When I was a kid, The Karate Kid was one of my favorite movies. If I’m totally honest, it still is. I see it listed in the channel guide and there’s no way I’m not watching the tournament.
Growing up, I was so enamored with the uplifting tale of Daniel LaRusso’s war against the neo-Nazi community of Southern California that my parents thought I might want to take karate classes. And I would have, if I hadn’t been so terrified of landing in a Cobra Kai-type school with a Vietnam-traumatized sensei who would force me to be racist and do push-ups on my knuckles.
Come on, I was like eight years old. Which I thought was a little young for martial arts. Except almost 30 years later, my son is taking them, and he’s three.
Every time Detective Munch needs a new school (and with all of our moving, that’s been fairly often), we seek out ones with a “curriculum” that includes some emphasis on the arts, whether that’s actual art (they pretty much all include that), music, or even some dancing. He’s not in Julliard or the Fame school or that place Channing Tatum scammed his way into in Step Up or anything, but he’s getting exposed to a lot of different things, and that’s good for him. And for us.
Or it was, until the School of Block added Taekwondo to the menu.
As I said, I’m all for preschools that teach kids with a variety of different methods and emphasize creativity and music and movement and all that jazz. (I bet some of them probably even teach jazz!) Not only does my son love those things, all the activity both stimulates him and wipes him out for the afternoon. Win-win!
But Taekwondo? According to Wikipedia, Taekwondo is “a Korean martial art. It combines combat and self-defense techniques with sport and exercise.” Combat?
On my short list of things not to teach toddlers, combat would slot in at number four, behind “how to use a gun,” “how to have sex,” and “how to acquire and inject heroin” and right before “the lyrics to my favorite rap songs.” I’m already getting accidentally kicked in the face every time he climbs into my bed, now he’s going to be trained to do it?
I know, I know, there are a lot of great things children can learn from martial arts. I told you, I’ve seen The Karate Kid! So long as John Kreese isn’t teaching at the preschool, they’ll teach him to paint the fence, sand the floor, catch a fly with chopsticks, and make a super-inconvenient Halloween costume, and that’s on top of all the discipline and self-confidence and magical hand-clap healing powers he’s going to learn.
Who am I kidding? He ain’t going to learn shit. He’s going to put on a little robe and dance around and maybe accidentally knock some stuff over and if he’s lucky he won’t bump heads with the other kid when he bows. But I suppose getting an introduction to this stuff without actually retaining any pointers on “how to incapacitate a person” isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
I’m never gonna be one of those parents who programs their kids lives; I want my son to cultivate his own interests. When he’s older. For now, the best approach seems to be to expose him to as much stuff as possible so he can figure what he likes and what he’s passionate about and what he wants to spend his time doing. Maybe it will be martial arts, maybe it will be music, maybe he’ll do what Richard Jenkins couldn’t and become a dinosaur. All I can do is give him every opportunity to find out.
But now that he can defend himself, I will not hesitate to crane-kick his ass the next time he goes for my bacon.