelation, I feel incredibly inspired and focused.  I think about how important teaching children the martial arts is, not because of who I am, but of how much benefit it can have for them!  Goethe goes on in that letter to tell his old professor about how a close friend recently passed away, and if it was not for the love of art that his professor inspired in him, Goethe would have been lost in his grief.  Encouragement and training in the martial art of Jeet Kune Do can give young people those same tools and love.  My desire is to encourage all of my young students in the same way as Goethe’s professor.  In every class, I will make an effort to encourage each student at least once per class.

 

            I’m committed to being involved in the progress of each individual young person who trains at Maryland Jeet Kune Do and encouraging them in each practice session on their progress, be it great or small.

 

            The danger is becoming so focused on technical instruction and technical progress that I completely forget to consider each young person worthy of encouragement, like Goethe’s professor did.  I am naturally a very critical person, both of myself and my students.  Altogether criticizing or altogether praising will both have negative effect on the student’s progress, but encouraging after critiquing will give them the greatest help.

 

            So in each class, I will make sure to point out at least one thing that the student progressed on or were excited about and encourage them to keep putting in hard work in their practice.

 

            How do you encourage the young people in your life?



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