For the past six months, my daughter Tabitha has been taking karate on Wednesdays and Fridays…. and I have watched from the sidelines.
Above is a video of Tab, back right, performing Heian Shodan, the first kata. She had to learn this in order to receive her yellow belt.
I really wanted to participate, as some of the parents also take the class with their children, and I finally mustered up the courage to take the class.
So, I wrote a letter to the sensei and asked if it would be okay to join. I told him I’m not very coordinated, but really want to give it a shot. He said “gambatte ne!” (do your best!) and I’ve been taking the class for the past month.
At first, it was pretty frustrating. My Japanese language skills are soooo terrible, and, did I mention I’m not very coordinated? Slowly, though, the words and corresponding motions are becoming more familiar.
I can actually do Heian Shodan, without stopping, although my form could definitely be a little stricter.
The dojo is upstairs to a sports clothing store. From the road, you would never know there is a dojo nestled amongst the shops, which close about an hour before class begins, covered with metal pull-down doors. There is a dimly lit narrow set of steps leading upwards from the sidewalk that look like they might lead up to an apartment – but this is where we meet for class.
The tiny platform at the top of the steps is always covered in students’ shoes.
During the winter, the platform was covered in knee-high boots (typical here, as the snow is deep) and then, after one warm weekend, as if everyone called each other beforehand and agreed, suddenly the boots were gone and replaced by sneakers. The back rim of the sneaker openings are often bent inward, like make-shift clogs, as people here remove their shoes so often, they just kinda scuff around in them vs. bothering to put their feet in properly lace up.
The room where we practice is lined with stacks of brown cardboard boxes from the overflow of the sports store.
The floor is covered in foam mats – the kind you’d see in a children’s daycare – the center square being white mats, and the perimeter blue. The walls are lined with certificates and photographs of past tournaments.
On the left wall, there is a teeny tiny sliding sliding door (I’m 5′ 2″ and have to duck down, almost half my size, to go through the door) that leads to the lavatory, and presumably, the sensei’s house. When you get to the bottom of these steps, you put on a pair of slippers, and then take them off 10 feet later and replace them with bathroom slippers, and then switch again as you go back towards the stairs. It’s quite the process just to take a tinkle.
A typical class begins with warm up stretches — about 15 minutes. We then take a quick water break.
Next, we practice footwork. This can be different styles of jumps, or ladder obstacles… each with the “proper” way to do them. It is NOT a free-for-all. The sensei is kind, but gets very mad if people goof off!
Then, we break into groups and practice punches and kicks in formation. As we go forward, we do offensive punches and kicks, counting up to five… ichi, ni, san, shi, go.
I do fine for the offensive part, but when we go backwards, which has a different footwork and defensive blocks, I always seem to get my feet turned around. I step backwards with my left foot instead of my right, for example. There is one blackbelt teacher’s helper in the class who always immediately comes running over to me and loudly yells, “SWITCH!”, hits his legs, and then turns his wrist. ::blush:: Tonight, he only had to yell at me twice :P
After the punches and kicks in formation, we take a break and then form two lines for practice with a partner. Depending on how hard we are supposed to kick and punch that night, we sometimes use padded shields. Each punch and block have about 3-4 moves, and words that go with them. You have to say the words identifying where you will be striking:
jodan /joe-dahn/ – Upper level, collar and up
chudan /choo-dahn/ – Middle level, belt up to collar
mae geridan /my-ay-gee-ri-dahn/ – Lower level front kick
After you identify the strike, you go through the corresponding initial set up, contact (block) and then a counter hit/kick (met with blocks).
The last part of class has been practice for the tournament. We spend time perfecting bows, and then individual katas and one-on-one fighting. The sensei would like for Tabitha to enter three competitions : Individual kata, Kata in a group, and one-on-one choreographed fighting, demonstrating the three specific moves I mentioned above; very controlled with exact moves and responses.
While I do essentially have two left feet, I am having a great time and am thankful I just made myself try karate! It is something Tabitha and I can go and do together, as well as practice together at home. I’m also able to help her more, as I am beginning to have a better understanding from having done the moves myself… and she helps me, too. Physically, it’s challenging. In order to have good form, you must keep your gut sucked in and keep all of your moves very centered and snug. I feel like I’m getting faster with my moves and definitely more toned.
(AHH!!! I’m studying KARATE in JAPAN!!!) (Had to get that out of my system. Bye, now.)
When you’re shopping with five small children, the trip can often be deemed successful if you leave with the bare essentials on your list, nothing in the store gets broken, there are no potty accidents on aisle five and nobody gets injured in the parking lot on the way to a car. (Thanks again, Stranger Who Saved the Day, for the bandages from the glove box of your NRA tagged pick-up when Micah’s pinky fingernail was ripped clean off, in the pouring rain, by the wheel of a shopping cart.)
Just because you can’t predict what’s going to happen with all of the variables present (um, that’s a euphemism for children), it doesn’t mean that you can’t try to have some semblance of order.
