The summer my children were six and three, I decided I wanted my kids to try new things during vacation. My eldest had been begging for gymnastics so we opted for that as one activity. For something completely different we decided to add in a summer course of karate at a local facility.
The moment Audrey's feet hit the mats at gymnastics, her eyes began to shine in a way I'd never seen. My sweet six year old had tried many fun activities before but as soon as the novelty wore off, Audrey would become distracted and lose interest. I couldn't believe the difference with gymnastics! Audrey beamed through the whole class and bounded off the mat full of joy and pride at her new skills. Thankfully the gym had fantastic class times and I was able to schedule her at a time when her Dad was home to drive her. No brainer!
Maddie, on the other hand, fell hard for karate. At the end of the summer, I realized I was just not physically able to get her to two karate practices a week during the school year -- especially since I still wasn't driving. I took a deep breath and said, "Someday, but not now." Disappointed, Maddie took it well and over the next two years enjoyed dance, gymnastics and swimming. She excelled at everything and enjoyed her classes but kept asking, "Mom, when can I take martial arts again?"
I had planned to wait until third grade, until she was old enough to understand the commitment that a martial arts practice entails. Maddie had other plans. This July I was blindsided by big blue eyes, pig tails and the firm words I hadn't expected to hear. "Mom, if I quit dance and gymnastics, can I PLEASE take martial arts?" It seemed that my kiddo was ready for martial arts far earlier than I expected.
I remembered being younger than Maddie and my father teaching me Judo falls and rolls to protect a fragile bone in my arm and my husband and I decided it was time. We are lucky enough to have a Judo dojo one town over (within my driving distance) so we set up a trial class for Maddie. There was only one thing in Maddie's way.
The only way to get into the dojo was for me to climb up a monster flight of stairs - and half the classes were at times that couldn't rely on my husband for help. The first time I did those stairs my head spun, knees went weak and my legs turned to jelly. Anyone else could simply work harder and get used to it, but I had to gauge things carefully - would I be able to safely drive home after those stairs? Can I commit to this?
That day I watched Sensei Riley McIlwain work with Maddie on the mat, saw him connect with her and get her to glow with confidence. Sigh. No brainer.
That was a few months ago. Getting up those stairs has never been a "Can I?" Getting up those stairs is a gritted-teeth "I WILL". Last night Maddie had a chance to go to her first open gym class run by the gym owner, Sensei Jimmy Pedro. Among many other accomplishments, Sensei Pedro is a World Champion, twice Olympic medalist and recently coached the 2012 US Olympic team to the first ever US Gold in Judo in London. Open gym generally focuses on one judo technique and one leadership theme, and is open to the smallest Little Dragons all the way up to the blackbelts.
After warming up, Sensei Pedro spoke to the students about the evening's theme: Goal setting. A primary part of studying judo at Pedro's Judo is learning to set goals and meet them. Little Dragons are expected to set a goal with their parents for something to accomplish at home. Together they write it in their attendance book, committing to work on it outside of the dojo. This practice continues no matter your rank or age.
"A goal set is a goal met," said Sensei Pedro, continuing "When you want to accomplish something, write it down. Put it on your door or your wall." I looked at my own Little Dragon sitting next to black belts who had competed all over the world, my own little Maddie, listening to life lessons across the mat from Sensei Travis Stevens of the 2012 US Olympic Judo team.
Those stairs were brutal last night and the effects have hit me hard today. Absolutely too tired to drive, I had to rest for an hour before I was strong enough to load the dishwasher. As my legs wobbled at the kitchen counter I thought back to Sensei Pedro's words last night. "A goal set is a goal met."
Living with physical limits is tough on a person. Duh. But few people think about what life is like for a parent with physical limits. "I'm sorry, we can't..." becomes a standard part of their lexicon. We are not only challenged with raising strong, compassionate children like every other parent, but we are are also entrusted with helping our children grow up resilient, determined, patient, thankful and not resentful in a life that is limited by someone else's pain and weakness. In this house you don't get an allowance for picking up your markers. You pick up your markers because mom uses a cane and could get seriously hurt. Period.
I will get Maddie to Judo, just as I continue to get Audrey to gymnastics. Often I will have to grit my teeth to make those stairs. Sometimes I will really pay for the strain the next day. But last night my efforts were rewarded with seeing my daughter learn more than just Judo from a world class instructor. She wasn't the only one learning from him last night. A goal set is a goal met.
|Maddie with Sensei Jimmy Pedro 9/19/2012|
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