Posts Tagged ‘taekwondo’

The Righteous Punch

bullyingI’m not supposed to write about this but I can’t keep my mouth shut.

Yesterday before school a bigger boy in my son’s class shoved him face first against a wall and he banged his head pretty hard. Instinctively, my son spun around and punched the kid in the face, hard.  The boy went down and cried. But Sandor helped him up and apologized and they shook hands.

Sandor called me to let me know what had happened. He was upset because he know if a teacher saw him he’d get in big big trouble, probably suspended.  He was also upset because he made the boy cry.  When I pressed him he explained he was kind of a big slow kid who did stuff like this all the time other people. He also told me he wanted to keep punching him but the yellow belt tenant in Taekwondo is Self Control.  He did the right thing and stopped.

I was totally stressed all day waiting for a call from the school. Right after lunch Sandor texted me “I feel so guilty”.  When we got home I asked him why and it was because the boy cried and that always makes him feel really bad.

Good news, this morning Sandor texted me again, the kid told him his face still hurt and they shook hands again.

Then my son told me about another fight which took place in the football lockerroom.  There’s a young man, I’ll call him Joe, who’s mother died a couple of years ago.  A seventh grade boy started making fun of Joe’s dead mother. (It doesn’t get any worse that that.) One of the star football players slugged the kid several time to shut him up. (Obviously, in my mind the right thing to do.) I believe this situation was handled appropriately by one of the coaches and was never reported.

The truth is some kids are just wretched human beings right now but they aren’t any worse than they used to be. I remember getting pushed around in first grade because I liked Davey Jones in the Monkeys.  And in 5th grade when I had to go to a new school for a little while in Florida all the kids and bus driver called me “Pig Farmer” because of my accent. Kids are really mean.

My son has been in Taekwondo, and messed around with boxing since he was three. He’s a second degree black belt and he’s been trained to do exactly what he did. Defend himself.  He’s also been taught to always always stick up for a kid being bullied. that’s one of the founding principals of our Taekwondo school and house hold.  That’s his job. There are sheep and there are coyotes in life and especially in school. Somebody has to be brave enough to protect the sheep. that’s the natural order of things. Walking away when you can help someone is a disgrace.

Hopefully our school administrators will come to understand (and many of ours do now, thankfully) we’re not helping anyone, especially the sheep, if we tell kids not to defend themselves and weaker students from punk ass coyotes. Teachers, administrators and the police can’t be everywhere all the time. So when we tell our strong and righteous students to step back we are only emboldening the bullies, we are giving them even more power.

It’s a fine line, but again, this is a situation where “zero tolerance” just doesn’t work.  If I defended an old person who was being pushed around at Walgreens by a big tough guy I’m pretty sure the police would take the circumstances into consideration.

There will always be bullies, there will always be kids who get bullied and there will always be heroes unless they all get suspended.

The Junkies’ Son

boyI have a little Taekwondo school. And a few weeks ago a mom and dad walked in with two little boys. One was a round, noisy and silly five year old the other a skinny and silent nine year old named James.

We did lots of kicking and punching drills and both boys did just fine. The youngest one laughed and squirmed and fell down when he tried to kick. But James never made a sound, he barely made eye contact and his expression was completely stoic, as though he’d checked out. He tried to do what  I said but there was no joy or goofiness in the boy. His eyes were vacant.

Because I can be very immature I can generally get a nine year old to laugh…but not this kid.

Both boys came back for two more classes then signed up. My daughter was, Lexie, was teaching while I talked to their mom.  She told me the story.  They adopted James a month ago. His mom was a junkie and died from an over dose. She used to shoot up in front of James. When James did something wrong (which I couldn’t imagine because he was so meek) they whipped him with a switch with stickers on it. Tore the boy up.  And because she was a junkie she didn’t get him to school on a regular basis or learn to read. As a result he’d failed two grades and didn’t have friends.

He spent some time in a foster home before being adopted.

Since he’d been with his new family he hadn’t smiled or laughed or cried, even over his mom’s death. He’d been sweet and polite and obedient but that was it. We finished talking then I went out on the floor to work with the kids.

