Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Aaron and Fighting

Aaron is continuing along in Taekwondo. He says he likes it, and is never reluctant to go, but the way he reacts to an awful lot of what he's asked to do makes me wonder why he likes it (not that I'm going to try to disabuse him of his opinion).

Our dojo just started a new schedule for the Little Dragons class. Eventually they're supposed to have a class every night, with fighting every Friday - which will be fine by me. Unfortunately they've decided to implement it piecemeal - to wit, they have started fighting every Friday, while there are still only two Little Dragons classes each week. So either Aaron only goes to class once a week, or he fights every Friday.

Except that Aaron won't fight. Doesn't want to put on his gear. Doesn't want to go on the floor. And absolutely will not fight, if forced to do the former two. He will literally just stand there and let the other child hit him. Which, of course, he hates. When asked, he says he doesn't want to hit other people.

This last Friday went somewhat better. Aaron put his gear on, reluctantly, and initially refused to go out on the floor at all. After some persuasion, I managed to convince him to try sparring M. M is not the LD teacher, but is a mid-level adult who consistently helps out with the LD class. He's a great guy, very gentle with the kids, and both the biggest and the most gentle of the available adult sparring partners.

My intuition proved right. M and Aaron had a great time. When this great big guy said he wouldn't be hurt by Aaron hitting him, Aaron believed him. And M doesn't actually touch the kids when he hits back, but rather stops his punches about an inch short - which is great for Aaron's touch sensitivity (moderate touches can feel painful to him sometimes while hard touches usually don't, which makes judging how much to pull blows a very tricky call with him). Aaron is now pretty willing to try sparring again with M.

So far, so good - except...they still want Aaron to spar other kids and other adults, and this could be a real problem. All the other adults at least tap the kids, and at least one can't seem to get his ego out of the way, and will thump them fairly hard if the child is getting good hits in. I suspect that Aaron will learn to tolerate all but that last if given some time to adjust to the whole concept. But I doubt he'll be willing to spar other children until he learns to trust himself not to hurt them.

It's frustrating. If we had the other class times, I'd simply avoid the fighting classes until Aaron was ready for them - and if he never was, well, there are worse things. But we don't. So I'm probably going to have to be the helicopter momma and insist on special treatment for my child - which I hate - because otherwise this insistence that the children must fight each other is going to turn something Aaron likes and that is doing him a world of good, into a torture session.

I'll note that while Aaron is the only child who flat refuses to fight, he's not the only child unhappy about it. Also, there is a general feeling among about half the parents that taking a bunch of 4-7 year olds, some enthusiastic fighters, some reluctant, none with good control, and having them pummel each other regularly, is simply not a great idea, and the whole fighting thing should be saved for an optional class.

Personally I think it's another example of the dojo owner's usual thought process - have idea, see possibilities, jump in with both feet before evaluating for overall good sense or potential problems. Somehow I'm less tolerant of this foible of his when it's my child hitting the pitfalls he hasn't bothered to think through.


Bill said...

I'd say he's learned that only bad people attack others, and he doesn't want to become a bad person. He is perhaps afraid that his training will leak into other areas of his life.

Another possibility is that he is afraid that he will let a fit of rage take over.

You should explain to him (again), that good people need to be prepared when a really bad person attacks them, and that is what Karate training is. That people usually fight worse when they let rage take over, so it is also a matter of self-control in a fight.

The kids at the dojo understand these things(?), and are okay with this controlled fighting. Fighting will actually help his opponent learn too. If he is not okay with that, then he should not go to the fight session.

somaserious said...

Should these children be sparring at such a young age? I'm not so sure about that. In our dojo the children generally don't begin to spar until they are at least comfortable with their bodies and how they react to martial arts training. Usually it's about the age of 9. However, sensei does drills that get them prepared for what sparring will be like: how to move, how to avoid being hit, how to maintain control. Those are so important to have before you even begin to think about sparring. To just send a child into a sparring situation without preparing them seems a bit too much to me. My nephew, who is 8.5 yrs, refuses to spar. It's scary and children should be moved into it slowly so that they don't become afraid to go to class anymore. I say save the sparring for when they are a little older and have more experience in their little bodies.

Perpetual Beginner said...

I don't really think the Little Dragons class should be sparring, somaserious. They have kids as young as three, and few, if any, have what I would consider enough control to be safe. I would be okay with mock sparring with the adults, but I think the odds of injuring or traumatizing a kid who doesn't want to do this anyway are too high.

In truth, I think the sparring has started primarily because they've got one precocious and phenomenally talented little girl that they're trying to bring along to be tournament ready. But I think changing the class to benefit her, when it's a net detriment to most of the others is a losing proposition.

In favor of my opinion, at least two kids have been pulled from class since fighting started.

Bill said...

If you think that Aaron and the other kids don't have enough control yet, then by all means, pull him out of Friday night fighting.