Our family embarked on a whole new adventure this week: Batman and Annabelle have started karate. It seems like a natural extension of their ongoing desire to bludgeon each other with their hands, a dog toy, a stick, or perhaps a Barbie doll artfully swung by the hair, on a daily basis, only now I’m hoping they will gain a little restraint and finesse from their formal training.
Originally, only Batman was signed up for the class, but the whole family was in attendance for the first assembly, which was held at the YMCA just a mile from our home. It’s not that we’re the type of family who has to do everything together; quite the contrary actually, with Annabelle and I going one direction to a horse show many weekends while Batman and Daddy head out to fly the plane or play golf at a local course.
For this occasion, though, we were all in attendance, mainly because Batman refused to go without me, Desperate Hubby really wanted to be there to watch, and Annabelle couldn’t stay home alone, much less would she consent to missing a chance to see her little brother get pummeled by someone other than herself for a change.
We arrived a few minutes early for the practice to find most of the class already warming up. The gi clad group was busy running lines, hopping like frogs and doing push ups. Batman was the only one in street clothes, since the nice lady at the recreation department had recommended waiting for a month or two to make sure he liked the training before investing in the outfit.
My son joined the group shyly, but within a few minutes was hopping along just like all the other kids. I could tell Annabelle was very interested in the process, and shortly after our arrival she pulled me close to her face to whisper “Could I do this too, mom?”
That sounded like a perfect idea. The rigorous exercise and strict discipline that I had witnessed in only the first ten minutes of class had already won me over. Like I always say, a tired dog and a tired kid are the best in breed.
I walked over to the instructor and asked him politely if Annabelle could join in, promising I would stop by the city rec office the next day and pay her fee. He generously welcomed her to the class, and we were officially a two-karate family.
First off, the kids had to learn how to fall. While the other class participants practiced higher level skills as a group, Batman and Annabelle were taken to the far side of the mat along with a few of the more advanced kids and an assistant instructor.
Annabelle squealed with glee and she fell down over and over again.
Frontwards. Backwards again.
I was thinking that all of the experience she had falling off of Reno was coming in pretty handy.
Batman had to practice falling correctly, too. He picked it up a little quicker than his sister, probably since she has been pushing him to the ground since he was old enough to talk back to her and steal her toys.
After they had mastered the falling technique, they went with the other kids to get suited up for some sparring.
The instructors painstakingly explained where the “hit zone” was on the opponent. Which was a good thing, because my two little angels sure don’t observe such niceties when they are hitting each other at home.
Annabelle approached her opponent cautiously at first, probably because it felt weird to be hitting someone who wasn’t her own flesh and blood, but eventually she got into the whole swing of things (har har).
And then it was Batman’s turn. In contrast to his sister, he didn’t waste any time going after his opponent, with more enthusiasm than style at first.
After all the kids had sparred a couple of times they got a little breather to get a drink and remove their gloves.
When the line at the drinking fountain had dwindled, the class got into formation to practice a new technique. I didn’t catch what this technique was called, but it basically entailed pushing your opponent to the ground (no hitting was allowed in this encounter) and trying to pin him, sort of like in wrestling.
I immediately dubbed this exercise “My Living Room.”
Ah, my kids were right at home with this one.
You might even say they were naturals.
Once they were done wrestling each other around they each got a chance to practice on a new opponent. Batman drew up his best friend from kindergarten. But that didn’t slow him down.
Annabelle was slightly more restrained. She told me later “Mom, I was afraid I was going to HURT her.” She is used to Batman’s screaming and faked injures to try to get her in trouble, I guess.
After she “My Living Room”ed one of the other girls, she got to participate in an exercise that involved three kids taking on one kid, with the goal of pinning the single opponent.
It reminded me quite a bit of the pig mud wrestling the kids did at the fair this year.
I immediately dubbed that exercise “Play Date.”
After everyone participated in “Play Date” there was a short ceremony awarding one of the boys in class his yellow belt, which he earned in a test that went on simultaneously to the other kids’ practicing. It was pretty cool.
After the awards ceremony the kids all had to participate in a hand-shaking line, going from highest skill level to lowest skill level, with each child required to shake the hand of each and every other in the class. I’m not proud to say it, but this exercise was halted briefly near the end because my lovely daughter passed right by her brother and refused to honor him by shaking his hand. Go figure.
When we got back home the kids went right outside to “practice.” The beauty of this was that although they didn’t treat each other with any more restraint and respect than they ever did, and threw each other on the ground mercilessly (just like usual) for about an hour, there was no crying and not even a little tattling.
You see, now they’re not fighting – they’re doing karate.