Here are my three shopping rules:
1. Reverse single file. This means to form a line behind the parent-in-the-lead in reverse age order. This way, the oldest child (my Thomas is eight) can help keep an eye on the middle children and is bringing up the rear so that we don’t have any stragglers. Especially on smaller aisles here in Japan, where two people are the equivalent of a road block, in this formation we can maneuver quickly and without crashing into any old ladies. If someone wants to look at something, they can ask me and we’ll go over and look together. If Tom is with me, especially in very crowded places, one of us will lead and the other will bring up the rear. ( You might laugh and call me militant, but have you ever lost a four year old on the subway in Tokyo? Yeah. Thought so.)
2. Hands behind your back or in your pockets. I inherited this rule from my father. He is a woodworking artisan. When my siblings and I were young, my dad used to take us with him to art shows and antique stores while he met customers and solicited new business. He knew the shop owners and, so long as we promised to obey this rule, they’d let us into their stores even when there were “No Children Under Age 13 Allowed” signs posted. (Oh yes, these signs do exist!) This rule works just as well in an aisle of glass jarred condiments as it does in a curio shop. If one of my children would like to touch something, they can ask me for help and we can look at it together… after I peek at the price tag first!
3. Ninja Stealth Mode. My kids came up with this name. It means to be quiet in the store, and to walk in a way that no one can hear you. This is the shopping version of The Quiet Game. If you aim for total silence, you’ll probably end up with “indoor voices”, which works just fine. (The children are convinced that no one can see or hear them while they’re in Ninja Stealth Mode. If you tell them otherwise, I’ll have to kill you.)
Being respectful of the store and other customers is something many adults have never learned. It’s important to teach children how to behave when they are young so that when they’re old, they’re only playing Monkey in the Middleif they can afford to buy every item on the aisle!
Humor aside, please don’t drag your children along on “shop until you drop” excursions or be insensitive to your children’s basic needs while you’re out and about. If a long days of errands simply cannot be avoided, be sure to plan for snack and potty breaks. You may be able to survive 10 stores in a row without emptying your bladder or stopping at the vending machine for some juice re-hydration, but your dear children cannot. In my post about biting, I addressed how unmet physical needs can contribute to bad behavior. The same ideas apply here.
By the way, there will be times that you’ll follow all the rules and you’ll momentarily lose a child or someone will steal a pack of orange Tic-Tacs. These incidents make for tender teaching moments for the whole family… not to mention great blog fodder. Remember: God is merciful, and He’s still in charge even when you kid yourself and think you have it all together, but don’t.
Tabitha went from being playful and fine to coughing, wheezing and a 103.1 F fever in the span of about two hours last night. (*Micah and Aiden have been coughing for the past few days, but no fever.)
Tom sat in the arm chair and hugged Tabitha, who was sitting on his lap, while we took her temperature. At one point, Tom smiled and said ‘Flever’. Instead of laughing, Tabitha flung her arms around his neck tightly and started to cry. “Oh no! What’s a flever?”, she said, thinking it was more serious than a fever.
Tom had to be at work at 6:30 this morning, and I finally made him go to bed at 1:30am while I waited a bit longer for Tabitha’s temperature to drop in the lukewarm bath – with bubbles to make it more fun!
Tabitha didn’t want the other kids to get sick because of her coughing and asked to sleep in the living room. (Tab’s such a thoughtful little pumpkin!) She and I quietly tiptoed around the sleeping kids – the tatami floor does a great job of muffling sneaky feet – and we carried out her futon, pillow and blankets to the living room.
I was really looking forward to “Tully’s at Ten” Bible study this morning, and to Easter dinner at church tonight, but I can’t make it to either. **This afternoon, I am cooking the lamb slices for the dinner, so one of my friends from church is going to pick it up on the way. (This same dear friend is momentarily bringing by a Tully’s coffee for me :) I am so happy the ladies are meeting this morning, with the biggest turnout yet, I might add, even though I couldn’t make it!)
Tabitha asked for apple pancakes this morning, so of course I obliged! As Becky would say, “Feet, don’t fail me now!”
Although the recipe calls for Granny Smith Apples, we can’t get those here – just Aomori Apples. I have a feeling that to eat any other kind of apple here would offend the Japanese farmers! Aomori Apples are the sweetest apples I’ve ever tasted. Yet, unlike many sweet varieties, they are very crisp and good for baking. The oldest apple tree in Japan is in our town, Kashiwa. Check out Hello Kitty’s Travel Japan Blog on Aomori Apples, which has some great photos of our apple-themed town. )
Break’s over… Back to my day, reflecting on being a nurse for the Great Physician to get me through and on Psalm 139, (< --- click on the link! I wrote a song about it :) ), my favorite.
* Ugh! Micah has a fever now! 101 degrees F.
** Miyo, my Japanese potter friend, and Karen, my English teacher friend from New Zealand, stopped by after Bible study! Karen brought a cappuccino for me, and Miyo offered to cook the lamb I had intended to bring to a church dinner and take it for me so I can rest! I feel so loved...
Excerpt from this morning’s argument during Playdough sculpting.
Tab was making horses.
Thomas was making aliens.
Tabitha : I love horses.
Thomas : I hate horses.
Tabitha : You shouldn’t hate horses. If there was no such things as cars or buses, how would you get to church? You couldn’t unless you have a horse!
Thomas: If there were no cars or buses, I’d stay home from church, kill a horse, make Jello and eat it!
Tabitha: [Mortified] Mom!! Does ALL the gelatin in the world come from horse hooves?
Tabitha: See Thomas? You don’t HAVE to kill horses to make Jello.