After a few minutes I said “Who wants to grapple?”

I had six little boys that day and they nearly exploded and yelled “we do!!”   Grappling is simply wrestling but they start from their knees. And all little boys love to grapple.

“Everybody sit down chris cross apple sauce.”

“Yes ma’am!”

I used my ring announcer voice, “First up we have Jason and Hunter.” They are both tiny six year old boys.

They knelt in the center of the ring, shook hands and said, “Good luck sir.”

Then I said my typical silly stuff. “Remember men, no biting, no licking and no hair pulling. Begin!”

For two minutes they rolled around, pinning each other, squirming free then starting all over. The other boys cheered and coached.

Then I said, “Next up new kid James and Martin!” They faced each other. “James have you ever grappled before?” He shook his head and looked down. “Have you ever wrestled around with a friend or your dog?” He shook his head. Maybe he’d never had a friend?

“Ok, just do what those guys did. Try to push Martin down and pin him. Ok?”

He just nodded and I said, “Begin!”

The two boys latched on to each other, pushing and pulling, trying to get the other to go down first.  James’ new parents leaned forward in their seats watching intently.

Then James went down and the other boy tried to hold him there. And that’s when it happened. I suddenly  realized James  was giggling and smiling…because he was playing. I looked back at his parents to make sure they saw what I was looking at. His new mom was nearly in tears.

After class I high fived the guys but James ducked under my hand and gave me a sideways hug. And he smiled again, as though the breaker switch had been flipped.  Smiling was ok. And playing was awesome.



My Boy….A Champion and A Loser

sandor josephSandor, my ten year old son has had a string of tough losses at taekwondo tournaments.  His big sister walks away with enormous gold trophies and he leaves with nothing.  Sandor trains hard, he does what his instructors tell him, he’s respectful and always has a great attitude….but he loses. It’s been heartbreaking.

After the last high profile loss I was almost speechless. Sandor came unglued as only a little boy can.  He sobbed on my shoulder and once I got him in the car he got mad, he screamed “I’m sick of losing!” We both screamed with the windows down “This Sucks.”  When we got back to the hotel we ate chocolate and Cheetos, drank Mt. Dew and jumped on the hotel beds.  After that he was just fine.
While my son was crying on my shoulder I tried to hold back my tears as I whispered into his ear, “Your day is coming, I promise you ….your day is coming. If you have the guts to stick this dry streak out, if you have the patience and strength not to quit….your day is coming. I just don’t know when it’s gonna get here. But it’s coming….I promise you buddy.”,

I let Sandor skip the next couple of Taekwondo classes because I didn’t want him to get burned out, but on Wednesday night he said, “Hey Mom, what time is class?”  When I told him it was in thirty minutes he immediately ran off to find his uniform.

After class I asked Sandor how class was and he said, “Awesome!”

The next night after class I asked him how things went and he said “Amazing.” Then I told him there was a tournament the following weekend. We could skip it or we could go, it was up to him.

Sandor stared at me like I was an idiot, then he gave me the “duh” shoulder shrug . “Mom, my day is coming, what if next Saturday is “my day” and I don’t show up. That would totally suck.”

“Yeah, ok, you’re right.  I’ll get you signed up tomorrow.”

A few days later he asked me about a friend of his who boxes. He’s talented but didn’t win much his first year.

“Is he going to box next year?” Sandor asked.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he is.”

“Good, cause his day is probably coming.”

I think he’s right.

The next day I started thinking about Sandor and his faith. His day IS coming. I know that for a fact . I don’t have any doubt. And I will hang in there with him until it happens.

I know instinctively Sandor will succeed, will be a champion…if he doesn’t quit.

So, until then,  I’ll stand ringside….knowing my son’s day is coming and he has the guts to wait then embrace it.

Sometimes You Need To Kick Them In The Head

punkThere are two words parents and Martial Arts instructors hate, fear, dread and have to deal with.

“I know.”   Ahhhhh

“You know what? You know nothing. You’re a kid…you don’t know.”

