Yes, Grasshopper, you will do jumping jacks
On my first trip to City Hall last December after so many years living out of state, I don’t think I heard a single word at that night’s city council meeting.
I was too busy looking around, reminiscing.
“This,” I said to myself, “was where I came to be trained as an assassin.”
Unfortunately, the taekwondo lessons offered 30 years ago at City Hall by Jefferson Park and Rec didn’t progress as quickly as I’d hoped.
After what seemed like five or six weeks of straight calisthenics at lesson after lesson, I asked my parents if I could quit.
Why wasn’t I being taught the five-finger monkey punch that would allow me to thrust a fist through a grown man’s chest cavity?
Why weren’t we being given guidance on what to aim for with a blowgun?
Why couldn’t Jefferson Park and Rec find a single Shaolin monk to lead the class?
At the very least, where were the uniforms?
Worst-case scenario, I would have been cool with just a headband.
In retrospect, I’m guessing there was a national shortage of martial arts uniforms given the timing of the class. Like every other kid in the room at City Hall, I was fresh from seeing “The Karate Kid” at the Sierra.
Jefferson Park and Rec didn’t offer anything explicitly called karate, so we had to settle for taekwondo — Korean for “the way of the foot and the hand.”
Sounded cool enough.
But, to be honest, I personally never made it past the “wax on, wax off” stage.
I seem to just remember lots of jumping jacks.
No punching. No spinning kicks. No swordplay.
I might have stuck around had the instructor jazzed up the nightly routine — he could have called them “mantis jumping jacks” or “drunken situps.”
Jefferson Park and Rec is gearing up to again offer taekwondo lessons for kids as young as 4 beginning Jan. 4. Lessons nowadays are held at the Greene County Community Center.
The other night, I asked my 6-year-old son if he’d be interested in taking taekwondo.
“No,” he replied without even thinking.
Realizing he probably had no clue what taekwondo was, I rephrased the question.
“Would you like to take ninja lessons?” I asked.
There you go.
Before we go through with it, though, and actually sign him up, I feel obligated to at least lower his expectations a tad.
After all, his first question was, “Do we get to break boards?”
Ever the responsible father, I may or may not have promised that he’d get to break boards with his head.
Then again, I’m the same dad whose idea of father-son movie night isn’t “Frozen” or “Cars,” but a late ’70s Shaw Brothers kung-fu movie. And, when one of the guys did, in fact, punch a hole through another guy’s chest, my first thought wasn’t actually, “You know, maybe this is a bit too much for a preschooler,” but rather, “Wow, I hope Mom didn’t hear that.”
If you haven’t noticed, I have a very pop-culture notion of Asian martial arts in my mind. Fighting forms that originated in Korea, Japan or China are all just lumped together in my brain.
And be sure to throw in some ninjas.
And, for a while, I was on a samurai movie kick, so samurais are never far from my mind, either.
It’s quite clear I’ve set my son up to follow me down the same path of ignorance.
Forget discipline! Forget respect! Forget confidence!
We just wanna break boards with our fists and take off another man’s head with our bare feet!
For all I know, my son will emerge as a serious pupil of taekwondo.
I was surprised to learn recently that it’s one of just two martial arts — the other being judo — in the Olympic Games.
Personally, I still believe that if the International Olympic Committee were to just mix up all the fighting styles to see which is superior — a la “Enter the Dragon” — they’d get a lot more television airtime for martial arts.
Of course, my son might decide not to do taekwondo, after all.
First I have to tell him they STILL haven’t found a Shaolin monk to lead the class.