Story of Issa by MasterPaul
“He who angers you conquers you.”
– Elizabeth Kenny
We all react. The key is how we react. Martial arts teaches calm self-control that seeks to diffuse tension, not inflame it.
Story of Issa
In 2006, I began trialling a personal development program using taekwondo as a way of tackling the ever increasing risk of students becoming victims of bullying. The first program was designed especially for Stage 3 students of Carlton Public School which is located in Sydney.
The main philosophy of the program was to increase the students’ self-esteem and self-confidence and encourage positive attitudes and behaviours. Each week the students would receive theory lessons in anti-bullying and personal development and have an opportunity to practice what they had learnt during the taekwondo lesson.
Originally, the school had organised five lessons for some of its male pupils but the program was so successful it was offered to boys and girls from years 3-6. The classes were always full and about thirty children enjoyed performing basic taekwondo moves. Naturally, they especially enjoyed the part where they could punch and kick mitts and shields.
It was during this program that I first met Issa.
Issa was in Year 5 at the time, small in stature, big in self-confidence. What I noticed was that he always wanted to go first at any cost, so that he could show everyone how great he was, even if this meant pushing in front when we lined up to do training.
I noticed that Issa kept re-booking the program and returned 25 weeks in a row. His attitude improved so much over the weeks and on the 25th lesson we witnessed an amazing act of inspiration.
While we were kicking the shields Issa was holding the shield for his partner. I have always suggested to the students that they should try and help their partner achieve the best results, but I did not expect to see this happen with Issa.
However, on this momentous day, Issa not only encouraged his partner with words of greatness, but he started to encourage everyone around him. This had such an effect on the class that everyone started to encourage everyone. The feeling was electric and extremely memorable.
I told Issa that one day I would give him a proper thank you for what he had done. He looked very proud as he said “Thanks Master Paul”. Issa really enjoyed training with me and soon joined the evening United Taekwondo class at Carlton Public School.
About 18 months later, Issa was grading for his blue belt (about five promotions away from Black Belt), and he was standing in the middle of the grading hall. I sat everyone down except for Issa. I told the story of the old Issa during the personal develop program, and how Issa was all about me, me, me at the time. Then I let them know that Issa is now one of my best students and how many lives he has changed through leadership and inspiration.
I asked Issa to demonstrate a pattern in the middle of the hall in front of 200 people. It was amazing to see a young boy, so passionate about his martial arts, demonstrate one of the most explosive patterns I have ever seen. The crowd’s applause seemed to go one forever and when it subsided I leant forward and quietly said, “Now that’s how you say thank you!” He gently smiled.
The Deputy Principal for Greenacre Public School happened to be in the audience that night and he came over to me and said “That was fantastic, you are coming to my school!” I was very happy and later in this series of stories I will let you know what happened.
Issa is still training and every time I see him, we exchange a smile, always remembering that because he developed a passion for helping people, we have developed a bond for life.