Sunday, February 27, 2011

Karate Lessons

Like most six year old boys, my son loves to play fight. As I've discussed before (perhaps too often), he loves Star Wars, and, as he has rather cogently noted, "Star Wars is all about fighting" (this wasn't a good thing for him, by the way). But it occurred to myself and his mom that his interest in the Jedi Code and his interest in punching might lead to an interest in martial arts.

When the idea of taking some kind of martial art came up, he was initially very excited to do it. However, for whatever reason, we never got around to signing him up for anything until this past January, and when he went, he refused to do it. And I don't mean refused, he really kind of lost it.

As someone who did karate as a kid, I was genuinely perplexed - his fear was that people would punch him, even though he knew that the entire point of learning a martial art isn't to fight, but to learn how not to fight. Some of the instructors could certainly be intimidating, but you quickly learned that their demeanour wasn't based on aggression but on discipline.

But all he could see was the downside of the situation, and I can't help but think about why - by his own interests, this should be something he wants to do, but in practice...not so much.

Is there a point to this? Kind of - I think it shows how much of a role time plays in introducing these kinds of disciplines to someone, especially children - if he had started when he was 4, it would have probably been OK, but he has enough self-awareness now to see what's going on in there and see nothing but danger.

And maybe he will take it up in a few years. I think something a lot of us do, with kids, and with ourselves, is take life's interests as somehow permanently pre-formed, and perhaps what a 6 year old can't do, an 8 year old would be very much into.

Our lives are dynamic and not static, and maybe the one thing I learned in dragging a screaming child to karate lessons that he never actually set foot in is that there is always hope, there is always a chance that next time, he would set foot into the class, and that would be all the more wonderful thing to see because it was a struggle for him.

In a world where so many people live unhappily in their comfortable lives, the struggle to learn karate, or another language, reminds us that it is life's challenges, and not the latest handbag, that make people who they are, for better or for worse.

That being said, do I intend to drag my son to karate until he finally goes? Well, that's another story...I think instead I'll give it some time, and try again in a year.

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