Will started "karate chopping" furniture, stuffed animals, and his sister years ago, but it wasn't until last summer that he inquired about taking karate lessons. I had absolutely no interest in becoming a karate mom - odd, considering how much I enjoy my own mixed martial arts/kickboxing/Muay Thai fitness classes - so when Will asked to take lessons I dodged his request. To be honest, I suspected that either 1) the instructors wouldn't teach the "cool" skills to children Will's age and as a result he'd grow bored quickly; or 2) the instructors would teach the "cool" skills but then Will would inappropriately use them at school or around the house. I mean, Hallie can hold her own against a physically unprepared and unarmed Will, but I'm not sure how she would do against a round-house-kicking and nunchucks-wielding Will...
When nearly six months passed and Will's enthusiasm for karate and interest in taking lessons hadn't diminished in the slightest, I gave in.
I signed Will up for a free trial class, and as much as I hate to write it...Will looked completely ridiculous that first day. He walked in - as I'm sure many little boys do - feeling like a karate rockstar, but quickly discovered that his personal brand of karate looked absolutely nothing like real deal. Over the span of 30 minutes, Will transitioned from confident to confused and overwhelmed, and I assumed that at the end of his first class he'd walk off the mat and declare himself finished.
Instead, Will couldn't wait to go back. So we signed up for the reduced-fee, month-long trial, and at the end of the trial, Will again couldn't wait to go back. So we signed up for six more months, and now here we are, five months in and still committed to twice-weekly karate lessons.
Interestingly, Will seems to have a knack for karate. Will typically learns new things - at least physical activities - slowly. It took him months, if not years, to become comfortable with swimming, soccer, bike riding, and catching a baseball, so you can imagine our surprise when after a handful of lessons Will looked like he'd been on the mat for much longer than a few weeks. In less than three months he graduated from a white belt to an orange belt, and I expect him to graduate from an orange belt to a yellow belt within the next month or so.
But throughout the last five months I've discovered that karate lessons aren't just about karate. Oh, they are to Will. He loves kicks and punches and knife-hand strikes, he lives for breaking boards (special plastic boards designed for developing these skills, but boards just the same), and he defends with his nunchucks like his life depends on it. But they aren't to me.
Though I had no idea going in, I quickly discovered that karate lessons at our gym (and for kids of Will's age) are as much about developing social skills and self-discipline, learning about and understanding responsibility and courtesy, setting goals, and above all, showing respect as they are about learning martial arts. And over the course of the five months Will has been enrolled, I have witnessed significant growth - growth that is noticeable on the karate mat, but also on the baseball field, in the classroom, and at home - in all of these areas.
Here's a glimpse into Will's world of karate, first by way of his white belt graduation, and then by way of his first tournament.
|Graduation warm up: punches |
(which they count in Japanese).
|Graduation warm-up: "Yes Sir!"|
|Graduation warm-up: tiger push-ups.|
|When you finish a tiger push-up you have to roar.|
|Graduation forms: knife-hand strike.|
|Graduation forms: step and punch.|
|Graduation forms: side kick.|
|Graduation one step: high block.|
|Graduation two step: step back, low block.|
|Graduation: waiting for his orange belt.|
|Graduation: receiving his orange belt.|
|Tournament forms: standing at attention.|
|Tournament forms: outer form block.|
|Tournament forms: knife-hand strike.|
|Tournament forms: back fist.|
|Tournament forms: receiving his evaluation.|
|Tournament weapons: beginning his nunchucks routine.|
|Tournament weapons: hip, hip, shoulder triangle strike.|
|Tournament weapons: right before he |
whacked himself in the face with his nunchucks.
|Will earned the trophy for competing in |
forms and the medal for competing in weapons.
|Proud of his "bling".|
I'll leave you with the Tiny Tiger (the youngest group of karate participants) pledge, which sums up both the foundation of Tiny Tigers karate and why I want Will to be involved.
What Does It Mean to be a Tiny Tiger?
"To be a good person; to have knowledge in the mind, honesty in the heart, and strength in the body; to make good friends; to have a black belt attitude; and to be a leader."
- All terminology for this blog post was provided by a six-year-old. My apologies if any of the terms are spelled incorrectly or are incorrect all together.
- I have purposely not shared the name of the gym where Will takes karate, but I would be happy to pass the name along and answer any additional questions you might have about karate lessons at our gym with you via email. Please don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.