Being the proud mom and feeling the need to document our lives I post a lot of my kids. I post about their good days and their bad. Hey, we all know that saying… life can’t always be perfect, and sometimes remembering the lows can make you appreciate the highs a little more. When I post photos of my son doing one of the things he does best, Taekwondo, I get private messages with many questions. So here is blog post about his journey so far.
My son’s journey with Martial Arts.
I had a 4-year-old little boy with a need to explore but one thing held him back, his confidence. We looked into ball sports, he had no interest. We looked into gymnastics and that was working for a while, but he needed more. I decided to look into Martial Arts. His older cousin is a 2nd Dan in a martial art and Kaleb always thought that was pretty cool so… I looked at a few different schools. Some I thought were ok, and some I didn’t like at all. I ended up at Tri-city Taekwondo. I loved the school, loved the instructors and most important of all Kaleb felt the most comfortable here. Master Phan called Kaleb out on the mats and gave him a chance to see if he was ready to learn what he had to teach. Kaleb started the next week, but it wasn’t all that smooth. As I mentioned before, because my son was so painfully shy getting him into class was sometimes hard. At home, he wanted to go, but once he walked up to the gym it was too much, too many people, too much noise, maybe a new instructor he had never met. This all added up to an overwhelming urge to go into fight or flight and for Kaleb that usually meant flight. When he would go into panic mode, he would sit, cry and watch the class and sometimes Master Phan could get him to join in with the rest of the kids, but there were a few times it was too much and I brought him back home. This was a very painful part of the process for him and anyone watching him struggle. Other moms would look at him smiling, telling him it was ok, I think hoping to somehow make him feel more welcome. When a mom’s heartstrings are being pulled it doesn’t matter if the child is yours or not. They would look at me with that mom to mom wishing they could help look. This went on for about 6 months. The painful part was he enjoyed this so much but he was fighting himself. His mind was working against him. I felt horrible bringing him there just to cry, but he wanted to go, I wanted him to go but I also wanted him to have fun. We are nothing but supportive. Some would say overly supportive. We are always telling him he’s doing great but that wasn’t enough for him… I think he knew parents always say that. But we did, because we do think he is amazing. He is awesome, but it was so frustrating that he couldn’t see that.
Things slowly started getting better. Little changes didn’t affect him as much. He made his first belt move at 4 1/2 years old. He was proud, and an ever so small slice of confidence came with it. It was not only a huge moment for us, It was as exciting to the other parents who had watched Kaleb’s struggles. He brought a few of us to tears that day and Master Phan had a bright smile while he tied on Kaleb’s first earned belt. The more and more he worked and trained the more he believed in himself and the more he would shine. With every belt test his kicks got strong and faster, his ki yaps louder, so full of power and purposeful.
One year later.
Mid-Oct 2013, Master Phan had asked me to sign him up for the Masters Cup Taekwondo Championship. I think I might have asked him if he was crazy. I couldn’t help but think in my head – You want Kaleb to go up in front of 3 judges he has never met and take orders from someone he has never met while doing all these things in front of hundreds of people? Yup, Master Phan must have lost his mind. But I registered him anyways and thought, well, we will sit in the stands while Kaleb grips on to my shirt white knuckled with plenty of tears burying his face in the base of my neck, but at least he gets to see the tournament and maybe, just maybe, one day will try one out. Pretty crappy mom, huh? Zero faith; but, hey, I know my kid. I asked my husband what he thought and he was excited. He was on the fence about what Kaleb was going to do but he was a lot more positive than I was. We get to the tournament and he walks on to those mats and starts warming up… wait what? Things are starting and the kids are going up and doing what they came to do while Kaleb still sits on the mats. How is he doing this? Why is he not on my lap crying like I was so sure he would? After my husband rushed him to the bathroom to pee a total of 6 trips, the nerves were definitely there. They called his name. He walked up, bowed and stood tall and strong. All I kept thinking was wholly cow, I might have said something other than cow, but that’s not important. He is doing it, HE. IS. DOING.IT! I slapped the photographer that was beside me in the arm, shook Master Phan with the most surprised look on my face repeating, “He’s doing it, look at him go!” At that point, for me, it was a win. He was confronting his fears and breathing down the neck of his own struggles. Then he gets called into first place, and they handed him a gold medal. Wholly Cow! Who is this kid? How did this confidence come without me seeing it? Master Phan was right! And just like that, I learned a little something that day. I grew as a parent. Kaleb grew as a Martial Artist. From that point on his confidence was growing fast. He had entered two other tournaments placing 1st and 3rd. He just needed help over that hump. Kaleb had a friend that joined and he too was shy and had a hard time with the class. Master Phan asked Kaleb about going to his friend’s white belt class and joining in. Kaleb had no problem helping knowing how much having a friend, a familiar face, can help. Everybody helps everybody here.
Two years later.
This past Saturday, Dec 6th 2014, at the age of 6, Kaleb earned his 6th belt. It was his best show yet. The audience, the cheering, the clapping, nothing fazed him. He expressed that he was nervous, but he would no longer let his nerves override him. He now pushes past. “Push past that feeling” a phrase I have heard over and over in the gym. Master Phan’s voice is what he hears when he is struggling. He has learned coping skills beyond what I could have ever asked for. Would this have happened if I put him in dance? Maybe… Gymnastics? Yeah, maybe. Who knows? I think Kaleb has found his “thing”. While we do still encourage trying other sports and other creative outlets, his Taekwondo still holds top priority. In fact, he has a hip hop dance performance coming up for Christmas and I don’t think that would have happened had he not been working on his anxiety issues in the gym. Martial Arts has what Kaleb needs; discipline, focus, respect, a way of life, and a way to believe in yourself, and not to mention the excellent exercise. It has helped Kaleb start school and helped him cope with a few issues he was having with respect and self-control. He takes what he learns in his dojang (gym) and uses it in all aspects of his life. All this and more in just two and a half short years. He has a second family at his gym and the support is overwhelming. I have always said the more people who love my kids the better- IT TAKES A VILLAGE. I had no idea starting out that the community of this was so strong. We root for each other’s kids, we yell and cheer for them like they are our own. Each child in Kaleb’s class has somehow benefited from Taekwondo. We have all watched our children grow together, test together, and thrive together. This is a part of him now. He still has so much growing to do but I sure look forward to watching the rest of his journey and how far he takes this.
Words to live by:
I shall follow my conscience, I shall have peace of mind, I shall have sound body, I shall fulfill my duty, I shall show etiquette, I shall express my love for others, I shall increase my knowledge, I shall have happiness, I shall have indomitable spirit
Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit
Patience, Love, Respect, Humility
So to answer the most FAQ: “does he like it?” “have you seen an improvement?” “is martial arts worth it?” “my child is too shy, do you think they could do this too?” “my child is really aggressive, would this be good for him?” -Answer: YES
Part two—> My sons Martial Arts Journey pt. 2