Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Karate Kid - A Full Circle Story

About a year ago, Harrison became totally obsessed with the original Karate Kid movie. I mentioned it briefly in another post. He watched it and then Karate Kid Part II (where Daniel San and Mr. Miyagi go to Japan) over and over and over again. He was very upset that we hadn't named him Daniel, said he wanted to marry a girl with the last name Laruso (Daniel's last name) when he grew up so he could change his last name to Laruso and started bringing his papers from school home like this:
These movies made him even more in touch with his Japanese side. He started begging me to get him a gi (karate uniform) and sign him up for Karate. I told him we could borrow his cousin's gi and hoped that would suffice.

Several months later, the obsession was still going strong and his birthday was coming up so we decided to have a Karate Party. I was actually really excited about it. Doing a theme that had something to do with his heritage (and my past) was fun for me.

The invitations looked like a gi top with a black belt. They were addressed in Japanese and English. On his birthday Nate took Harrison and his best buddy Logan to see the new Karate Kid movie while I got ready for the party. They got back just in time. Thanks to Ashely for using her special printer to cut out freezer paper for me to make headbands for all the boys and a shirt for Harrison. First the kids decorated the drums I had made. I wanted each kid to have one of the drums that you spin between your two hands to use during the "tournament" that we were going to have (this is part of Karate Kid 2 in the big fight scene at the end). I searched on-line and it was going to be too expensive to get each boy one. So I got creative. Nate said thought they were ghetto -- I thought they were very innovative. I took an empty yogurt container, threaded it with strings with a bead at the end, stuck a pencil through the bottom, glued a piece of card stock over the top and spray painted the whole thing red. Then we went outside for the tournament. The boys spun their little drums when it wasn't their turn. We had two boys go up against each other at a time and balance on a garden brick in the crane pose. It was a little too easy for them, but still fun. The first kids to fall got yellow belts, the next round got green, then brown and the winner got a black belt (I just used wide ribbons for the belts). Next the boys broke boards (balsa wood from the craft store). They each got to kick one and punch one. It was very exciting. Then we had a chopstick relay. They had to run down, pick up a marshmallow with chopsticks, and run back. They didn't exactly get the concept of a relay, but that's okay! After opening presents, a friend from church who is an advanced martial artist came over and taught the boys some cool moves! After working up an appetite, we had a Japanese feast. Menu: Tonkatsu (breaded, fried chicken cutlets), rice, ramen, edamame, and watermelon. They ate with fun kid-friendly chopsticks that they got to keep. They had Ramune soda, a favorite from Japan, that has a marble in the top that you have to push down into the bottle in order to drink it (it gets stuck in the bottle, not a choking hazard). Pretty neat! We barely had time to eat the Japan flag cake at the end. Elizabeth and Johnny donned their traditional Japanese outfits for the party. I love this picture because if you look closely you can see what stages their teeth were in at the time. Johnny's two little bottom teeth and Harrison's big top teeth starting to grow in. We love our Karate Kid! (Notice the darling shirt that Logan gave him -- he didn't hesitate to change right into that in the middle of opening presents!) Traditional birthday kiss picture! We hadn't gotten him any presents, knowing he was going to get lots from his friends. On a whim, I called and signed him up for Karate classes from a business card that he had brought back from the rec. center one day and continually hounded me about. Little did we all know that would turn out to be the most expensive and time-consuming gift he ever got from us!!!

Here's the full circle part -- Karate has now become our life. I should have known when we found out the dojo is run by a family where the Dad is Japanese American, the mom is white and there are 2 teenage boys. Do you think Harrison could be any more enamored with this family? All that in common, plus a love for karate -- it was a match made in heaven. So he now goes to three classes a week (four for the last few months because he had a lot of make-up classes to do). I am seriously considering getting a small side job to pay for all of it. It's insane how quickly we got sucked in and next thing we knew it we were buying a bo staff, sparring gear, paying for belt tests and tournament fees. Crazy. I've really got to stop complaining about it though because I'm giving Harrison a complex. He tells me, "Mom, I know karate is taking over our life and taking all of our money. I hear you telling your friends on the phone all the time." He's also been a little pre-occupied with money lately and doesn't understand why we don't have more cash. I keep trying to explain to him about the bank and credit/debit cards, but he doesn't get it. At one point he said, "Mom, I know why you and dad don't have any real money. It's because it all goes to karate." I have reassured him that I'm happy to spend the time and money as long as he loves it and is willing to be responsible about getting ready on time, and that I'll stop talking about it (good thing he doesn't read this blog!)

Anyway, a few weeks ago he had his first tournament. He was going to participate in traditional forms (kata) and sparring. I really, really wanted him to do well. For him, and honestly for me too. I needed all this time and money to feel worth it. Honestly, I had an unhealthy desire for him to win. I didn't used to consider myself competitive, but the older I get, the more I realize I kind of am. Nate had been practicing sparring with him every night for a few weeks leading up to it. In class he had been beating most of his teammates, but I had no idea what the other competition would be like. First they did the forms and it was really hard to tell how well he did compared to the other kids (all looked about the same to me). He ended up getting 4th place, which is the lowest you can get and still get a trophy, anything lower gets a medal. Here they are presenting him with 4th. I was happy with that and so was he. But when we went to get it from the trophy table, we saw the 1st place trophies and I could tell he wanted one of those really bad (takes one to know one). I knew no matter what, now that he had gotten a trophy -- a little taste of victory -- the karate bug was just going to get stronger. There was no way he'd want to quit anytime soon. Maybe the GAP is hiring.

Then it was time for sparring. I was a little nervous about watching my baby fight with other kids (they do wear protective gear, but still), until he won his first round. Then in the second round he had to go up against a very tough, big girl and I went all cobra kai on him and had to keep myself from yelling, "No mercy!" It was a very close round, but he beat her in sudden death. The third round was a pretty easy win but I was still about to have a heart attack. It was so intense. Can't you just feel the intensity as his sensei coaches him during a time out? So in the last round he had to go up against his best buddy from his own team, Richard. Well, that was a little awkward. I've gotten to be friends with his mom and we had been cheering each other's kid on up to that point. The parents all told each other it was a win-win and acted like we didn't care which way it went, but my thespian skills from high school weren't doing me much good at that moment, because I really wanted Harrison to win. It was a very close fight. They were very evenly matched and it really could have gone either way. If it had ended 30 seconds sooner or later, it would have been a different story. But it ended while Harrison was ahead and he won!!! I was so excited, but trying really hard to down play it and be gracious. When I went over to him right after he said, "Who won?" So innocent. You can tell he was pretty in awe of his trophy. It was almost as big as Elizabeth. He carried it from room to room for the next several days. He was pretty mad I wouldn't let him take it to church and school. Most of you probably know how girl crazy Harrison is. On the way home he said, "Mom, this tournament wasn't exactly like the one in the movie. When Daniel San won Ally ran out onto the mat and kissed him on the lips. But Gabriella (the darling girl he has a crush on in his Kindergarten class) wasn't even at my tournament." Oh well, the huge trophy will have to suffice for now, buddy!
I actually have mixed feelings about the trophy. On one hand, I am so happy that all of his (and our) efforts paid off and that he has something to show for it (a very cool something for a six year old). On the other hand, I don't want him feeling like he needs a giant trophy everytime he does something good. We've had talks that some of the most important things in life never result in trophies. But all in all, I'm really glad his first tournament was a great experience.

Who knew that showing him that movie last year would bring us to this point? Now who can help me think of a movie to show him about a kid who loves reading, is really nice to his siblings, and is super helpful around the house?