Monday, July 03, 2006

Trouble with a Junior Belt . . . .

The crowd's small for the 4:30 kid's class. I had told Brian I would be there to help (he signed up to teach), but it looks like adults will outnumber children: me, Brian, Kevin, and Matthew are the only ones there.

We begin with some stretches and warm up kicks. It's all going fine until a couple more kids walk in, a bit late.

It's Arik and Miriam, brother and sister. He's a junior black belt, about 12 or 13. She is younger, maybe 10, and a brown belt.

I figure they'll come join us, but that's not what happens. Miriam slumps into the room, and Arik walks directly up to the front and begins barking out commands to Brian (who's leading us).

I'm shocked, but not completely shocked. I've encountered rude and bossy junior BBs before (you can see my entry of March 30, 2005 in the archives if you want to read about another). Brian lets the rudeness go, but I can see he's really ticked.

We let Arik know that Brian's signed up to teach, and I invite him to work out with us. He doesn't join us. He stands at the edge, watching.

As we get started again, with Kevin leading Basic Movements, Arik butts in again, barging up to the front to loudly "correct" Kevin's stance even as Kevin is calling out the movement.

This time, I can tell that both Kevin and Brian are really getting irked. We let Arik know that we're taking turns leading class. "Which part of class would you like to lead?" I ask him. "Think about what part you want to lead. And please join us. Black belts should set a good example by doing the exercises."

"I don't do basic moves. I'll start yawning."

I wonder if other schools have occasional problems with rogue junior black belts. Most of our young black belts are respectful and responsible. But then there's Arik!

And what a position he put us in this evening. Officially, he's of a higher rank than we are. But we are adults, Brian's the one who signed up to teach the class, and clearly Arik is much to immature to teach. He doesn't even know all the forms.

When we break away to work on forms while the children had a chance to play, I can feel the anger simmering in both Kevin and Brian. They speak quietly but bitterly about Arik's behavior.

As we do our forms, I think about how best to diffuse tension so we can actually have a class. Suddenly, an image comes to mind: Master Hughes showing how to use a W-block. "You don't want to meet the punch head-on," he said. "You just want to deflect the energy."

I think that's what I want to happen with Arik. Not for us to meet him head on, beat him, or "win." I just want to deflect his energy. See if I can get it going in a good and productive direction, even if it's not exactly what we had in mind for class.

After the adults work together on forms for a while and the children blow off some steam, we let Arik choose the next activity. It's noodle hockey. Then more time for forms. Then some tumbling.

I think we work it out the best we can. But we all know we don't want this kind of thing to happen again. It's much too frustrating and awkward.

When Ms. Pryor comes in, she's quickly informed about the junior BB problem. She calls Arik aside and talks quietly with him.

"I told him that I would never come in and start teaching a class if someone else was signed up to do it," she reports to us later. "And I said that he is really not ready to instruct."

It's something all three adults could have told him. But here's one of the difficulties of believing too much in a belt ranking system: even though we adults (who are below Arik in rank) can run class much better than he ever could, and we can even get class to run when he's disrupting it, he would never have listened to the same words of advice from us.

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