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And I thought soccer moms were bad….

You know, most of the time I really enjoy teaching martial arts.  I’ve been practicing martial arts for a total of about 8 1/2 years, and I’ve been an instructor of them for about 6 of those years.  I’ve taught group classes and private lessons.  I’ve performed at demonstrations and judged at competitions.  And I’ve done all of this for virtually nothing, since the instructors at the school where I teach do not get paid (in “real money”; we can continue our own training for free, when we have the time).  So you know I must enjoy it, if I’m willing to spend so much time and effort for no monetary gain.

But there are times when I want to just give up being and instructor and go back to being just a student.  One of those times was last night.

There is a student of mine who is about 10 years old, is a green belt in Taekwondo, and he doesn’t want to come to classes.  He’s told me this, and a few other instructors.  He has admitted on more than one occasion that the only reason he is there is because his father, who is somewhat of a martial arts aficionado himself, makes him.  We have to keep on him at all times to maintain discipline, because the only reason this kid is respectful or learning at all is due to the fact he knows swift punishment (i.e. push-ups or sit-ups) will happen if he falls out of line.  So this kid does the absolute bare minimum during classes and is constantly walking a fine line between grudging respect and outright rebellion.

It is because of this attitude that the kid is still a green belt.  You see, he’s actually been coming to classes for quite a while, and under normal circumstances the kid should already be something like a blue belt, or even brown.  But our standards are such that we won’t promote somebody who doesn’t deserve the belt, so he has been held back from testing.  It’s pretty simple:  Taekwondo has forms.  You need to know the forms appropriate to the belt level.  He doesn’t, and since he doesn’t want to learn, he just mimics the moves of those around him (which doesn’t really work) and never practices them at home.  So we’ve told him that he won’t test until he knows his forms.  And that in turn has led to his mother starting to show up during classes.

For a little while, the mother was quiet.  She would sit on the side and read a book or a magazine through class, and take her son home afterward.  Typical of a parent with time on their hands just waiting for their child to be done.  Then, a few weeks ago, out of the blue she goes up to one of the other instructors and claims that we aren’t teaching her child the forms.  He tells her that we do teach forms during class, just not every night (often there is so much to teach that we don’t get to forms each class; that’s why people are supposed to come to multiple classes a week).  The subject is quickly dropped, but we made a effort to put forms higher on the list of things to do each night.

And then came last night.  Keep in mind that we have worked on forms at least once a week for the past I don’t know how long.  When I got there (I was running a little bit late), they were already working on forms.  After dressing out, I got the task of putting this kid through his forms.  While working with him on forms that he should already know, I asked him if he was practicing at home.  He told me no and rolled his eyes at his mom, clearly indicating that he thought I was an idiot or something.  I turned to his mom and said that he needed to be practicing these forms at home.  She said how can he practice them at home when you guys don’t teach him the forms?  She then follows that up by saying there isn’t anybody who’s at their house who knows the forms, so how can he practice them at home?

Since this is already a long-ish post, I’ll shorten the remainder of the conversation, and one that I had with her later.  I claimed that we did teach forms in class.  She basically claimed that I was lying to her, despite the fact that:

  1. I asked a few other students and the other instructors right before her whether or not we taught forms in that class, and they all said yes, we did.
  2. There are other students who just take the same classes that this kid does, and they know there forms (and in some cases, a lot more forms than the kid does)
  3. And finally, I was freaking teaching the kid forms right in front of her eyes!

Whenever I tried to put the blame on the kid, she tried telling us that we weren’t teaching him, or that he has a slight learning disability (first I’ve heard about it….), or that no one was around to help him.  I kept my patience, though I desperately wanted to throw something (her and her kid, for a start….).  In the end, I think I finally got the point across to her, and so that the mother has less of a footing to stand on I’m going to obtain written versions of the forms so the kid can take them home with him (and make several copies, in case he “loses” them).

It is just so freaking frustrating dealing with a parent who is basically blind to their child’s faults.  I do understand that it can be a hard thing to hear that your child is falling behind, and that it’s their own damn fault.  I understand her feelings that perhaps we’re just not working enough with her special boy.  And I do also understand that you don’t want other people thinking you are a bad parent or anything and you don’t want this conversation “public”, but frankly there’s nothing I can do about that (it’s not a good idea to have a truly “private conversation” with either a parent or child, since it then turns into your word against theirs if someone accuses somebody of something).

But really, you know what, we are not running classes based around this boy’s needs.  We have many, many other students to think about and work with, and they need help as well.  This class is actually privledged to have three instructors; most other classes make due with just one.  We try our best during each class to give each student some personal attention, but we just can’t have a class that based around a kid who claims he can’t learn his forms, and can’t seem remember the most basic forms that have only 2 moves in them that get repeated!  Now, if he was a new student and actually had a learning disability, that would be one thing.  But this kid has learned his forms and tested past yellow and orange belts already, proving he can learn and remember the forms.  He just doesn’t want to.  And his parents (mainly the dad) don’t want to accept that he doesn’t want to do this and keeps shoving him into classes.

::sigh::  At this point, there’s not much that we as instructors can really do.  The kid is disrespectful at times and is a pain in the ass, but he hasn’t actually crossed a line where we can expel him.  Normally, if a kid doesn’t want to do it this much, it’s the parent that gets the point and stops bringing them.  Usually they see that the kid isn’t getting anything out of class and they quickly stop wanting to pay.  The best thing that I can do right now is get the written versions of the forms to both the kid and his parents, and I’ll hand them to the mom herself.  And we’re possibly going to start a written log of when the kid gets taught forms.  Eventually, though, I have the feeling I’m going to have to have another talk with his parents.  ::sigh::

I tell you what, though, I must have mellowed over the years or something.  A lady comes in and has the balls to call me a liar in front of my students?  I had full grounds right then to throw her and her child out of the class, and if it were a few years ago I might have.  So what stopped me?  Well, one, I think I have more patience that I did then.  And two, perhaps now I’m simply wise enough to notice that the lady was doing such a splendid job of making a bloody fool of herself.  Nothing like calling the instructor a liar when the whole damn class (minus one whiny kid) says the instructor is telling the truth.

You almost have to admire that kind of person.  Without them, the world would be berefit of some of the truly great movies.

Like Ultraviolet.

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