Disrespect is ugly. Especially when it comes from a black belt and parent, and is directed toward a nine-year-old child.
A few weeks ago, we took our students to a karate tournament. While our school’s focus is on self-defense, not competition, we do offer our students two opportunities a year to participate in a no contact/light contact tournament. Every time we go to one, I am reminded again why I dislike them.
It was the nine-year old brown belt group’s final match in point kumite, (or “tag” as I sometimes call it since the first person to pass the other’s guard and make contact receives a point). A boy from our school and a girl from another competed in this final round, which would determine first place. Both competitors fought aggressively. Then the girl popped our student in the face. Twice. Hey, karate is a contact sport. It’s a fight. These things happen. Increased adrenalin paired with excitement or frustration often leads to lack of control. The girl was disqualified as per the rules.
Now, as anyone who has been popped in the nose knows, the body’s natural response is to tear up. When the boy wiped his eyes, a black belt man (the girl’s dad?) enthusiastically jumped in front of a black belt woman with a camera (the girl’s mom?) and exclaims, “He’s crying. Get a picture!”
A grown man of advanced rank was excited about the tears of a nine-year-old to want a memento of it?
I was pissed. I didn’t care what rank this guy held, I let him know what he said was disrespectful. They ignored me and slinked away (I’d like to think it was because they were embarrassed, but more likely they went to show the girl the picture). Another sensei (teacher) with a red and black stripe belt (meaning 7th degree or higher) from the same school had been standing between the mom and me, and asked what happened. I don’t know how he missed it, he was standing right next to them when the guy said it…loudly, I might add. After I told him what happened, he started his spiel about how they have tough girls in their dojo and that they don’t treat their girls differently from the boys. Um, hello! I don’t give a flying front kick how tough the girls are in your school. You’re totally missing the point. This isn’t about the girl. At all. This is about your adult black belt parents disrespecting a competitor, disrespecting the competitor’s teachers and parents standing nearby, and demonstrating poor sportsmanship.
Seriously, is that really what you want your students to learn? “Hey kids…it doesn’t matter if your techniques lack control or you get disqualified; we’re going to celebrate the fact that you made a boy cry. And here’s the framed photo to prove how tough you are!”
I wonder if they’d feel the same way if the boy popped the girl in the face and his parents said, “Quick take a picture. She’s crying.”
~ K.M. Fawcett