It’s hard to believe how time has flown (is it almost July?!) but I have been meaning to write about Isaac’s 5th grade graduation. His school had a special catered presentation at one of the big hotels in Charleston. They had everything fancied up so it would be special for the kids. We knew there would be awards and speeches and typical graduation stuff but we didn’t know what to expect.
After we ate, they started with the awards. There were awards for various things and initially, Isaac didn’t seem to be called for anything. He was not the best singer in the chorus or the best at archery. We didn’t know what to expect but, as parents, we just wanted him to get some award so he could walk up in front of everyone to receive some applause.
Finally they called his name. He marched up sort of shyly and shook hands. We were relieved. Then they called him again…and again…and again. All told, Isaac ended up receiving 9 certificates of various types including the American Citizenship award, the National Young Scholars Award, the DAR Good Citizen award, the President’s Award for Academic Achievement (which included a letter signed by President Obama…very exciting for Isaac!) and the technology student of the year award. I was so worried that he would just receive some award and he blew me out of the water! By the end, his face beamed! He wasn’t arrogant at all. In fact he was a little embarrassed by his repeated trips up to the front. To me, that was all the more indication that he truly deserved every award he received. I could not be more proud!
Jump forward to this weekend. Isaac tested for his blue belt in tae kwon do. The blue belt is the last step before black belt. The testing gets a lot more serious and the number of students testing thins a lot. There were only a few people testing so the the spotlight was really on those folks to perform. Each person did their forms (basically, a routine that shows skills such as balance, focus, etc). Isaac did his cleanly and without problem.
The part of TKD that always worries me is the sparring portion of the instruction and testing. Of course, a large part of TKD is fighting. I mentioned before that it’s a weird feeling that sort of comes over me when I watch my son fight. I want him to be disciplined and focussed and also prepared for things out in the real world. Still, I would much rather he never have to be in any sort of threatening situation.
So, Isaac was paired up for sparring and they started the fight. He quickly landed several punches and kicks. At one point, he knocked his opponent to the ground. It shocked me a little but the boy jumped back up and they continued. Sparring is pretty much full contact. No head shots and no blood are allowed but otherwise, there is quite a bit of freedom. He has gained so much confidence and so many skills in TKD and that was evident as he sparred. I was so proud to see him fight and watch as he just did what he needed to do to fend off the other boy.
Not long ago, Isaac earned his yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do. He has been going 3 nights a week to prepare for his next belt and this weekend, he tested for his green belt. Like I mentioned before, it takes a certain kind of crazy to want your kid to learn how to fight, but I look at it as a confidence builder and a practical skill for defense (and that’s how his instructors view it as well).
There are several components of testing for the belts including forms (patterns of movements), terminology, board breaking and fighting. Isaac broke his boards easily and knew all the forms and terminology he needed. The fighting was a bit of a worry though as he has been a little more reserved and didn’t make contact like he should.
I was certainly surprised at his testing this weekend though. His fighting has come a long way. He had great confidence and speed and made good contact. The boy will be fierce as he gets more training and more strength.
Isaac has been taking taekwondo for several months now and the other night, after class, he took his yellow belt test. He has been studying Korean terms and practicing his forms (the pattern of moves he needs to know for each belt). He had it all under his “belt” as test night came. I took him to the dojang and he was cool as can be for his normal training session. After class, most people headed out until only black belts and the 5 people being tested remained.
Each student had to do two of their forms and answer Grand Master Kang as he asked them questions about Korean terminology. Isaac did great on the items as he had studied so much. I knew that he would also have to break a board with a kick but I figured there was no way to safely practice that at home. So, the moment of truth came and it was Isaac’s turn. He lined up and positioned the poor guys who had to hold the board and took a practice kick to make sure his aim was right. And then, my poor helpless son kicked the board so hard that it cracked perfectly. In fact, I heard the board, long since dead, come back to life, just so it could scream in pain. His eyes lit up and I have never seen him more proud. I think I was also as proud as I have ever been. He didn’t know what exactly to expect so he just jumped in with both feet…well, really with one foot..but he went for it!
Each student got to keep their board pieces but had to line back up for another round of questions…this time the hard ones about family life and respect and helping one’s parents by doing chores and obeying, etc. This was probably the toughest part of the whole test, especially for the kids. Kids had to think on their feet and speak extemporaneously. He answered every question (though, now I have some leverage!) and was passed with no hesitation. Grand Master Kang awarded him a yellow belt with a green tip.
The last few evenings since that night, Isaac has done almost nothing but practice his forms and think “taekwondo”. His pride is warranted and I am delighted that he has found something he enjoys so much. I think I may have to toughen up some for his teenage years though…
Isaac is taking tae kwon do lessons and is doing really well. We take him 3 nights per week and he has made a bunch of great progress. We had mainly hoped that the exercise and discipline would be a big benefit for him. I had a lot of mixed feelings in his taking lessons though. I am certainly not a pacificist, but encouraging your kid to fight seems like a whole different level of crazy. I know tae kwon do and most martial arts are intended to be used for defense, but I have to tell you, if you have ever seen tae kwon do practitioners in action, you’ll quickly see that it is not a passive defensive art. If you tangle with someone who is well versed in tae kwon do, and if you don’t know when to stop, you may not wake up from a fight.
Ok, that sounds dramatic but its methods are comprised of violent and aggressive actions that could easily be misused. Tae kwon do uses a tremendous amount of kicking and specialized punches meant to deliver ultimate force so misuse could easily result in serious injury. So, a big part of class is discipline and respect and knowing when to use the art. Another part of class, however, is practical. Each night, the students spar. The older people (i.e. not 6 year olds) and the black belts really go at it and hit hard. Isaac is not a black belt or an older kid but he is getting bigger and his age is starting to “play” hard. Imagine my nerves when Isaac volunteered to fight last night.
I was a bundle of nerves hoping he didn’t get hurt and that he didn’t hurt someone else. Isaac and the other student walked to the ring, bowed all around and took their fighting stances. The instructor called, “fight” and the boy went to town. He fought and fought well. He is nimble and fast and was -now get this – a lot of fun to watch in a fight. Isn’t it weird how I went from fear to pride instantly? Anyhow, he delivered a bunch of punches and kicks and took a lot too.
The best part of the fight was that we made eye contact as he walked out of the ring after the fight. We both smiled and nodded our heads in understanding. He’ll be just fine.