Posts tagged martial arts

Listen to Dad


On the way to a martial arts tournament today, the boy realized we didn’t have any boards for his breaking.  We were well passed any known hardware shops by that point, and certainly beyond “run back home and cut a few up.”  So, I started keeping an eye out for a Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Fortune smiled on us about 10 minutes from our destination.  I pulled off the highway and went into a Home Depot to get some boards for breaking.  I was able to get a 6 foot, 1×10 piece of pine cut up into 10 inch lengths in short order.  We were on our way in less than 10 minutes with plenty of wood to break.

On the way I asked him what he was planning to do for his break.  “A spinning side kick,” he replied distractedly.  He had his nose in another book.  The spinning side kick is his goto break because he knows he can do it.  It happens to be a good break for his level as well, so it all works out.

Then I asked him how many boards he planned on breaking.


“Here, take another and break 2 boards,” I told him.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because you already know you can break 1 board with that kick.  There’s no challenge in it for you.  The point of the tournament and martial arts is to challenge yourself.  You like to break with that kick, so change the number of boards.”  I thought that was a pretty thorough case without any wiggle room for argument.

“Do you think I can do it?” he asked.

The thing about board breaking in martial arts is its less about strength and more about technique and courage.  Hit a board off center with everything you’ve got and it won’t break.  Hit a board near the center with good solid form, and it will crack like an egg.  It just takes some nerve to stand up there and perform the break with good technique.  I had no doubt the boy was physically capable of performing this 2 board break.

The bigger question was would he have the courage to actually do it?

I was waiting to compete in my own division when our instructor came up to me and said “Your son just won his breaking competition.  He did a 2-board break with a spin side kick and nailed it on his first try.  It was really good.”  He showed me a picture of the boy just as he’d creamed the two boards.  The boy had hit them dead center and his leg was fully extended through them.  It was a great picture of the break.

After I finished up with my competition, I caught up with the boy.  He was all smiles.  “I guess you can break 2 boards,” I said.

“I guess I’ll have to break 3 next time,” he answered, still smiling.

We Can’t Fix Everything


The boy faces the prospect of a three hour review for his martial arts this weekend.  The goal is to go over material from the lower belt levels which they are responsible for as black belts.  While he’s not averse to reviews, he is averse to the ones that take three hours.  Welcome to black belt testing.

We talked about it tonight a bit.  He brought it up, actually.  He wanted to know if he had to do the whole thing.  He then started whining that it was going to be too long and there was no way he could do it.  It culminated with “I like karate, but I don’t like it for 3 hours.”

I’m a bit torn because I can understand that at his age, he’s just not ready mentally.  He lacks the maturity.  That said, it’s not like he’ll just wake up one day and suddenly be mature and capable.  He’s got to try, fail, and try some more.  Maturity is a process, and he has got to start somewhere.  Three hour black belt reviews are as good a place as any.

What he really wanted from me was an out- a “Get Out of Jail Free” card as a gift from me.  It’s perfectly normal, really.  For his entire life either the Wife or I have helped him solve, or outright solved for him, his problems.  As he’s gotten older we’ve tried to push that responsibility more and more onto his shoulders, but we still do a lot for him.  Here was one more case he wanted to foist onto us.

Now, in the short term, there is a reprieve.  The Wife has already spoken with the instructors who informed her that his real testing will start with the Spring cycle.  That means he doesn’t have to do the full three hour review this weekend.

It is only a reprieve, though.  If he wants his black belt he will have to go through several hours of testing.  I have no say in it and can’t make it any other way.  His only option is to delay, which only extends his timetable for attaining his black belt.  If he wants it, there is no way around, he’ll have to go through.  He’ll be better and stronger for it, but he doesn’t get that yet.

The Boy Earns Junior Apprentice


At the end of July, the boy earned his Junior Apprentice Black Belt at his martial arts school. The instructors at the school have created a stripped down curriculum for kids not yet in their teens. The instructors experience is that young kids don’t have the maturity to properly learn all of the nuances needed to earn a full “adult” black belt. So, in order to reward their progress and dedication, they created an intermediate level belt called a “junior black belt” that serves as a bridge to a full adult black belt. This is the path the boy is now on.

There was a meeting last week for all of the kid about to enter the next “testing cycle” for the black belt and junior black belt levels. It was interesting in that the expectations for the kids in the testing phase are quite high. The instructors were quite clear in communicating that it was on the kids to make sure they were ready for the upcoming tests, that they knew which classes they needed to attend and that they adhered to the “roadmap” provided them. In short, they were telling the parents that outside of getting the kids to the school, to back off and let the kids flounder.

The rationale for this approach was pretty simple- they feel the kids need to struggle, fail, cope, persevere, succeed. In particular, in order for the success to have its maximum effect, they want the kids to be able to recognize that it was their own efforts and dedication, rather than their parents driving them, that resulted in their success. The instructors have created a curriculum, or “roadmap” as they referred to it, that, in addition to the classes, they believe will allow the kids to successfully negotiate their apprentice belt level.

Tonight, the boy was doing some of his push-up and sit-up requirements as specified by the curriculum. The Wife also took him for a bike ride this morning to help satisfy other parts of it. Assuming he’s able to stick it out, I think it’s safe to assume he’ll have learned more about how to succeed than I had at his age.

700 Pushups


In addition to the various traditional techniques associated with martial arts like kicking, blocking and punching the martial arts school has a physical component in order to earn a black belt. One of those is to perform 100 push ups and 100 sit-ups. I’m assuming it’s supposed to be 100 straight, although we’ve never done more that 25 in a set in our testing. Regardless, I can’t do it at this point. Not even close.

From my years of weight training for football, I thought I had a decent start on this task. Further, the pitch the instructors use for making it seem more attainable is that a student only has to improve by 2 per month over the 4 year period towards becoming a black belt. Doesn’t seem so bad, really.

Well, I’ve been stuck at about the same level ever since my arm fully recovered from the surgery. And that level is about the same I was at prior to the surgery. I can complete about 35 for a single set, or I can manage a couple of sets of 25 before I run out of steam.

So, in order to try and make some progress, I’ve decided that over a 1 week period, I’m going to do 700 pushups- 100 per day. Today is day 3. I didn’t do push-ups per say yesterday, I used our Total Gym instead but managed to do the 100 reps in 2 sets.

My arms hurt. My chest hurts. Four more days to go. Yay.

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