I’m not sure if I’ve gone into this in the past (considering that I now post about as often as there are funny episodes of the Jay Leno Show), but back in June, 10YO started taking taekwondo (which I will refer to as TKD or “asswhippery” from now on). We did it in an attempt to provide him with an outlet for some of his more aggressive tendencies, to teach him about discipline and respect and honor, and to get rid of some of that pesky money we keep trying to save for some reason. We didn’t really know what to expect, but the boy took to it like a Kennedy to alcohol, and is pretty damn good at it. He has rapidly advanced through the ranks, and is now a purple belt, which kinda makes him look like Prince with decent martial arts skills.

Attending lessons was made easy by the fact that they’re taught in the same place where he attends after school care, so it’s a simple matter of showing up, signing him out, changing him in to his uniform (or gi, in Korean), and setting him loose. And because I really didn’t have anything better to do for an hour or so, I sat there in the gymnasium, watching all the kids and a few adults learn the finer points of things called 9 Step Block and Yop Marki Chukyo Marki and Harden Marki, and maybe even a Biz Markie in there somewhere. And as I watched, the same thought crept through my mind repeatedly:

“I can totally do that.”

Bear in mind that is very easy to sit back and watch people do something and think you can do it too, especially when you don’t really know what all goes into it in the first place. It’s the same mentality we have when we watch football and say things like “Man, my GRANDMOTHER could’ve made that catch!” Which might be  true if your grandmother is a 6’3″, 215 lb lightning bolt who runs a 4.4 40 yard dash in pads, but not quite as true if she’s in her 60s or 70s and her main source of exercise is turning the channel from Judge Joe Brown to Wheel of Fortune. We make these assumptions because we tend to focus on the final product, not the process. But even with that in mind, I sat there, thinking that thought as I watched person after person stumble through something I thought should be easy like Sunday morning.

I mentioned that 10YO showed some proficiency in martial arts, and that’s a true statement. However, he’s been gifted with natural ability, and doesn’t see the need in cultivating that into an even-better outcome. In other words, he won’t practice. It hadn’t been a major issue since he could show up to class, do the different forms and defensive maneuvers, and pass the tests, but as he advances through the ranks, preparation becomes more and more important. I tried telling him that, but I might as well have been telling fish that water isn’t wet. Because it IS. Anyway, I kept talking, and my words kept falling onto deaf ears.

Our typical schedule was Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6p-7p, but the Thursday spot became problematic due to 10YO having tests on Fridays, and his severe allergy to studying. And removing an hour of study time was doing nothing to help his grades. After approaching the senseis, we discovered that there’s a Saturday morning class that he could attend at another facility instead of the Thursday class, and that suited me just fine because it meant I got to wake his butt up on a Saturday morning, and then deny him access to “iCarly” or “Phineas and Ferb” on TV in order to get him some physical exercise. So on that first Saturday morning, I got him up, fed him, wiped the crust from his eyes, and took him to get his TKD on. Then a funny thing happened.

When we got there, I explained who 10YO was and why we were there (they were ready for him), and I then prepared to go sit and watch as I usually did, typically with a book and my ipod. The black belt who told us what to do said to me “Why don’t you join in on the class today, Dad?” Stunned, I declined – I had my mouth all set on reading my book, and wasn’t expecting to be asked to play Kung Fu Fighting. But I started thinking…what could make 10YO work harder than me pushing him from behind, threatening to overtake him? That would sour his stomach in a heartbeat, given his competitive nature. Maybe it would even inspire him to work harder, to practice, to put more effort into it. Maybe if he saw Dad doing well at it (which was just an assumption at that point), he’d feel the heat and step up his game. Maybe I wouldn’t pass the hell out during warm ups. The plan was formulating. She asked again, pointing out that it was the beginning of the 6 week term, and that I’ve watched for a while and should be pretty familiar with the techniques and katas (forms). She was right. And because she was right, I started thinking some thoughts.

“Well, I do know the moves.”

“I am wearing proper attire.”

“I don’t have anything better to do right now.”

(and the coup de grace)

“I can totally do that.”

So I totally did that. I joined up. My son, the (then) orange belt, now had a white belt dad in class with him on Saturday mornings. And to my surprise, I really liked it. It helped that I had been doing Jillian Michaels at work almost every day (which, when I say it like THAT, makes it sound like I’ve been bending the celeb fitness guru over the copy machine, rather than following her workout regimen on DVD), but what also helped was the fact that I was willing to obey authority. In fact, I very much dig the authority there, the respect, the deference to greater experience, even if the person is younger than you by decades. It also helped 10YO, who took time to help correct my form, give advice, and basically guide me using his own experience. Mission: accomplished. Evidently I also showed proficiency, and 6 weeks later I became a yellow belt, and the week after that I won FIRST PLACE at a tournament! YES YOU HEARD ME CORRECTLY. First place. I have a trophy and everything.

Tae kwon Damian

No, I DIDN'T steal it from a 9 year old, thanks for asking.

Now that I’ma yellow belt, I’m learning all sorts of new things, like sparring. Sparring is when you fake-fight other people with all sort of pads and protective gear on. It’s also where you get kicked in the head and  stomach by a brown belt. But that’s a story for another time.