Parenting Skills: Understanding Upstairs and Downstairs Brain in Martial Arts | Gentle East Martial Arts
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I can’t explain just how amazing this place is! My daughter was born at just 23 weeks, 1lb. She just turned 3, and is doing well but had a long bumpy road. With said, she has some visual impairments, mild cerebral palsy, and severe anxiety issues. We are four classes in now, and although my daughter cries each time we get to the school, the instructors (every single one) ALWAYS treat her like their own and take their time with her. She comes out of class so happy and oh so proud of herself! They do not treat her differently because of her impairments, they are all patient and kind, and above all understanding. We are BEYOND pleased with GEMA, and the staff to include the wonderful families we have met. Thank you GEMA for creating a better world for my daughter!

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We love the instructors and family atmosphere! Thank you!

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I've tried a bunch of martial arts over the years, but it wasn't until I got to Gentle East that I realized that the art itself doesn't matter so much--it's the attitude of its practitioners. These people aren't learning and teaching how to kill, but how to live. How to live despite trauma and illness, and to keep practicing their art even if it's just in their hearts. The tenets are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit, and they mean every word. They teach the kids that other dojangs won't. Autistic, physically challenged, special needs, you name it. They're fully engaged with the messy business of life. A whole lot of families are glad that Master Barbara Robinson followed her vision. Ours is one.

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Love, love, love this place! The staff is incredibly kind and supportive, and the family atmosphere is palpable the moment you walk in the door! I am so impressed with the work being done with autism spectrum kids, as well as other kids with physical challenges. No one is made to feel like they don't belong here! I even joined the mommy class and my toddlers are allowed to run around us while we work out. I've lost a few pounds, and gained some amazing (non-judgemental) mom-friends! An oasis of kindness and support in the middle of what is often a 'keep up with the Jones's " area of town.

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Parenting Skills: Understanding Upstairs and Downstairs Brain in Martial Arts

Before we begin, I want you to remember a time one of the instructors walked a crying student off the mat. Remember the ice pack they placed on the students knee and had them count to 10? Do you remember how the student returned to class with a smile on their face?!

How about this! Have you ever been on the receiving end of a tantrum or roller coaster emotions with no idea of where it came from?

In my experience as a Martial Arts instructor I can say with certainty that the answer to this question is: Yes! Don’t worry, this is completely normal and more common than you might think (You’re not alone!). Even I have been on the end of a meltdown or two. The key to maintaining your composure and remaining drama free is understanding!

First, let’s talk about the brain!

We are going to focus on the two main areas involved when tantrums arise. These two areas are the Upstairs Brain and the Downstairs Brain. The book “The Whole Brain Child” does a great job describing this as a two story building! All the complicated processes happen upstairs, such as decision making, planning, etc. The Downstairs Brain is where emotions and impulses are managed.

For most children, the Downstairs Brain is fully developed. Unfortunately, the Upstairs Brain is still under construction. The tantrums arise when the Downstairs Brain takes over and emotions get out of hand. The key is knowing how to respond and open the door to the upstairs brain again.

Our instructors understand this concept and have some insight they can share! These are things that help us while on the mat and can help you as well at home!

Recognize their feelings!

Knock on the door to their Upstairs Brain by asking questions like: “Wow, you must be feeling pretty upset, right?” Questions like these will begin to reconnect to the Upstairs brain. This will allow them to begin the process of understanding where they are and how to get back to a calm state.

Redirect!

As a result of the wild emotions, children experience a cortisol (stress chemical) dump. To combat this, lots of high-fives, hugs and pats on the back help to trigger the release of Oxytocin. This will help balance the chemicals in the brain and make it easier to reconnect the Upstairs Brain.

Get them moving!

We also try to get our students moving again as soon as possible! This helps trigger the release of Endorphins which help cancel out the effects of Cortisol.

Now back to the icepack story. Our instructor was prepared and understood how the Upstairs and Downstairs brain interact! He sat the student down, gave them an ice pack and asked about their feelings. They were then able to engage the Upstairs Brain by counting to 10 and agreed to return to class.

Our goal is to help every ninja become the best they can be. Understanding these key ideas is only the beginning.

To learn more about our revolutionary kids martial arts programs,