My husband opened his dojo in 1995. I can recall the first two students like it was yesterday. Two neighborhood boys walked the two block up the street to the karate school. We had one mirror, an unfinished ceiling and ugly red flowered carpet left over from the building's bar days. The outside of the building needed new siding and a ramp needed to be installed. You can check out the before and after pictures of the dojo.
It has been 15 years since the first student walked through the door. There have been many kids that took karate lessons over the years. Some kids train for a few months and others for a few years. A few will earn a black belt while other will only last until 9th kyu. We had good times but we also experienced tragedy and loss.
Lately, I have bumping into a few of the kids who took karate with us. I have seen former students at the grocery store, in a mall, on Facebook, at a birthday party, at a indoor football game and even at a community theatre production. Some people I recognize instantly because it has only be a few years since I last saw them. There are some students that I have not seen for over 8 years. Since many years have gone by, I sometimes do not recognize them because they have changed so much.
Children have more opportunities now then when I was a kid. When I was young, sports teams started around 6th grade. Cartoons were only on TV on a Saturday morning. I loved visiting my cousins because they had Pong. There were no soccer clubs and we did not ask to learn karate, dance or gymnastics.
Take for example my daughter. I enrolled her in Gymboree when she was 18 months. It was a Mom and Me class. It was designed to help with socialization skills. What I didn't know was that it was more of a Mom clique. I only lasted one session because I hated it. My daughter took dance lessons for a year, started soccer at 5 years old, choir, Girl Scouts, K4J, saxophone for a year, bible school, two seasons of basketball and community theatre for 5 years. A few weeks ago, she asked if she could give up the saxophone to learn the electic guitar. We went shopping around for lessons and equipment. We walked in a music store and she announced "I want an Amp!". We are still in the inquiry stage on the electric guitar.
A lot of kids with pass through the doors of a karate school. Some will stick with it while others will move on to other activities. As instructors, when we teach a class of kids, we do not know how long they will be in the dojo. It is my hope that their time in the dojo makes an impact no matter how long they train. Perhaps the wrist grabs they learned the first few months of class will be a useful tool one day. Maybe they will remember the kind words of encouragement after they demonstrated an individual kata. It just might help them give a speech in school.
Over the next few months, we will be attending a graduation and two weddings of former "karate kids". I am honored to be invited and look forward to the events.
There is only one downside...It does make me feel a little old. :)