Let’s Get Ready to Rrrrrrumble!!
The boys’ first lesson in Jujitsu was about to begin.
They looked nervous in their t-shirts and shorts as they stood waiting to go onto the mat. The other boys were dressed in proper gis. The instructor was dressed in a gi. However, I think they were less concerned with how they were dressed than with the idea that they were about to get their arms ripped off. I had exactly the opposite concern.
Then it was time to start. I’d hoped this would be good exercise for them. Maybe teach them more discipline, maybe some respect for authority (ok, respect for MY authority) and maybe some life-long skills to survive in a harsh world.
They were 2 of 4 kids. They marched onto the mat then looked back at me like they were unsure that this all wasn’t some big Joe-joke being played on them.
They all began with exercises. First up, what looked like a crab walk, then the instructor changed to something called shrimping, which made me think of how long it’s been since I’d eaten shrimp. Shrimping looks basically how it sounds. They lie on their side and shuffle up, then curl up, then shuffle from the other side, then repeat. The youngest took it as a challenge to beat all the other kids. His technique looked more like… well, you know when you put a glob on water on a hot pan, how it hops around… yup, that was him.
The oldest, however, watched and listened to the instructor’s directions and did his absolute best to repeat the movements. When corrected, he adjusted his body as needed. When the youngest was corrected, he gave the instructor a look, (a look I’d seen on his grandad’s face several times), that basically said why are you bothering me, I’m doing everything perfectly and should, in fact, be teaching this class myself.
Then it was on to other exercises where the instructor both encouraged and pushed the boys. Sure they were new, but they had to finish. Sure they weren’t as fast, but he required they try hard. No harder. Come on, you’re nearly done, finish it up. There you go!
The instructor was fantastic. He just had that fun, outgoing energy that I’m sure gets him laid a lot. He was patient and supportive and always down on the mats with the kids, showing them how it was done. He made them laugh, and he made them sweat.
Much to my surprise, the oldest rocked at the exercises. The youngest, giggling, sprawling around trying to figure out how make his young body move, was less successful. But he didn’t care. To him it was a race and he usually won.
Then, when it came to actually learning the moves, again it was the oldest who seemed to grasp it all very quickly. Oh, he wasn’t perfect, but he was limber enough to do all the holds and because he listened and because he watched with fierce intensity, he was able to duplicate the complicated moves.
There was no way I could have done as well. Not even close. I have a hard time lifting my legs to put on a footrest. The ability to wrap them around another human being and vice-grip that lock is about as far beyond me as trigonometry is for my dog.
But color me stunned. The oldest is the guy who hates sports. Or at least says he does. Me thinks he might just hates group sports where he would let the team down if he dropped the ball or didn’t understand what to do.
For the youngest, it was a good gigglefest. He didn’t like that he had to be serious. He’s 7. Being serious is a long way off for him. Maybe 40 years. But he did enjoy the dodgeball, he loved trying to beat his brother at shrimping and when he learned that the next session, they’d work on choke holds, he was ten tons of excited.
But as I watched the oldest do so well, it occurred to me that maybe no one’s every explained something like soccer to him on a really basic level. In martial arts, they break it down. Move here. Hold this, Twist that. Stop poking your brother in the eye with your elbow. It’s methodical. It’s scripted. A-B-C-D.
More importantly, though, than being good at it, he actually seemed to like doing it!
I can’t tell you how proud I was. Not that he could do things easily, (he remains a far, far, far better singer than I’ll ever be – honestly, a pitch-prefect singer), but that he was having fun by pushing his boundaries. He had to touch other people, grab them, shift them about. He had to listen, to learn, to replicate what he’d seen. And he did it better than I could have ever imagined.
Could it be he’d found his niche?
Only time will tell.
At the end, a little red-faced, he still stood against the wall with his brother and enjoyed a good game of dodgeball, giggling, flailing out of the way of the ball. On the mat, he’d had the intensity of an adult. Dodging the ball, he was a kid, again. What an amazingly awkward time of life. That shift from being a kid to being a teenager/adult.
The next week, we signed them both up for more classes, bought them both Gis, and their first belt, a pristine white one.
Another journey for them had begun, each taking a different route.
But things would get harder and harder for them.
Would this martial art be for them?