What Color is Your Belt?

Karate gee with a white belt and various stripes

His currect karate gee and belt.
Notice how dirty it is.
BR needs a new yellow belt for multiple reaons.

Is there anything better than achieving a goal?

 

You can look back on the frustrations, times when you felt like quitting, and the moments you wondered if it was all worth it. They all melt away.

Instead, you revel in accomplishment. You can feel proud, appreciate your stick to itness, and you know that the next goal can happen too.

 

The greatest thing you get when you achieve a goal is confidence. I know I can, I know I can.

 

Tomorrow BR will be testing for his yellow belt. I’ve mentioned before how he felt when he got a stripe (http://larrydbernstein.com/earning-your-stripes/). This is bigger. A NEW BELT!

I am excited. I’ve been calling BR every morning while on my way to work to remind him to practice. I’ve watched and instructed based on what Sensei says during practices. BR is primed!

 

A friend of mine said, “Wait till he goes for that green belt or higher. He’ll feel like he can protect himself.”

 

My friend, while a great guy, has it all wrong. Karate and the new belt are not about enabling BR to go all Bruce Lee on the next person who dares mess with him.

 

Sure, it would be nice if he could be the family protector should danger arise. However, that’s not what I care about.

 

I do care that a kid who has o.t. issues is feeling more in control of his body.

 

I do care that a kid who has ADHD is finding a way to focus and discipline himself.

 

I do care that a kid who has anxiety is able to feel a sense of accomplishment.

 

It’s been a year and a half since BR began his twice weekly karate sessions. There have been times where he has practiced little, and I questioned what he got out of it. There have been days where I have stressed about getting him there and back. There have been sessions where BR appeared nonchalant, disinterested, and unable.

 

I suppose that is why many kids are able to earn a yellow belt much quicker.

 

So what. The great length of time that has passed does not make this potential accomplishment any less special.

 

Tomorrow afternoon I will be in the audience silently praying and offering instructions to BR as he goes through the testing for the yellow belt. Afterwards, I will hug him tightly (he may even let me do it in public) and tell him how proud of him I am – whether he is wearing yellow belt or not. He has already achieved a worthwhile goal.

Earning Your Stripes

Validation. We all need approval – especially children. Way to go, good job, you got it. We all have our favorite sayings of validation that we say to our children. While I was hurling through Brooklyn on the A train at 7 A.M., I overheard a mother and child doing some schoolwork. As a parent and teacher, I was impressed. I did not hear (nor care) what they were learning. All I heard was the mother drone on, “Good job…”  Whether it meant anything to the child, I’m not sure.

In March of this year, BR started taking karate. I pushed it. It is said to be good for kids with ADHD as it can help them with focus and discipline. In addition, karate could help him with his OT issues by improving body awareness. Lastly, he expressed an interest. Okay, I asked him multiple times, and he finally agreed to it. My wife got on board, and we signed him up for a program.

So, since March BR has been attending karate twice a week for 45 minutes. The boys and girls vary in age but seem to be anywhere from 5-9. At first, he was challenged but seemed to take to the discipline and noted that SJ (his younger brother) would benefit from it. I was ready to gloat.

The kids start off with a plain white belt. From there, they need to earn stripes before moving on to the next color belt. There is an opportunity to earn stripes at the end of every month (assuming you have been to at least 8 sessions since you last moved up). The first time BR was up for a stripe, he got one. He beamed with pride when he talked about his stripe (a piece of black electrical tape – pretty fancy, ehh). He quickly got his second stripe and was feeling good about his accomplishment. I would catch the last 10-15 minutes of class and saw a boy who was really trying to focus and do his best. I also saw improvements.

Then he hit a speed bump.

One time, two times, three times, came and went, and he could not get the third stripe. He even went to karate camp – 5 5-hour days – and still was not up to getting the next stripe. Then, he stopped talking about karate and getting him to practice was a chore. I did not want to argue with him about it. After all, this is an extracurricular activity. I told him multiple times that practicing is the key to getting better, and he needed to decide if he wanted to improve. (FULL DISCLOSURE My wife is the one who supervises his practicing. She keeps telling me I should, but it does not happen. This may be why she was less excited to sign him up for karate in the first place.)

Well, today was the September test. My wife prepped him again – a lot. We all hoped he was ready. SJ and I got to the Dojo just in time to see the Sensei make the stripe presentations. Lo and behold, BR was the third one called. He had earned his stripe. A good job – I’d say. He persevered despite the frustrations (I was ready to pull him out) and accomplished his goal. I am so proud of him!