Well, they passed.
Despite my daughter’s tears starting before we left home, and increasing to sobs of ‘I’m NOT doing it’ as we stood outside the exam room, she did her exam and passed easily.
Not so easily for my son. He passed too, but I suspect only because Sensei was being kind. Actually, kind is the wrong word. Apparently he ‘yelled’ at my son for getting his kata turns all wrong (which he did, and totally deserved being told off, because he refused to practice).
Unfortunately, my daughter came out even more terrified of Sensei and even more determined not to take another karate exam ever. I suspect she’ll calm down, but it didn’t help that I’d portrayed him as a nice bloke for two weeks to calm her fears.
Anyhoo. They passed. And now it’s decision time.
I watched the next belt exams today, and I think they’ll get through those fine too, with some practice. But I’m not exactly sure why they should.
The more I think about it, the more I think it must be hard for karate to be a passion at this age. It’s a bit like learning times tables and spelling all the time.
Because the exams are every four months, a large chunk of their lesson time is spent on revising for exams. And even up to the higher belts, it’s all a matter of remembering punch combinations and kata routines.
There’s no particular skill.
Now I’m probably going to be shot down in flames for that statement. Let me quickly clarify that I wanted to do karate with the kids (they wouldn’t let me – too embarrassed) and I’d still love to do it. There’s a thrill in feeling the muscles perform a perfect punch or getting my leg up into a kick. But I saw quickly that I wouldn’t have the memory for it.
Too much of school is about remembering stuff, rather than learning, enjoying, being excited. Growing, stretching, expanding. And karate feels a bit like that.
If I can just wander off at a tangent…
I was following the kids across the park the other day after school, carrying all their bags, listening to them squabble, wondering what it was all about. You know, life.
There’s a huge beech tree in the park. It’s gorgeous, with it’s red/black leaves and majestic sweeping branches. I looked at it and wondered where I was going wrong. Why couldn’t I be a tree. Just be.
And then I had a mini-epiphany. A tree doesn’t just exist. It grows. It strives. Its sole aim in life is to get stronger, taller, better, and to pass that on to its offspring.
That’s the point. The point in life is to grow. If something isn’t making us grow – as a person, as a family member, physically or emotionally, then we probably shouldn’t be doing it.
I watched my children playing this afternoon. My son sparring with the mini boxing gloves I bought him. My daughter cartwheeling along the wooden ‘beam’ we made her, over and over and over again until she landed one on the wood. They were growing. Their skills improving. And the joy in their achievements was palpable.
I think my daughter’s right. I think she’ll grow more as a person doing gymnastics and dance; grow more confidence in herself and her body doing the thing she loves, than she will at karate.
My son still has a lot to gain from martial arts. The discipline, the listening, the learning to control his muscles and his temper. But is karate the right one for him? I’m not sure. I wish there was a Kendo class nearby. He gets his passion from football. Perhaps what he still has to learn from karate is humility. He didn’t think he’d fail today, and didn’t seem all that bothered when he nearly did. Sometimes I admire his self-belief, and sometimes I can see it landing him in hot water.
And me? I still have a lot to learn about this parenting and being an adult lark. Never mind growing, I’m still trying to grow up.