Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why I Like Taekwondo

Tonight, I took Ryan to his first real sparring session. I was a bit nervous, since the whole point of sparring is to, you know, beat someone up. Even though I knew that there would be no actual butt-kickings, I was having trouble wrapping my head around the idea that I would be willingly giving over my child to this sort of activity. (Having actually been acquainted with Ryan for many years, I had no trouble with the idea that he'd be a willing participant.)

And of course it was fine! I knew that in my head, but had to see it for myself.

Since Ryan was new to the sparring class, he didn't have gear. But he practiced his sparring moves (which he has learned in regular class) anyway, against his teacher (a 15 year old black belt) and a few other kids. It was shadow sparring though, since Ryan doesn't have gear.

Yet. He'll be acquiring some sparring gear next week, I suspect. Head protection, mouth thingy, gloves, foot protectors. . . . My costumey kid is PUMPED at the idea of getting this gear, AND a cool gym bag to carry it in!

I love this taekwondo place. I have absolutely no experience in martial arts--the whole idea is still a bit foreign to me, even though Ryan's been doing this nearly a year.

What impresses me the most about this activity is the independence and initiative that the kids show. It's expected of them, and I noticed that as they climb the ranks, each child has a bit more responsibility. For example, now that Ryan is a Green Belt, he is expected to help clean up a bit if there is a mess.

I love that the older kids look out for the younger kids; that the higher belts are kind and gentle with the lower belts. Tonight, the black belt who ran the class--the 15 year old--was so very sweet to Ryan, gentle, but encouraging. He's a great kid in general and seems to have a natural way with the younger students.

I love the way that everyone just jumps right in. Ryan's first time at Sparring--he got to try all of his moves (shadow style, sure) against a black belt, a red belt, and another green belt. He learned about Point Sparring and how to judge it. He learned by watching and he learned by doing.

Now, the man who owns the gym wasn't there tonight, obviously. But his business, his classes run anyway without his presence. His black belts--there are about 5 or 6--run the classes in his absence, and they run it well. The kids respect their peers-in-age and do as they ask because that's part of the rules. Tonight, one of the red belts was fooling around and let his helmet roll into a match--the black belt made him drop and do 50 pushups. The red belt (about 11 years old) did his pushups and jumped back into class, no hard feelings.

I'm impressed with what Ryan has learned in the past (almost) year. Ryan learns his forms and kicks and punches--and also learns how to teach them to others. He loves walking Brendan and me through the steps. It's kind of fun to do, really. I can see that they way the kids are taught encourages them and provides them with the skills to teach.

This is probably how it's done in martial arts in general. But as I said, it's new to me. I took gymnastics for years, and while there was some peer-mentoring going on, it was nothing like what I observe in Ryan's taekwondo class. I'm not sure if it's the nature of the sport or what--but I like it. Ryan likes it.

And Morgan is DYING to try it! We'll give her a couple of weeks to try it out this fall and see how she does. She has told us she doesn't want to do ballet or dance. Which is fine, of course, but it's funny how fixated she is on taekwondo. The master at the gym said he'd try her out, and we'll see how she does. I'm concerned she won't have the attention span--but this child surprises me all the time in that realm. If she ends up passing the test and we go for it--then I will be at this gym five. days. a week: M, T, W, Th, and Sat. With a toddler. (It's only 5 minutes from the house, so we have that going for us.)

At least Sean is in on the action, too--he can Kihap already! When Ryan is practicing at home and kihaps loudly, Sean is right there with his little baby kihap echo. So. Freaking. Cute.

Wow. It would be nice if all three of them got into the same sport--it would be easier on me, I mean. But it would also be great for them, to participate in such a great activity in such a wonderful place.

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