Leadership Lessons Of The Kung Fu Panda

“You just have to believe” – Master Oogway

Have you seen the summer blockbuster hit “Kung Fu Panda” yet? If not, you must get out there and go see it! Here’s why:

First of all, the ATA is helping to promote this movie. With its positive values, this movie is a perfect way for people to see the benefits of martial arts. Also, if you caught the latest issue of ATA World Magazine, you probably read about the ATA’s efforts to promote the film. Around the country, ATA schools are doing demos outside theaters, handing out passes, creating custom posters and growing the ATA using the incredible spotlight the Kung Fu Panda has put on the martial arts world. Yes, it’s…Sheer Panda-monium!

But – don’t be fooled. This is NOT justa light-hearted cartoon for kids. Not at all.

Look beneath the surface of this film and you’ll quickly realize it conveys many important leadership lessons – lessons that we as martial artists should pay close attention to.

Remember: it’s often said here in the ATA that martial arts is simply a vehicle for building leaders, teaching life skills and character development. And through his journey in the martial arts, our hero,Po (the Kung Fu Panda) develops some pretty serious leadership skills, too!

Which ones? Well, read on and see!

The Five Leadership Lessons of the Kung Fu Panda:

Lesson #1: Strive for Greatness!

Po dreams of being a real Kung Fu expert some day. He works in the family business (a noodle restaurant) – where his father teaches him the trade. But Po’s frustrated. He longs for a more exciting life – a life in the martial arts. Passing by a poster one day, he discovers that a new member of the Furious Five (group of martial arts experts) is about to be selected: the “Dragon Warrior”.Eager to see who it is, he heads to the event. Problem is, he arrives late and can’t get in. But that didn’t stop him, no sir! Po tries every way he can to crash the event (literally) and finally makes it in. When he does, his life – and the lives of those around him – are about to change forever.

Lesson of the Panda: Po didn’t accept the life that was handed to him. He wasn’t satisfied with mediocre, average or ordinary. Instead, he followed his bliss and harnessed his passion to achieve new goals. He didn’t allow tradition or negative opinions stop him from achieving his destiny.Po heard the call and took action to change the direction of his life.

Lesson #2: Everybody Has Hidden Potential

Po isn’t your typical hero. Lazy, overweight and lacking in skills, he chomps food every chance he gets. When the Furious Five learn Po has been tapped to be the next Dragon Warrior, they don’t believe it. They treat Po badly. How could a fat,lazy panda (of all things!) be the secret warrior foretold by the ancient texts? Well, soon enough, they discover why you can’t judge a book by its cover! Po shocks everybody with his perseverance, dedication and belief in himself. Lesson of the Panda: Everybody has hidden potential. Every one of us has greatness deep within, waiting to burst forth. That’s one of the reasons you must treat all people with respect and courtesy. You never know who they are destined to become!

Lesson #3: “Warriors Never Quit”

Po’s journey wasn’t easy. His lack of experience (and huge girth) made it difficult for him to perform some of the moves. At times, even Shifu (Po’s instructor) doubted his abilities. Discouraged, Po wanted to quit. But every time he tried, he was told, “a true warrior never quits”. So he changed his attitude and rose to the challenge. He got up early, started his exercises before anybody else and showed incredible discipline. Through his rigorous training, Po challenged himself and pushed out of his “comfort zone”.

Lesson of the Panda: Along your path to greatness, you will encounter tough times and challenges. Don’t let these deter you or stop you from reaching your goals. Stay focused! Remember Po and don’t let anything stop you! This means working hard, practicing any time you can, having discipline and resolve.

Lesson #4: Unleash the Master Within!

When it came time for Po to battle the evil Tai-Lung (and protect the entire town from his diabolical plans), he didn’t chicken out. Instead, Po faced his fears and demonstrated real courage (the definition of courage is “being scared and doing it anyway”). So when he finally confronted the evil Tai- Lung, Po suddenly realized he had natural gifts and abilities that had remained dormant for years! He discovered that – YES! – he could do it. He had the power!

Lesson of the Panda: Po was willing to do what others couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do. That’s one of the hallmarks of a true leader: Stepping up, taking on a difficult task and growing as a result. Po set a positive example for others.

Lesson #5: What is YOUR Secret Ingredient?

This is the most important lesson of all. You see, many of us are searching for that “one thing” or “secret ingredient” that will unleash the best within us. We think if we could only discover what this secret ingredient is, it would make things “easy”. Then – and only then – we’d REALLY show the world how great we are!

Well, just in case you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’m not going to give the ending away. Nope. I’m not going to tell you what the secret ingredient is. Just know this: each one of us must find the power within us – and tap our own source of energy and inspiration – to do really great things!

This is especially true the higher you move up through the ranks. The more you advance, the more you have to rely on your own inner guidance and motivation.

Lesson of the Panda: Don’t look for a “magic ingredient” or other outside influence to make things easy. There are no shortcuts. You must look inside: greatness is within. You just have to dig deep, tap your own talents, do your best, work hard and believe in yourself. It’s up to you.

So let me ask you: What is YOUR secret ingredient? What are YOU bringing to your training this month? What are YOU going to do with the gifts and talents YOU have? It’s your choice: What goals do YOU want to achieve this month?

Special thanks to Paramount Pictures for their support and for supplying the photos of the Kung Fu Panda for this article!

Graf’s ATA Martial Arts Academy


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