I am an orange and my son is a blue. I sit a few kids down from him in the lineup, our white uniforms only differentiated by the belts we have earned in our time under Master Fancher's watchful eye. David ranks above me, having studied longer than I and having (in reality) put much more heart and soul into the study of Tang Soo Do in his short time as a student. When he's the senior belt, the customary Korean salutation comes easily off of his lips at the end of our work. As a student, he is eager to respond to Master Fancher's questions at the close of class. He bows with deep respect to Master Fancher, not only his teacher but his best buddy Toussaint's dad. This is his space of confidence and competence. Once we were talking about the things that kids are good at in school. "Stanley R. is a math guy", he said "and he knows all of the bus routes in Ann Arbor. You could ask him anywhere to go and he could tell you. He's that good." So I asked what his 'thing' was, and he thought for a minute, his dark eyes a bit narrowed while he considered it. "Karate," he finally said with an enormous smile. "I think I am really good at karate." (above: David G. gets his blue belt)
I started studying Tang Soo Do after taking David to martial arts classes for a couple of months. Parents who were participating in the class would say "Oh, it's just a matter of time until you join...it's fun, why not work out if you are going to sit there?" And, slowly, nearly all of the parents joined, drawn a bit by the "why not?" of the class, a bit by the bond that it created with their child. Now we have Ollie G in our class, Ian B., Amelia M. and Stanley C....followed by Karen G., Kristen B. and Steve C. who aim great kicks, work hard and take seriously the work at hand.
(Karen G. rockin' the flying side kick)
But walking a step behind my son in this process has added a dimension to our relationship that I never would have anticipated. For the hours and days this child has spent in my tutelage, he is now a bit of the teacher...and a gentle and loving one at that. "Mom, so I was thinking about your stance tonight," he says, with sweet and honest eyes, "when you are kicking your arms are too far away from your body. Someone could hurt you. You should try to keep them in tight, to defend yourself." And, he's right. When doing my kicks tonight I noticed that I was not keeping close to my core, that I felt off balance. He'd noticed and been able to give me that feedback in a way that not only did not make me defensive, but made me want to ask him more. "What else did you see, D?" "Well, you do really well on that front kick, and the side one, those are your best two. The back one you don't do as well. But I think if you keep working on it you will get it. It's just a matter of keeping with it. That's what Master Fancher says."
And to that, I smiled. My 4' tall warrior providing me with insights that were valuable and honest, but loving and fair at the same time.
There are so few times we get a chance to walk a step behind our children, to let them teach us what they know and to share insights that maybe we have missed along the way. Being at S-K has taught me that teaching-- from child to child, adult to child, child to adult-- is the highest form of learning. By letting our children share with us what they know and engage in their learning, we both win. As the ancient saying goes "when one teaches, two learn".
P.S. If you are considering martial arts for your child, there is no greater teacher (in my humble opinion) than Master Mark Fancher, S-K parent. Classes are held multiple times per week at the Washtenaw Community College Occupational Ed building. Mark is amazing with the children and does this work (after his day job and multiple community commitments) because of his love for the Tang Soo Do tradition and what it brings to young people.
The 5 Codes of Tang Soo Do:
1) Be loyal to your leaders
2) Obedience to parents
3) Honor friendships
4) Always finish what you start
5) In fighting, choose with sense and honor