Character Chats

Recognizing Emotions

Recognizing emotions.

Here at True Balance Karate, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio and I have two master’s degrees in education. I’ve taught anything from kindergarten to eighth grade. And we’ve developed this curriculum to meet the needs of our youngest students who are three or four, and our oldest student who is 85.

And this month, we’re talking about composure, staying calm and in control of our emotions. And last week, we were defining what composure was, describing what it looked like, that kind of thing.

What emotions look like

This week we’re talking about recognizing those emotions. And it’s not just recognizing it in each other, it’s also recognizing it in ourselves.

And for our younger kids, they can have an easier time recognizing it in other people. You ask them to show a happy face, you ask them to show a sad face, you ask them what the person looks like if they’re excited, that kind of thing.

So they have an idea of what it looks like when they see it on somebody else’s face. In fact, I remember sitting with a student who was sharing something with me, but he was very, very nervous and anxious to do that. And I asked him to look at my face and tell me whether or not he thought I was mad at him. He goes, “No, you’re not mad.” I’m like, “That’s right, because we’re having a conversation.”

So, a lot of the young kids can recognize it easier in what they’re seeing from their friends, their family, on people’s faces, in their body language. They get that idea.

What emotions feel like

For them, it’s teaching them what does it feel like on the inside. So if you’re feeling angry, do you clench your fists? If you’re feeling angry, do you hunch your shoulders? If you’re feeling angry, do you suddenly feel super warm?

It’s giving them those types of clues so that they can then take that action to keep their composure. And helping them recognize that and see that is part of their growth in their development. It happens over time, over experience, as they mature. But it also happens because we’re explicitly asking them these questions, “Hey, we lost our cool a little bit ago. How did you feel right before that happened? Can you remember that? Can you share that with me?” So that they can start to connect the dots if you will. As adults, we’ve experienced a multitude of emotions and feelings and situations and experiences that we understand how we’re feeling at the time.

Digging deeper

And I was talking with somebody and a lot of the times we use the word angry, but angry is the upper level of the word. Angry can fall under frustration or nervousness or being upset or sad or having some confusion or feeling out of the loop or uncomfortable. So, we use that word as a blanket for all the other things that are layered underneath.

So as adults, if we can take a moment and really try to define what it is that we’re feeling, what it is that is going on in our heads and with our bodies, we have a better understanding of what we’re actually feeling. So I’ve tried very often to make sure that I’m picking the right emotional word to describe what I’m feeling because then communication can take place and people are able to help you with different situations if they know exactly what is going on.

And that’s what recognizing our emotions comes from. We can recognize what it feels like for ourselves. We can recognize how somebody else is feeling. And to an extent, we can have some empathy, some sympathy. We understand because we have that common understanding between each other and then we can help each other through it. And that’s really how we can keep our composure. We’ve got a whole bunch of other strategies that we’ll talk about next week, but if we’re actually truly recognizing our emotions and naming them for what they are, it goes a long way to help us stay calm and in control along the way.

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. True Balance Karate is at 406 Ogden Ave Downers Grove Illinois, 60515 (next to CVS) Check out our Facebook!