Big Guy at his best – when he’s losing
Big Guy had just gotten his little butt beaten badly, but he'd come up grinning so it was safe to broach the subject.
"So what did you learn today?" I asked. It's my standard question when someone's wiped up a karate mat with him.
"I learned that T is a lot stronger than she looks," he said, his face still red from exertion.
Why, yes she is.
If you judged the T book by the cover, you'd dismiss her as a delicate pixie-princess, a graceful little puffball. But Big Guy had sparred with her enough to beware of her lightning feet and strong kicks. He didn't have enough grappling experience, though, to translate "strong kicks" to "legs that will grip your waist like a vise and not let go." And she's a brown belt who was testing for black, so she had the mental edge as well.
Technically speaking Big Guy has plenty of grappling experience, though it's largely consisted of rolling around the mat with a buddy and giggling. He's never taken it seriously, just as he didn't take kicks seriously as a sparring tool until a classmate consistently beat him by refusing to engage in a boxing match.
"So how is this going to make you better?" I asked.
"Well, I figured out how to get away from her by doing a push up," he said, demonstrating how he forced his arms between hers and her waist then pried her arms off and created enough leverage to escape.
"Good idea," I said. "Your upper body is strong. You can use that as an advantage next time."
It was just one more example in a long list of events that make me oh-so grateful that I signed him up for karate two years ago. The martial arts he's learned is almost incidental. It's the life lessons that come with the class that really matter. Add grappling with T to the curriculum.
He learned that what you blow off today can become an important detail tomorrow - "I'm going to pay more attention to grappling."
He learned to figure out solutions on the fly - his technique for escaping T. He hasn't figured out yet how to turn a defensive move into an offensive advantage but that will come, just as it did in sparring.
He learned how to be inspired by going up against someone who is better than him.
About an hour later he was back at it again, sparring one of his dearest friends in a karate demonstration - really, don't these kids get enough? Though his friend is a belt lower, he has a serious reach advantage with both his arms and legs, so it was a fairly even match.
Seconds after lightly pummeling each other on stage, Big Guy took off running after his friend. "I haven't seen him all summer. I need to play with him!"
There's yet another lesson: The opponent is not the enemy. You can do your best to try to defeat someone then run from water slide to water slide with him for the rest of the day.
I think that might be the most important thing Big Guy's learned so far from karate.
Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.