Middle school is a great time for trying new things, seeing what the world has to offer, and growing in new directions. Our weekly Talent Period at Mott Hall III is dedicated school time for opening doors to new experiences for our students — experiences they might never find anywhere else. For my Talent Period, I offer students the chance to try out traditional Chinese Kungfu and Taichi.

Students are excited to try these physical disciplines, because we are all inspired by movies and television. Heroes like Bruce Lee and Naruto make us want to learn the art that these characters amaze us with on-screen. This is exactly what first brought me to martial arts – I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Jackie Chan.

Beginning training in martial arts is exciting, too. There is a structured environment of skills to practice and new things to try. We get to get up out of our desks and stretch, punch, and kick. In our Talent Period, we learn some of the basic Chinese vocabulary of martial arts – the names of stances, directions for how to line up, counting, and other skills. It is exciting to be able to release some energy and sweat a little.

Martial arts is hard work, too. Often in the first few classes, students tell me their legs are shaking from the effort of holding low-to-the-ground postures. And while we like to give exposure to many different parts of the art, it is only through repetition of basic skills that we grow. That repetition requires patience and focus, which are valuable skills in themselves.

Chinese Kungfu, in particular, reflects a concept that what Western medicine understands better and better each day: the body is more than just a vehicle for the brain. It shapes and forms our mental and emotional state. The last and most important part of our Talent Period consists of ten minutes of quiet, calming practice. These are slow Taichi movements and breathing exercises that help clear the mind and prepare it to go back learning.

Talent Period offers our students all different kinds of experiences. It is an outlet for creativity, a chance to discover new talents, and an opportunity to grow beyond academics. Kungfu and Taichi add discipline, inner calm, and physical exercise to the mix.