The kids have the first hour, taking turns sparring in a ring with judges, going for points like they would in a tournament. They wear protective gear and there are very specific rules regarding where and how hard they can hit.
The second hour + is for the adults and teens, who pair up and spar continuously, without judges, wearing minimal gear and switching partners every 15-20 minutes or so until we've had at least 4 fights each. Courtesy rules apply as always, but beyond that, anything goes. "Kick and punch him and try not to let him kick and punch you," were my instructions when I began. Depending on who you pair with, you could be in for a gentle talk-and-tap with a friend, or an adrenaline-spiking, sweat-drenching, "holy-crap-I'm-dead-meat" serious fight with an adversary who will hit you hard if you don't protect yourself.
A good night for me has some of each.
Afterward, we shake hands, hug, pat each other on the back...
and go out for pizza.
Our school almost completely takes over the pizza joint every Friday. People of all different ages, fitness levels, socioeconomic statuses, educational backgrounds, belief systems, employment histories, cultural backgrounds, political persuasions, etc. sit down and eat and talk and have a great time. In most cases, the only thing they have in common is the karate school. They are either karate people or are parents, siblings, or spouses of karate people.
It's like a big family dinner every week, with the adults at one big table and the kids piling into several booths, playing silly word games, sitting on each other, looking at each other's electronic devices, and eventually heading outside to skateboard or ripstick, loiter at the Big Lots, or walk to the Cinema Center for a movie.
Tonight, the teens and tweens saw a movie, so it was calmer than usual - until they got back.
Friday night facebook will often feature silly pictures they took at the restaurant or in the movie theater with their phones. They're already starting to trickle into my news feed.
The adult table is quite lively as well. Conversational topics vary widely and wildly. There's a lot of laughter. Everyone is kind and relaxed, open and friendly.
Even the normally reclusive Savageman will come out for Friday night pizza, and he'll do it even on nights when I have another commitment and can't be there myself. Which says a lot. It used to be weird, knowing he was there hanging out with my friends while I was at book club or away camping or whatever, but now they're just as much his friends as they are mine. Which makes me very happy.
When I think about the fact that family dinner at our house happens in shifts, that we stand in the kitchen and munch, sometimes together, sometimes not, I realize how far we've drifted from the evening ritual I had wanted for us. Karate and our other sports have made sit-down family meals all but impossible for years now.
But we always have Sunday dinners at my parents' house, and we have Friday dinners with the karate family. Rituals we can count on, that we look forward to, that make us feel warm and happy and connected.
|Celebrating a birthday with one of Little's homemade cakes.|