Last night my husband and I took advantage of the phenomenon known as “visiting grandparent” and went to see the new Jackie Chan “Karate Kid”. My beloved spouse was possibly less than enthused and set a minimum threshold for Rotten Tomatoes approval levels, which it just barely cleared. So off we went!
It was a tough story to watch from a parent’s point of view – to see a kid struggling and hurting and unwilling to ask from help from his mother. You hope you’ll never be as powerless to stop your child’s pain, but chances are excellent that you will — even if it isn’t Kung-fu master bullies. Anyway. It was not nearly as good as “Drunken Master”, is all I have to say.
It was less than 12 hours from Karate Kid to Aikido Kid. Grey has been doing Aikido, a defensive martial art since fall — before he turned 4. I’ve really enjoyed what it teaches him. You learn mostly by observation — there isn’t a lot of “talk” in the class. But the Sensei, Michael Baron brings an excellent mix of fun, humor and intimidation to the mat. The kids are expected to sit still and pay attention. They’re expected to run, jump and roll. They adore the “flaming sword of death”. They’re expected to follow rules and instructions. They’re getting VERY good at “Sensei Says”. And sometimes? Sensei cheats. That’s actually one of my favorite lessons…. that life isn’t always fair. What do you do when someone else has advantages you don’t? What do you do if everything has been carefully orchestrated to be perfectly fair your whole life, and then you get in a situation where it’s not?
Anyway, Grey had logged enough hours to test for his first belt, the yellow stripe. (Note: in grownup aikido you don’t get colored belts. There are two colors: white and black. You earn black when you’ve worked long enough that your previously white belt has finally turned black with age and sweat and dirt. But for the kids they bow to societal pressure.) But suddenly, after several months of enjoying it, he started not wanting to go. We explained he needed to practice hard for his test? He balked. I asked more questions, trying to figure out why he didn’t want to go. Finally he said, “I wish there less love about Aikido”. After waffling for a little while, we suddenly remembered he’s FOUR YEARS OLD and doesn’t need any pressure. So we told him he didn’t have to test and he could just go watch his friends take their tests.
There they were: four tiny figures on the mat. They warmed up and did some of their practices. Then Sensei asked who was ready to test, and Grey raised his hand. And test he did. He did shiko and rolls. He counted to five in Japanese. He knew tsuki, shomenuchi, kaiten, tenshin, tenkan, and several other techniques. (Note: I don’t pretend to know how to spell these terms.) He bowed appropriately. And he did very well!
When he got off the mat, he was a yellow stripe. I asked him how he felt. “I feel proud of myself.” Being proud of yourself is the greatest accomplishment you can earn, son. I’m proud of you too.