Master Kathryn’s Corner

The Best Defense Against Bullying? EMPOWERMENT!!

By Master Kathryn Kiffmann

Bullying is a conflict between an insecure coward (the bully) who preys on weaker individuals to feel powerful, and a low self-esteemed victim who feels helpless to stop it. Parents of victims usually contact school and/or the bully’s parents in hopes of ending the harassment. However, this won’t be enough to permanently help your child, because unless their self-esteem greatly improves, they have a 90% chance of attracting future conflicts. It’s no myth that opposites attract in order to find balance. Hence, weaker individuals often attract more aggressive personalities. Teaching a bully victim that they CAN stand up for themselves is the best way to stop future confrontations. We owe it to our child, to provide them with the proper tools for a strong and empowered future.

Taekwondo provides a pro-active environment for achieving self-confidence and success. One of the big reasons folks start Taekwondo is to learn how to hit or kick back. And yes, everybody learns that. However, the greatest aspect of Taekwondo is the huge increase in personal power that comes with mind/body training. The Taekwondo student becomes strong and confident through dedicated practice. They feel self-assured inside, and that attitude manifests outside as well; i.e. the way they walk, talk and hold themselves (posture). They learn how to stay calm, focused and react appropriately to any situation. They learn to keep eye contact, and good ways of diffusing situations without appearing weak. In short, the student learns how to stop bullying for themselves.

Another important aspect of Taekwondo, (especially for anyone who’s ever been victimized), is sparring. Taekwondo sparring is a re-creation of an attack/threat, but under safe and controlled conditions. Sparring is important because it teaches the student how to react under pressure without freezing in fear. Unresolved fears in Taekwondo students always manifest during sparring. But, with perseverance, discipline, and supportive family members, the transformation from fearful victim to courageous being is guaranteed.

For years, I’ve had bully victims walk into our studio. Those that stuck with our program transformed into strong, confident and empowered individuals. A few of them even went on to become National Taekwondo champions! Truly, no dream is impossible for those with self-confidence! Taekwondo provides many qualities necessary to effectively navigate thru life’s challenging times and personal conflicts. And not just through childhood, but through an entire life.


The Cycle Of Material Addiction & Craving

By Master Kathryn Kiffmann

In Maui, most people sign their kids (or themselves) up at our Taekwondo studio because they want something new and fun. They’re hoping for a new activity to be excited about. Throughout our planet, people are realizing the positive benefits a martial art like Taekwondo can manifest, but in Hawaii, we’ve still got a ways to go. Taekwondo can be a lot of fun. It can also be challenging. Its important to realize that positive emotional and physical changes require a bit of suffering. Where there is potential for lasting, positive growth, there can sometimes be some bumpy roads. You can’t get discipline and focus by prancing through a field of sweet, fluffy bunnies and rainbows. Success in life requires focus and perseverance. Persevering is not always enjoyable. Taekwondo is the most practiced martial art on the planet, but Taekwondo is not the No. 1 fun thing on the planet. (I think videogames have taken that lead.) If we’re not careful, “fun” can be an addictive trap.

It’s tough for us parents to see our kids not having fun in school, social or other activities; especially when they have to try harder than others. On the other hand it’s tough for parents with super-talented kids to keep them committed to anything because they get easily bored. Bored kids and challenged kids face the same roadblocks. QUITTING. Western society makes it easy for people in general to quit when they are bored or challenged. Bored with your wife? Get a younger one? Bored with your kids? Leave them with the nanny. Bored with your automobile? Buy another one that’s newer and drives faster. Bored with videogames? Toss it and buy another one. Bored with the way you look? If you’re rich, you can change that too!! Do you ever wonder what our cravings are doing to the Earth’s environment? Scary thought.