As a parent there are two major intersections when “I know” slams through the intersections of life and turns you nice kid into a pain in the butt punk.

1. Right around the 12 or 13 year old mark it happens.  When the first arm pit hairs and boobs appear teens start thinking they know EVERYTHING. Boys get boy muscles and think they are bad to the bone, powerful, dangerous and all knowing.  Girls realize they are sexy and have power so they become snarky and use gossip and eye rolling like a dagger.

2. The sophomore year of college (around age 19)is the year of “I know”, heavy sighs, “you don’t understand anything.”  and knowing so much about the “real world”  than their parents. The first year of college they are still giddy, overwhelmed and excited. but the second year they think they have EVERYTHING figured out. They think they are worldly cause they drink  coffee with professors and can stay out as late as they want. Thankfully this wears off and by their Senior year they realize how little they know and they really don’t want you to drop them from your insurance policy.

When “I know” is said in a Martial Arts school things get touchy and sometimes painful.  The instructor has to do something..quickly. the “I Know” attitude  is toxic for the whole school.

When  a brilliant, athletic, skilled teen age boy says “I know” to his instructor instead of “yes sir” he puts a lid on a cup that is only a quarter full .  This young man has two or three extraordinary and seasoned instructors with years and years of Taekwondo knowledge.  They are pitchers filled with ice water and they want to pour their knowledge into that kids cup/brain, so he can continue learning and improving.

But the second he says “I know” he puts a lid on his cup. He thinks he knows it all, he believes his own hype. Nobody can learn anything if they think they already know it all.

It’s heartbreaking for the instructors and parents. But there are options. Martial Arts instructors can sit down and have a serious discussion about the kid’s ignorance and lack of respect or, they can kick the lid off the cup. Instructors never like to “thump” a student but sometimes that’s the only way to get a teen to realize how little they know.  Likewise, parents can have a serious discussion or they can start “thumping” and  change their child’s understanding of the universe. Cut off cell phone service, auto insurance or reposes the car they you probably paid for. Sometimes you just have to let them fail…big time.

Good news, most kids figure out how little they know and return to normal.  The important thing is to hug them after you cut up their debt card or round kick them in the head.  The hug is the important thing because it says, “Hey jerk, I still love you”.

Their bruised ego will recover. Most teen egos are like fire ant hills they always come back bigger and stronger.  But if you don’t fight the good fight and try to keep them in check they will take over your entire yard and make your life pretty hellish.

Girl Bullies and Groin Kicks on the Playground

football-sandor-207x300This morning Lexie stood in the bathroom doorway as I was putting on my makeup.  “Talk to Sandor about Kennedy, she’s kicking him in the groin on the playground.”

Kennedy is Sandor’s ex-girlfriend.  They are in fourth grade and “went out” for months.   Much to my surprise they were holding hands and he walked around with his arm around her sometimes, just like big kids. But two months ago Sandor broke up with Kennedy because “she got mean and bossy and stopped being fun to play with”.

I waited till we were in the car. “So what’s going on with Kennedy?”

He made a noise with his throat meaning he was disgusted. “She hits me and pushes me from behind and kicks me all the time on the playground.”

“Did you tell the teacher?”

“I tried but she wouldn’t listen.  She told me to ignore it. But she does it every day.”

“Has she ever actually made contact when she kicked at you?”

“Yeah, lots of times. She got my knee last week but she was aiming for my nuts. If she was a dude I’d hit her so hard.”

Sandor has been in Taekwondo for seven years so his defensive skills are pretty sharp. Good thing Taekwondo teaches lots of groin blocks.

And he’s not afraid of a fight.  A couple of weeks ago he came home with bloody knees. He told me a bigger kid grabbed his basket ball and threw it into a ditch then started walking away. Sandor ran up behind the kid jumped on his back. They both went down. Thankfully teachers didn’t see all this action or both boys would be in ISS.

But Sandor doesn’t know what to do with Kennedy…because she’s a girl. Teachers don’t pay attention…because she’s a girl. Sandor is ten and knows he would get into so much trouble if he hit a girl at school…but how’s he supposed to react?

