Five-Year-Old Karate

A five-year-old Little Dragons student arrived as I prepared and pulled things together for that night’s karate classes. This was one of many evenings in our ongoing karate program.

The five-year-old asked confidently, “Hey, Renshi, whatcha doin’?”

His sudden outgoing nature surprised me and made me proud. This is the same boy who used to sort of nod silently when I greeted him. And that only after his family encouraged him to say hi. Now he was the first to talk, and asking questions. (One of those priceless karate instructor moments.)

“I’m just getting this folder for the last class tonight,” I answered. It was my final preparation for that evening’s classes.

It was his turn to be surprised, “Tonight’s the last class?


I realized that my young student mistakenly thought that this would be the final night of karate. I wanted to reassure him, “No, this is just for tonight’s last class. We will keep having karate after that, next week… There is no end to karate.”

“No end?” Now his blue eyes looked even more astonished. I wondered if that was too much for him, in his short time on earth, to fathom. It seemed I’d laid a huge, possibly burdensome epiphany on this kid. At five, he had about a year of karate under his belt. Maybe it seemed to him that he’d already done karate for forever. Now this teacher, the authority on karate for him, was saying he was stuck doing karate until the end of time?


I plan to do karate for as long as I can,” I explained. “It helps us to be faster, stronger, and better able to protect ourselves, right?”

“Yes,” he replied. (Many others see these benefits of karate, and more, for five-year-olds.)

“I want to help you and other people learn that too, for as long as I can,” I said.

He seemed to agree that this was a good idea. He relaxed into the realization that this was not an ending of classes or a dramatic conclusion to karate for all of our students. And it wasn’t a huge revelation that we were in some terrible trap with no escape. It was just another week of training as usual. Another regular day of karate in a string of karate days. And if we and those who come after us are fortunate, those days will stretch forward into karate forever.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger   five-year-old karate

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