#910: Karate Kid, Part I—Persevering Through the Pain

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.


#995: Kickin’ it

When I was 18, I was followed out of a Tim Horton’s by a strange man who looked like he wanted to do me no good. Frightened, I went back into the Tim’s and sat for a while until he left, and I was certain that he wasn’t just waiting around the corner for me. (Well, I couldn’t be certain of anything, but had to take a chance on it.) I always thought that one day, I would like to take a martial arts self-defense course, but circumstances of health prevented me from doing so. Well then, one day if I have children, especially a daughter, I will make sure that they have a chance to do so, I thought.

When our daughter was four, we enrolled her in a kids’ introductory tae-kwon do course. She was always a very timid child (and wouldn’t get her sense of self-c0nfidence and boldness until after the age of five). She was not keen on sports, especially ones that involved screaming and physical aggression. She cried on her first day. She tolerated her tae-kwon do class for the next two years, but we never felt that her heart was in it, and so we took her out for a break.

Our favourite female martial artist, Chloe Bruce

Fast-forward to an eight-year-old, confident girl. Now taking karate, she’s in a large class with about 60 other kids of various ages. The auditorium is huge, and their little cries echo throughout the building as they slash the air with their hands and feet. Watching from the track above, I’m amazed by the change in my Girl. Her movements are steady and assured. And then, I notice something that makes me smile.

She delivers a swift, solid kick, just as demonstrated by the teacher. It’s not just any kick—it’s a great kick. There’s no doubt or fear in her movement now. It might not be strong enough to fell a weirdo following her out of a Tim’s—yet. But I know that she’ll get there soon enough.

That day, she comes home and asks us if we’d like to see what she did in class. She proceeds to demonstrate her movements, all the while mumbling to herself in concentration. She’s being assertive and strong, and she’s enjoying it.

She’ll be all right in this world.