We once had a discussion with another taekwondo school owner about student loyalty and the relationships that we build with not only our students but their families as well. He asked us the following question: "If you asked your students to help you move, would they show up?" He then admitted that if he asked that of his students, he didn't think anyone would be willing to help. While we didn't know for sure at the time, we got our answer this last weekend.
Thanks to the dozens of students that volunteered to help us move our school, we managed to clear out 11 years of stuff and all our equipment in just one day. We in fact had so many helpers that we were turning people away. Thank you to everyone who showed up on Saturday. It means the world to us that we have helped shape a community where people look after one another and are there to lend a helping hand.
For the next 2-3 months, we will be having classes at 3910 24th St (between Sanchez and Noe) while they retrofit our school. We will be asking students for their help once more when we have to move back, and we are certain this time around that if we ask for help in moving that we will not be sitting there alone on moving day.
Just goes to show that our students are the best!!!
Thank you again.
Will taekwondo make my child more aggressive? If my child is bullying other kids, hitting others, or has trouble controlling his or her temper, won't teaching them to fight just make the problem worse?
We hear these concerns from parents on a regular basis. Thus one of the central paradoxes of taekwondo: learning to fight makes the practitioners of martial arts less likely to fight outside the studio. Why is this? It's the skills that they learn when they are not kicking and punching that help them to regulate their emotions and behavior.
For many young children, just standing still or learning to interact respectfully with fellow classmates and instructors is a challenge. As they get older or higher in rank they must learn to not get angry when they get hit sparring or when they receive criticism from the instructors.
This process teaches discipline, respect, self-control, perseverance, and confidence.
Martial arts is a challenging sport--there will always be room for improvement and advancement, and nothing is given that is not earned. There are few other places where students are given such strict structure and expected to behave so well, but it is this structure that helps students to succeed.
For kids who have a difficult time with emotional regulation, they are not used to getting a great deal of positive feedback from adults and often they are not used to excelling in activities as their anger and impulsivity gets in their way. It is perfectly natural for some kids to be more aggressive than others, but like any other skill acquisition, they can learn to control their behavior through taekwondo--a skill that will serve them throughout life.
We get many referrals from therapists and teachers who are dealing with kids who are seemingly unable to control their anger. In taekwondo, we let the kids know exactly what is expected of them. If they choose not to follow the rules, we have consequences. For the little kids, they can get their belts taken away (they must earn them back by demonstrating good behavior) or go into time out. It usually only takes one time for kids to learn that they don't want to act that way. While initially they might be changing their behavior to avoid negative consequences, before long they internalize this, and parents see a change across the board in how their child acts.
With the older kids, disrespectful behavior means push-ups. If they act out in a way that affects the class, they must sit in the office and write a letter of apology to read aloud. Sometimes we have an issue when kids spar and they lose their temper (sparring is a true test of self-control). If they are out of control or hitting kids too hard, they spar with one of the higher rank students or instructors who show them that sparring is about skill not force.
This is a lightbulb moment for many of these kids who are used to being able to push their peers around. It reframes the whole way they view physical aggression. In taekwondo, sparring is done in a very controlled fashion. We wear padding on our heads, hands, feet, and chest and contact is light. Sparring should be used as a tool to help kids learn the practical application of the techniques they have been practicing, not as an opportunity to hit other people. During sparring if someone hits you with a good kick, you need to say "thank you". Recognizing the skill and control of your partner helps to diffuse any feelings that might arise.
You don't need to take my word for it though. There has been extensive research on the topic of martial arts training and aggression. I will mention two of these studies that are good examples from this body of research. A 1991 study by Skelton, Glynn, and Berta looked at "Aggressive Behavior as a Function of Taekwondo Training". A summary of their study is as follows: "This study examined the effect taekwondo training has on the level of aggression of children between the ages of 6 and 11 years. 68 students (boys and girls) were tested using a behavior checklist designed to measure children's aggression. Analysis indicated a significant inverse relationship between the children's taekwondo rank and their aggression." In essence, the higher rank that these children achieved in taekwondo the less aggressive they were. That has certainly been our experience. Our black belts are some of the most respectful, kind individuals you are likely to meet.
In a separate study, researchers in South Africa compared the levels of aggression in children who participated in taekwondo with those who participated in another sport (hockey in this case), and those who did not engage in any sport. They were given behavior analyses before and after and they concluded that "the verbal aggression and hostility scores of the taekwondo participants were significantly lower than the hockey participants and the non-sport group. The personal growth and self-acceptance scores of taekwondo participants were significantly higher than the hockey participants and non-sport group" (Steyn & Roux. African Journal for Physical Health Education, Vol 15. 2011). This speaks to the idea that when kids feel more confident and competent, they are less likely to act out.