Our addiction with materialism & cravings is out of control and more potentially dangerous than any other threat to us these days. In America, we can get anything we crave if we’ve got the cash. We can quit one thing and start another thing, because there are so many choices. The result is that we are spoiled and bored. Cravings will always create suffering. Why? Because, once the “fun” of a newness wears off, we’re craving something else until we find another new fix, car, activity, videogame, wife, school, drug, etc. This endless cycle of craving will continue unless we are able to stop our patterns of “I’m bored, I buy, I’m struggling, I quit, I’m mad, I leave. If we don’t constantly replace our fix, we suffer again. Suffering is caused by the souls’ inability to let go of cravings. Cravings are like little red demons on your shoulder that tell you, “If you get this you will be happy forever”. We are always deceived by our cravings because our happiness for what we crave never lasts. So, how do we exorcise the demons of materialism and cravings? Meditation, Yoga, martial arts like Taekwondo, Eastern Philosophies are a few pathways that could guide us toward realizing the suffering behind all “cravings”. But it’s the discipline to persevere in our relationships, schooling activities and our lives, especially when these pathways get tough or boring. Perseverance through boredom and tough times will eventually free us from the “craving/suffering” cycle. This path is called awareness. Awareness leads to freedom. Another word for freedom is Enlightenment. Enlightenment may seem like an impossible goal to us when we’re trapped within our personal sufferings. But if we stay in our crave/suffering cycle, so will our children.

Something to think about next time we are bored or facing challenges within our training, our marriage, our car, our school, our electronic devices or our life.

Martial Arts is NOT about……..

By Master Kathryn Kiffmann

Martial Arts is NOT about kicking ass. It’s not about having the highest kick, the best push-ups or the highest belt ranking. It’s not about showing up the student next to you by performing your poomse much better or kicking faster. It’s about besting YOURSELF. Martial Arts is about YOU and nobody else. It’s about you working through your fears, your insecurities, your inflated (or deflated) ego and disciplining yourself hard enough to empower your eternal self. Sooner, or later the body ages, breaks down or perhaps suffers some bizarre obstacle, but NOT your eternal self. When the eternal self is trained in the way of the warrior via Martial Arts, your empowered spirit lives on forever.

But the journey is not always easy. Sooner or later each of us are faced with obstacles that make us want to give up the task. Did you know that out of 10000 students that sign up for Taekwondo, only 3 will make it to Black Belt? The ones that continue on never gave up. They had their obstacles, illnesses, injuries and distractions. But their goal to finish what they started was constantly in front of them. THEY NEVER GAVE UP. History is filled with stories of warriors who refused to relinquish their destiny in the face of grave adversity. Now, we find ourselves in a time that offers MUCH adversity. AND, in the times we find ourselves in, we are witnessing new warriors who will stay the course regardless of odds. We need these warriors on our planet now.

Maybe you are one of these warriors. I always think I know which of you will make the entire journey, but as so MANY times I’ve been wrong, its really hard to say. Your heart knows better than my years of teaching and practicing martial arts. Its not the strongest, the fittest, the most talented…well, maybe sometimes. Most of the time its the humble soul that just has it in them to see their journey to the end. Its their destiny. Its ALWAYS been their destiny. Many students hear the voice that says, “You can do this” but most of them don’t believe it. Believe it!!

Every time our Dojang receives a new black belt, our hearts sing. We know how hard the journey is. We NEVER forget the adversities we ourselves had to face. We NEVER forget the sense of accomplishment we felt the day our Master handed us our black belt. We were tired, fatigued and exhausted. Not just from the test, but from years of persevering. Receiving our black belt re-energized us to continue the path. And we became instructors. Now, every time one of our students receives a black belt, we also relive the energy of success and triumph.

Martial Arts is NOT about victory….its about greatness. And every one of you that receives a black belt is GREAT in my book. It never gets old.

