I normally I try to keep our blogs technical or business related. This is not one of those cases. This time of year I believe one should reflect on family and all that means. Stuff is nice, but without our children our spouses none of it would amount to much if anything if at all. I wanted to share an event that is somewhat monumental in our lives. At least to me and I know Jett. As many know and maybe not from the various blogs we have been blessed with two wonderful boys. Jett(9) and Quinn (6) Of course all parents think that their children are special. Well ours really are =) Jett is thoughtful, kind and honestly a very compassionate and soft soul. Quinn is assertive, playful, funny, compassionate and so sensitive below the surface. Both of our children, Roxanne and I put in martial arts at an early age. Jett had an incident when he was in preschool where another student pushed him down while he stood quietly to himself and his tiny hands attached carefully to the inside of his pockets. Furious I ran to the school to get my baby boy and told Rox that as soon as we could we would place him in martial arts.
My goal knowing how I was growing up was to place him in the arts as an activity not a means of self defense. After all like father like son. Well, not in this case. Jett being the kind soul he is, he was resistant to hitting anything or anyone. Kicking, punching was fun but when it came time to spar he always felt bad and never wanted a scuffle. All the makings of a true Black Belt!
It has been so many years now I don‘t recall when we actually started Jett in the arts. See, it has been a journey for all of us as Roxanne reintroduced me to the arts and I am also Jett’s teacher from time to time. One of the hardest things I have found out through the years is you can be a teacher and a coach or you can be a dad. It is almost impossible to be both. You want to be a teacher and do all the things you know but when it comes to your own kids, you can’t stop being a dad and that truly interferes with what his/your goals are and your ability to teach effectively. It is important that one understands that our Jr Black Belts do not do anything different testing wise than what an adult does. Jett did exactly what I did for my belt to test for his belt. If you think about it that is huge for a 9 year old. There are criteria that he had to meet, but at the same time a spirit that had to be developed inside. This is not something you teach nor even something you can push. It eventually happens and as a father and an instructor you just know. They know and then the world knows. It is not a word or a conversation that happens, he doesn’t walk around saying anything, and you look at him and know…he has confidence and a glow about himself that explains what he is. As a teacher it is a sense of pride that a student achieves this. As a father I feel my arms go warm and my chest contracts as I get an overwhelming sensation throughout my body, that pride is almost without words to describe.
We were having our dyno day a few weekends ago here at the shop and I was torn as Jett had his testing. I am blessed to have a good crew and a wonderful wife that allowed me the space to skip out and take Jett to his testing. As we headed over there I shared these thoughts and feelings with him. I am not sure he understands all of it but I know in my heart 20 years from now he will smile and remember it. For me, well you see the movies as you pass on your final days-the waves of memories that pass. If that is true that ride to the school will be one of them. We quickly pulled up to the door and I rustled his baby fine blonde hair and said “give it hell and I no matter what happens I am very proud”. I Kissed the only spot on him that still has any baby fat, those rosy cheeks and rushed him inside.
The testing procedure is very long, after all there is a physical part to being a black belt…..right. =) The testing goes as such, board breaking, yes they have to physically kick through a one inch boards. At this level Jett was required to do two foot techniques. Both should demonstrate speed and focus. If you think just hitting the board is enough, good luck with that!
You must know every belt forum from white belt to black belt. Remembering there are 2 green belts, 2 blue belts, 3 brown belts. The order is white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, black recommended then the real deal, Black decided. You must perform a series of attack defenses, knife defense and finally show all your skills of all the years combined in sparring. Your rank then higher ranks, bigger people, etc….
Jett always seems to find an inner self at testing. He is a free spirit, but on these days he means business. This is very remarkable that a 9 year old can do this. He turns it on and off when he knows it is important. A very noble trait and one that is needed to be a BB. Jett’s first task was the boards. What is funny is in the beginning it was always a struggle to get him to have the confidence because his ability was always there to just walk up and kick the boards. So many of the kids can not judge their distance and have to touch the board, measure, touch again, one step back, another half step, hip in then snap the kick..As he walked up to the holders I ran to the front of the class only to sit down on the floor and ready the camera and look up to hear “crraaack” he didn’t setup up he didn’t think he simply walked up and knew his distance and popped the board. In real life there is no time to set anything up. I sat there in awe, speechless and fumbled for the on button on the top the camera. He switched sides and did it again! Now normally I am to be suited up, no excuses but I came up with many for Mr Lee that day as I sat on the floor. I wanted to be a dad and I was. As I stared through the view finder I fought what otherwise would have been a real mess of tears. The viewfinder got fuzzy as the tears sat on the top ridge of my bottom eye lash. As a single tear streamed gently off of my check and I quickly ran the back of my hand over it like a wiper clearing a bug from a windshield I couldn’t have been any prouder. I really couldn’t. This little soul I have watched from a little baby in the palm of my hand to where we are now and certainly that day was amazing, hell is still amazing! You never know how life will turn out and what your children will be on that memorable day that you and your wife sit together on that bed holding the perfect creation, your child. All without words really so that is the best I can do to describe. Hope some of it makes sense. If you are a parent then I know you do.
Testing is always filled with lots of people, one of them being my friend and master, Dave Johnson. He also happens to be the president of the Black Belt Association. He sits at the head of this table with 7 other masters and Mr Lee judging the testing. You are only allowed 3 mistakes in the whole process! That is not easy for anyone. Certainly not me and I can only imagine for a young child the pressure, but it was a wonderful feeling when you look up and Dave gives you that approving nod! As a teacher I get that approval or disapproval from the board by simply inquiring with my eyes, and in this case I was filled with joy to know that my judgment of Jett’s wonderful effort had not gone unnoticed by the panel either.
Forward now a week and a half. Tuesday we all left early to pick up the boys. My overpriced twin turboed snow mobile doesn’t do so well in the snow so Rox and I made like the old days and rode into work together then left together to go get the boys early to avoid being late. They played in the snow for a while and I text Dave back and forth to make sure we were still having class. The few hours passed as Jett watched some TV and Quinn shoveled more of the grass than the driveway. We finally headed to class. We walked through the door and looked at the 80s vintage paper printed off from what has to be the last working Dot Matrix printer in North America nice and secure in Mrs. Lees office. It doesn’t matter what the paper is as long as those names and ranks are on there and the stamp that has been used to from the 60s is imprinted on the bottom with the “AKTA” approval. We all peered at the paper and near the top was “Jett Kaspar 1R-1D” My boy was an official 1st decided black belt.
So hug your family, forget the cars, the go fast goodies for a second and breathe in if nothing more than a moment what is important. Then when you are done call me for some mods 😉
Sorry for all the as I say “blah blah” So many things we get caught up in as our lives, things become more complicated and tasks seem to over run us. I just wanted to share something dear….
Happy Holidays, Stephen AKA PhD