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Being a Judo Dad

As I've mentioned a couple of times before, I have 3 sons, the oldest of which, my 6-year-old, is currently a Judoka. As a father, one of the toughest things that one does is take a reality check whenever you want your children to start an activity to determine if this is something that they would want for themselves or something that you want for them to live vicariously through them. The minute that someone suggested he try martial arts as a means to build up his discipline and self-confidence, was the minute that I began looking into Judo options for him.

Yes I considered both TKD and Karate as valid options for him (of course I would have never consented to some of the McDojoes that I had visited in the process), but once my own dojoes class schedule changed to make Judo available to him, I jumped in with both feet. My son is 6 and has an attention span to match. So clearly his focus is not as good as that of a 9-year-old. Yet at the same time, each week, I see him making steady progress, and although he occasionally complains on the mat when things don't go his way, I've never heard him complain about Judo - until last week. Our dojo was closed because of MLK day (our dojo is run out of a Community College and we're beholden to their schedule, with all due respect to MLK, I am sure that he would want a sport that sees no color to hold classes on his birthday). He turned to me and said - 'Daddy, I don't like Judo, I don't think I want to go anymore'. He seemed pretty serious about it, and admittedly, I was hurt. I didn't push the subject, but I mentioned to him that why doesn't he stay for the rest of the semester and then see if he likes it. He really let the issue lie fallow, and didn't say anything about it. Yesterday we just went along to class. Yes there are a million things he needs to improve at, and yes, he still sometimes gets frustrated - but then there is this smile on his face - that tells me how much he enjoys playing. How much he enjoys his friends, competing against them in Randori, Ne-Waza or sumo-wrestling, and I know that I made the right decision.

Then there is the middle one. Because of the newborn, my soon to be 4-year-old son tags along as well. I will be the first to admit that its hard to keep him off the mat, and I am sure that some of you will flame me for trying to juggle helping out on the mat, and keeping an active toddler off of it at the same time, but unfortunately, this is the reality I need to address. Whenever I ask my little Mikey about taking up Judo, he emphatically replies "Judo is not for me!"  His only concession to the notion of his participation in Judo is when he asks me if he can get a Blue Gi. But on the side of the mat, one would think that he's gleaning a thing or two. Yesterday, I watched gleefully as he was trying to do the warmups from the side of the mat. Then, when I was showing some of our younger students basic Katame-Waza, Mikey wouldn't get off the mat, so I used him to help teach. (don't worry, I was only teaching had positioning, and not dropping my weight on him). Even at the very end of class, Sensei asked all of the kids to Duck Jump and Duck walk across the mats. I tried to cajole Mikey into doing it too. He was in a shy mood, and asked me to hold him - so I did. I wrapped him around my waist and did the Duck Jump with him on my lap. He loved it, it was like a horsey ride for him. I then repeated it for the duck walk.

On the way home, I asked him if he liked Judo and wanted to try it. He still responded "Judo is not for me!" - of course, this is such a canned reaction, and I couldn't wonder if he really felt that way even after all of the fun he had.

Hmm.... I wonder if Toraki has a blue gi in size 000?

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