Posts Tagged With: kids karate

The Stand In

Every parent can remember those moments when your child makes you so proud you could just burst (or burst into tears) at the thought of it; those times when you simply cannot even express your profound feeling of delight in an accomplishment or a deed.

I believe those moments are to be savored and reflected upon, revisited and reinforced, so that they can be emulated and hopefully repeated in further iterations throughout the child’s life.

I had one of those moments with Batman last week.

My son and I went alone to karate that night.  His sister had announced earlier that same evening that she did not want to continue with karate lessons.  She had been kicked rather hard in the ribs when sparring during the prior class, and left the floor near tears and wincing with pain.  She is a tough kid when it comes to riding horses but she does not enjoy being pummeled, and though she showed some talent for the sport it was clear that karate just wasn’t her thing.

Batman was enthusiastic about his sister’s departure from their shared class.  As I said, Annabelle had a natural talent for the sport, and in the strict ranking system that is employed in their group she was one rank ahead of her brother.  Her leaving gave Batman an automatic rise in stature.  He thought that was pretty cool.

I delivered the news about Annabelle’s departure to Sensei Ed (the instructor) when we got to class.  He was shocked to hear that she was leaving, but agreed that karate is not for everyone.  Then he looked at Batman.  “You are going to have to work extra hard now to make your family proud,” he said. I don’t think either he or I knew at the moment just how literally that phrase would apply to class that very night.

The class started as normal, with the lower-ranked white belts on one end of the mats, with the higher ranked yellow and the single purple belt in a line at the other.  One of the white belts was lined up with the higher ranks, performing all the moves of the kata with the more advanced students.

Once the groups had finished practicing their kata, the warm-up sparring began, with the sensei picking out two volunteers to go hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot on the mat.  After just a bit of warm-up an unusual thing happened.

Sensei pulled aside the highest ranked white belt, the same young man who had been performing kata with the upper ranks before, and gave him an unusual command:  he was to choose someone to fight for him.  This had not occurred in our class experience to date, so all of the parents and students watched curiously.  The boy seemed unsure of what was taking place too, and after glancing around a bit he turned and pointed at Zach, who as the next lower rank was standing right next to him in line.

The Sensei turned to Batman and asked “Do you agree to fight for H?”  Zach nodded, having no idea at this point what was going on.  “OK,” Sensei said.  “Let’s get started.”

He pulled out the lowest ranked white belt and she and Zach squared off on the mat at Sensei’s command, then sparred for about a minute, with the instructor watching the clock carefully.

Karate Spar 1 (2)

When he called “Stop”, Batman and the little girl bowed to each other and Zach started to sit down.  “No Zach,” called Sensei. “You stay in.” Zach shrugged and returned to the middle of the mat, where he was met by the next-ranked white belt.

This routine continued on.  And on.  After about the first three rounds we all got our first clue about what was going on.  The young man who had selected Zach as his stand-in was not sparring, but sitting watching the action intently.  When his attention wandered for a moment the Sensei immediately stopped the fight and squatted next to the young man.  “You watch what is going on out there.  Zach is out there fighting for YOU!”

The boy’s mother was sitting a couple of chairs away from me and she rose and walked to where I sat.  “I think that Zach is doing the sparring for H’s yellow belt test for him!” she said.  Ah, that made sense.  She had told me the previous week that H had been hit hard in a sparring match and his ear-drum had been perforated.  He wasn’t allowed to spar until it was fully healed.  Apparently Sensei had decided to go ahead with H’s test, using a stand-in to exhibit the sparring skill.

It seems to be the norm that a student does not know exactly when their belt rank test will be administered.  Although we’ve been in karate for only a few months we have seen two or three yellow belts awarded, and the student never seems to realize he or she is being tested until the sparring begins and they begin fighting up through the ranks.

When a student is tested for the higher ranking belt they are required to spar with every student in class that night, from the lowest to highest ranking, fighting continuously with only a couple of quick breaks for water.  It is a true test of the candidate’s stamina and strength, not to mention commitment to the practice.  It can be almost brutal to watch but it is a required rite of passage for the discipline.

