I have a karate conundrum. Another one. Actually, two.
My children received their yellow belts today, but my son is still sad because he feels he didn’t deserve to pass. We chatted to his instructor – told him about Sensei grabbing his arm and shouting at him – and the instructor brushed us off.
I’m not really surprised. I would expect a club like that to protect its own. And having only witnessed the incident from halfway across a hall, I don’t have all the facts. Although there is a bruise on my son’s arm, that could be from anything! He’s five.
But there’s no doubt my son struggles to concentrate in karate lessons. He’s naturally curious, and there is a lot going on in a hall of 20-30 children, from red to black belt, all doing different moves (or even the same moves but at different speeds and in different styles). He gets distracted.
I wanted to drag him out of class today. His mind just wasn’t there and he kept making mistakes, and for the first time I could see the mistakes were upsetting him. But if ever there is someone who might benefit from the discipline of martial arts it’s him.
I could back off as a parent, stop watching the lessons and exams, let him make his own way and succeed and fail on his own merits. I know that’s what the instructor would like me to do. The instructor is lovely and he’s not very old, but martial arts are uber traditional, and I suspect the new touchy-feely parenting doesn’t always fit with that.
The alternative is that I start karate. There’s a beginner’s group starting next Saturday. I have this dilemma every few months.
I’ve wanted to do karate from the beginning, although the more I watch the lessons and exams and see what the adults especially have to do (and the ribbing they have to put up with) I’m far less keen.
Besides, Sensei terrifies me too.
And it costs an arm and a leg (the commercial nature of the club, the frequency and cost of the exams, is another sore point. The last four exams have all been practically identical.)
But the main reason is that my children don’t like me doing karate. I read on a martial arts blog that. “All children want to do is immitate their parents, to be just like them.”
Well, okay, when it comes to watching TV, playing Jurassic Park, or eating cake, they’re more than happy to follow my lead. Swearing? Check. Being messy and disorganised? Check. But karate? No.
I could persuade my son – he’s much more keen to spend time with me and be like me. My daughter, not so much. And I don’t want to get in her way, I love the independence she gets from karate, and from being able to do something I can’t.
I’ve tried to learn at home, but it’s hard. I can just about do all their current belt stuff, but not with great conviction, and I’m reaching the point where I can’t learn from watching the videos.
So once more I dither: help one child and alienate the other, or try and be a supportive parent on the sidelines and admit that I’m not cut out to be black-belt material anyway. I suspect the latter.
I managed twenty minutes of running today (with a walk break in the middle) and covered over 4.5km. It’s not the same as being able to kick an assailant in the head, but at least I might be able to run away… 😉