Mommy confession time. When I registered my son for karate at the age of 6, I never thought he’d be an 11 year old black belt. It’s not that I thought he couldn’t accomplish a black belt. To be completely honest, it never even crossed my mind.
In January 2011, Gunnar’s friend invited him to attend Standale Karate on a “Bring a Friend Night”. Now up to this point, we had tried T-Ball and I watched him play tic-tac-toe with himself with dirt in the infield and pick dandelions in the outfield. We tried soccer and he came home from practice sobbing because he would never be able to kick a ball with the inside of his foot like his coach had instructed. So I had honestly just accepted that maybe sports weren’t Gunnar’s thing. No biggie, he was 6 years old. Certainly plenty of time to find his passion.
So on that January night when I took Gunnar to Standale Karate for the first time, I also expected it to be the last time.
However, much to my surprise, Gunnar loved karate. The instructor, Master Rick Heath (now Grand Master Rick Heath) had a playful yet authoritative approach with the kids. He was one of those men with seemingly endless patience and a gift for teaching children. He instinctually understood Gunnar and how to methodically help him with the various blocks, kicks, and stances. Gunnar instantly loved Master Rick.
After class, Gunnar asked if he could come to karate again. Let’s be clear…Gunnar had *never* asked to repeat a sport before.
I inquired with the Director, Jan Heath, on the cost of the classes, uniform requirements, times, dates, etc. She told me it was a flat monthly fee with no contract required. We would also be required to purchase a uniform from the school for approximately $30.
Confession moment. Here’s what I heard from Jan: “For a small monthly fee, plus the cost of uniform, we will give you a mom break up to 4x per week”. At that time, my husband, Mr. Businessman traveled overnight every week for work, leaving me alone with two young boys 6 and 4 years old. I was also working a full time job at the Meijer Corporate office. I was functioning as a single mom while working a full time job with two young children. I was flat exhausted.
I looked over at my little Konrad and saw him playing along side the other younger kids that had brothers and sisters participating in the class.
I couldn’t sign Gunnar up fast enough.
For a small monthly fee with no contract…you are going to occupy BOTH of my children?! Not only that, this is like a good thing right? I mean, I’m not dumping them with a sitter…I’m doing something constructive here. Gunnar’s getting exercise and maybe earning a couple belts, which is good for self-esteem. Konrad’s making some new friends, no small feat for him. And for up to 4x per week, I can enjoy watching my son in karate, or play Angry Birds on my phone, maybe do some of their clothes shopping on-line, text my friends, etc. I can generally chill for up to 4 hours a week.
Fast forward to March 2016.
Gunnar actually stuck with karate and Master Rick. They’ve formed a bond that has forever shaped the man Gunnar will become in all the right ways. Master Rick taught him discipline, respect, determination, precision, and most importantly, the unconditional love of a male figure. He also taught him it’s okay to have fun and be determined. I’ll forever be grateful that God brought Rick Heath into our lives.
Gunnar successfully participated in multiple karate tournaments throughout this time in karate. He medaled in the 2015 Sate Games of Michigan Summer Games as well as the 2016 Winter & Summer State Games of Michigan. He also competed in the 2015 State Games of America, earning 4th place in Weapons and 6th place in Forms.
In many ways between the relationship with Rick Heath and the confidence he built at tournaments, Gunnar found himself in karate.
Now on March 19th, 2016, Gunnar was 11 years old and testing for his 1st degree black belt. The test was 5 hours long and juried by a panel of high ranking black belts including Grand Master Rick Heath. His co-testers included adult 3rd, 5th, and 6th degree black belts. To prepare for the test he had committed to 3-4 practices per weeks over a six month period and numerous private lessons all while adjusting to middle school and participating in travel soccer (refer to second paragraph for that touch of irony). Also, he was sick with the flu the whole week leading up to his test.
But he did it! Gunnar earned his 1st degree black belt.
And you know what? It doesn’t really matter why I registered him for classes back in 2011.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you..plans to give you hope and a future”
*The professional pictures of Gunnar were taken by Angela Lawson.
She has a Facebook page of all her wonderful work: https://www.facebook.com/aglphoto/
Her website: http://www.aglphotography.net/wp/