It’s a reverse bully sexism situation.

Good thing there’s only three weeks of school left. Until then he better keep on blocking.


Get Off The Couch and Be Brave

ladyI teach a kickboxing boot camp class every week and I always walk away astonished.  I have three to seven folks, mostly women ages 30-45 show up smiling and ready to sweat.

When I googled pictures of women kickboxing they were ALL SUPER HOT BABES IN SPORTS BRAS. Not my kick boxers.

Several are in really, really good shape, better than me, and others are working on it. Most of my kick boxers are teachers at Lake Hamilton School and they inspire me ….because they don’t quit. They don’t complain, they don’t make excuses. They keep on going and getting better.

I have a friend whomy age and started Taekwondo. She always said her  goal was “to suck a little less every day.”

Instead of being intimidated and sitting on the couch watching tv,  these women put on boxing or MMA gloves (that’s really fun to watch)  and they jab-cross,  jab-cross tick tock jab-cross, they upper cut hook bob and weave.  They round kick the heavy bag until they are sweating and gasping and exhausted….but they keep on going. And they are getting better every single week.

One of the ladies is a substitute teacher, totally dedicated to her family and she punches like a monster. She said her husband didn’t really believe she could punch…hard. She can.  So I gave her a couple of focus mitts  and told her to let her husband and hold for her while she punched.  She came back  this week all smiles and said her husband backed up while she was punching.

Here’s the reality, most of us stop learning anything new once we turn thirty. We just repeat our actions because it’s safe, it’s what we know. We won’t look like idiots.

Adults who start any martial arts program, from taekwondo to kickboxing, are heroes to me. They are brave and smart and strong. And they aren’t afraid…of anything….at any age.

When we stop learning new things, we stop growing, when we are more afraid of looking like an idiot than growing… we have officially gotten old and broken down.

Don’t let that happen. Find something new, learn something new, Russian, how to play the piano, learn to  rock climb or kickbox.

Stand up and be brave. Do something new and you’ll be honoring my middle age kickboxing class and this beautiful life God has given you.

Love The World Like Granger

This morning Sandor, who is ten, found a dead mouse behind the couch. He was so happy. I was disgusted.  but I let him scoop it up in a plastic thing and put it out side. He wanted to save it and show his friend Joe Joe. Yuck…little boys.

As I drove to work I wanted to call my brother Granger because he would love this story. But Granger died a year and a half ago.  As I drove in to town I watched a sleazy looking daddy standing at a school bus stop with his little boy, who was running in circles around his dad’s legs. I see this pair almost every morning and they always look pretty happy even though the dad kind of freaks me out.  He’s got tattoos on his neck and smokes constantly. Still, he looks like a pretty loving and patient dad.

Granger would love that almost as much as he would love Sandor and the dead mouse.

I realized for the 637th time that my brother, Granger, was magical because he loved this world so much. He loved hobos and lizards and BBQ pork sandwiches, BB King riffs, ponies in pastures and tarpon. He loved and hated smells and would comment on the air constantly.  He loved this world with a passion and a vocabulary so colorful it seemed he’d swallowed a box of crayons. Because he was so excited and passionate about everything from old black ladies on bus benches to stray dogs other people fell in love with this world too. His magic and love were contagious.

One day he stood in my office and told me could talk to Alligators. He was serious. And I think there’s a chance he could.

A couple of years ago Granger stood, half drunk, watching my daughter Lexie spar a great big boy  in Taekwondo. He said with pride, “She’s like a dragonfly on steroids.” That one stuck.

When Granger spent a year and a half in prison he made such good friends he insisted I become their pen pals after he was released…so they wouldn’t be lonely.

When he died everybody figured there was some kind of fortune and treasure hidden because Granger was a pirate.  But he loved this world so much and so hard he spent every penny on the people and things he loved. And he loved the world like a man who knew he would not be here for long.

Today, go out there and love the world with all you’ve got. I’m going to try.