The Power Of Failure

By Master Kathryn Kiffmann

The main difference between AYSO Soccer and Taekwondo is that in Taekwondo, not everybody wins, not everybody gets a trophy, and somebody fails a belt test now and then.  In AYSO everybody goes home a winner. In a Taekwondo tournament, 80% of the competitors go home losing. Manipulating a sports’ activity so that our children do not experience the emotions of losing and failing robs our kids of valuable lessons, like endurance and perseverance.  Teens and adults who have never experienced loss or failure as kids will have a difficult time dealing with future life situations that would require emotional strength. The story below is a good example:
A man was watching a butterfly struggle to break out of its cocoon.  After making some progress to work its way through a small hole, the butterfly appeared to simply stop its efforts. For some time it seemed to make no headway, so the man concluded it was stuck and decided to lend a helping hand by forming a larger opening in the cocoon with scissors.  Afterward the butterfly emerged easily but with small, shriveled wings and a swollen body.  It turned out that the struggle to emerge from the cocoon would have forced the fluid from the butterfly’s body into its wings, a necessary process for enabling it to fly. As a result of the man’s well-intentioned “help” he had interfered with nature’s life-strengthening process.  The butterfly was now doomed never to fly, but  to crawl around with its swollen body and shriveled wings for the rest of its life.                                                 

Losing and failing are some of the greatest gifts we can experience as youth. Whenever we lose or fail, we build perseverance and emotional discipline to keep going.  Western society tends to reward kids too often, regardless of whether they deserve it. This is fine for special needs kids, but in otherwise healthy youth, praise and reward without earning it can create unhealthy behaviors in the future, especially when our kids enter the real world and learn that sometimes, “life is not fair”.   Martial arts’ schools that have maintained the philosophy of : “learning through experience”, provide opportunities for the student to increase perseverance and discipline, by not   removing “the opportunity to fail or lose” now and then. For when we fail, we also gain wisdom and valuable insight.  Kids who give up after losing or failing, or who are sheltered from experiencing either,  are less likely to bounce back on college challenges and adult employment problems like being fired or let go. Teenage suicide is at an all time high. Statistics are showing that  “high risk” youth tend to be overly spoiled, bored, emotionally weak and not committed in  their endeavors.

Commitment means to stick with your goals, education, relationship and/or challenge no matter what. When we allow our kids to experience life in all its wonder both good and bad, winning and losing, we offer our kids a gift money can’t buy…”life skills”. The popular term “no child left behind” is deceiving. The high poverty and illiteracy rate in America with little attention still not going to these groups is clear proof of that.  Many of today’s’ youth will move forward, above and beyond Americas’ sad statistics.  Sadly, some will be left behind and have limited choices as adults due to serious obstacles.  Don’t let this happen to your child. Allow them to fail, but most importantly, encourage them to bounce back.  The challenges of Martial arts moves the student forward in life through various challenges, the discipline and perseverance of the student takes them through the various challenges of real life and onto a successful adulthood.


By Master Kathryn Kiffmann

There are many roadblocks that keep students from achieving black belt and/or competitive success. One roadblock is unrealistic thinking. Delusional (unreal) thinking, from our ego, is the greatest enemy which prevents us from knowledge. It will tell us we are too great and special, so we need not learn new things for fear of being wrong. Or, it will tell us we are too low and worthless so we must not begin our learning for fear of looking bad. Arrogance or insecurity….both are toxic thinking; ugly manifestations of the ego, that hold us back from living a full life.

Our continued learning depends on our ability to move through the challenging times without judging ourselves too great or too low, because judging ourselves unrealistically stops the process of forward action. For instance, if a student feels too insecure about their abilities, they will be more hesitant to improve on a technique for fear of NOT improving. Or, if they feel to proud of their abilities they might also be hesitant to perform for fear of being in error. The trick is to maintain a beginner’s mindset and ignore what you look like in the process of learning. Keep training, focus on one area at a time and you will improve.

Finally, let go of what others may think about you. Its none of our business what others are thinking. We should be too busy focusing on improvement to be concerned with the judgments of others anyway. The most important tool for improvement is consistency and discipline. The long road is easily accomplished step by step without worry, if we don’t spend too much time on  the “getting there” and what we look like.

Top 10 Qualities Of A Black Belt Warrior

By Master Kathryn Kiffmann

The warrior is Master over all impulses. The warrior avoids all addictive behaviors by setting boundaries between themselves and human desires. If afflicted with any addiction, the warrior changes the focus from the habit onto physical training in order to defeat the habit. The physical balances the mental, and there must always be equality between both to defeat addiction. .

The warrior finishes everything they start. The warrior never gives up, knowing that true goals and dreams take much time, sacrifice and sometimes a bit of hardship. True follow-through will always provide lasting results.

