In just a few days, it will be six months since my little guy got his black belt.
On the day that I earned my black belt, I couldn't have imagined feeling prouder or more nervous. I was wrong. On October 23, 2012, I was ever so much more of both.
He's been working at this since he was three years old. That's more than half of his life. I can't imagine working at anything besides school consistently for more than half of my life. And the improvements in him have been astounding... I couldn't have imagined on his first day as a white belt, when he had an instructor assigned to him just to keep him on his spot, that he would have turned out to be so focussed and determined.
When we got to the school the day of his promotion, he immediately got on the floor and started practicing with his weapon. He was excited and motivated and proud of himself. It's such a big accomplishment for such a little guy.
He was front and center, with one other classmate who was getting her black belt too, the whole time, and he commanded it. He was confident and ready to do his best, and he did. He knew the material, his form was crisp and clean, and his sparring looked like real sparring (sometimes the really little ones look like they're sort of dancing about three feet away from each other).
The best part was his board break: since our entire family is in martial arts, we decided to have the highest ranking family member hold one board (his sister), and the lowest ranking family member hold the other (my sister). He used an elbow and a side kick to break them, and snapped through it the first time on the elbow. The side kick took a couple of tries, but he did it.
The speech his instructor gave really captured what I was feeling that day: that the transformation from a rowdy, unfocussed kid to a true black belt can be amazing. That discipline and hard work has brought out the best in him.
I wasn't sure what would happen after he earned his black belt. I didn't know whether he would want to quit, or get lazy about it, as sometimes happens with kids because there isn't the constant motivation of earning another belt in two months. Those things haven't happened with him. He is now more focussed, more motivated, and works harder at it than I've ever seen. I'm amazed at how much his technique and flexibility have improved in the last six months.
I had a conversation with him about it a few weeks ago. I said, "Do you still love going to karate?"
"Yes!" he said to me, "I really do love it. It's fun."
I was so glad to hear it, because I want him to stick with it.
"Good," I said. "As long as you still love it, we'll keep going."