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The New Year always brings resolutions, plans and hopes for a more productive year. But what does a New Year mean for a black belt, or any dedicated martial artist? 

 You can make plans, set goals and strategize for your upcoming year as a martial artist; you may even want to plan your tournaments, testings and events for the year. You can look ahead to another productive, challenging and rewarding year of training. 

However, the true answer is that being a black belt is a year round, month to month, day to day journey that is not affected by a holiday or the beginning of a new year. Being a true black belt is a lifestyle that becomes part of your identity. Even if your career, health, schooling or injury interferes with your training, you carry the principles of your black belt training with you. The lessons you've learned on the mats will endure through these challenges; hold tight to your perseverance, integrity and self-control. And most importantly, get on the mats as often as you can. 

Being a black belt doesn't cease or restart depending on the time of year. It doesn't end after a season or when you reach a certain age or belt. And remember, throughout the new year, your instructors are always here for you. 

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Enrolling Students Beginning at Age 4!

If you are browsing the internet researching the best martial arts schools in Northern Colorado, or trying to decide which style of martial arts is best for kids, then you are a parent who truly cares about finding the best activities for your child. Like everything in our lives, there are so many choices when it comes to our children's extracurricular activities. Our kids express an interest in something and we wait a while to see if it was a passing thought they had or if they have perhaps found a new and exciting interest. So here you are looking around trying to decide if Becks Martial Arts or all of the many other options you've found, or perhaps your trusted network has referred you to. Let me me first say welcome, and you're on the right track.


Finding the next great place for your kid takes time, money, and effort to ensure they land in a good spot. But what questions should we be asking when calling and emailing schools? What style is best for my kid's own unique abilities and maybe their unique challenges? Is martial arts even safe for children? What if my child is shy and not that outgoing, will martial arts be difficult for them? And perhaps a thought on many parents' minds; Will martial arts teach my kid to fight and be too aggressive? These are some of the hundreds of great questions I have been asked about our programs over the years. And to the concerned parents who asked them, I am grateful to have had the chance to answer and allow their research to expand to a greater understanding of how important enrolling children in martial arts at a young age is; for the child, for the family, and for our communities.


My most honest answer when addressing parents' concerns about finding the right school is now and always has been, " Make sure you like the instructors, and you feel good about your child learning from them." Martial arts instructors become role models to young students and their demeanor, professionalism, and character traits ultimately become what children learn. In today's world of information access, you can study martial arts through online videos and subscription apps. Some bookworms can even learn from text books on the subject. But most of us parents want the whole experience for our kids. We want to be a part of a community, have access to professionals who spend their days practicing their craft and who, as instructors, put their skills and talents on display every night for us to witness as our kids run around having fun at the same time. Therefore to decide if a martial arts academy is right for you, you have to commit to taking advantage of a school's trial program to see if its a good fit. Every school has some introductory offer. Ours is two free classes, some schools its a week, others charge a minimal fee for 2 or 4 weeks of classes. Whatever the offer, its meant to introduce you to the program with no long term commitment. If a school begins to pressure you during the trial, then stand your ground and let them know you are just interested in trying it out for now.


At our school, we offer two classes for at no cost because we are confident that is all the time needed to decide whether we're a good fit for the prospective student. There is no way to learn everything about our school or any other in 2 days, but if it feels good, is fun, if your gut instinct tells you the instruction and school staff are genuine and really care, then sign up for a month or more and see where it leads. It is common for some schools to begin immediately getting the child interested before the parent is given a chance to decide if its something the parent wants to do. Parents usually need to know what costs are and what class schedule options are available in order to make an informed decision, and schools should be transparent about those topics from the first moment you walk in the door. There still exists an old school style of martial arts sales out there where by the staff is trained to not divulge some of these most meaningful details of school membership such as costs until after the student is hooked and is begging the parents to join. In my book, that puts the parent in the bad-guy role with the child and is no way to start off a lasting customer relationship.


Finally, its time to decide whether the actual discipline of study that the school you have visited is right for your child. From Taekwondo to Jiujitsu, Kung Fu, Karate and MMA, there are so many choices when deciding what to study. Each martial arts discipline has its own unique offerings and there are of course many similarities as well. In my experiences, parents do not care much if their child can break 3 wooden boards or grapple sparring partners into submission. Most parents I've worked with over the years have very little interest in their child studying the ancient art of Kung Fu for its traditions and deep meaning. If you have a martial arts focus you want your child to study, its likely because you studied it when you were younger, or perhaps the discipline has connections to your child's heritage in one way or another. If if that is the case, you've probably stopped reading, or have begun skimming, this posting a few minutes ago. So for everyone else, you can learn more about what is the right fit or your child in some of the aspects of what each style offers.


