Watching Little Tiger Tae Kwon Do sparring is like seeing the drunken version of the Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em robots as reenacted by 6 year olds. The full-throated “KYAAAAAA” that erupts from their heavily padded bodies stands in sharp contrast to their poorly-placed kicks and delayed-response blocks. And while I know that these green and orange belt novices will eventually achieve the effortless precision of the black belts in weekend class, watching this mini martial arts display makes we wonder just how long it will take to get there.
Last fall, we enrolled Nick in Tae Kwon Do to give him a place to explore “discipline” and learn what’s important in a given situation. For example, if the teacher is writing simple addition on the board, it’s probably not the best time to regale your classmate with the feeding habits of great white sharks.
Nick is the type of kid teachers, friends and family as “energetic”, “exuberant” and “spirited” which can be code for “hyper” which can become code for “get that kid on meds so he calms the ‘ef down.” We have been fortunate thus far with teachers who have channeled that delightful energy into constructive activity. But woe is the day when he gets a teacher who has neither the time, patience nor desire to deal with his particular brand of enthusiasm.
He is less Little Tiger and more Larger-Than-Life Tigger. He’s got a LOT of bounce and while he needs space to get his jump on, he also need to develop the ability to “read the room” – to develop that inner voice that asks, “is this appropriate right now?”
Last week, while the Little Tigers were lined up practicing their kicks, a late-comer, upset that he has missed the start of class walked to edge of the mat and starting crying softly to himself.
“He was fooling around in the car,” the boy’s father explained. “So…” he shrugged by way of explanation. “This is the consequence.” I totally got that – letting kids experience the results of a choice, rather than listen to a potential outcome from a parent. Pfft! I’m 6. I know everything!
Up to that point, Nick had been doing well in class, completely focused on his Tae Kwon Do Master and the kick that he was learning. Pivot. Lift. Kick. Return. Pivot. Lift. Kick. Return. Pivot –
But there was the boy, still at the corner of the mat, still crying softly, still unsure if he could join a class already in session. While the boys continued their kicks, Nick looked at Justin, then back to Master Kwok, then back to Justin – then broke away from the line.
“Are you ok?” I heard him whisper as he rubbed Justin’s back. For the next minute, the two boys sat and watched their classmates, Nick’s hand moving to and fro until Justin’s cries resolved with a deep exhale.
“Ready?” Nick asked.
Pivot. Lift. Kick. Return. Pivot. Lift….
All this time, we thought Nick needed to learn “what was important”.
Turns out, he already knows.