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Doctor recommended for optimal cerebral hygiene 

dojo mojo

Thursday, February 17, 2005

my son is learning karate.

part of me thinks this is like giving him the opener to the can of whup-ass on dad.

another part of me is sure of it.

but he's only 6 1/2, so i still should be able to take him for a couple more years. after that i'm in trouble.

i'm wary of any training that puts my "man of the house" status in jeopardy (notice i didn't say "head of the house," since that refers to my wife). the rules of the dojo hint at the possibility of patricide; for example, dojo rule #3 instructs students to "Get permission before handling weapons."

quick quiz: is that a good rule, or a bad rule? it's good, i suppose, in that it requires prior consent to handle weapons. but it implies, no it says straight up that handling weapons is perfectly okay.

for the record, i'm extremely ambivalent about rule #3.

rule #12: In order to concentrate completely while training you must be silent. Then when it is time to answer or kiai, respond loudly.

my son runs his mouth like a nuclear generator. the only time he's quiet is when he's asleep. the day he concentrates completely and silently, i'm in trouble.

rule # 15: Be nice to other students. Help new students who seem confused or don't know what to do.

the entire class is composed of six and seven-year olds. they're all confused, none of them know what to do. but at least they’re nice about it.

in all there are 18 rules the kids must follow while learning the ancient art. near as i can tell, they don’t follow any of them. not that they don't mean well. it's just that their collective concentration span is about as long as this sentence. more often than not their little eyeballs are focused in 18 random directions--forcing sensei o'donnell to bark a loud "kiotsuke! (come to attention!)" suddenly all those eyes go wide, and they're all looking at the big guy in the white robe.

the sensei is brilliant with children. he's funny and engaging and you can tell he really likes working with kids. he's also big and broad and chiseled from years of training. when he barks, everybody in the room snaps to...including the parents, who were busy reading or chatting or dozing just a second ago.

in the moments that follow, actual learning occurs. the next move and corresponding japanese-language phrase are parroted with surprising precision. the sensei rewards the group with a nod and a compliment. in turn, nine children go all ninja turtle on him.

he smiles briefly, lets it go on for a bit, then snaps them back to attention. it seems to be an effective routine. my son is learning. already he can deflect any of my attempts to smack him upside the head.


i can still smack him upside the head. but it's not as easy as it once was. the time will come. and when it does, i'm in trouble.