When John and Jennifer first met in 1996, both of them were black belts in Taekwondo. For the first few years of their marriage they were too busy to do anything with this skill and it wasn’t until their daughter, Lydian, was 2 years old that they sparred with each other for the first time! Sparring together quickly became a fun weekly activity and before long, after relocating to Kansas, they had their first Taekwondo school in Bird City up in the northwestern part of the state. Shortly after that, they moved back home to Nebraska and started five more Taekwondo schools in Brule, North Platte, Imperial, Sidney, NE and Sterling, CO. Each week, they went on a circuit teaching classes to hundreds of students over the course of nearly 15 years. 

John and Jennifer worked with students between the ages of 4 and 80 years of age during their time as Taekwondo instructors. They continued taking classes themselves in Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Aikido, and Kenpo Karate and developed their own methods of teaching that focused on self-defense rather than competition with other students from other schools. Today, Jennifer and Lydian teach self-defense strategies to women as part of the class syllabus while John teaches self-defense to men, but male and female students spar together in our classes and both our male and female students learn to respect the various strengths that each gender brings to self-defense.

Self-defense skills are extremely beneficial while traveling as a worldschooling family! In Morocco, John got sick in the middle of the night while our family was in Fez and Jennifer and Lydian had to go out alone for medicine and water. Jennifer’s daughter was only 12 years old at that time, but she luckily had a red belt in Taekwondo. As Jennifer and Lydian walked out the door, they were warned by men loitering in the streets that they needed to go back home. In this Muslim city it was unwise for women to be out on the streets, especially foreign women who are viewed as “loose”. But John needed water and medicine. So they made their way some distance to a vendor past taunts and stares. Lydian and Jennifer had only their cell phones (they didn’t even work in Fez), but they knew how to use them as weapons. And though no one attacked them, they both believed that a part of the reason why they made it home safely that night was because they didn’t look like good prey. Jennifer and Lydian don’t carry themselves like people who are totally vulnerable because they’re trained in martial arts. Knowing how to poke out someone’s eyes and where to punch or kick an attacker makes a big difference in final outcomes for women. 

Self-defense skills can help a family “puff up” and coordinate to overcome an attacker. John and Jennifer have used water bottles or even books as weapons, for example. Through training, families can learn to “read” dangerous situations and make a plan to overcome it without ever even speaking to each other. Worldschooling families who travel with young girls who are trained in martial arts and self-defense can rest easy knowing that their daughters will someday be able to defend themselves if they’re ever traveling the world on their own. The same is true for boys.

A lot of single mothers and their children do worldschooling these days and self-defense skills can make the experience much safer and less anxiety-provoking. The idea behind becoming trained in the martial arts is to avoid being attacked. Women who have been trained in martial arts are less likely to give off a vibe that they’re vulnerable. Predatorial men who seek out good prey are less likely to attack women who give off a vibe (body language, awareness of one’s surroundings, and knowledge of predatorial behavior) that they’re not prey.

Kids who know how to defend themselves have greater self-confidence overall. Through the Devela Worldschool Community, we offer martial arts classes that not only teach punching and kicking, but also rolls, balance, and movements that require flexibility and finesse. Kids who aren’t inclined to fight will still enjoy classes because we do things like Parkour and gymnastics that help kids develop core strength (since all martial arts movements come from the core). We work with each student to find their specific strengths and weaknesses.

For more information about martial arts classes at the Devela Worldschooling Community, visit the calendar page to enroll or contact Jennifer Shipp at jennifershipp1976@gmail.com

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