Cameron’s never really watched Kung Fu Panda. Nor has he seen Karate Kid, or anything resembling that. But a couple of people in his life have mentioned karate. Kate did a little lesson while they were visiting family, and demonstrated for Cameron, and a kid at his daycare seems to be a big fan of Kung Fu Panda. So it’s come into his vocabulary, dancing, and play.
I’ve thought for a long time that martial arts are a good idea for kids to get into. They teach not just how to fight, but even better how to not fight. They teach discipline, coordination, and self confidence in a way that extends beyond the classes and into the kid’s life. So I figured why not? Let’s get him into it. Is four too young?
Apparently not. Apparently the local places start accepting students at three.
I told him what I was thinking, that maybe he’d like to take karate classes, and you’d think from his expression I’d just said that Christmas was next week. He had two private introductory lessons/evaluations at the dojo I chose (based on location and the blurbs on their website). Right off the bat, he saw the kids’ class and noticed, “Hey Mama, I don’t have white or blue clothes like they do!” He loved the time he had with Sir James, the instructor we had the intro time with. James got Cameron to stand still for ten seconds, something I still marvel at. He got Cameron to try things, to stand just so, to run, punch, and kick. Cameron was thrilled to do as asked.
The happiness in Cameron’s eyes, the excitement when he talked to total strangers about the dojo and the interest he had in what the other kids were doing convinced me. I wasn’t sure at first – it’s more expensive than I’d hoped, and they require two classes a week (flexible on times), which is more than I was prepared to commit to, given my whole low-scheduling attitude towards parenting. But how could I tell Cameron no, especially when I’d seen the other kids a bit. They’re polite, they pay attention to the instructors, and they look excited coming into the place. So, he’s signed up.
He practically sparkled from his head to his toes when Sir James told him he’ll get a belt, a white one to start with. And when he got his uniform, Cameron insisted on carrying it home himself.
Today, standing in the waiting area after half-dragging me from the bus stop to the dojo, dressed in his white uniform, he asked me, “But Mama, what about a belt? He forgot to give me a belt!” I assured him he’d get one, we’d ask about it after the class but there was no time right now. The instructor, Sir Joel, came over to say hi, and Cameron got a brief case of nerves. “The other kids are bigger than me,” he observed, and he was right. Tonight’s class is a mixed one, with Cameron the youngest at four, and kids up to 13. But Joel pointed out to him a kid he’d already met, Joshua, who at five is the next oldest. Not so much bigger. Happy, Cameron trotted off onto the mat to be shown his place.
For the next 40 minutes Cameron proceeded to amaze me. He for the most part listened and followed instructions. Only a few times did the instructor have to call his wandering attention back. He stood and sat as asked, punched the air, and learned about kicking in slow motion. He ran with the other kids, laughing and jumping with excess energy.
Then at the end of class, when all the kids were back in their places, the instructor called Cameron forward. As everyone clapped for him, he was presented with his first, white belt. And he jumped and wriggled with pure joy as he took his place again for the parting bow.
I know I made the right decision enrolling him. He left his first class full of pride and self confidence. Just imagine if that grows?