Getting the children involved in physical activities is a vital part of their life to help them realize their full developmental potential.
Pre-school children have the whole day to put their energy in absolute free-spiritedness as they grow in years. School-aged kids and adolescents need at least an hour of daily physical activity to strengthen their bones. There is no limit to where they can use their built-in energy—the school, living room, driveway, the backyard, or the local park.
Kenshin, Jiro, and Amaya de la Cruz were born in the USA, in different states wherever their parents, Axel and Wil, would, like most Pinoy immigrants do, find the American bucks greener.
The children delight in the fact that theirs is a family that has been intensely focused on them. All kids have dimpled smiles inherited from their father, very welcoming and warm, and with hints of imp as if stropped for high mischief. It is impossible to dislike them.
Each couldn’t-hurt-a-fly face, however, stores up a crackling wire of energy with some sulfurous whiffs of menace.
To keep them from getting soft, Axel, probably carried away by some childhood dreams of his own, and hoping to get them charged to their maximum potential, did some legwork until he found the activity that would keep the kids both physically and mentally coordinated.
Taekwondo, it is.
Taekwondo has a high emphasis on self-defense, not street fighting, and urges the practice of bowing to instructors (always) as a sign of respect to them, to classmates, to himself, to the art of taekwondo, and to life in general.
Taekwondo lessons usually start at age five. Children who practice the sport get increased confidence level, plus a great sense of self-discipline, improved agility and reflexes, concentration, focus, and leadership skills.
In Taekwondo, there is always that chance to be a hero. Every athlete knows the feeling—trips to the medal stand amid cheers, as well as the defeats to shake off. Kenshin, Jiro, and Amaya certainly know that feeling.
On their first encounter, each started cold, surveying and looking in the eye of the opponent, then the awkwardness disappearing, catching fire, and after a few kicks—sharp and straight—that hit their target, each one won their first gold without breaking a lot of sweat. Lesson learned: In any tournament, it is okay to be afraid; just don’t be very afraid.
Aside from Sundays in the park for run through patterns and daily workouts in the garage of their home, the three kids also undergo a regular training course two to four times a week using a smartphone to record their routines to know which skills to improve.
Complicated childhood, you say? Their individual achievements in school are so remarkable that a look at their upbringing from multiple angles should be viewed with dragonfly eyes. There is no school year that their academic performance had been embarrassing.
Even Jiro, who had more than once visited the principal’s office due to some extra dose of playfulness in the classroom, has been a source of his parents’ pride. Kenshin, in fact, surprised his parents while in 5th Grade with a level promotion and a Presidential Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, the plaque signed by former US President Barack Obama.
The family princess, Amaya gets a lot of pampering from her two brothers. She’s no softie, though. You see a nice girl, her ponytail fluttering out through the back of a baseball cap, but what you see isn’t always what you get. Only a nutjob would try to jack-bully her in school.
Always a pleasure to be with these kids go off and on like lanterns on Christmas. They would talk about Filipino food all the time, boast of the sinigang na bangus, inihaw na pusit, and Pinoy-style spaghetti that they excellently make using ingredients they harvest from their vegetable plots.
When the whole family planes in before the end of this year, settle for good in the Philippines, Kenshin, Jiro, and Amaya will be bringing with them the same challenge of competition, courtesy on the mat, integrity, and indomitable spirit that propelled taekwondo athletes to Olympic greatness—Bianca Walkden, Jade Jones, Steven Lopez, Lee Dae-hoon, Chu Mu-yen, Zhao Shuai.
Keep the eyes on the Olympics, mine some gold, and spark Filipino pride.
Photos by WilAxel de la Cruz
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