When all three of our sons were younger, they were pretty small for their age. Up until the summer between their junior and senior years of high school, they were vying for the "smallest guy in the class" title among their peers. Astute observers always know that girls mature much faster than the boys through elementary, middle school and often on up into high school. It was always a source of consternation until our guys hit that wonderful summer of maturity. Then there was a cause for celebration as they put on the coveted inches that had their peers gawking in astonishment and the girls noticing with admiration.
It was a stroke of luck that we happened to live around the corner from a martial arts dojo. Ben was in fourth grade when he asked to start karate. I don't remember how he ever got the idea of taking lessons~ neither of his older brothers had ever ventured into that area. However, it was the perfect thing for a guy who could have suffered later on with his size in the locker room. There was a real sense of accomplishment every time he graduated from one color belt to the next one up: white, yellow, orange, green, blue and brown. Furthermore, it was no easy task to earn each successive belt. There were katas (strategic lower and upper body strengthening exercise patterns) to memorize and pass of on as well as history and terminology specific to the martial arts. Unfortunately, the dojo closed before Ben was able to achieve his black belt but the confidence he gained was immeasurable.
It was such a source of pride for our whole family to go watch the lessons and the demon-strations at the dojo. When Ben graduated to the next belt, there was a formal ceremony with a spotlight on the recipient for his hard work and dedication. It was one of those extra-curricular activities that instills in the child the value of commitment and integrity, a reach for the high road in all walks of life. There was an emphasis on core values that were non-negotiable and we were grateful that what we tried to teach at home was being mirrored at the dojo by Ben's instructors. The experience for us was wonderfully gratify-ing.
There aren't a lot of kids who can say they've earned a brown belt in karate. It can be a nice feather in the cap of a kid that struggles with his small stature. One kiai (a forceful vocalization) followed by the fight stance can catch a bully off-guard and give a clear message of stay away~ even though the martial arts always stress that the skills acquired are meant for self-defense only! We recommend it highly for anyone dealing with a son who battles with low self-esteem or small stature. Our son gained just one more reason to feel confident and it made all the difference in the world! When Ben had moved on from karate to other interests, his dad made him a rack to display all the belts he had earned over the years. It still hangs on the wall of his bedroom; a reminder of his perse-verance and achievement. Kudos for our very own karate kid!