Dead Guys Can’t Kick

Two weeks ago I was sparing at a black belt camp in Louisiana and was kicked by a very handsome 6th degree. When I tried to get up my right knee laughed at me and said, “put your butt back down, woman.” I couldn’t walk.

Getting hurt at this kind of cam is rotten because I had to miss the following 48 hours of training and I had to lie around in a fairly primitive room, no tv, no Internet connection, no telephone for the next day and a half. just me, my goofy brain and a bag of ice.

When I got home two things became apparent.

 1.My knee wasnt’ getting any better.
2. It’s impossible to look hot wearing  a big ugly knee brace doing the zombie walk. (I’m waiting for the What Not To Wear people to jump out of my closet)

My orthopedic made an ugly face and sent me for an MRI.
Yuck! For twenty minutes I had to lie in a big shaking, quivering, humming and banging machine. I’m sure an MRI costs millions and millions of dollars, so why is it so noisey and aggressive? They gave me head phones with music but the MRI was so loud I couldn’t hear.

As I left, the MRI lady took my $300 dollars (and I have big insurance) and told me to help myself to a bowl of pens and emory boards. I looked at her with  “an emory board, seriously?” kind of expression. But she didn’t get it. Why does an MRI place give away emory boards.

The next day I hobbled into the doctor’s. office. I smiled. “Ok, give me some good news, it’s stretched, strained, twisted?”
He smiled right back, “ACL and Mencius are both torn.”
I was crushed and kind of wanted to cry, but I didn’t. (I waited till I got to the parking lot)  I handed him a list I’d made earlier. “Diana’s summer Fun List”

Chasing and annoying kids, taekwondo, tennis, running, rock climbing, swimming, skiing, hiking, water parks.  “Can I do any of this stuff?”

He read the list then shook his head. “Well, you can still annoy your kids just not chase them.”

“Surgery?” I asked.

“Well, at your age you need to really think about that.”

Did he say “‘at your age?” Oh my lord talk about adding insult to injury, like I’m Granny Maw Maw. Didn’t he read my list? Those are the worst three words any man can say to a woman…every. What a dummy. I feel sorry for his wife.

 I really- really wanted to cry, or kick his ass, which would be tough with one leg. “I want to fix it. Soon, today.”

He shrugged, “Ok, I understand. It’s an outpatient surgery but the recovery will be a few months, 4-6.”

“Let’s go, the sooner the better.”

“We’ll have to do a  graft.”

“Excellent, from somebody else?  Can I have  a 24 year old Asian girl graft?”

He just stared at me so I tried to explain. “If I get a young Asian graft maybe I’ll kick better and who knows my math might improve.”

Fine, I’m a reverse racist. I want the qualities middle age white women just don’t posses. He wouldn’t laugh, but I thought I was pretty funny.

“It will be a cadaver graft,” he state flatly.

“A dead guy? I get dead guy parts?  That’s not gonna help my kicking.”

He shrugged and smiled, obviously thinking I was marginally insane. Then his nurse came in to schedule the surgery.

So, I’m out of the game for 4-6 months. It sucks. Sometimes I  whine but the Martial Arts world is filled with guys who have had the same surgery or accident and injuries far more hideous. Maybe tearing my ACL it’s like my innationa into a super duper special fraternity of steler kickers. Who knows, maybe my cadaver could kick through the roof…maybe I’ll get a little piece of Bruce Lee.  

Then…in six month…it’s on, baby!

Soft Porn and Weight Loss

Hallelujah, sisters. I’ve discovered the key to losing weight this summer. I swear, it’s the perfect plan.

Last week I downloaded the epic bestseller, soft porn/fiction Fifty Shades of Gray to my Kindle. Then I stepped aboard my favorite elliptical at Anytime Fitness for a quick twenty minute work out.

FIFTY MINUTES latter I looked up from my titillating  dirty book.(How often do I get to use titillating?) Fifty minutes on the elliptical with the resistance set at 8. I burned 560 calories and nobody was even naked yet.  But they were headed that way.

