I have to admit, when Fang said we should sign the boy up for Taekwondo, I was a skeptic. My pacifism runs deep, and I was worried Taekwondo involved a lot of fighting. We had already talked at length about how Lucas was going to be a big kid, and if he happened to inherit Fang’s occasionally short temper, he needed to know how to control himself; was teaching him to fight really going to encourage reflection and nonviolence?
Today, in Taekwondo Lucas has reached the level (and you can imagine how I feel about this belt color) of “Camouflage – decided,” meaning next time he tests he’s eligible to earn his green belt. When he began Taekwondo more than a year ago, he was physically awkward and timid; in fact, just a couple months ago we gave up gymnastics lessons after about a year because he wasn’t progressing at all. He couldn’t hop on one foot without falling over. He couldn’t even jump and land simultaneously on both feet.
Worse, in school and on playdates, he was being bullied—by much smaller kids–and had no idea how to deal with it. In both kindergarten and as recently as this fall in first grade, his annual character goal was learning how to tell people how he feels when they treat him poorly.
We’re fairly laid back as parents go, but those details raised some red flags for us, so when the owner of the martial arts school invited Lucas to join the leadership club, where kids get practice interacting with and teaching other kids, we jumped at the opportunity, even though the cost is a bit of a financial stretch for us. (Ditto for a run of weekly 30-minute private lessons with an instructor who really seems to “get” Lucas, but the ROI on those has been great, too.) The leadership club membership means Lucas can attend as many classes each week for which he’s qualified, and he has embraced the classes wholeheartedly, typically attending three classes a week.
I haven’t written much here about Lucas, as he’s really becoming his own person, and, as many a blogging parent has noted, after about age four or five, it doesn’t seem as appropriate to blog all the milestones. But the change we’ve seen in him as a result of a combination of parenting, his very special school, and especially Taekwondo has been tremendous.
As I mentioned, within the past six months or so, we were still working with Lucas on landing on two feet after jumping, and he wasn’t getting much air. Here he is at tonight’s Taekwondo class. (Apologies for the blurry photos–I got tired of lugging around the SLR, and I’m still learning to use this point-and-shoot camera.)
He’s showing confidence, strength, and even a bit of agility. We have conversations about the character themes of each 9- or 10-week session—the most recent was perseverance—and you better believe we’re milking the school’s question “Is that a black-belt attitude?” at home for all it’s worth.
A lot of the boys and girls enrolled in the classes appear to be mainstream, rough-and-tumble, tough little kids, and clearly they’re benefitting from the instruction. But I just want to highlight how much the classes, and the whole atmosphere of the school, have helped our sensitive and awkward boy develop into a much more confident seven-year-old boy. If you find yourself in a similar situation with your child, I recommend you find a good Taekwondo school (this is the second one we tried, and it really clicked, while the first one did not) and give it a chance.
We owe a big, and ever-growing, debt of gratitude to Heather Grout Neitzell, who teaches courses and owns the studio with her husband, as well as to the various instructors and junior instructors, but most notably Lucas’s regular instructors and assistant instructors, Ms. Strader, Mr. Garrard, Mr. Putzier, and Mr. Fenello. Big thanks to all of them for helping our boy make up some lost ground in confidence and athleticism. We still have a long way to go, but because we’re seeing such great results, we’re committed to continuing with Taekwondo for as long as Lucas wants to participate.