Whether the goal is to learn discipline and following instructions, improve confidence, or reduce aggressive tendencies, martial arts has a stellar track record dating back two millennia. The balance of the martial aspect and the art aspect bring about incredible changes not only for children but for practitioners of all ages.
If you have a personal anecdote about how martial arts has changed your behavior and would like to share your story, please do so in the comments section.
Congratulations to all our students who qualified for 2017 District Championships by placing in the top 10 in California in their respective divisions. They competed Saturday in Arizona and made our school proud.
Daniel Valdez (far left) placed 2nd in Combat Weapons. Sarah Pike "lost pretty badly but had fun" (she was in a ring with current and past World Champions and I'm sure she held her own). Angelo Hibbert (second from right) got 1st place in both sparring and combat weapons, earning him the title of District Champion 2017 and entry to the Top 10 ring at World Championships this summer and a shot and the title of World Champion! AJ Hibbert (right) took a 2nd place in combat weapons sparring.
These students worked extremely hard all year long to earn points at tournaments to qualify for this higher level of competition and we laud them for being brave enough to get out there on a national stage. Few martial artists ever reach this level of competition and they should all be extremely proud of themselves regardless of how they placed.
When the new tournament year starts in July, we want to see more of our students get out there and compete. Next year we want to send a whole bunch of students to District Championships, and if all goes well, onto World Championships!
Every week Tiny Tigers (our littlest students) bring in their "homework" (a page from their taekwondo coloring book) and receive a star for their work. When they finish the book and have 25 stars, they earn a special lunch with their instructors at a restaurant of their choice. Last Saturday, Ms Dorothea Soroye got to have lunch with us and her mom at Barney's Burgers.
Her mom said she was looking forward to it all week and even planned what she would eat and who she would sit next to (Mrs Navarrete--in case you were curious) as well as some potential discussion topics (so cute!).
We enjoyed our special lunch with Dorothea and her mom, which got us to thinking about all the past and present families we have been lucky enough to connect with over the decades we have been a member of the Noe Valley community. One of the first Tigers I ever got the opportunity to go to lunch with was Catia Claburn. As she will readily admit, Catia was a bit of a space case at first. She recently told me that the reason she started taekwondo was that her dad brought her by to see a class and that she wandered out onto the floor and got kicked (accidentally) so Master Navarrete felt terrible and offered her a free month of classes. Fifteen years later, Catia is a 3rd degree black belt, is in the top 10 for her ATA division in the state of California, recently got accepted to a number of prestigious colleges and universities, and is all-around one of the kindest, most genuine human beings you will ever meet.
We have been doing reward lunches with Tigers for many many years now and we absolutely love it. It's a great way to get to know both the kids and their parents, and it gives the Tiny Tigers a goal to look forward to for their diligent work. There are few other facets of their lives where both short and long term goals are reinforced, and it never ceases to amaze us how something as insignificant as a lunch can bring a new level of interconnectedness with us and our students/community.
Keep up the fantastic work Tigers!!!!
Unfortunately, it seems as though you can't go a week without hearing of an attack or attempted abduction happening in areas of the city we thought were safe. Just last Thursday there was a girl leaving school in West Portal when she was grabbed and her attacker tried to force her into a car. Luckily, she had some training in self-defense and was able to fight off the man and bring attention to what was happening so that bystanders could aid her as well. All too often however, victims are not so fortunate. Would you know what to do if you had to defend yourself?
In this blog post, I will go over some basics tenets of self-defense and teach you 2 very simple techniques that could be essential if you were to be in a dangerous situation.
When it comes to staying safe, the easiest way to do that is by not being there in the first place. Usually, when someone is attacked, they knew in advance that something was going to happen. That little voice inside tells you when you might be in danger, and you can often pinpoint those around you who might mean you harm. We have been conditioned to ignore our instincts though, afraid we might offend someone if we cross the street so as not to walk by them. That is where so many victims go wrong. If someone makes you uncomfortable, get yourself to a safe place. This "spidey-sense" that we all have is an evolutionary safeguard. Just as zebras will perk up and alert their herd if they sense a predator in the grass, you know when you need to be wary of someone.
While walking alone, how many of you wear earbuds or have your eyes glued to a screen? If what we see in Noe Valley is any indication, the answer is many of us do that, and it's especially prevalent among school-age children. It is impossible to be alert if you are distracted or can't hear what's going on around you. You can't determine if you are in potential danger if you are not looking around. and you can't keep your distance from someone if you can't hear them walking up behind you, and that part is crucial. Unless you have significant self-defense training, it is unlikely that you will be equipped to react quickly to an unexpected attack if one or more of your senses is compromised.
