I love any movies that involve martial arts. It does not matter if it an absolute blockbuster, or whether it is a cheesy, clichéd movie. I just love watching them. I do not necessarily watch for the martial arts moves, as I (and the rest of our students) practice those moves all of the time. I actually watch more for the philosophy and life lessons that can be drawn from these movies. And the movies that target children, such as Kung Fu Panda / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / The Karate Kid, actually have some of the best life lessons of all.
This blog will target Kung Fu Panda (or should I say Dragon Warrior). I think this movie is such a clever concept. It relates to every part of the human spirit. I mean, who does not like pandas? Who does not like humour? Who is naturally talented at martial arts from the get-go (not many of us)? Who does not feel clumsy when they first try to do something? We all do. However, if you love something enough, you diligently apply yourself, and you have trusted mentors around you who believe in you, you can achieve anything in life. Here are some lessons that I picked up from the Kung Fu Panda series:
If you can only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now
You must challenge yourself. You must be willing to raise your hand and give it a shot. And the more we challenge ourselves, the more we learn about ourselves. Throughout the movies, Po works hard at becoming a master. Po steps outside his comfort zone. Po’s focussed effort allows him to become a Dragon Master. Po had a growth mindset that allows him to become better.
It is OK to be you
Do not compare yourself to others. To succeed, you do not have to be better than the best. But, you owe it to yourself to the best “you” that you can be. There is always one thing inside of you that no one else has. Do not compare yourself to others, but find your own unique way of doing it.
Nobody is ordinary. It is just how you explore your talents.
Everybody has special talents and skills. Po was an ordinary and simple character, just as most of us are. Po did not even think he was a worthy contestant for martial arts training. Po initially let other’s criticism influence his thoughts on his own competency. However, Po wanted to achieve something badly, as he had a strong reason (i.e. initially rescuing the Valley of Peace). It was not easy for Po, but he did it. No matter how impossible or unrealistic your dreams are, someday they are bound to come true if your keep faith in yourself and work on your abilities. This allowed Po to discover his inner awesomeness and attractiveness, which is what we must all do in life.
Nothing is impossible
From the first movie on, Po is able to fight his low self-esteem and negative beliefs to discover his true potential. So much so, Po became the Dragon Warrior. We all have the ability to do this. This is why I like martial arts as a canvas for life. Martial arts has gradings along the way, which teaches students the value of aiming for a goal and achieving it. You just have to keep showing up to class and working towards the next goal, and you can achieve anything.
Live your life for today, there is no past or present
The films discuss the importance of living in the present moment and not dwelling on the past. As Oogway said, “You are too concerned with what was and what will be. There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present”. If you focus on the past, your present and future will be about negativity. Focus on what you can do today and what you want to be moving forward. You will morph into the powerful person that you can be.
Stop worrying about what others think
Po was criticised by others throughout the movies. Yet, Po was mentally stronger than them, as he pushed through and did not give up. Never let others tell you what you are capable of. Stand up for yourself and prove to yourself what you are capable of.
The power you seek outside lies within you
Too many people blame external forces on why they have not achieved things in life. Circumstances are never as you wish them to be. It is your inner energy (or Ki) that assists you to turn circumstances to your favour. If you want to discover the true source on how to achieve anything you want to in life, simply look in the mirror.
The secret of reaching your destination can be hidden in your biggest weaknes
We often do not confront our weaknesses or fears. If you have the courage to confront them, it can work in your favour, just as it did for Po. Food was Po’s biggest weakness (mine too ha ha). However, when Master Shifu channelled Po’s weakness by building a mental connection between food and exercises, Po become a Master.
The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book
Po realises this when he tries to teach others the way he was taught by Shifu. Po was bad at teaching the way Shifu taught. However, Po realised this and adapted, which allowed him to be a successful leader. Po’s strength as a teacher was best described by him, “I’m not teaching you how to be me, I’m teaching you how to be you”. Everybody has their own personality and values. Join a community that will help you discover your inner talents.
Do not let anyone stop you from attaining your dreams
Be determined to enough to stand for your dream. Then, have the perseverance and patience to do the consistent actions required achieve your dream. At some point in your life, you will feel or be defeated. Even the most intelligent and talented people can be beaten by perseverance and patience. However, determination will get you back off your knees and standing up again. It is your responsibility to you to keep going.
Make sure you are content in what you are doing. Do not pursue other’s dreams.
Living other people’s lives will not make you happy. Hard work is not enough if your goal is not aligned to your values. Happiness and contentment is the key to your evolvement as a better person. Po was not happy with his family run noodle shop, so he never tried to make the business big. But Po always wanted to pursue martial arts, and that is where he became great. Do likewise!
Animated films with valuable life lessons are great learning tools at home. Children must learn from a young age to be the best version of themselves. As parents and teachers, it is hard to teach children about setbacks, as we may have become jaded by life experiences. However, a panda bear that knows martial arts – that can be a great spokesperson to teach the children some life lessons.
Or, take the next step and enrol in a martial arts schools that teaches life lessons together with self-defence moves. That will help you and your child become a better you, be it physically, mentally and emotionally. We look forward to seeing you in the dojo. Daz and Ben