Saturday, September 19, 2015

Young Grasshopper Does Well in First Karate Tournament

A few months ago I enrolled my sons in karate lessons with three goals in mind for them: 1) get exercise; 2) learn self-discipline; 3) spend at least one hour per week not thinking about video games. While they definitely get exercise at their karate lessons, the jury is still out on how we’re doing on goals two and three. (There’s a pretty good chance that while they’re up there doing their kicks they’re picturing themselves as some dude from Minecraft kicking a mutant zombie in the head, or some such nonsense.)

For a karate novice like myself (I don’t consider watching a few poorly dubbed Kung Fu movies in my youth a real martial arts education) it’s difficult to know how my sons are actually doing in their class. Sometimes they seem engaged, sometimes not, but that’s really true of all the kids participating. So today was the first real way to gauge how the lessons are going—at least for my older son.

A couple of weeks ago the leaders at the dojo started upselling a citywide karate tournament to take place at the prep school across the street from the dojo. My younger son had no interest, but my older son kept on haranguing me to enter him. I was initially reluctant because of his newness to the sport, but soon my son’s passionate pleas to participate won me over. (Yes, I was sick of saying “no” so I caved.) Today was the big day.

While my son had been very excited in the days leading up to this event it was clear that as we drove to the tournament he was very nervous despite my reassurances that he’d be fine. Once we entered the building and saw the hundreds of participants and spectators, his nervousness clearly ratcheted up a notch. And by the time they called up his division, I thought the boy would pass out before he ever set foot on the mat.

There were eight kids in my son’s division and while I sat in the bleachers watching him waiting his turn with a look of dread on his face, I thought to myself, “Please let him get at least one flag, even if he doesn’t win a match.” I should explain. My son entered the flag sparring event. Each competitor has two flags tucked into their belt. The object is to try to remove your opponent’s flags before they remove yours. It’s a test of speed and agility. I would suck at it.

When my son was called up for his match he still looked initially panicked, but the second the match started his look transformed into one of complete confidence and control. I mean would you mess with this guy?

My son and his opponent were well-matched—so much so that they grabbed each other’s first belts off at the same time. Here’s an incredible action shot that Sports Illustrated would be envious of showing the moment that my son grabbed his opponent’s belt a split second before his own was yanked off.

The score was tied 1-1. The boys faced off again and again their belts were yanked at the same moment. The referees conferred, changed the score to 2-2 and gave them each back one belt to go at it again. It was karate overtime. They squared off like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan (I guess, since those are the only two karate stars whose names I know.) Round and round they went and then BOOM my son struck like a cobra and got the final belt! "He freakin' won!" I cheered to myself while I politely applauded out loud. 

My son’s win in this match allowed him to proceed to the next round. In his second match he lost 2-1, but he put up a great battle and his overall performance put him in third place! He was given a bronze medal and this time I cheered out loud while I politely applauded in my mind.

As we drove home happily talking about the events that just unfolded I couldn’t be more proud of my son. Of course I would have been proud of him if he lost, too, but coming home with a medal ain’t too shabby. I guess the karate lessons are paying off after all. (And yes, as soon as we got home he started playing video games.)