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Lessons from Kung Fu Panda
Something I’ve learned from teaching children’s karate is that life is one big and exciting lesson.  With every moment you can find a new adventure or learning experience. Even the small things in life can teach us something. I discovered this while watching the movie Kung Fu Panda. I’m sure you’ve seen it, the loveable Panda Po seems to be stumbling his way through life. He dreams big but won’t reach for those dreams because he doesn’t believe in himself. He doubts himself, something I think at one time or another we can all identify with. Kind of seems similar to a lot of adults, but as adults we hope for more for the children in our lives.  We don’t want them to be stuck in that rut, we want them to reach for that dream, make that goal and have the confidence to push forward when it comes to adversity. In life we should surround ourselves with positive influences and we should encourage that in children as well. In the movie Kung Fu Panda one of those positive influences for Po becomes his Sensei Master Shifu. Even though Master Shifu starts out having doubts about Po, he still pushed Po forward. Something we should remember as teachers and role models is that we can’t judge too quickly and we must have the strength to see that everyone has potential. For Po, Master Shifu becomes the person or rather the animal that pushes him to live his dreams and become what he had always wished to become the Dragon Warrior and get the Dragon Scroll. Master Shifu pushes Po to work harder than Po ever thought possible. While Master Shifu is teaching Po to strive for excellence, Po is teaching us that imagination is important to keep a dream alive, which teaches our children to take that dream and try.  Just like Master Shifu tells Po, “If we don’t try, we’ll never know”. Now that’s deep and I think that is something we should definitely be teaching children. Truly what do you have to lose? Trying something new, whether or not you succeed should still be looked upon as something positive in life. Look at your dreams. What moves and excites you?  What are your greatest desires?  For Po it was Kung Fu.  Po spent a great amount of time dreaming about his favorite heroes the Furious Five.  He pictured himself with them and fighting along with them.  So lesson one, why not teach your children to make their dreams reality?  Why not start by listing out each one of their dreams and how they can work to achieve them? Teach them to dream big, just like when you were little.  Children are ever curious and always dreaming or seeking answers to their numerous questions.  Just teach them to put those dreams and questions to work. To continue to work non stop until their goals are achieved. Karate teaches children to focus, thus focus allows one to quiet the mind, and a quiet mind can set the soul to dream. Children the little sponges that they are, can learn from Po that life may have obstacles but with a little sense of humor, a dash of imagination and a push of confidence that goals can be met.  Karate also teaches that secret ingredient of confidence.  It teaches them discipline, respect for others and that through hard work, goals can be accomplished. According to Po “A real warrior never quits”.
So what else can we learn from this adorable, funny, yet oblivious Po? How about mind and body discipline. Children today are going to face struggles that we never had to face. They will be more impatient in a world where the expectation is everything should come immediately. When they want an answer, they will Google it, they will be bombarded with extreme amounts of outside stimulation and entertainment from their phones and numerous other devices. They may have trouble focusing because of this. So how do we combat that? Exercise is one important way to help bodies to be healthy so why not offer children something different then the usual sports in their schools. Karate allows them to concentrate and listen for that inner quiet and allow their dreams to flourish. Today’s children are faced with a lot of different expectations than past children were. Technology can be both positive and negative to today’s children. They can now learn amazing things at a touch of a button but they also are also sometimes missing out on the world around them as they stare into their phones. I wonder what kind of children this may create in the future? Will it increase worry and anxiety? As one of the other wise characters in the movie stated to Po when he worried that he was not the chosen one “You are too concerned with what was and what will be, there is a saying, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it is called the present”. Without worry and anxiety maybe kids can begin to concentrate in other aspects of their lives.  It could be life changing.
The final lesson from Po’s father was “There is no secret ingredient, it’s just you”.  Isn’t that just seriously fantastic when you think about it! You are the glue that holds it all together. Let’s repeat that to ourselves “it’s just you”. I find that mantra somehow comforting for some reason.  Maybe because it sounds confident.  “It’s just you”, so you can accomplish anything.  Sometimes I think we forget that each one of us is unique and we all have special qualities. Confidence in ourselves brings out that knowledge. Master Shifu in the movie realized that Po was different and that he could not teach him the same way that he had been teaching his other students. Po needed to be taught creatively so that he could  ultimately reach his goal of becoming the Dragon Warrior.  I think as teachers or parents, we need to remember that all children are not the same and that they may need to be taught in a different way. Play to your child’s strengths. Let’s teach children that nothing is impossible and that obstacles in life are just places to get creative and figure out how to fly over or through them. Let’s elevate average to exceptional by teaching our children to believe in themselves. The movie Kung Fu Panda may be a funny place to gain this knowledge but even the small things in life can teach us amazing things.

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