Karate is for boys? Au contraire!
"No, not really," Big Guy replied.
He was lying through his mouth guard.
He'd gone up against The Girl again. The Girl who had been a belt behind him when he started at his current school but has caught up, in part because Big Guy missed a month. The Girl who had left Big Guy's mouth agape a few weeks ago as they rehearsed for an exhibition. "When did she get to be so ... good?" he asked, stunned.
And The Girl who had pretty much wiped the mat up with him the last time he'd sparred her.
"She's good now," he conceded. "Bam good."
I was smart enough to bite back the "I told you so" that came quickly to mind. No more than a few weeks earlier Big Guy and I had sparred a few rounds after he'd told me that "karate was for boys."
Really? I asked, an eyebrow flying skyward. Isn't your sensei a third-degree black belt and a woman? Aren't most of the assistants women?
He grudgingly conceded. "But most of the people in class are boys. And all of the good ones are."
I asked about The Girl. "Aw, she's just a white belt."
She's not now. You could see the potential even back then, though. Her mental toughness - she never lost to Big Guy in the no-laughing contests they used to have before class. Her athleticism - her kicks are straight, high and swift. But most of all, her intelligence.
It's her brain that keeps beating Big Guy as much as anything else.
The boys, you see, confuse sparring with boxing. They'll stand toe-to-toe and try to out punch each other. It's entertaining, but it's not karate. The first time The Girl and Big Guy sparred, she dove into a bag of tricks that the boys never thought to use. She kicked, she blocked, she kicked his butt. Literally and figuratively.
Big Guy learned from that, and when they sparred this week he remembered that he knew karate moves other than punching. It wasn't enough, though, because The Girl had figured out even more tricks since their last go-round.
She kicked him in the head. Repeatedly. He tried to duck but couldn't get low enough fast enough, so she still got the point. He also remembered what he'd learned the last time they sparred and got in a few kicks, but not enough. She won again.
So I let it go this week when he denied learning anything from The Girl. He might not even realize yet that he had - it's hard to analyze a defeat when you're in the middle of it.
At the very least, though, he's learned that karate is not just for boys. I owe The Girl a lot for teaching that lesson, because it applies to so much more in life than martial arts.
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.