I didn’t take my first Taekwondo class until I was 19 years old. I took the class through the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and I can tell you that I didn’t really understand what I was doing or why I was doing it throughout most of the semester. As a white belt, I made the movements clumsily since I’d never taken a physical movement class of any kind as a kid and it didn’t really “click” with me that this was a sport I might truly enjoy until over a year later after I’d enrolled at a different school. I still remember the day when I was practicing my “form” for testing and I suddenly made sense of the “hip snap” that was so coveted by students and encouraged by instructors.

The “hip snap” is actually a wave-like movement that starts at the core of the body. The “snap” happens right after a kick or a punch is executed correctly and the fist or foot hits the target with the force of a whip. Some of the best martial artists in the world can put out a candle by “kicking” toward the flame using a hip snap (they refer to it as the proper use of “chi”). This “snap” is the basis of many different athletic movements and when kids (or adults) figure it out, a whole new world of fun opens up to them.

John got his black belt in Taekwondo when he was 10 years old, but I studied martial arts later in life. As a woman, I felt disadvantaged in many of the male-dominated classes I took, but I was lucky that John was also a black belt. He was a trusted partner and he and I were able to trust each other when we worked together on different maneuvers. Through working with John, I was able to not only get better at martial arts, but also realize that women have a significant advantage as they learn this sport. Our female students regularly made sense of the “hip snap” and other key movements earlier than the male students. Male students, in contrast, had bulk and strength that our female students didn’t have. Over the course of years of doing martial arts and then teaching martial arts, John and I both developed a very balanced perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of male and female martial artists. Anyone can learn to do this sport. It’s our goal as instructors to help students recognize their strengths and weaknesses and to exploit both to overcome an attacker in a self-defense situation.

It can be hard to find martial arts classes for worldschooling families because most martial arts schools require ongoing enrollment over the course of several years. But John and I found that even with our brick-and-mortar schools that enrollment would drop over the summer and though parents would often pay for classes during the holiday season each year, they often wouldn’t attend. So we started doing session-based classes throughout the year and we learned that often, the break gave students an opportunity to process what they’d learned and passively make sense of it. Almost all students who were truly interested in what they were learning would take breaks and then come back to classes with some level of improvement even after a prolonged break. 

So we’ve created a curriculum for worldschooling families (both kids and adults) who would like to learn self-defense for traveling. We have an online martial arts video curriculum that worldschooling families can use when they aren’t able to take our in-person classes. Students who want to continue to advance can learn the forms and one-steps and receive video coaching from an instructor to continue to advance.

As a worldschooling family, we were in many situations that were sketchy in the world. We traveled primarily to third-world countries, so we encountered situations that were dangerous on a regular basis. Over the course of time, we spent almost a year in Muslim countries (my daughter, Lydian, and I studied Arabic at Cairo University) and she and I congratulated ourselves regularly for having studied martial arts! Knowing how to use a book or a pair of earbuds as weapons is reassuring in a pinch even if you never have to actually do it. And the reassurance made it possible for us to go off the beaten path to places we otherwise wouldn’t have felt comfortable going. 

John was always grateful for having had training in the martial arts because he knew how to size up other men and defend Lydian and I (and other kids we took on our travels), as needed. He could identify danger better than an average person because he’d spent countless hours sparring with other men. Being able to identify some of the posturing that men do right before they set out to attack can head off a lot of dangerous situations before they even happen.

But, of course, our family still feels fear sometimes and martial arts can’t save you from everything! Still, because we’ve studied martial arts, we’re able to tolerate certain situations that would otherwise be off-limits to us. 

For worldschooling families, whether they take our online or in-person martial arts classes or not, we recommend the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. It’s a must-read for anyone who’s going to be working with people in environments where it isn’t always possible to use language as a cue for violence potential.

For more information about the martial arts classes at the Devela Worldschool Hub, contact Jennifer Shipp for more information at jennifershipp1976@gmail.com or sign up for classes here.

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