Sunday, October 3, 2010

Your focus needs....focus

Sometimes I think Alison has a little too much of both of Jeff and me in her.

She was at taekwondo class the other day, and it had been a particularly hard hour. What I know of martial arts comes from the movies, and even then, I've watched under duress. So I know I don't know a lot about it.

Her instructor, Grand Master Park is Korean. Combine his accent with his stern demeanor and ramrod straight posture, and toss in a little frustration and you've got yourself one scary Grand Master. Even at his most worked up, even Captain Reed's got nothing on the Grand Master.

The kids are supposed to talk only when spoken to -- and then they're to say "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" or whatever words he tells them to repeat. They are to sit quietly and with crossed legs when they're not practicing on the mat, and woe be unto the student who forgot to pee before class. The parents who watch aren't supposed to speak, either, and yes, he's called us on it.

Master Park claims that he's a kinder, gentler master now. Back when he started, he claims the only thing he let students do beyond study taekwondo was to breathe.

So anyway, Alison's focus was apparently not as focused as it could have been and she got more than one earful about it.

She wasn't the only student that night who had Master Park worked up. After he'd had enough of it, he had them all to sit down. There was dead silence as they all sat there, wondering what new torture he had in store and hoping they wouldn't be the one to suffer it. Finally, he asked if anyone thought Master Park was too hard on them.

A lone hand shot up. Yep, it belonged to the redhead in the room. And while no other hands went up with as much vehemence, it stayed up. And then a few other hands joined in.

Now I want Alison to tell the truth and be forthright. But I have to say that I've often been too quick to voice my opinion and if I'd just kept quiet I might not have gotten into trouble or earned enemies quite so quickly. Jeff can be quick with a "helpful" comment, too. It's no coincidence that the U.N. has never asked either of us to help out in diplomatic circles.

Happily for all concerned, I think Master Park isn't holding Alison's quick and committed criticism against her. Instead, he took his time, making eye contact with everyone and reminding them that he was there to help them succeed in life and that if they listened to him, sharpened their focus and paid attention for every minute of their hourly lesson, they'd be able to whatever they wanted in life.

Last week, he told me he was sure she'd advance to yellow belt and had some really nice things to say about her. When I picked her up at school on Friday, she was teaching some other girls some taekwondo moves.

On the way out, she told me that she was frustrated that Madison and Amanda weren't learning as quickly as they should. The kindergartener who'd joined in was learning faster, she said. "It's SO frustrating!" she said.

"Hmmm," I said. "I guess maybe you understand a little bit about how Master Park feels sometimes."

She's still giving that some thought.

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