Character Chats

How Some Reactions Can Feel Different

How can our words and actions feel different than those around us?

Here at True Balance Karate, we have a social-emotional learning program called True Character. And this month, we’re talking about empathy.

I am Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. I have two master’s degrees in education, and I’ve taught in the classroom for 15 years. That means that we have brought this learning program to best meet the needs for our youngest students who are 3 and our oldest students who are 84.

This month, we’ve been talking about empathy, I understand how someone else feels.

Individual reactions

As I was contemplating this particular question, how our feelings can be different, even in the same situation, I was reminded of a classroom moment. It just really highlights the idea of what this is.

One day, I was teaching, I taught in a first, second, and third grade special education classroom, and there was a spider crawling across the floor. Teachers do not, and parents for that matter, we don’t outwardly flip out over some things like that.

We know and understand as teachers and parents that if we go, “Wah!” The kids will go, “Wah!” as well. So there’s a spider calling across the classroom and inside I’m cringing, but on the outside, I’m just going to take care of the spider without making a big deal.

Well, one of the students sees the spider and he is absolutely petrified of the spider. He’s climbing up on his desk. He’s shrieking that I needed to kill the spider and he’s absolutely panicking.

So I lean over to him and I go, “I have it. It’s okay.” And as I go to step on the spider, one of my other students comes running in from the other side of the room, grabs my arm and yells, “You can’t kill it. It’s God’s creature.”

So there is one student absolutely petrified of the spider and another advocating for it to live long in the wild, free from all harm.

That alone tells you that you can have the same situation and have two entirely different sets of feelings for it.

So as I’m sure all of you are wondering what did I do. I took a cup, I put the cup on top of the spider, I put a piece of paper underneath the cup, I picked it up, cringing the whole way, and I went right outside and released it into a bush so that it was no longer in the room for the scared child and it was meeting the needs of the one that needed it saved out in the wild.

Understanding each other’s feelings

However, we had a conversation then about empathy, about, can you understand where someone would be scared of spiders? Can you understand where someone would want the spider to live in the wild and kill all the bugs because he sees that it is a good type of a creature?

And as we’re talking about empathy, I have no greater story than this particular one. One child pulling on one arm this way and the other pulling on the arm in the other direction.

And so for our students here at the studio, they’ll often talk about different things. “Oh, well, that really, really bothered me.” And somebody else would be like, “But how could that bother you? That was easy for me.”

And then we’ll talk about, maybe the Jump 360 Roundhouse Kick was hard for some people, but it was not hard for you, but what was difficult? What did you find difficult to learn? And then they’ll name off a crescent kick or something else.

And then they’ll understand how that one might have been difficult for themselves.

How can we share with each other?

At the same time though, I’ll ask them, what made that easier for you? Can you share tips? Can you share ideas? Can you share thoughts that helped you overcome this particular kick?

And then the conversations happen between the two students, and then they realize that they have some common ground.

Because while one might be frustrated by one thing, the other can help. And the other might be frustrated by something else and can understand where the frustration comes from.

nd so we really utilize the different physical skills here in the studio to help teach how someone else is feeling, how even in the same situation, in the same room, we can have two entirely different feelings, but we can still understand where those feelings are coming from.

And I find it very, very helpful, especially with the adults, because they can then take that next critical thinking skill into work, into home, into family life, into other aspects of their world.

They can take that same thought process and apply it somewhere else, and it’s a very, very beneficial thing.

So as we’re talking about empathy, we’re talking about how does someone else feel and making sure that we understand it, making sure that we can help people work through it, and making sure that we all work together as a team here at the studio.

Thanks and I’ll see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here