We all know about the Karate Kid, but what about the Karate Dad?
A little over 6 months ago on a miserable Saturday morning I was instructed by my wife (who is wonderful by the way) to deliver our two boys to Brickhill for their weekly training session with Dan Young. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a journey that I had never even considered taking…
I arrived sat down and watched for a bit, feeling very proud as my boys warmed up in their karate uniforms. Following this the class began a session of using basic moves to provide effective self-defence techniques. The teaching centred around Dan Young beating up his father in good humour. It was at this point that Dan decided every son should have the opportunity to beat up his father and said the words that strike fear into every parent “Come on, join in if you want to…”
For those of you that are not parents, let me explain the thought process behind this fear. When you are asked to join in an activity, you have two obvious choices: yes or no. When asked in front of your children, you only have yes. Declining the offer without trying sends the message that it’s normal to not try new things; if it’s an activity they do, by saying no you are dismissing their efforts and hard work. It becomes even more difficult when they also turn around excitedly and invite you.
So, I took my shoes and socks off, (relieved that I had cut my toenails when I got out of the shower that morning) and took my first step into the world of karate. Incidentally the first step I made was with the wrong foot and my first valuable lesson.
After the session my head was spinning with everything that we had covered in that short time, I was desperately trying to remember something, my right foot throbbing with pain as I drove. When we got home the boys excitedly told their mum about how their big clumsy dad joined in today; then I took my shoe off and my middle two toes on my right foot were purple. Yeah, they were broken. But then I remembered 'Left Foot Forward'. So it was worth it.
I needed to take a break for a few weeks due to work commitments but then started training regularly every Saturday, working towards my first grading for my blue belt. Outside of the training, me and my boys were talking and practicing together to further strengthen our knowledge of the basics. Finally the day of the grading came.
It wasn’t until I arrived at the Kempston Challenger Academy that I started to get nervous. Bearing in mind I spent 15 years in the Army, have chased and apprehended stolen tanks, climbing accidents where I was told I would never walk again, metal throughout my spine, dropped bridges on my feet, and even used to work as an EMT on Ambulances. That did not prepare me for the grading nerves. I was a 37-year-old man surrounded by children, 6 year olds that have been through this already, 10 year olds that are experts compared to me and 17 year olds that could probably treat me how Dan Young treats his dad. What If I mess it up in front of my kids, what will they think? What about the other parents there? I don’t want to look like a total plonker in front of them and end up on You’ve been framed or as a Facebook meme.
So as I stood there in front of the grading panel, palms sweating thinking about everything I had learnt over the last few months the command to begin was given. Out of the corner of my eyes I could see my boys watching me. I performed my sets and routines, but then was asked if I could do it again. I was slightly confused at the time as I didn’t know why. Was it a retest? Was my original attempt that bad? Me and one other lined up in front of the grading panel and waited for the command to begin, while everyone else in the hall watched
“Begin.” Turn, block, punch, turn, block, punch, turn, punch, punch, punch with a shout, pause, turn the long way round, block, punch, turn, block, punch, turn, block, punch, punch, punch with a shout, pause, turn the long way, block, punch, turn, block, punch and still….
Then came the agonising wait, as I sat there watching the youth of CFTS performing to a high standard, wondering if I would get my blue belt. Then we were called up...
Congratulations Nick, here is a red belt! What? But I haven’t got my blue belt… To say I was chuffed is an understatement as I had caught my boys up.
Since then I have obtained my orange belt, had the honour of being the Brickhill student of the quarter and my daughter has started training with us. The four of us train every Saturday; the only thing that is stopping my wife joining us is our baby daughter, but that will come!
I have purposely refrained from using Karate terms throughout this article and for what I believe to be a good reason. I want other parents to read this, understand it exactly and know that they can join in to. I would totally recommend getting involved! You can train as hard or as gentle as you like and the results can be whatever you want them to be. It has brought my family closer together with a real common ground interest and I have already benefitted from increased flexibility and strength. Plus I have learnt to speak some Japanese, although I am not sure how useful or received it would be in the streets of Tokyo.
For me the next milestone is the CFTS competition. Once again I could not say no to my kids. Time to show these 17 year old dad bullies that no matter how old, karate dads are still a force to be reckoned with.
Nick Kealy Brickhill Club