Karate Kid(s)

To me, one of the best parts of raising Tigerlily (8) is sharing my passions with her. Reading her Roald Dahl, showing her my favorite paintings in my favorite musea, teaching her the words to Rapper’s Delight. (“Everybody go: ‘Ho-tel, mo-tel, Holiday Inn’!”) But recently I discovered something even better: finding a new passion together.

One Sunday afternoon, almost a year ago, Tigerlily and I were scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed (another shared hobby) when we saw a picture of my friend’s sons receiving their yellow and orange karate belts. It was instantaneous, for both of us. “Mama,” Tigerlily exclaimed, with the big-eyed OMG-expression she definitely inherited from me. I e-mailed the dojo right away. The next day Tigerlily had her first karate lesson.

Being half Asian (Thai and Chinese), I had always been fascinated with martial arts. Just imagine what it was like, growing up in the 70ties; really the only Asian rolemodel/superstar was Bruce Lee! Luckily later on, along came the formidable Michelle Yeoh in ‘Crouching Tiger’, and of course stunning Lucy Liu in ‘Kill Bill’. Still, it never occurred to try it myself. This stuff was way over my head..

Watching Tigerlily’s first class however, I realized the emphasis wasn’t on crazy acrobatics, or even winning. (our karate school, Nippon Do, doesn’t compete because they don’t believe in ‘winning’ or ‘losing’.) It was a tough workout, for sure, but the required awareness reminded me of yoga. Yes, you had to spar with a partner, but the focus was as much on inner conflicts as on outer conflicts. This, I realized, was a stunningly graceful combination of sport, philosphy and art. Plus, and this was perhaps the best part, how awesome everybody looked in their white karategi! I signed up for a beginners’ class.

So now we are two Karate Kids. After almost a year of lessons, we don’t quite float through tree tops or spin-kick like Lucy Liu yet. There’s a big chance we never will. But we don’t care; we thoroughly enjoy every little step along the way, we cherish every bruise and blister. Like our sensei likes to say: it’s about the journey. And how very lucky I am to travel this one together with my daughter.

(written for The Mom)