Batman knew that he was not yet being considered for a yellow belt, so I was sure he had no idea why he was sparring with every student.  Nonetheless, he fought courageously through all the white belts.  Then he started on the yellow belts.

Karate Spar 5

Some of the higher ranked kids were not only much more experienced than my seven-year old, they were also years older and a lot bigger.  Batman was not intimidated at all.  He even got some great hits in on the bigger kids.

Karate Spar 6

After a candidate fights his way up through all the individual ranks, he must take on two competitors at once.  Before this round started, Sensei approached H and asked if he still wanted Zach to fight for him.  He said yes, so Sensei asked Zach if he was willing to continue fighting.  My son nodded solemnly.

Batman still had not figured out what was going on, but he fought gallantly against the two higher-ranked yellow belts.

Karate Spar 7

And then against two lower ranks.

Karate Spar 10

Next was the hardest test of all.  After fighting about a dozen rounds already, the candidate must do two rounds where they spar against three classmates at one time.  For this fight they get to choose their competitors, who are lined up in rank order on the floor.  Usually the student chooses others who are right around the same ranking as themselves for this portion of the test.

Batman stood for several seconds surveying his choices.

Karate Spar 13

When he made his choice, the other parents and I shook our heads in disbelief.  He called his competitors quickly, from left to right, starting with the highest ranked student in attendance that night, a purple belt who outranked him by a few years and many belt colors, and then the two highest-ranked yellow belts.

Sensei Ed gave a sharp laugh of incredulity.  “Are you sure you want to pick those three?!”  Batman nodded solemnly.  He had no idea why he was fighting, but he was going to make the most of it.

Before the match started Ed admonished the higher ranks to be judicious in their attack, and reminded them that Zach was but a lone white belt.

Karate Spar 14

It didn’t look like they pulled many punches to me.  Batman held his own, and once again got in a few good points on them.  Sensei kept yelling “Good!  Good job Zach!”

After that fight Batman had one match left.  This time he chose two white belts and one yellow belt.

He told me later he was getting a little tired by then.

When the last match was over, Ed lined the students up according to rank, with the  young H standing in front with him.  Then he did something we’d never seen before.  He asked Zach to come up and sit beside H.  After that he performed the ritual of awarding the classes’ newest yellow belt, with Zach sitting right beside him the entire time.

Karate Award Belt

Then Ed asked Zach to stand before his classmate, and instructed H to shake Zach’s hand and tell him thank you.  He then explained to the class and bystanders what some of us had already guessed: since H was qualified to test for the next rank but was unable to fight, Sensei exercised a very rarely used provision that allowed the candidate to choose a stand-in for the sparring portion of the test.

Finally Zach realized what he had been doing.

Karate Congrats Friend

The group got a break for some water, and Batman bounded over to me.  His head glistened with sweat and he looked exhausted.  But he was happy.

When class resumed a minute or two later there was time enough for a little more sparring.  Sensei Ed asked for volunteers.  I don’t know if he or I was more astounded when Batman waved his hand wildly in the air.

“Are you sure you want to go out there again Zach?  Aren’t you tired?” he laughed.

“Nope!” Batman asserted, so out he went.

Karate Spar 16 (2)

When class was over Sensei pulled Zach aside and talked to him privately for several minutes.  The only portion of the conversation I could hear was the teacher thanking him for fighting so hard for his classmate, and telling him what a great job he had done.

Finally Zach joined me and he was all smiles as we walked out into the chilly darkness.  “What did Sensei say?”  I asked him.

“He said he thought I was almost ready to be tested for my yellow belt!”  Batman beamed.  His hard work had obviously impressed his teacher.

I told him how proud I was of him, but I don’t think he really comprehended the absolute pleasure that I took in his performance.

It’s something only a parent can understand.

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Batman and the Gym Not-So-Dandy

When the recreation department flyer came home in the kids’ school backpacks a couple of weeks ago my progeny was all atwitter with the possibilities.  I told them they could sign up for one class each, as long as there was not a conflict in schedule.