It is imperative that you not let anyone get within several feet of you. If someone is invading your space, asking you the time, or just testing your reaction, you need to treat this as an aggressive act and be very clear that they need to back up. Bring your hands up and out in front of you (keep your hands open though as fists make it look like you're going to hit them) and tell them in a loud, confident voice that they need to back up while making strong eye contact. Most of the time, that's as far as it will go. You've brought attention to what they are trying to do and shown them that you will not be an easy victim. The key here is projecting confidence, regardless of how you are feeling inside. Don't be afraid to yell and make a scene!
If someone does get into your space and comes at you, you have to accept that you will have to hit them, and hit them hard. Ideally, you will have practiced striking a target with full force, but even if you've never done anything of the sort, you can still get away. As I mentioned above, being loud and vocal is something all of us know how to do. Draw as much attention to yourself as possible, and don't stop yelling. Don't be afraid of hurting them--after all, they are trying to do the same to you.
There are 2 basic techniques that work for almost all attack scenarios. Keep in mind that these should only be used if you don't have the option of running away and they are trying to harm you (if someone threatens you and demands your wallet, give it to them!). The two techniques are downward palm heel to the face and leg kicks. Neither takes much practice and you won't hurt yourself in the process (if you punch something hard and don't know what you are doing, you will likely break your hand). You need to strike repeatedly until you are able to get away, and then run to somewhere safe immediately.
Let's start with the palm heel. If you are big enough, you want to come down on the bridge of their nose with the base of your open palm. If your attacker is significantly taller than you, going upwards with your open palm to the bottom of their nose will also work. In addition to causing them pain, their eyes will water and they will be stunned. If one is not enough, keep hitting them.
The leg kicks can either be used on their own or in conjunction with the palm heel. You can strike to the ankle, shin, knee, or thigh. If you are aiming for the lower leg, use the tip of your shoe and just start swinging. If you are being grabbed from behind, kick back with your legs aiming for their shins. Do not stop struggling until you are free. If you are aiming for the knee, you can either do the same type of strike or turn sideways and kick to the side of the knee. When aiming for knees and thighs, we recommend using a round kick, in which you swing your shin and foot around to hit your target. You want to turn your hips and body with you to maximize impact. If you hit someone in the leg with full force, it will feel to them like their leg is broken and they will unable to pursue you when you flee.
While it is unpleasant to face the fact that we live in a world where people may try to harm you, being equipped with even the most basic self-defense can make a crucial difference. Get to a self-defense class provided by a reputable source or join a martial arts program. We offer classes for all ages and have decades of experience in self-defense training. We are also certified in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and SHARP (sexual harassment, assault, and rape prevention)--a program taught to prison guards and law enforcement. Please contact us through our website if you have questions or would like to come in for some training. www.atasf.com
Ms. Olivia Meere has been training with us for 9 years, since the age of 3. She has proven herself to be a tough girl and a devoted student, having earned the rank of 3rd degree black belt.
In school this year, she was asked to determine who the most influential person in her life is, and to invite them to a special luncheon. She chose Master Navarrete. At the luncheon, students took turns introducing their guest and giving a short speech about why they were so important to them. Olivia told the group that when she started taekwondo she was really out of control, but that over the years she has learned to focus and set goals. She said that without taekwondo and Master Navarrete's guidance, she didn't know where she'd be or the type of person she would have become.
It's easy to get caught up in daily events and not appreciate those around you. For teenagers in particular, they can forget all the adults in their life and the impact they've had. It was touching that Olivia recognized Master Navarrete for the influence he's had on her, and it reminded me yet again that every day is an opportunity to tell those around you that you love and are grateful to have them in your lives.
Is there a message you would like to send to someone in your life? Comment below if you'd like to share your sentiment.
We were saddened already by the loss of our student Emily, but then we got the devastating news that Megan Shenon, mom to Grace (a first degree black belt) and Sadie (a green belt) Powers passed away this weekend. She was one of the spunkiest, most vivacious women we've known, and her untimely passing has come as a shock to the whole community.
Whenever Megan would stop by the studio she was ready with a smile and acted as a mom to many of Grace and Sadie's friends. Megan was one of our biggest fans, frequently telling us how much she liked being part of our taekwondo community. She had a great sense of humor, and over the years we saw her laugh watching her daughters in class, and cry when Grace got her black belt. Megan is survived by her husband Craig and her 2 daughters.
