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Martial Arts are not to blame for teaching and parenting failures
By George Liu
Taiwan News, Staff Reporter
2014-05-27 10:47 AM
Almost a week has passed since 21 year old college student Cheng Chieh allegedly stabbed 28 people in the Taipei MRT, killing 4. In a search for answers, media outlets have shifted some of their focus onto Cheng’s martial arts background and whether skills he learned in the dojo made him a more efficient killer.

Cheng practiced Taekwondo at Goodteam Taekwondo School for over three years, starting from the age of seven, and earned a second-degree black belt. Authorities are implying that this training added power, accuracy, and mental determination to Cheng’s knife wielding rampage and his time in the dojo may have only fueled his desire to inflict injury and death.

The message uninformed parents might take away from this is that any amount of violent or confrontational activities is detrimental to children’s development. However, not only is this view myopic, but potentially robs children of positive experiences that teach growth, confidence, and discipline.

Third degree Judo black belt, Brazilian Jujitsu blue belt, Judo, Systema, and Brazilian Jujitsu instructor Sam Lo has vast experience as an educator and martial arts instructor. He believes that today’s parents are overly obsessed with quick results and only care about achievement as a function of scholastic advantage. They send their children to learn Taekwondo for a few years to increase their chances of getting into a better school but overlook the most important aspect of martial arts, building character and respect.

According to Coach Lo, both Chinese and Japanese martial traditions teach respect for instructors. However, the Japanese dojo has an added layer of decorum and ritual that extends to respecting the space and attire. This aspect of martial arts fosters and nurtures a virtuous character in children over time. The founder of Matsubayashi ryu karate Osensei Shoshin Nagamine expressed it thusly, “The dojo is a special place, where guts are fostered and superior human natures are bred through the ecstasy of sweating in hard work. The dojo is a sacred place, where the human spirit is polished.”

Coach Lo remarked, “parents won’t understand why their children have to mop the dojo’s floor before class when they don’t mop the floor at home.” The coach of Goodteam Taekwondo is quoted as saying, “the children at our dojo are from affluent families and do not deal with pressure well because their parents protect them.” Obviously, coaches can only instill good character in their students with the cooperation of parents. If parents actively contradict the lessons learned in the dojo then a large part of the education imparted by instructors is lost.

Maybe this is where Cheng fell through the cracks. Coach Lo feels that the dojo should have presented Cheng with powerful challenges and examples to show him his limits and inexorably disabuse him of murderous intentions while directing him towards a new goal of surpassing himself. He further states, “children today are encouraged to express themselves, but too much express can sometimes be as bad as too little.” Martial arts is a journey, not a destination. Parents and instructors should remember to emphasize both the martial aspect and art aspect of martial arts to fully care for the mental and physical wellbeing of the children in their care.

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