Eight weeks into karate, Daniel has earned his first new belt – no longer the beginner red, he now has his white belt.
Among the many reasons I love his karate program, one is that the progression to each belt is delightfully clear. Each kid has a paper in his or her folder that lists the skills they need to complete. Once a week, they are allowed to earn a star for the next skill on their sheet. For the white belt, they were pretty basic stances and blocks. But he also needed to know how to count to 10 in Japanese, as well as know the name of his karate school. On the one hand, it did take a full two months to earn that white belt. On the other, each week it was easy for Daniel to see the progress he was making and how close he was getting.
His next star sheet is even better, if you ask me. There are more stars to earn, so it will take longer to earn the belt. And instead of just martial arts moves, there are four categories of stars to earn. “Basics” and “form” are straightforward karate skills. But he also has to earn stars in “life skills,” with entries like “know what a STRANGER is,” and “know parents’ names and home address.” The final category is “physical,” for which he has to be able to do push-ups and sit-ups, balance on one foot for 10 seconds, and know his left from his right.
In his class, the 4-to-7-year-olds, the parents are invited in to watch the kid get his new belt. All of the other children sit attentively to watch, and the lucky kid goes up to the teacher on his own. The teacher presents the new belt with a snap to give it energy, and they bow as they get it. It’s freaking adorable, all of the other kids clap, and the one who has earned his new belt is bursting with pride. This was most definitely the case with Daniel, who was absolutely grinning from ear to ear the entire time.
I love all of this. I love it so much. I love that the teachers as individuals and the school as an organization makes such a concerted effort to help create good people, not just teach punches and kicks. The whole thing gives you the impression that they really believe in this effort, that it’s not just lip service.
Yeah, we’re in the honeymoon phase, I suppose. As time goes by, I may very well find things I don’t like. Daniel may fall out of love with it and move on to something else. But for now, he absolutely loves it and is excited to go every single time. And while it sure ain’t cheap, I feel like we’re getting a lot more than a punch and a kick and a colorful belt. It’s a winner.