Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Karate Kid

For Boo's 8th birthday, we decided to try her in a new extracurricular activity. Some girls learn graceful movement through dance; others pursue gymnastics. We have tried bits of both over the years, with zero success. We tried swimming to teach her a bit about discipline and being coached; also with less success than the effort of getting her there cost.

She recently mentioned karate, and it turns out there is a studio literally within sight of our house (although actually getting to it requires driving half a mile in the opposite direction and then around a 2 mile square). So we are trying it out. They allowed us to buy in for a month, then we decide in either six month chunks or a full three year commitment (approximately the amount of time it takes to earn a black belt).

I have to be honest, this family is commitment shy. We have lived in four states, at thirteen addresses in the last dozen years. Our personality profile (both of us) declares us "resistant to repeating experiences." And we have passed that on to our kids, who have a hard time enjoying the same activity two weeks in a row. Not proud of that, I'm just stating the situation.

Three weeks in, we are both floored at what we are seeing.

The instructors are a married couple; Mrs P started martial arts at the age of 12, Mr P joined her seven years ago. When they first started the studio, she was a kindergarten teacher. Now she lives martial arts full time, participating in competitions as a judge, competitor, and coach. Their manner in working with the students brings out all the best in them; challenging them to improve, yet encouraging them right where they are. The more I see, the more I really like this pair as instructors.

The discipline of martial arts is primarily to teach self defense. Our goal is for her to learn to control her arms and legs, and learn to take instruction from a coach. But as an added bonus, Boo is being taught focus, respect, integrity, and strength of character.

One small example of the bonus material: To indicate they have heard an instruction, students are to respond with, "Yes Ma'am." If they don't, they have to go back and start over. I need to try that at home!

My favorite thing so far happened at Monday's lesson. They had to practice the "Tiny Tiger" drill (Tiny Tigers are the 4-6 year old class). They were to stand perfectly still for two whole minutes.

Ahh, I love my Boo Bear, but she is a ball of fidgets. In previous sessions, she has had a hard time standing at attention. She sits, twists, shifts from foot to foot. She leaves the mat. She walks around behind the punching bags. Anything but stand still and respectfully listen to the coach. To be fair, she is both the newest student by two color belts (at least four months), and the youngest student in the room by at least two years.

I have watched her fidget through the last three weeks, not in despair over her undisciplined ways, but with the perspective that this is a beginning. She will improve over time, and has lots of room to show improvement after a start like she has right now.

And then came tonight, the end of the lesson: the Tiny Tiger drill. The class stood straight, feet apart, arms hanging at their sides. Including Boo. She stood still for two whole minutes. Honestly, I didn't know she could do that! I'm going to have to hold her to it more in the future!

In my opinion, our test month is already a success beyond my expectations, beyond even my hopes. It seems to be working as far as our family routine; Boo loves going; and I can already see both progress and the promise of personal development as she sticks with it.

It is time to get over being commitment shy. Black belt, here comes a Boo Bear.

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