One of my great passions for the last several years has been training in Martial Arts. It has meant a great deal to me and I am excited that I have the opportunity to pass some of that value along to people here. I do believe that the school timetable is finally sorted out which means I can actually have a schedule. With interested parties being spread out a bit, I have decided to be doing two classes a week in different villages. Thursdays I walk over to Vanwooki and Fridays are in our home village of Vansemakul. Hopefully, I will add a third at the school in Melsisi after I have talked to the school council. As with everything here, this is happening on “island time.”
I do have one adult student in Vanwooki who trains every week and another student who has come to several classes in our village. There are three more men and one girl who have showed up once but have been at the gardens or otherwise occupied other times. There are a lot more who have expressed interest. Unfortunately here interest doesn’t always convert directly to attendance.
The kids are a whole different matter. They show up, usually in a screaming, shrieking, giggling horde. Firstly, I don’t speak their language. One of the difficulties we deal with here in Vanuatu is that there are over a hundred languages spoken in the country. We learn the common language of Bislama in training so we can communicate with most people. The children learn Bislama in school, but in our area, they don’t teach exclusively in Bislama until third grade. Until I learn local, directions are left to whatever translator happens to be around and gestures, and supplemented by the basic phrases I’ve memorized. Being a physical skill, this is not an impossible task. Their punches are improving and blocking is alright when they block at all. The gymnastics skills are a big hit. Eventually, the children will even stop running away from me. Most of the really little ones in Vansemakul have stopped crying when they look at me; this isn’t true in other villages.
This brings us to the other issue and, interestingly, one of the reasons that martial arts could be such a good influence here: discipline. The kids here are both more wild and more responsible than they are at home. When they get old enough to be able to dress themselves (not that it always happens), feed themselves and ask for their needs to be met, they are left on their own. On the other hand, they are expected to look after the younger kids, create havoc, and do any work any adult tells them to do. When they are sent on errands, it’s a little like the boy from the Family Circus cartoons. They’ll get there alright but it will involve going over, under, and through most everything remotely on the way through the neighborhood. This is perfectly acceptable behavior, too. They have to get the job done and if they don’t there will be punishment, but a few distractions on the way are totally normal. All of which means that getting them to stay in a line, focus on one task or even show up in anything other than a screaming horde is pretty unrealistic. I’m trying anyway.
Despite the wildness, there is a great enthusiasm to learn. They are fearless about throwing themselves into cartwheels and handstands and they shriek with delight when they punch the targets. They are physically active and fit children who are used to a level of roughness American children aren’t. This is some of the best fun most of them have all week.
In starting to teach here, my respect for Do Joo Nim is only increasing. I am teaching in a language I have not yet mastered or one I don’t speak at all, which is teaching me just how much of a challenge communication is. Explaining philosophy and ethics in a language that just doesn’t have the vocabulary to tackle the task, adds a new level of challenge to the development of their understanding and commitment to the art. Yet, I look at the flourishing community that Do Joo Nim created after starting in a foreign language and a foreign culture and I am inspired to work harder to accomplish what I can.
|Additionally, this is where we train. It’s pretty gorgeous.|
|Then the sun goes down and we finish our workout to views like this every day.|