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A brown belt for Big Guy – not that it’s important

Submitted by on Monday, 12 March 2012 No Comment

It was testing week in karate and, as usual, Big Guy was under the gun. Not as much as he used to be, when he didn’t have a clue and had to frantically cram, but he still was missing two stripes.

One was for his nunchuk form – he was down, though, to fixing one tiny footwork mistake. The other was for a complicated combination that included a jump he was convinced had to clear the stratosphere. I told him his shihan was looking more for form than for an ability to leap tall buildings, but he wouldn’t believe me until an 11-year-old friend confirmed it.

So as we drove to karate Wednesday, both of us agreed there was a good possibility he would be able to earn the missing stripes that night and test for his brown belt on Friday. That, though, would create a scheduling complication. His post-season basketball party was Friday at 6; his belt test was to begin at 6:30.

“We can stop in at the party before and after the test if you want,” I told him. “I bet you want to go to the belt test. It’s pretty important.”

“Not really,” Big Guy said.

Not important? I thought, stunned. When all I’ve heard since January was how he wanted to earn his brown belt before we moved?

“Not important?” I asked calmly.

“No, not really,” he said again. “I mean, it’s important but it’s not the end of the world. If I don’t get it Friday, I’ll get it sometime. If I don’t get it with shihan, I’ll get it at my next school.”

He’d stunned me again. Where on Earth had this come from? I mean, it’s nothing he hasn’t been hearing for years, as I’ve reassured him time and again that today’s disaster won’t matter much come next week. But I had no idea he’d internalized it enough to be able to repeat it – and mean it.

He wound up getting his stripes that night. He wasn’t wild about leaving the party Friday, but by then the brown belt had become important.

He bobbled a bit on one combination he’d mastered months ago – that’s always his way – but nailed the one that had been deviling him. He sparred better than he has in his life, using combinations of kicks and spins that everyone knew he knew but had never seen  him put to use.  He was tired by the time he’d reached his final round, a bout with two opponents at once, but he fought them off pretty well.

“I used too much energy on that orange belt,” he said of his first-round opponent. “Next time I’ll hold back a little, because I have a lot of rounds left.”

He said this not in a self-critical way, but in a calmly analytical tone. He saw a flaw in his system and thought about how he could correct it.

Once again, a karate lesson is a life lesson, and one that will be important even if  his karate belts wind up stashed and forgotten in a toter in my house after he’s moved out.

Not that that’s going to happen. He earned his brown belt Friday and sees a black belt within reach. He’s vowed to keep going until his has as many stripes on his own black belt as his shihan currently has on hers.

Copyright 2012 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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