karate kid, week 1

On Tuesday, I picked Catie up after kindergarten and we headed to the karate studio for her first lesson. She was nervous, as I expected, and said that she wasn’t going to do it, she was just going to sit and watch the class instead. I gave a noncommittal, “Uh-huh, we’ll see,” and kept driving.

There’s a very sweet lady at the front desk, and she was expecting us. She got Catie a uniform and showed her around. The dojo itself, the dressing rooms, the bathrooms, the area where the parents can sit and watch the class. There was something about her, she just had kind of a grandmotherly vibe, and she immediately put Catie at ease. She got into her uniform, and I snapped this picture of her.

Catie's first karate lesson. The uniform is killing me, she's so cute.
(That’s the front desk lady standing next to her smoothing her hair. Like I said, just a really sweet lady who is obviously great with kids.)

We met the instructor, and when he said, “Ok, Catie, come on over here with the other kids,” she did it without prodding. Sometimes it pays to have a kid who likes to please authority figures.

The class starts off with a lot of basic exercises – running, stretching, jumping around, basically just burning off their energy – before they start teaching any actual karate techniques. And since Catie loves P.E. at school, that was right up her alley.

They separated the kids into small groups for the instruction, and it was just Catie and one other little boy working with a teacher. At the end of the lesson, they both got a stripe on their belts for doing the technique well.

She was so excited and proud of herself, and immediately started whining about wanting to go back. We went to my parents’ house to pick up Lucy, and she ran around in her uniform and showed my parents the new moves she learned.

So? First lesson was AWESOME. I was all proud of myself for how awesome I am at this parenting thing, and I was thinking how fantastic this was going to be for her.

You can all stop here to laugh at me now.

Thursday (last night) was her second class. She was all excited, couldn’t wait to get there and get her uniform on. We were a little bit early and she was all squirmy asking how much longer until class started because she just! couldn’t! wait! for karate to start.

Class started and the warm-up was the same as the previous class, and she seemed to be having fun. When they divided up the kids for the instruction, again it was just Catie and one other child, but instead of the main instructor (who she worked with on Tuesday), they put her with a teenage girl (who is a black belt and obviously incredibly gifted at what she does). But I could tell by watching Catie’s face that the lesson just wasn’t registering with her, and she was getting really frustrated.

At the end of the class, they do a run-through of the techniques they’ve learned to see if the kids are proficient in it. And Catie was… not. She wasn’t terrible, but she kept forgetting what to do with her left arm while her right arm was moving, and vice versa. She’s not a particularly coordinated kid (which was part of the motivation for getting her into martial arts in the first place), and you know, she’s new to all of this. It takes practice.

When it was all over, the little boy standing next to her got a stripe on his belt, and Catie didn’t get one. She wasn’t the only kid who didn’t get a stripe (I think that one little boy may have been the only kid in the class of eight who did get a stripe), but she saw him get his, and then she saw the instructor walk past her.

She ran over to me, buried her face in my chest, and burst into tears.

I took her into the dressing room to help her calm down, and also to change out of her uniform and back into her street clothes. She cried and cried. She said, “I just wanted to be better than all the other kids so you would be so proud of me, and I just did dreadful!”

(Don’t ask me where she picked up the word “dreadful.” I’m going to blame that on her British father. Or maybe she’s been watching Downton Abbey when I’m not looking.)

I told her that I was, in fact, SO SO proud of her, and that she wasn’t dreadful at all, she did really well, but she just needs to practice a little to learn these new things.

She said she hates karate and never wants to go again.


We got in the car, and even though it was pouring freezing rain with ridiculous wind gusts, I stopped and bought her an ice cream on the way home. I don’t typically believe in encouraging food as a comfort technique, but damn. Poor kid was having a rough night, and it really did seem to help.

When I was putting her to bed last night, I told her that I don’t want her to try to be better than all of the other kids, I just want her to do the best she can and have fun, and not to worry about how everyone else is doing. I said, “When we go to the bounce house, do you worry if the other kids can jump higher than you, or do you just go jump and have fun? And when you’re playing with dinosaurs at school, do you worry if the other kids know the names of more dinosaurs than you? Or do you just play with dinosaurs?”

I also reminded her that she was the only kid in that class who had been to only two karate classes in their whole life, all of the other kids had been going to karate for a long time, and it was because they practiced that they understood what to do better than she did, because it wasn’t all new to them like it was for her.

Now I’m second-guessing myself and wondering if I should have signed her up for one of those sports where all the kids get “participation trophies” just for showing up. She’s such a reward-focused kid, maybe that would work better for her? But I also believe that in the long run, rewards based on actual merit have more meaning, even to a 5 year-old.

I got her to agree to go to at least one more class. I’m going to try to practice some of the moves with her between now and then. Hopefully she’ll get her stripe next time and it’ll encourage her to keep trying. That was the whole point of doing this in the first place.

3 thoughts on “karate kid, week 1

  1. Oh poor catie and poor you – nothing worse than your kids feeling dreadful. I’m English and hadn’t realised before what a sad and forlorn word it is! She sounds like my little girl who is always wanting to please – i’m sure the passivity of her first lesson will become the common theme.

  2. Hang in there mom! I had a similar experience when I signed my daughter up for softball this year. Only girl on the team that had never played. It was a little rough in the begining but we worked on it and talked about it and she did really well. Katie will do well and her confidence will grow! Good luck

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