Empty Hand

Earlier this week, during my children’s Karate class, I watched as my son was disciplined by his instructors for exceeding the accepted parameters during one of his matches in a sparring session.

Israel was using techniques more appropriate for a barroom brawl than for formal martial arts instruction.

Straight jabs to the face and whirling leg sweeps earned only penalty points, gaining him a defeat to an opponent whom was unable to score on him otherwise (as well as twenty push-ups in penance).

Gaelynn has a far different approach, more hesitant and methodical. I watched her fall to a quick 2-0 deficit against one energetic opponent, only to rally back to a 3-2 victory using meticulous counterattacks and a conservative defense.

She tries very hard to not “fight” but to play a vigorous game of “tag” with her fellow students. I adore her delicate sensibilities.

I am quite fond of the head instructor, a decorated combat veteran as well as a retired public school teacher, who jokes that he is not sure which of his former vocations was more fraught with peril.

He stresses self-discipline and personal accountability above all else, making frequent inquiries into the children’s behavior at home and their grades at school. I think he understands the tendency towards the abuse of martial arts, as his school teaches an approach based on defensive postures.

My children have won more of their bouts than they have lost (Israel losing only the aforementioned match), yet my thoughts are more inclined towards the long-term benefits of such a course of study. Moreover, as their father, I can appreciate how their different personalities manifest in their approach to this skill. I have noticed such in other similar pursuits.

It is neither my desire nor ambition to raise “prizefighters” but to give my children ample means with which to strengthen their minds and bodies…  a strong mind and a strong body, one cannot be sacrificed for the sake of the other.


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