Jiujitsu is a wrestling style artform whereby nearly every class they are matched up with training partners to spar and practice techniques. It is a discipline that has very real world applications of self defense and learning to protect oneself, and others, without kicking and striking. It is also a tough artform that students of all ages must face their inner feelings about failure and success. Karate, Kung Fu, and Taekwondo are what I call stand-up art forms that focus almost entirely on finer motor skills like balance and core strength. They are not always individual practices, but can be good for students who may have tendencies to enjoy physical activities outside of team sports. The new discipline of MMA (mixed martial arts) arose in the 1990's through armature and professional fighting leagues that allowed any styles of martial artists to fight for titles and rankings. The competitions saw various styles mixed together in the same ring; Jiujitsu versus Boxing, or Karate vs Kickboxing, until it evolved to require the athletes to have multidisciplinary studies in as many style of combat martial arts as possible. Its a tough sport that only a small percentage of martial artists pursue. There are no rankings and belt systems, and no one true heritage that focuses on character development or life-skill teachings. True MMA is a fighting sport that I am always surprised to hear that parents have enrolled their children in to study.


Although most Americans would point to Karate as the most well know kids' martial art in this country, I would argue that Taekwondo is actually the most popular and widely practiced martial art for kids and adults. Karate has roots in Japan and Taekwondo has roots in Korea. However, most people today use the term Karate when referring to Karate and Taekwondo. Many many decades ago, even the leaders of Korean Taekwondo called their style, Korean Karate. However, Taekwondo can be considered the most versatile style of the stand-up martial arts, exciting to spectators and practitioners with an ability to maneuver incredible physical skills of agility and power. An Olympic sport, Taekwondo competition is open for every student at any level. Most notably, Taekwondo focuses on 5 principles that are woven into nearly every program around the world. These "tenets" are meant to enhance the student's character and help teach the student about themselves so that they can go out in the world and be better people in order to build a better world. They are, integrity, courtesy, self-control, perseverance, and indomitable spirit. And if you have found a good Taekwondo school to attend, then you can count on your child learning these things about themselves and the world around them.


Recently a student of mine earned a competitive title for an event they have worked very hard to become proficient. The student is 11 years old and has been at our school since 4 years old. When I first met this child, they were unable to hop and on one foot and kick with the other. No surprise, its hard at first, especially for a young child. After falling on the floor and failing over and over, the student gave up and exclaimed, "I cant do it!" My response was, "Hey, today you can not do it, but if you keep practicing and believing that you can, you'll be able to do it like some of your classmates." The child's parents clearly believed in what our school had to offer, enough to stick with it week after week, month after month, year after year, belt testing after belt testing, tournament after tournament, through preschool, elementary school all the way into middle school. The student can not remember a time they were not in Taekwondo. When other sports seasons have come and gone, 7 years later, the student is still achieving new insights to who they are as a person and as a martial artist. They began teaching younger students and who knows, one day may have a school of their own and have a title of master instructor. This may not be every students experience, but every student that gets something out of their martial arts academy all share at least one thing in common; they and their parents believed in the instructors and the mission of the school enough to try it out long enough to see positive differences and influences in the young child life. And isn't that what we all want for our children?




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Many times over the years I have heard that parents enroll their kids in martial arts because their child wants to be a ninja. I, alongside my older brother, wanted to take Karate when we were kids because of our amazement with Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid films. Much like how professional athletes inspire young athletes to join a soccer or basketball team, children look up to and want to become their role models. In the US, where professional martial artists are not well known, children see movies like Ninjago and Kung Fu Panda (and The Karate Kid) and want to do all of the cool tricks and magic-like techniques they see on film. When my brother and I finally were given the chance to join a martial arts school, we quickly realized studying Taekwondo was way different than "sweeping the leg" and balancing on objects performing the "crane kick." Young students who join Becks Martial Arts also realize that being a ninja is not quite the same as climbing walls and doing a triple backflip to escape danger. White belt students undergo a quick orientation in what is like to be a Taekwondo student, a hagsaeng (학생), and most students soon drop the guise of being an experienced covert ninja assassin and humble themselves to accept they actually know nothing about being a ninja. That is when they start learning more important qualities about themselves and life in general. Humbling ourselves to admit we are a novice at something is the beginning of becoming a master at our new interests or specialized fields. In the Korean language, Hungul, the word chosim (초심), is translated to English as "a beginner's intention." Chosim is having an open-mind, an eagerness to learn, and the ability to not let preconceptions about the subject inhibit the student's learning process. I allow my students discover how to be the best beginner student they can be on their own, because ego and pride are a force within us that only the individual can curtail. Young students need the guidance of their parents and other family members to help them in this process, as well as the help from their new Taekwondo instructor, or sabumnim (사범님) and classmates. Adult students are not adverse to this process either. In fact, beginner adult students are less likely than children to easily adopt chosim in their new Taekwondo practice. As adults, we pride ourselves at not being beginners at much. In education, professional careers, parenting, sports, negotiating, I can go on and on; adults are proud to be experienced in life, as we should be. Having experience in life is a way we earn respect from others. It is a way we stand out and become seen by others as unique in some ways. So as adults, we are usually thrown out of our comfort zone when faced with starting something new. New adult students of Taekwondo must overcome much more than children to tie on a white belt and start their journey. It is one main reason I see so many adults give up and not earn a black belt. Chosim, however, is not a bad thing. It is a necessary step in growth. Uncomfortable as it may be for some, its is the first step in learning something new, as an open minded beginner, willing to be humble and admit that "I know nothing." So for young students and adult students alike, encourage yourself and your loved ones to accept chosim in order to become the master you and they can be!


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