The debate over the benefits of extra curricular activities for children has become an undercurrent dilemma for many parents. The custom of enrolling a child in only one particular activity or sport has been replaced with an inundation of numerous activities taking up much of their free time, as a result stripping away an integral part of early childhood development. Gone are the days where children came home from school, played street hockey with friends and enjoyed the freedom of childhood. Perhaps it is in part due to the transformation of social and familial structures; however, there is one thing for certain. If a family manages to properly balance a child’s extra curricular activities and free time, the benefits of such programs far outweigh the pitfalls.
Woodbridge, Ontario is home to one of these ‘benefits’. It is consider by many as one of the best Tae Kwon Do schools in the GTA. Son’s Tae Kwon Do, located at the corner of Highway 7 & and Pinevalley Drive, is owned and operated by Grandmaster T.H. Son, the youngest man in the world to have earned a Ninth Dan, and one of the only few in Canada. He is aided by his wife Kim and two sons, Min and Chris whose dedication to the school is just as impressive as the Grandmaster’s. Never missing a class, he knows each and every student by name, attends tournaments and every year holds his annual Christmas party for all his members. The children are encouraged to showcase other talents, have fun and feel included in an extended family. He is the pinnacle of humility. In fact, most of his members are unaware of his impressive record which covers a span of over 40 years, including, among the many accolades, the title of World, Asian and European Championship Gold Medalist. As some have referred to in the past, it is comparable to having a Wayne Gretsky coaching and teaching a minor league hockey team.
Tae Kwon Do, which can be translated as ‘the art of the feet and fist’ ,incorporates the structure of martial arts and discipline, while allowing for normal, healthy childhood development. It educates children through fun, physical activities the importance of self-discipline and confidence while improving and fostering a self-awareness of physical health. Children enter the dojo unsure, timid and oftentimes uncoordinated, only to emerge self-assured, animated and in much better physical health. The discipline associated with having to learn numerous moves, patterns and Korean terms fosters in them an appreciation for the art, but also a respect for themselves and others. The ability to perform in front of their peers and masters, participating in tournaments and achieving new heights on a regular basis affords them the confidence and assurance needed to succeed in all arenas in life. To witness a child strengthen physically, emotionally and even intellectually in an extracurricular activity is the most rewarding gift of all. Fundamentally, all parents are seeking the right balance between freedom and responsibility for their children, and when one finds it in an activity outside of the home it is a blessing. As a result, their hard work becomes an integral part of their development made evident in their school work and ethics, home and social lives.