I was drenched with sweat, my calves ached and somebody was obviously waiting for me to get off the elliptical. How long had they been waiting? I was embarrassingly oblivious to their impatient stares. The protagonist, Anastasia (of course her name is Anastasia) was getting kissed and groped in an elevator.

By the time I’m finished with this book I’ll look like a lanky super model! I can’t wait to get back to the gym.

 Fifty Shades of Gray isn’t a great book, it’s not even that well written. There are some awkward cliches to stumble over, but it’s so easy to get lost in. It’s so easy to pull the sheet over your head and absolutely lose track of time, even on an elliptical.

And if  you’ve got  it on a Kindle, nobody has to know what your reading!  For all they know you are studying the latest issue of Psychology Today or rereading War and Peace. I can hide my dirty little secret from friends and family.

So, when you se me super skinny and smiling this summer you know what’s going on.  Soft porn and the elliptical. Now I’ve just to to figure out a way to keep reading during  the taekwondo and boxing classes.

Kick Fast and Keep The Faith

I’m not sure if it’s the human spirit or body I find so astonishing.

Last night I attended  Mary’s second college dance recital,modern, jazz and ballet. It was beautiful, joyous and a whole lot of fun. As we drove back to Hot Springs I thought about the athleticism of the evening. Then of course, I started thinking about our Taekwondo school.

Two years ago when our current instructor, Jim Robinson (a 53 year old sixth degree), bought out taekwondo school, I thought it was the end of my martial arts career. For ten years, the previous owner had pushed us to be powerful and brutal.

Jim Robinson’s style was nearly the polar opposite.  He insisted, even demanded, we be flexible, quick and fluid. He promised the power would come. And as he said over and over, if we weren’t quick enough to hit somebody, it didn’t matter how much power we had.

Being quick and flexible sounds like a brilliant idea unless you aren’t that way. Most of the teenagers in class are naturally quick and it was easier  for them to pick up speed. For anyone over the age of 40 it’s an entirely different situation.

The running joke about my spin heel kick has been, “Yeah, it’s beautiful but you can drink a cup of coffee before it lands.”

Though in his 50s, Jim Robinson is ridiculously quick and flexible. He’s gifted and works harder than everybody else. After watching countless martial artists, young and old, for 13 years, I’ve only seen one or two men who could match his speed. His kicks are blisteringly fast with razor like accuracy. I wanted  to be just a little like him, just a little bit. But doubted that was possible.

When he demonstrated a double and triple lead leg round kick, and said that’s what he wanted from us, I think I accidentally rolled my eyes. Yes, I could kick two or three times, but it’s wasn’t fast. Pretty but slow. However I could do one thing fast, I could get really really frustrated and embarrassed. Why was I so slow and lumbering after ten or eleven years of training? Night after night I cried in the car on the way home after class like a big chicken baby cheese cake.

Fast forward a year and a half.

Half a dozen times I wanted to quit but my pride and the kids wouldn’t let me, even though I was the oldest in the class by THIRTY YEARS. Night after night it’s just me and a bunch of awesome teenagers. Mr. Robinson has been pushing us all to kick fast. Kick low, kick high, kick fast.

Last week I was partnered with a sixteen year old yellow belt. Kicking drills, double round kicks, high and low, and suddenly this girl said, “whoa, you’re fast.”

“Who? Me?” I kicked again, to her knee then her face,  and I smiled. Yeah, I know it’s easy to impress a yellow belt but it still felt good. There was no “blistering” speed, it wasn’t a McNeeley or Robinson kick, it wasn’t even teenaged boy fast. But my kicks were 100 percent faster than they were 18 months ago.  I was stunned, I was better. How had that happened.

Everyday, I am am amazed by what we can accomplish if we simply refuse to quite. If we try to get better, at anything, we will. It’s simply a matter of showing up and trying…over and over and over again.

And it really helps if we surround ourselves with people who inspire, who push  and shove  and have unbreakable faith  we can all get better.

The secret is you can’t quit. And as my friend Amelia says, “just try to suck a little less everyday.”

Let me know what you think comment or e-mail hampoland@gmail.com