Home > Family, Parenting > Out there on the tatami

Out there on the tatami

My six-year-old has wanted to study martial arts for at least the last six months.

I’ve wanted to support him, but time, energy, and emotional constraints have just been too abundant.

Last night, his dad and I finally took him for a free private “test” lesson at a nearby dojo. I arrived a few minutes after Li’l D and my husband. I was astonished to see my normally (initially) shy son already beaming and rolling all over the tatami (mats) with two boys about Li’l D’s age and their instructor mom.

I immediately felt at home.

I studied karate for a couple of years beginning my senior year of college. (Was it my first or second senior year, though? Good question!)

My enthusiasm for karate greatly exceeded my skill, probably because my enthusiasm was more about the sense of community than the art itself. I’d never experienced community beyond that I felt with my siblings, and I loved being welcomed at the dojo not for my monthly fee but for me. (Indeed, I met my now-sister Darth at karate.)

My dojo eventually introduced judo. I was much, much better at judo than karate, and enjoyed it a heckuva lot more.

That enjoyment seemed like another lifetime until I watched Li’l D grinning and grappling judo-style yesterday.

College-me felt alive watching yesterday’s test lesson.

I thought, “Maybe someday soon martial arts-me will be present-day me again!” I said as much to the instructor afterward, but explained my husband’s show biz hours mean I’d only be able to attend when he’s between shows.

I already felt confident I’d be enrolling Li’l D by the time we had this discussion at the dojo’s door. Then, then, the instructor asked my husband about his role in show biz. He answered, to which she replied, “We’ve got a few guys in show biz, but they’re more the production side of–oh, there’s one of them!”

My husband, Anthony, turned to see who’d pulled up. He burst into a grin and shouted a greeting along with the instructor. “I just worked with him on my last two shows!” he explained. That’s a surprising coincidence, period, but especially so given that we live thirty miles from “Hollywood.”

Anthony’s colleague couldn’t praise the dojo highly enough. I ushered the kids away as the two spoke, and my heart was full of appreciation for then and now.

This mama was a martial artist, for a bit, and now, now,

she’s elated to contemplate the possibility her older boy might find himself

half the joy, community, discipline, and connection she once did, out there on the tatami,

so deep and vast, the remembrance of it easily extends

across two decades.

  1. January 12, 2016 at 5:35 am

    Our daughter took karate at the local YMCA for years.
    She got pretty far but it lost it’s appeal eventually.
    Especially when the Tuesday night classes interfered with cheap night at the movies…

    • January 12, 2016 at 7:21 am

      Do you still see ripples of its influence in her life today? I was surprised how strongly I felt it all all these years later. It made me feel D will be well served even if his interest wanes in a few months …

      • January 12, 2016 at 8:21 am

        I saw its influence that time a girl got in her face; she went into a fighting stance immediately!
        That was one awkward funeral…

  2. Holly
    January 12, 2016 at 6:14 am

    M took tae kwon do for years but gave it up just as he started high school.

    I seem to remember a lot of those dojos and places had parents’ nights where they could try lessons “taught” by their kids for free 🙂

  3. January 12, 2016 at 7:36 am

    My youngest took tae kwon do and finished getting her black belt. Since she’s a tiny thing and lives in a tough neighborhood, it gives me a little comfort to think she might be able to hold her own. But they don’t really teach fighting so much as discipline and a kind of ballet, so I think she might just give a mugger a really good show.

    • January 12, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      LOL. Li’l D is super excited to be learning fight skills. He can’t wrap his mind around the fact fight skills involve a great deal of avoiding fighting. But, hey, with him.as stoked as he is, I’m happy for him to sign up for one and get the other!

      FWIW, some of what I learned in martial arts and the women’s self defense class I tool did pay off for me. When someone was following me in law school, I stopped, turned around and faced him while taking out my ponytail (having learned predators use these as handles to control tarrgets). He stopped, turned, and walked away.

      There are different ways of fighting, I think, and martial arts teaches you the confidence and skills to use them each as context demands!

  4. January 12, 2016 at 9:49 am

    My mom and my brother did karate together for years, and my son made it up to his purple belt before moving on – but he is still limber and does the splits during cheer performances due to his years and years of karate training! I think it is amazing and I’m glad you found a place you like! I remember having to go up to my boss and tell her that on Monday’s I needed to leave 1/2 hour early, and could I just adjust my time that day and come in early to make up for it? She accepted my priorities and it worked out! But, at my next job, I looked for early start hours so that I could leave early enough to get him to practice, and here is is years later, and I still work 7-4… left over from those years of getting the kid to practice! 🙂

    • January 14, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      😀 Our hours are very similar, for somewhat similar reasons!

      I was surprised how visceral was my response to stepping in a dojo, especially one filled with kids’ laughter. I remembered training with a mom probably about my age now, and how she trained with her older kid(s). Her littlest was too young to study, so her mom came and watched her littlest during classes. Her mom ended up making the littlest a tiny, adorable gi. She then ended up signing up for martial arts herself.

      It’s kinda fun to imagine maybe being that family eventually. For now, I’ll enjoy the heck out of Li’l D’s enjoyment. ♥

  5. January 13, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    One of my granddaughters has been in Tae Kwon Do for the past four years. When I go with her to practice I always think it’s a physical and emotional discipline I wish I’d been a part of when I was younger. I think any of the martial arts can be such confidence boosters. Maybe you’ll find a way to join in!

    • January 14, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      I could definitely see it happening, down the road a ways! For now, I can say it was a delight simply to remember then and to savor Li’l D’s delight now. 😀

  6. January 14, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Good for Lil D! LM took karate for about six months when he turned 4, but quickly tired of it. The psychiatric NP we saw suggested he try it again, said it would provide the physical activity but likely not overstimulate him as other activities (like soccer) do.

    • January 14, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      Are you considering it? I’d be curious to hear how it goes if so.

      Also, I loved your post today. For the record.

      • January 14, 2016 at 8:43 pm

        He starts soccer again in Feb, so we are gonna see how he does (the past seasons he was often too distracted to focus or participate), and if he has a hard time again, we’ll sign him up for karate in April/May. He doesn’t do well doing two after school activities at once.

        Thank you very much! 🙂

  7. January 15, 2016 at 3:10 am

    I am thoughtful with this post, I love the idea of you and Lil’D learning together someday, or even you learning from him. Right now I am searching for something that will provide a focus, there is a Dojo not to far from me and your post has got me thinking.

  1. March 13, 2016 at 6:46 am

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