Friday, May 23, 2008

Combat activities

A couple of weeks ago I discussed by 9 year old's Taekwondo experiences. I noted that she (and it turns out I to some extent) enjoyed watching some actual fighting going on. But I also mentioned that my 7 year old son was also taking these classes. However, is motivation is somewhat different.

My son is not taking Taekwondo because he enjoys sport. He doesn't, unless of course it is on a computer or video game console. He is taking it because his mother thinks that he is small and that a boy's playground experience at school is full of fighting and that unless he can defend himself he will be clobbered. Now she formed this opinion not on observing boys' playground behaviour now or when she was at school. Instead, it appears to have come from popular culture -- probably, The Simpsons. When I, as a person who had experienced playground boy behaviour, queried this motivation, I was ignored. Apparently, I didn't know what I was talking about.

Now why did I query all of this. Well, I figured that arming our son would not be enough. He would have to want to actually use his skills. What is more, getting picked on can occur but it seemed to me unlikely that actually stepping up was going to deter would be bullies. Better to rely on strategic avoidance such as staying within eyesight of a supervising adult. I myself survived to adulthood and beyond based on this strategy.

The upshot of this is that he was enrolled in classes at age 5 and after a year of this, finally, was allowed to give it up. It just wasn't him. My son would be classed as the sort of person who "wouldn't hurt a fly." Actually, looking at him do his classes, I came to the opinion that he in fact, "couldn't hurt a fly" even if he would want to. That would require speed and force; two factors that were not apparent in his martial arts arsenal. While other kids enthusiastically kicked and punched bags. He would step up and just go through the motions. This eventually convinced his mother that it wasn't to be.

After my last post on this subject a concerned and knowledgeable person emailed me to make sure that I emphasised that the idea that you teach kids Taekwondo so they can actually defend themselves is not correct. Instead, there is a danger of too much confidence and more trouble. All that sounds plausible to me.

Nonetheless, my son had given up for a year and what do you know, some other kid took a swing at him in the playground. And what happened? He used his Taekwondo defensive moves to block the attack! Then he assumed some aggressive looking stance and the other boy ran off.

Well, you can guess what happened next. His mother seized upon this and asked him if he wanted to return to his classes. He said yes and he has been back ever since.

That said, I still think flies have little to fear. In his grading, he is a consistent C student and his in-class enthusiasm is as lacklustre as ever. But that is except for one area: defense. There he scores an A and is the top of his class.

[PS: Any would be Taekwondo and martial arts experts who want to chime in on the comments about the merits of all this, please feel free. I am just relating the story not advocating such classes.]