It didn’t take them long to choose.  Batman, of course, chose karate, and I blogged about his first class last week.  Annabelle decided she wanted to do gymnastics, for the simple (and I thought perfectly acceptable) reason that she was intent to master the art of the cart-wheel.

When Annabelle wanted to add karate after watching part of Batman’s first class I was all for it.  As I mentioned in my post, I was impressed by the discipline and sheer physicality of the program, and I knew she was going to be bored sitting there twice a week just watching.

What I didn’t think all the way through was what would happen next.  Once we got in the car to drive home Batman announced that we was going to take gymnastics with his sister.  It was only fair, after all, since she gotten to add karate.  Mind you Batman had never seen a gymnastics performance of any kind and certainly had no idea what gymnastics entailed.  I mentioned to him that he would probably be the only boy in the class, to which he shrugged and said “So what?  I’m used to girls.”

OK then.  When I logged onto the rec department website to pay for Annabelle’s karate, I signed Batman up for one month of gymnastics at the same time.

Last night was the first class.  Annabelle hurriedly did her homework after school and I told the kids to change clothes.  Annabelle put on a tank top and her new yoga pants that I had purchased so she wouldn’t get so many mat burns during karate.  Batman dressed himself in a snappy ensemble comprised of a blue hand-me-down ninja turtle shirt and flannel pajama bottoms that ended about two inches above his ankles.  I told him he’d probably be more comfortable in shorts, but he dug his heels in and said he was already comfortable, so off we went.

As soon as we walked into the rec room, which coincidentally was the same room used for karate, I had a feeling there might be a problem.  Most of the kids were already there, and each and every one of them were girls.  There was an abundance of long blonde ponytails, and almost everyone was wearing a leotard.  Batman took one look at his classmates and shrank behind me, his dusty cowboy boots kicking me in the back of my legs and he shifted frantically to stay out of the teacher’s sight.

I walked forward and greeted the instructor and told her the kid’s names.  Annabelle kicked her flip-flops off and headed straight to the mat.  Batman clung to my waist like a drowning swimmer in a lake, and no matter how hard I tried I could not get him to come forward.

The instructor immediately recognized my plight, and I’m sure she was trying to be helpful when she said “If he would feel more comfortable you could change to the 6:15 class.  It has four boys in it.”  She obviously had mistaken my son’s competitive drive to not let his sister have the privilege of more class time than he for any spark of desire that he might have to actually do gymnastics.

After several minutes of whispered discussion and a few wrestling moves on my part, it was apparent that I was not going to get Batman out on that mat.  The little girls all performed a warm up sequence fairly similar to that in karate, and then they lined up to begin practicing maneuvers.

Backward

Batman climbed onto a chair in front of me and sat miserably, kicking his boots back and forth and plucking at this camouflage pajamas.

Baleful Batman

We watched as Annabelle learned move after move, a delighted smile on her face the entire time.  The girls laughed and played and danced around.  They were all really enjoying themselves.

Batman watched balefully, pulling me forward once to tell me that he had expected to be training on the tall balance beam on the other side of the room, not the tiny one that the coach had dragged out and placed on the karate mat.  He didn’t want to do baby gymnastics.

When class was over, the coach gave every girl a sucker.  I am quite certain that was the only moment of remorse that Batman had over the demise of his gymnastics career.

Now shes got it

When we got in the car to go home Annabelle announced that she LOVED gymnastics and hated karate.  I told her that she could stop karate if she wished; just as soon as this month’s lessons were complete.  As for Batman’s tuition, well, I guess I’ll just chalk it up to mommy malpractice.

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Karate Kids

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.

Backwards.

Falling Back

Frontwards.  Backwards again.

I was thinking that all of the experience she had falling off of Reno was coming in pretty handy.

Practice Falling

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.

Falling Down

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.

The First Match

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).

Karate Girls

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.

Go Batman (2)

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.

Looks Normal

You might even say they were naturals.

Looks Like Home

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.

Serious Action

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.”

Three on One

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.

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country, Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

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