Through The Looking Glass


When I’m teaching kids, my active focus is on teaching them how to learn self-control through the art of self-protection. My passive focus is on providing an opportunity for parents to see how their kids interact and learn in a group environment while watching through a one-way mirror. It is not often that parents get to observe their children from behind the scenes.

Although the children might know you are in the other room, they quickly become engrossed in their new environment: a long wall of mirrors in front of them and a padded floor beneath their bare feet, which is great for coordinated, agile bodies as well as clumsy and inefficient ones. Now that their awareness is on me and/or their training partner, it’s showtime for the parents.

Comedy, tragedy, perseverance, joy and sometimes all the aforementioned rolled into one can be seen in any moment. However, for possibly the first time, a parent gets to see how their child behaves when they believe their parent might not be there. Most of the time it’s a pleasant surprise.

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A child that normally doesn’t talk becomes animated. A child that normally can’t sit still is filled with focus in a static posture. A child that typically cries in the face of something new, difficult and frustrating becomes a child full of grim determination. There is no giving up in my dojo. Where there is will between a student and I, there is a way.

Best of all, parents get to see what their child will do in the face of an uncertain outcome while they try to problem solve real life issues in real time. Can you watch your son struggle through a math test at school? Can you stand in the middle of your daughter’s soccer field and see how she navigates a soccer ball through a couple of defenders?

Even from the sidelines, it is often hard to see what they may or may not be thinking or feeling, but ten feet away, through the looking glass, you can see the wheels turning. You can see the fire of creative determination burning.

Eventually, you begin to see the results of greater self-control and confidence in your children: a straightening of their posture and strengthening of their limbs. They become more aware of themselves and their surroundings, more disciplined about their behavior and how they spend their time with the people around them. They become more organized and intelligent in using their body and mind to solve real world problems. Eventually, you’ll never need to look through that looking glass again, because they will have achieved the autonomy you’ve always wanted for them.


Packing Light: "Light extinguishes dark and knowledge extinguishes fear."

This column shares the writing of Darren DeMarco, owner and teacher of karate and self defense at White Tiger Dojo.

About the Author: Darren DeMarco's life work has been teaching karate and self defense. He opened White Tiger Dojo in Berkeley Heights, teaching a traditional style of Okinawan Karate called Isshin Kempo. Today, they use these same martial principles to teach people how to defend themselves in the modern world.

White Tiger Dojo located at 99 Industrial Road, Berkeley Heights, NJ. Contact (908)665-8983 or email

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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