Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Karate Kids

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. :)


Sue C said...

Hi Michele,

There's definitely a lot more opportunities for kids these days. It all kicked off with 'bumps and babes' for us, followed by toddler groups, tumble tots, playgroups and swimming lessons. That's before they even started school! Now its scouts, drama clubs,jujitsu and karate.

When I was young martial arts were seen as a bit seedy, done by sweaty guys in basement gyms. Not something that nice girls did! I'm so glad that image has changed and martial arts is open to everyone now.

Sandman said...

Great post Michelle. One of the most influential adults in my life when I was a child (other than my parents) was my karate instructor. He was just a great guy. If I could find him again, I'd love to shake his hand and thank him for being such a positive influence.

Felicia said...

In our neck of the woods, we tend to lose students around the time they become old enough to try out for/make varsity sports teams. Because team practice tends to eat up evening after-school/before dinner time and weekends are for competition, most of our students who decide to try their hand at soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis, swimming, cross-country or track are gone for at least a whole season if they make the team. If it's a full-year type sport (cross-country --> indoor track --> outdoor track for example), they often don't come back to the dojo once they start competing.

But like you, Michele, I just hope their time training with us leaves some impression, even if they never remember one word of Japanese or can't recall the name of the kata they use to know like the back of their hand. All you can do is put the information out there and encourage them to try!

Enjoy your former karate kids' ceremonies :-)

Michele said...

Hi Sue, Great comment about the early perception of martial arts.

Sandman: Thanks for sharing your experience. If you ever run into your instructor, I am sure he would be happy to hear he made an impression. :)

Felicia: Same here. More and more sports demand a full-year commitment. Soccer is huge in our area. We lose more karate students to soccer than any other sport. Thanks for commenting.