June 2012. Our Ninja began lobbying his parental units to take Tae Kwon Do. His short-term goal of being the next Spiderman, coupled with his Ninjago fascination, fueled the fire of interest in this martial art which literally means “way of the hand and foot”. I made an appointment for a free, introductory lesson with Mrs. Ann and from the moment he set foot in the studio, he was hooked. He was so serious, so intense (I know, you’re shocked!)--it was the perfect fit.
It all started with a white belt.
His persistence, tenacity, and fearlessness are ideal for this color-belted world. What our Ninja lacks in height, he makes up for in bravado. But, he backs it up with knowledge and skill. And an impish grin. Frankly, I am amazed at the focus and concentration martial arts require. As each student progresses up the color belt ranks, they must memorize forms--a specific system of moves that emphasize hand, foot, and body coordination--and, on average, contain 20-30 different moves. Yes, you read that right. And, the number and degree of difficulty of the moves increase at each belt level. Did I mention they do this with weapons, too?
We have found ourselves saying things like, “No nunchucks in the foyer”, and “Please do not use your brother as a sparring partner--even if he offers!”. However, special dispensation has been granted for occasional bow-staff practice in the living room--as long as the glasses are cleared from the coffee table. And, I have learned how to say, and yes, even to spell the proper Korean name for those nunchucks--Ssahng Jeol Bahngs (sahn-jo-bons). Every sport has its lingo, glossary, and complimentary pronunciation guide.
Two years later, our Ninja-who-is-now-nine, has the coveted black belt. And, a few tournaments under that belt. He has been given the opportunity to instruct those younger than he and to train with a multi-time World Champion. He has learned that commitment, practice, and focus will bear fruit. He has learned to shake hands with his competitors and offer a high-five after a job well done. And while even the Eternal Grand Master of Tae Kwon Do will not permit himself to achieve the perfection of the 10th Degree Black Belt, you always keep striving for it.
Buddy passes are available. I carry a few in my wallet.