Megan's memorial will be held at St Philips Church (725 Diamond St @ Elizabeth St) Saturday, January 28 at noon. I need to double check if it is open to the larger community or just those affiliated with the church and school. If it is a private memorial, I will let you know when a public service is planned. Friends of the Powers family have set up a Go Fund Me page to help the family during this tragic time. If you would like to donate, please click the button below.
We are putting together boards for both Emily and Megan here at the school. If you have a memory that you'd like to share or a message of condolence for their families, please contribute. If you can't make it in person but would like to be part of this, please e-mail us and we will make sure your note makes it to the board.
As we mentioned in our post about Emily, it is so crucial during times such as these that we share our love with those close to us. Don't wait to tell someone how much they mean to you. Our time on this Earth is finite and it goes by so fast.
We love you Megan and we will miss you. Our hearts go out to Craig, Sadie, and Grace. Please know that we are all thinking of you and are here to support you now and in the future.
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of one of our long-term students and a great friend, Ms Emily Ercanbrack. While her untimely death has left us all in shock, I have no doubt that Emily would not want us to grieve but rather to celebrate her spirit and the full life she led. She loved her wife, her cats, her friends and family, music, travel, and taekwondo (she earned the rank of 2nd degree black belt). She was a social activist and a friend to all.
I will always remember Emily for her inclusivity. When a new student would come to class, Emily would be the first to welcome them, immediately making them feel like old friends. When she couldn't make it to class, everyone would inquire where she was.
After taekwondo, Emily and her wife Marisa would always want to hang out and get dinner. I don't know how many times we shared a meal together and laughed the whole way through as Emily regaled us with an anecdote from her day. She would make sure our glasses stayed filled and would serve everyone before herself--an apt example of how she lived in all parts of her life.
When Emily came across a hurdle in her path, her indomitable spirit shone bright. I'll never forget when she broke her ankle and a week later came scooting into class, her bad ankle resting on the scooter while she figured out how to do taekwondo with only one leg. She even passed her red belt testing and competed at a tournament in that condition!
Emily is survived by her loving wife Marisa (a first degree black belt in our school). For those of you who are friends with her, she has asked that you post any condolences to her Facebook page as she is not feeling up to responding directly to friends right now.
I know that Emily touched the lives of so many of our students. If you have any memories you shared with her, we would love to hear them. Please post them in the comments section.
Through this sad event, we are reminded to show those around us how much they mean to us. Reconnect with an old friend, call your cousin who lives far away, give your family and pets an extra hug tonight. Tell your friends and family often that you love them as we never know when our time on this earth will be up.
Emily, while I know you have gone to a better place (and rejoined your Father and Vanity), the impact you made will not be forgotten and you will live on forever in the hearts of your many many friends. We love you.
A week before Christmas one of our black belt moms, Donna Boyer, was going to meet some friends for dinner when she was struck by a hit and run driver in the Mission. He was going approximately 25 miles per hour. The other people in the intersection were shocked (but managed to copy the man's license plate and call the police--he was later apprehended), and thought for sure that this petite lady was horrendously injured. What they didn't know, is that she is a real life ninja!
When Donna realized she couldn't jump out of the way in time, she did what we taught her and turned to the side so her vital organs were safe, and tucked into a ball as the car struck her hip. Despite being thrown by the car, we are pleased to tell you that Donna was able to get up and much to the surprise of the ER doctors, she is ok! She has the world's gnarliest bruise on her hip, but she is safe!
She texted us from the ER, thanking us profusely for teaching her skills that probably saved her life. We are so relieved that she is ok, and we are proud that she was able to use her falling and blocking skills without a moment's hesitation. Here is the way her hip looked about a week after the accident (she didn't let a little bruise keep her from going on vacation!)
And she's not the only member of her family for whom taekwondo has proven to be a life-saving skill set. Her teenage son Sam (who will be testing for his 3rd degree black belt in February), was playing with friends on the concrete bunkers in the Presidio last fall. They were playing tag as it was getting dark, and Sam ran right off the edge onto the concrete below. He told us later that in the air he actually thought "What would the Navarrete's want me to do?", rolling into a ball and standing right up again. He also only suffered a bruise to the hip where he landed, but gained some serious street cred as a ninja--the other kids he was with expected to see a gory scene below.
While we hope that no one is ever in a situation where they need to put into play the skills they learn here, we are overjoyed to know that what we teach really works. Over the years, we've had nearly a dozen students report back that they would have been seriously injured or killed in a fall or accident if they hadn't known how to fall. While it might seem tedious to practice tucking your chin and keeping your arms in while falling over and over again on the mat, it becomes worth it in a second when you can walk away from a serious incident rather than leaving the scene in an ambulance.
Is there an instance where taekwondo has helped you in a real-life situation? Please share your story with us in the comments section.