Despite the fact that the Finnish coach who knits during competition is basically my soul brother, I am not a laid back and relaxed trainer. I love my athletes and try to make sure I know them well – what they are like, what the need most from me, and what keeps them enjoying themselves and feeling supported and cared about.
Since I’ve done taekwondo for the vast majority of my life, I know the impact that good coaches can have. The coaches I have been closest to, (even ones I haven’t seen in almost 30 years), are still people I hold in my heart.
So a lot of my athletes – mostly kids, but some teenagers and adults too – feel like family to me. And even though I don’t have kids of my own, I very much enjoy being “dojang mom” or “second mom” or “extra mom” to a lot of them. (Three cheers for alloparenting?)
Every spring, our sister school about two hours away, holds a tournament. It’s a small and not very intense affair, so we try to encourage as many of our students as possible to go and give it a try.
This time, I promised them that if at least 15 people signed up, I’d compete as well. Now, I haven’t fought in a long time, even though I still train quite a bit. Regardless, it wouldn’t have been especially convenient (or good for my mental focus) to be concerned about fighting while I’m also trying to coach my athletes, which usually keeps me busy most of the day.
So instead, I thought I would do something special for both me, and one of my students, who is just transitioning to black belt competition. We signed up together to do the pairs poomsae competition (poomsae are taekwondo forms, like kata in karate).
I didn’t expect how much more motivating it would be for me to compete representing both myself and one of my kids. In particular, Ben, who I competed with, is sometimes mistaken for my actual child. I think this is in part because he assists with many of the classes I teach, in part because of how we interact with each other, and probably also that we’re in a fairly white community and one of his parents is also of Chinese descent.
So on Saturday, we joined a mother-daughter pair and a grandfather-grandson pair, to compete in the pairs division. Apparently it is just the right thing to pair up with your kid or grandkid! And I had more fun, and was more excited and motivated than I had been for a public event in quite a long time. It felt great. So here’s to competing with your kid, whoever they might be, and in whatever sense they are your kid.
Plus, we took gold!