Ah, Grasshopper...

Conventional wisdom would dictate, putting a 4 (almost 5) year old boy full of boundless energy and a will of iron, in a class to learn how to fight would be a bad idea. You would think. When DH suggested we put our rambunctious oldest boy in a martial arts class, I cringed, imaging his poor younger brother, who is already tormented and pestered with Jeff's ninja stylings. My first answers was a dead-on "NO WAY". It just goes to show what I know about martial arts... We signed him up for a mini-session of karate at a local martial arts studio, with the caveat that this would only continue if he could be responsible. I was swayed by it being only $29, and you got a free white karate outfit (called a gi) with those three classes. His first class was solo, just him and the instructor (Mr. Tong, Sir!), and he tried to hide behind my back. The teacher, obviously having dealt with this before, was stellar in getting him out, and commanding his attention. After about 20 minutes, Jeff was listening and following directions with a rapt attention I had never seen. At the end of class, Mr. Tong (Sir!) sat him down and told him what was expected if he wished to earn his first belt. He gave Jeffrey a checklist of all the things he had to do during the week, and told him his parents had to sign it when it was complete. The list had things like cleaning up after himself, personal hygiene, helping family, promptness and showing respect- nothing we don't try for anyway, but as we looked it over, Jeff piped up "Don't remind me of anything, mom. I need self-discipline and to remember myself." (!) So all week he had been just awesome. He has been helping his brother, been kind and respectful (most of the time), been very helpful to me, cleaned up after himself, used manners, and he has practiced. He has been practicing his stances, his defensive maneuvers, and his kicks. But not on his brother. Tonite, DH took him to his next lesson, list in hand, checked off and signed. I wasn't there to see it, but he earned his first belt, a white one, buy listening, learning, being respectful and practicing. As part of his test, he broke a board with a kick. Broke a board. Real wood! (Probably better I wasn't there) The board is sitting on the kitchen counter, with his name and the date on it. We are going to frame it. I think my baby may have found his groove. So if you have a rambunctious, or even wild, little boy (or girl)- you might want to think about martial arts- I had no idea how much self-discipline, respect, structure and strength these little kids are taught. I guess instead of soccer, I'm a karate mama. It's what my kid needs, and I'm ok with that, Grasshopper.


Anonymous Mary said...

That's so great! I can just imagine a four-year-old boy just loving being given a checklist of things to do to earn something as cool as a karate belt. His instructor sounds amazing! Your little guy is going to do great.

Do you ever watch The Office? The martial arts episode with Dwight is hilarious!

My roommates and I took Tae Kwon Do for a semester at BYU. It was hilariously fun, and we were the only ones to buy the outfits. Our poor Korean teacher who barely spoke English was exasperated by our enthusiasm. One roommate broke her toe, another accidentally ripped the shirt off a boy while practicing a self-defense maneuver, and as we all came to class the last day decked out in our gi's (?) we had the teacher take action-shot pictures with us. Great memories!

7/21/2006 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Hey--are you in Salt Lake? If so, could you e-mail me the contact info for this martial arts center? Sounds great for my crazy 5-year-old.


7/21/2006 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

My old neighbor did Tae Kwon Do with her autistic-spectrum 6 year old son. She said it did wonders, WONDERS for her child who had all kinds of sensory and behavioral issues. She ramped it up to 2 days a week, and we all noticed a difference.

Hmm, maybe we should try it...

7/21/2006 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Darlene- I'm nowhere near SLC, but I found our place just by checking the phone book- I'm sure there are many equally good studios in the SLC area. I highly recommend giving it a try if you have a child who could use some focus...

7/21/2006 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Be warned - being a karate mom is a full time gig. I haven't done it myself (so take it with a grain of salt) but every martial arts kid I know has very little time for anything else. So be prepared for a lot of time at the studio, and driving to different meets, and whatever.

But, really, if you really commit to anything, the time commitment is huge, and martial arts has always appealed to me. I keep trying to get my oldest to try it, especially because they send me coupons in the mail for a free first lesson and stuff like that, but she is emphatically against it. Maybe if she tried it, she might like it.

Of course, our schedule for fall has been booked for months, so I don't know when I would fit it in. But I really do want to try it. Maybe when my boy is old enough, things will have calmed down (HA HA HA HA ).

7/21/2006 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Deborah said...

Fabulous! Isn't it nice when children develop outside-of-family mentors who prop up your inside-of-family hopes and dreams. Kind of like the phone calls I get, "Could you tell my daughter that what she's wearing isn't appropriate for school -- she won't listen to me, but maybe she'll listen to you." Always worth having a few people in reserve who can play this role!

7/21/2006 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie J said...

As soon as our daughter is old enough DH wants to sign her up for martial arts. I think it's a great idea for the discipline--not to mention the self defense skills she will learn. I'm glad Jeff likes it and has become easier to handle!

7/21/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous John Anon said...

Thanks for sharing this, Tracy. Its a great story and nicely dovetails with Julie's story over at T&S.

7/21/2006 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous dangermom said...

I love marital arts. My daughter has been doing it for a year or so now (she just turned 6), and it's been great for her listening skills and her balance and all kinds of stuff.

I do think it's good for rambunctious kids, because they can channel all that energy, and there is such an emphasis on discipline. Our teacher is very strict about responsibility, good choices, and so on, and will kick kids out if they start punching siblings or anything like that, or if they don't show a good attitude (this is mostly for the older kids). And they all love and adore him for his strictness and high expectations.

Yep, I like the martial arts. But you have to shop around a lot; there are plenty of people who will charge you an arm and a leg, commercialize the whole thing, or who will not show the kind of responsibility and integrity you're looking for.

7/21/2006 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

danger mom --
I am so interested in this for my girls now. What kinds of things should I look for that are bad in a studio and/or instructor? What kinds of things are good?

7/21/2006 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger the House of Payne said...

"I love marital arts."

Huh. As a single man, I wonder what that would include. I would imagine car repair and home improvement, backyard grilling, and of course dancing. Breaking boards not so much.

Maybe I can find a sensei...

7/22/2006 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous dangermom said...

Hah. The marital arts are between me and my husband, thankyouverymuch.

I'm not an expert on choosing a studio, but I would say to shop around and look for something that:
isn't exorbitant (I pay $40/month for 2x/week, which is pretty cheap; Julie mentioned $90/month, which I think is much too high)
does not pretend to make 4-year-olds into karate champs (you're mostly hopping around and learning to listen)
doesn't want you to buy fifteen items with a large logo on them--that's a big marketing ploy, to sell labeled gi's, gym bags, and other gear for high prices
does not belittle the kids but does have clear expectations about behavior
has an emphasis on discipline and attitude

7/23/2006 01:58:00 AM  
Anonymous dangermom said...

Oh, I forgot to say, part of the reason our lessons are cheaper is that we aren't involved in the tournament structure, which costs a lot and takes up quite a bit of time. I see no reason to do that with small children. (Our lessons are with the local park/rec organization.)

7/23/2006 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Mo Mommy said...

I'm glad you wrote about this! Everytime we drive past the park and see the kids practicing there Thing 1 BEGS to try it. But I wasn't sure if was really an age appropriate activity.....So thanks!

7/25/2006 10:30:00 PM  

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