The warrior believes in his/her abilities to master every challenge before him/her. Their voice is strong and clear and fearless in all conversations. The warrior faces life’s’ wins and losses with equanimity, realizing that confident performance should always be a bigger focus than results.

The warrior is the Inventor of things to come. They are constantly looking for new ways to excel and improve all areas of life. The warrior is never bored, because boredom only arises when we neglect our path or fail to improve upon it.

The warrior always questions popular opinions before forming their own opinions. The warrior is never pressured into following the path of the masses but instead creates their own path if their opinions differ strongly. The warrior makes choices based on their personal goals and not the goals of others. Finally, the warrior does not follow the examples of their peers or society, but instead IS the example for society and others.

The warrior keeps his/her mind clear to minimize it’s interference with too many things. The warrior builds focus by correcting one problem at a time, and only concentrating on one problem instead of many, until success is achieved. The warrior avoids too many commitments, activities or promises in order to maintain focus within their daily life. The warrior realizes that only the present moment exists and that future and past are mere illusions.

The warrior encourages others at all times to persevere. If the warrior does not encourage his/her fellow students at all times, they are ignoring the basic Martial Arts’ pledge. The warrior knows the difference between encouragement and enabling (lying to avoid hurt feelings.) The warrior knows that encouragement does not mean lying to others and praising them regardless of whether they deserve it to protect them from positive change that might be challenging at first.

The warrior actively pursues his/her goals instead of talking and dreaming about them. Procrastination is an enemy of the true warrior.

The warrior never judges anyone and realizes there is always more than one possibility. The warrior realizes that much pain and suffering can be behind the face of those much different than themselves.

The warrior realizes that miracles can occur at the last moment, in the strangest places and in the weirdest circumstances. Knowing that, he/she never, ever loses hope. A little humor added to a dark moment can often bring enough light for most people to carry on.

Embracing Peace During Chaos

By Master Kathryn Kiffmann

The world is changing. And, the world has BEEN changing since the world began.
Presently things seem to be changing faster than normal, and this tends to frighten many humans. But, accepting change and remaining at peace during changes’ chaos and crisis is the most important human skill in a constantly changing world. Change is life and its all a big part of the human experience.

One thing that doesn’t have to be a big part of the human experience is fear. Fear was designed as warning signal to all animal and human species of an approaching predator, to which we then reacted appropriately to avoid being eaten or killed. As a martial artist, we are trained to react calmly and effectively regardless of what crisis is upon us. This is the key to success and sometimes survival.

This attitude can benefit us outside the Dojang as well. As martial artists we are empowered regardless of whether a predator or financial hardship are chasing us. We can ACT empowered even when we don’t’ feel like it, and help others to become empowered as well. We are the examples for others to follow. The true martial artist remains centered and at peace amidst chaos and crisis. It may seem difficult at times, but it IS the true path that all warriors aspire….hence the term….”peaceful warrior”.

Now more than ever, our future depends on enough warriors who will set an example that despite what the world or CNN would tell you, you are empowered and you can be at peace. You are the master of your destiny, NOT the rulers of this world. Your attitude decides your future, not somebody else’s. Life tests us every day to see how well we have developed the ability to handle change. From losing a job, a loved one, to being betrayed or treated unjustly, how we handle these changes define our true selves. We are defined by our path, not by the negative arrows that are now and then aimed at us. Have you ever noticed how happy, friendly and easygoing some people are in good times, but when tough times arise, these folks hide out in fear and panic. Some of them even lose complete control of their emotions and have breakdowns. I’ve heard it said, you will “learn the true heart of a man if you are in his presence during his greatest suffering and trials. This I believe wholeheartedly, after experiencing first hand numerous times. Its not their fault, they’ve merely let fear take over their lives and have isolated themselves from the community of man. These folks ought to be in a martial art program.

The ability to be in a peaceful state, among chaos is to know our true and unchanging self. It’s the ability to move like water, flow like the wind, be solid like the earth, and be empowered as fire when necessary. While the world would seek chaos and crisis, the peaceful warrior will always seek peace, that translucent state that can transform even the most futile situation into one of hope.

