There are so many little things that go on at the dojo that, quite simply, make my day. Here are a few of the most recent ones:
Saturday “hang-out” time. My daughter frequently comes with me to the dojo on Saturday mornings for kids classes. Afterwards, she hangs out until all the adult classes are over with. The daughter of a long-time student (and good friend) also comes to this class, and the two of them spend quite a bit of time hanging out. What makes this special to me is that several other kids want to stay too. They don’t see the dojo as just a place to take a class and then go home–they see it as a place to enjoy. Many parents feel the same way, apparently–there are a few who hang out at the dojo long after kids class is over just to give their kids a chance to color, read, or play a game. I’m trying to think of other places where parent’s and kids just hang out after class–I’m having a hard time coming up with any. The fact that both kids and parents see the dojo as a community of which they are a part–that has meaning for me.
The teens find value in their training. One of the things I remember most from my old dojo was how hard it was to keep teens interested in training. They simply have so many other things they want to do (or have to do) that coming to the dojo can be difficult at best. And, while many of the teens do not train as consistently as perhaps they should (although I’m sure they’re training as consistently as they can), it is gratifying to know that they come on their own. For example: one of my students is in a production of Peter Pan. As a result, she’s been very busy, because (for some reason) the folks running the show insist on 5-day a week rehearsals. (Why some of these extra-curricular activities act like they need to be full-time jobs is something I’ll save for another blog post.) This past Saturday, she showed up with her family. One of the first things she said was: “I’ve missed being here!” Again, it made my day.
These are just two examples of some of the things that go on off the mat that make me glad to be a part of the dojo. The fact that our dojo has a reputation for being so supportive of families is a good thing; although, in due fairness, there are some downsides. For example: I recently tested one of my students for 4th kyu (blue belt). His test had been delayed due to vacations and other events. And I could tell that the fact that he was up for testing was making him very nervous. In an effort to get that nervousness out of his system, I tested him on the spot–with very little warning. I’ve had this happen to me in my own training, and I must admit it had a positive effect on me. I just had no time to get too worked up about the test. I felt comfortable with my decision when I saw him test. Although it was clear he was still nervous, he didn’t freeze up, and he kept trying. Even during his freestyle, when his uke landed hard on his ankle and made it hard to walk, he kept going–literally hopping around the mat for a few seconds until I realized what was happening and stopped the test.
How does this reflect a downside of the dojo’s family-oriented atmosphere? I tested this student because the conditions were almost perfect for it. He was ready, we had the ukes to ensure that it was successful, and it was without notice so he couldn’t stress out about it too much. Unfortunately, the one piece that was missing was that his family was not there to see it. This, I later learned, had reprecussions that I had not intended. I deeply regret that, even if I don’t regret testing him when I did–it was a case where, in my opinion, what was best for training did not align perfectly with what was best for the family. At least, in this case, I think all will be well. (I could always just test him again… hm…)
Addendum: Perhaps from now on we will video tape all tests… that way, if someone isn’t around to see it, they can watch the video. (Thanks to one of my students who was subtlely making this suggestions the other day.)