• Master Sang Mee Ko

Black Belt Tips: Graduating from Picture Books

Sometimes, my students who excel at the beginner level have a hard time when they move to intermediate training. The more difficult skills can be especially frustrating for those that found front snap kicks and straight punches a breeze.

In addition, with the pressure that modern children face to be "perfect," they may even give up and quit since the higher belt class is not as easy as it was before. Perfectionism does not just mean obsessing over details, but can manifest by refusing to even attempt something if the image of effortless mastery is not maintained. This is why I find it very important that my students see that I am still training and face challenges, even as an adult and a Taekwondo master.

Ultimately, with the guidance of patient and encouraging instructors, they learn the more advanced kicks and drills and build their self-esteem by overcoming their own mental blocks. However, sometimes a good analogy is in order, and often I explain it like this, particularly to my younger students:

You know how when you first started reading, you read picture books and stuff like, "The cat sat on the mat"? They are really easy now, right? Do you still read them? Of course not! You're reading chapter books, because they are much more interesting. Taekwondo is the same. It might be easier to read picture books and do front snap kicks, but that stuff is boring now. Even if it's a little hard, it's worth it to read "big kid" books, which are full of so many more possibilities.

I love teaching these kinds of lessons because I have to constantly remind myself to follow the same expectations I have set for my students. I continue to go to competitions and improve my Taekwondo because, well, I need to keep graduating from picture books, too!

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