I once read somewhere, that “In the eye of the storm, peace is that oasis in the desert, it is the place where power is born. You’ll be surprised how much a peaceful and light attitude during even the greatest challenge, can influence and change everything and everyone around you”.


By Master Kathryn Kiffmann

Believe it or not, Death can be our biggest motivation while we’re here on Earth. If you fear death or think its morbid to discuss it, you’ve been fed the wrong information or read the wrong books. Because Death is not our enemy but our ally. Birth is the entrance to our temporary human existence, and death is the exit back to our “true self”. Really, the only thing negative about Death, is our attitude about it. Fearing or ignoring death can cause many of us to live only half a life.

If we place death behind us out of denial, we’re ignoring the fact that sooner or later it will catch up with us. We are falsely believing that we have all the time in the world to finish what we started, and follow through on all we dreamed of achieving. We may take for granted the true value of our relationships with friends and loved ones, as if they will always be around. People with this attitude usually are the most shocked when someone they know has left Earth or when “they themselves” have been told, they’ll be leaving the planet soon. They feel guilt for not giving more of themselves to others or regret for not finishing their goals to the best of their ability.

If we place death in front of us out of fear, we will often make decisions based on fear as well. We’ll avoid many experiences, that although are a bit scary, could bring us profound growth and success. When we avoid things out of fear, we miss a huge part of our Earth journey. Its like skipping elementary school and jumping into college without the education to handle it. People who avoid things solely on their fear of death miss out on a whole lot. They tend to relate pain with death, which is impossible. Because pain is a sensation of the human body, it lets you know you’re still alive and that there’s’ still time to do something about it. There is no pain in death.

Now, If we place death beside us, we use it as a reminder not to waste precious time. We understand that the time to act is now and not later. Because we realize later may never come. We realize the preciousness of our life and the lives of others, and we do not waste it. Death is our guide, our counselor and friend, reminding us that “NOW” is all there is. Death at our side reminds us that there is no tomorrow or yesterday. When we move forward with this conscious mindset, we leave fewer tasks unfinished. And, when its time to depart, we leave our life with greater feeling of accomplishment and contribution to humanity.
Don’t wait for the sudden, unexpected passing of somebody, or a tough illness to befall you to get with the NOW. Now is the time. Now has always been the time to cease the moment and live your dream and share it with others, …especially because, this moment could be your last.

Are Children Running The Household?

By Master Kathryn Kiffmann

For the past month I’ve witnessed very young children dictating to their parents. “I want this, I don’t want that, I want to stay, go or just plain no!!” Obviously, this is happening everywhere, as I saw a sitcom the other day touching on the subject. Are young children running the house? Are they qualified? If they cannot handle your finances, emergencies, grocery list and emotional challenges, then surely they should’ nt be the family advisor. Unconditional love sometimes means setting boundaries for our children that may not make parents popular, but are necessary for the childs’ growth. The problem arises when parents allow fear to interfere with their decisions. “I’m afraid they won’t love me, if I become firmer”.

A good way to look at this scenario perhaps is imagining you have a cute baby pitbull. So sweet and fuzzy, warm and cudly. He’s so cute, I just HATE saying no to him!! But, he must have guidance until he becomes full grown, so as not to wreak havoc in the neighborhood and eat everyone. So what happens when we don’t guide our child? If we don’t teach boundaries to our children, if we don’t teach them to respect our guidance, then we must accept responsibility for their future of “tough lessons” our child will attract. Because, what they don’t learn at home, Life will surely teach them later.

Never be afraid to guide your child toward better understanding and fairness. Is it fair to wait for your child at the playground, because they want to ride the swing 10 more minutes, when dinner must be prepared at home, or a sibling needs picked up from an activity?

Trust your decisions and actions as a parent. Demand firmly and plainly; albeit without anger, that your child abides in them.
Your child will not abandon a caring heart. If you are fair and handle all challenges in a sober fashion; without anger or violence, your child will NOT stop loving you for putting your foot down now and then, …well, not for long anyways. ?