They called his name first.
Stepped up, no hesitation.
Super proud mama.
Daniel’s karate school held a big tournament this morning. We were there bright and early, the five-year-olds were scheduled first at 8:00 in the morning. They were grouped by both age and experience, with multiple brown- and black-belt adults as the judges.
One thing I really like about this place is that they take the training and the whole experience very seriously, and they take the kids seriously. But it’s a seriousness that comes from having and demonstrating respect, not harshness or a lack of humor. They are always kind, always fair, and always making sure that their students are having a positive experience.
That was on full display at the tournament. The five-year-old crowd had pretty literally the same procedures and competition as the teenagers with much higher-level belts. First, they each took a turn demonstrating their kata, a series of choreographed blocks and punches that they practice in class. They stood quietly in the ring while they waited for their scores to be announced, made sure to bow before and after.
Daniel and I had been practicing at home, both the procedure of coming in and out of the ring, as well as the moves for his kata. Initially, he was resistant. But once he realized he was actually memorizing it and getting better, he was eager to show it off to M and the grandparents. I honestly wasn’t sure if he’d be able to pull it off during the real tournament – it was certainly possible he’d panic or forget. And if so, hey, it happens. I would truly have been proud to see him just make the effort, and the teachers treat the kids with that same attitude. A big part of the tournament is just working on the kids’ confidence by getting up in front of a crowd, demonstrating the moves they’ve learned is almost secondary.
But I’ll be damned, Daniel got called first. Walked right into that ring, bowed exactly when and where he was supposed to, performed his kata about as well as I’ve ever seen him do it. Bowed to the head teacher, backed out like he was supposed to, and then sat quietly while he watched the other kids do the same. Not a flicker of apprehension, he knew exactly what to do and when to do it.
And then, lo and behold, his score was enough to get third place out of the six kids. I was practically in tears from seeing him get up there so confidently in the first place, having no idea how he’d compare to the other kids and not even caring. But to see the look on his face when he got that trophy, well, that was icing on the cake.
After the kata, just like the older students, the five-year-olds got geared up for sparring. Though it was pretty hilarious that Daniel couldn’t stop smiling through is mouthguard even when kicking and blocking, this part of the tournament was treated with the same respect from the teachers. They kept score, they refereed the “match,” the little kids had to do it just the way the older ones did. Daniel didn’t place in this one, and walked away with a participation trophy (he calls it his “thank you for coming” trophy, which I think is spectacular).
Signing Daniel up for karate was not a small commitment, in time or in cost. But we’ve been there for nine months and I have yet to regret one minute or one dollar.