Recently I tested and passed for my advancement to 5th kyu. Yay for me but that isn’t what I am writing about. Instead I am writing about the REAL Karate Kid.
No…not him. And not Ralph Macchio either. The real Karate Kid that I know is a 12 year old 2nd kyu (brown belt) and we’ll call her “Sammie”.
Sammie is from our sister-school an hour away and she came over with others to help out with grading. And right from the start I should tell you that I am somewhat biased against high ranking children as my experience is that many earn their higher belts through either pity, birthday presents, or “well, he always comes to class”. So I wouldn’t have paid much attention to her for the first hour of class even if I weren’t busy with my own training. But when it was time for the higher belts to perform kata, I then first took notice.
In a word, I was surprised. Most children, you see, simply do not have the patience nor the desire to get good at martial arts. Most kids, and I include my childhood self in this, flit from one interest to another like bumblebees, always in search of something novel and interesting. So to find a child that has obtained a high kyu rank in karate is rare. Rarer still in knockdown karate.
Her kata had begun and I watched as she moved through her sequences; after an exhausting hour of kihon she wasn’t perfect, but nor was she sloppy and all of her movements had fluidity and snap. It was a good showing and proved she at least had discipline. Still, though, among underage female martial artists in higher ranks it is fairly common to find proficiency in kata. And who of us hasn’t seen an example of a pint-sized martial artist who’s parents make her focus on something safe like forms?
Well I fortunately make a habit of keeping these kinds of thoughts to myself because the next stage of the test was kumite. During my eight 1-minute rounds I wasn’t able to watch, but since she is Brown Belt she had 3 more fights after my rank was told to sit down.
Sammie, very small for a 12 year old, impressed the hell out of me during kumite. She showed more spirit than probably any of us while she fought one larger and older opponent after another. She had great combos, quickness, defense, and endurance. But most impressive was how she literally kept fighting through her tears. I’ve watched older boys, and even some teenagers take a hard shot and immediately quit and begin to cry; and while I am not without sympathy, it makes Sammie’s performance all the more inspiring as she’d return a savage low inside-kick with a jab-cross-uramawashi geri combo.
Students like her just go to show that you can’t always judge a person’s spirit by their size.