Guest article by Germaine Ong
This month, as I watched my daughter Katherine receive her grey-white belt, I couldn’t help but think back to when she first joined the Little Warriors. At that first session, Katy - who was then 5 years old - ran crying out of the warm-ups not once, but twice. It’s too hard, she sobbed.
The idea of martial arts had come up when my husband and I were looking for a fun way to build Katy’s resilience and confidence, both of which had been in a slightly shaky place ever since she became a big sister, and FaMA came highly recommended by friends. But that day, 13 months ago, I was genuinely worried that Katy’s BJJ journey might be over even before it properly began.
Fortunately, between my nudging and the FOMO, Katy was convinced to get back on the mat and line up with the other kids. This is where the magic of FaMA’s culture took over. The kids made room for her against the wall, helped her understand what was going on and what to do next, and never once made any comment about her tears. And the coaches wisely ensured that she sat out the sparring session at the end of the lesson, somehow doing so without making her feel left out.
I soon realised that Katy’s FaMA friends and coaches could provide her with motivation far beyond what mere parents could offer: a community that embraced her, and which she embraced right back. Back when the kids could still practice drills together, she would give me a running commentary all the way home on what it was like partnering with so-and-so: whether they liked to goof around, or drill properly. She still dutifully watches the updates on the TV screen in the FaMA lounge, looking out for photos of the kids she knows. And she always looks forward to seeing which of her friends and coaches will be there on a given day (though she vacillates all the time as to which coach is her favourite).
We have been getting our share of mileage out of Katy’s BJJ lessons off the mat as well. Whenever Katy gets frustrated at the challenges of preschooler life - at her homework, at relating to her increasingly feisty little sister - I remind her how practice always makes things less difficult. Her dad and I frequently cite forward rolls as an example: in her first month of FaMA classes, Katy displayed a strange determination to master the forward roll. And once she got the hang of it, we couldn’t stop her from rolling EVERYWHERE, soft surfaces permitting. (We had to place a ban on forward rolls in bed.) She may be tired of hearing it over and over again, but it’s true: hard things get easier, and even more fun, when you practice.
I’m glad that Katy got into BJJ when she did. She’s still a very little kid, but she’s grown so much over the last year. Beyond improving her strength and flexibility, she’s also found ways to handle big feelings of frustration and disappointment, and I’ve found that she’s far more willing to step up to challenges rather than whine about them or shrink them entirely.
As my daughter’s personality continues to develop, I see so many traits - kindness, humour, impatience, perfectionism - that vie with each other for dominance. And I’m glad and grateful for the resilience, tenacity and respect for others that FaMA has helped introduce into the mix, as she continues to grow into her own person.
FaMA - Fitness and Martial Arts Established in 2016, FaMA is a world-class martial arts academy located in the heart of the Central Business District in Singapore. Walking distance from Clarke Quay and Fort Canning MRT stations, FaMA’s main goal is to help people improve their lives through martial arts regardless of age or athletic capability. Our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Muay Thai Kickboxing, Kids Martial Arts and Fitness programs are led by experts in their respective fields. So, whether it is weight loss, a fun workout, camaraderie, competition training, or just to break a sweat, FaMA has something for the whole family.