Martial arts instructors must know best when they decide that children are ready for classes at the age of four or five, but not younger. I know that most 5-year-olds and some 4-year-olds are ready, because I see plenty of kids who don’t seem to have problems. However, both of my kids had hiccups on their opening day of classes . . .
When the Girl was four, we enrolled her in tae kwon do classes. On her first day, she cried. Big, silent tears rolled down her cheeks as she looked over from time to time to her parents viewing from behind the glass. It broke my heart to see that. Yet, she never once made a gesture or outright request to leave the class. She stayed in line and did what was told that day, through her tears. The tears continued for about the next three or four classes (and only subsided once another little girl came over and took her hand). Still, we didn’t hear her complain.
When she finally did speak up many classes later, we understood the extent of her sufferings. We understood that it must have been hard for her to be in a “school” setting with a teacher for the first time in her life (it was like the first day of school for her, except with added jumping jacks and push-ups). Not only that, but she was doing physical activities that were foreign to her, and not just foreign, but difficult. She explained, “The teachers told us to run for so many minutes, and my chest was hurting. And when we slowed down, they shouted, ‘Faster!’ That’s one of the reasons I was crying.” When I asked her why she didn’t just stop running if it hurt her, she replied, “Because the teachers said to do it, so I wanted to listen.”
Until that day, I never realised how strong my daughter was, or how respectful of authority she was. While I was proud of the former quality, a part of me did wish that she would relinquish a bit of the latter. Nonetheless, being in a martial arts class taught my daughter a lot, and taught me a lot about my daughter.