Why did we choose this year as The Year of the Family? Many organizations -- the United Nations is one example Ė have theme years. It is an excellent way to focus attention on a specific theme.
The ITF Board of Directors was interested in introducing this concept, and we decided to start with The Year of the Family because the family is the basic unit of society.
Confucius teaches us that after working to improve ourselves we need to work to improve our family. Only then will we be ready to move on to helping others and improving society.
The illustration below helps us to understand this concept.
September is the end of summer vacation and the beginning of the school year in most countries in the northern hemisphere. This means that parents are looking into suitable activities for their children. So I thought it would be a good time to write about the importance of getting everyone in the family involved in Taekwon-Do. As you know, the ultimate goal of practicing Taekwon-Do is to have a happier life and build a better, more peaceful world. Making Taekwon-Do training and philosophy available and attractive to all members of the family is one way we can work toward this goal.
I know that Taekwon-Do practitioners are passionate about Taekwon-Do. We understand the benefits of the physical and mental training involved. We appreciate the discipline and the healthy spirit of competition in ITF Taekwon-Do. We see our children mastering techniques and learning to be good winnersÖ and good losers too. I believe Ė and I am sure you agree Ė that Taekwon-Do can be beneficial for all members of the family, no matter their age, their physical strength, or their abilities. You may recall reading the experience of the Paquet-Martineau family, which I mentioned in the Presidentís Message of January 2007. The whole family Ė both parents and their two sons Ė are Black Belt holders. To read more about how this family has made ITF Taekwon-Do their way of life, click here.
Make a Special Effort
But what if you are the only member of your family who practices Taekwon-Do?
During the rest of this Year of the Family, I am asking you to make a special effort to interest the other members of your family in practicing Taekwon-Do. Here are some suggestions:
Perhaps you are a young person who loves participating in competitions, and you canít imagine your mother doing that! Ask yourself what aspects of Taekwon-Do could be attractive and useful to your mother. Very often, women are attracted to the martial arts because they want to learn self-defense techniques. Why not suggest this to your mother?
Maybe some members of your family would be attracted to Taekwon-Do because it is a different way to improve physical fitness. A healthy mind in a healthy body is the goal, and this applies to people of all ages. When you explain that ITF Taekwon-Do also emphasizes the basic human values, as described in the Taekwon-Do philosophy, they will begin to understand that Taekwon-Do is more than a martial art and may be interested in joining you.
If you are a parent, think how your children could benefit from practicing Taekwon-Do. Even young children enjoy the physical activity and having fun with others, while at the same time learning how to listen and follow instructions. They will be introduced to the Taekwon-Do philosophy in a way that is appropriate to their ages and will learn to live the Taekwon-Do way. By studying the meaning of the five elements of the tenets of ITF Taekwon-Do, they will also learn about universal values. For adolescents, Taekwon-Do training offers a complete and challenging physical activity and a healthy social environment. They learn to set goals and work to achieve them. Why not suggest that your children try Taekwon-Do?
Others members of your family may be attracted by the opportunity to master useful skills or to learn more about oriental philosophy.
And, of course, there is also the social aspect of ITF Taekwon-Do. There are many interesting activities, and sometimes we just have fun!
Tell them about the benefits of Taekwon-Do
I am sure you have noticed that people who do not practice Taekwon-Do (or another martial art) do not understand why we want to break boards. In fact, they are intimidated by the concept of breaking and cannot imagine doing it themselves. But if you take the time to explain the very logical reasons for mastering breaking, they will begin to understand and, perhaps, be willing to give it a try.
In fact, the more you talk about Taekwon-Do and the more you explain, the more likely it is that others will be motivated to try it. You believe in the benefits of practicing Taekwon-Do, so donít be shy about making them known to the other members of your family.
If you are a Taekwon-Do teacher or school owner, have you done anything special for the ITF Year of the Family?
First of all, I would ask you to encourage families in your school to participate in our contest. Also, donít forget that the ITF member club with the most active families will win a prize. Very soon we will be posting details of how to enter your club in this contest.
I would also encourage you to hold a Family of the Year contest in your school, and you may wish to organize several family activities for your students and for potential students.
Why should your school make the effort to attract students of all ages: children, adolescents, parents, and grandparents? Because if you have more students, you will be able to offer a greater variety of courses tailored to the needs and abilities of specific groups. This, in turn, will result in even more new students. And they will all be able to enjoy the benefits of ITF Taekwon-Do.
Indeed, the key to attracting more students is to offer courses that will give them the opportunity to master the skills they need and reach their goals. This could mean offering self-defense for women, Taekwon-Do for people with physical or intellectual disabilities, or private courses for busy business people. Study the needs in your community and offer the type of courses your potential students want.
It is essential that you not wait for potential students to find you. Donít hesitate to publicize your school and ITF Taekwon-Do.
For more information and suggestions about how to attract new students, read the Presidentís Message for September & October 2006: A Successful and Fulfilling Career in ITF Taekwon-Do. (Click here.)
In order to achieve concrete results, I suggest that you identify a number of action plans for your school. First you need to study your market. Then, set your goals and plan your strategy.
Once you have the list, decide what the priority is for each of those action plans. This will depend on many factors (time required, resources available, potential market, etc.). Then make a new list in order of priority. The next step is to decide how many action plans you can complete with the resources you have and within a reasonable time. You donít want to try to do much at once, or you could become discouraged.
When you have your list of action plans, you will be able to determine what steps are necessary to realize the action plans and reach your goals.
My Personal Experiences
Many years ago, I realized that often only the children in a family were learning Taekwon-Do, and I asked myself how I could attract the parents. Here are some ideas that have worked for me:
When children start taking Taekwon-Do courses, make sure that the parents can observe. Make it easy and comfortable for them to ask questions and get involved. Then the parents will understand what the children are learning and be able to help them.
At times I have offered courses for parents and children together. Because they are all beginners, they can start in the same class. It is a good idea separate the two groups for the last fifteen minutes of each class so that, the children can participate in some structured but fun activity, while the parents learn about self-defense. The adults generally progress faster than small children (although this depends on the age and the abilities of each student), so after two or three sessions the parents are ready to move on to adult classes. However, they can continue to practice together with their children.
To attract women students, I started offering self-defense seminars. At the end of each seminar, there would be demonstration of Taekwon-Do. This helped the participants to understand that Taekwon-Do is about more than self-defense and that is can be fun. Many women who attended two or three weekend self-defense seminars went on to study Taekwon-Do. I encouraged them to get their husbands and children involved as well.
It is a good idea to offer special prices for families. For example, you could decide to offer a discount of 20% for the fourth member of a family, 25% for the fifth, etc.
People in certain professions can be approached through their professional associations or labor unions. For example, nurses must be in good physical condition to do their work and need to learn to manage stress. They appreciate the opportunity to learn self-defense techniques, since they work shifts and often travel home from work late at night.
These are only a few ideas. I am sure you will be able to think of others that will fit well in your community.
We are convinced that ITF Taekwon-Do can be beneficial to everyone. During the ITF Year of the Family, letís make a special effort to reach out to the other members of our families. Encourage them to join us in studying Taekwon-Do, so that they too can reap the benefits.