By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 12/16/2017
Occurred: 4/15/2008
Topics/Keywords: #Humor #Karate #Zachary Page Views: 3021
Zach earns his orange belt in karate.

They grow up so fast. This past weekend, Zachary graduated into his Orange Belt in Karate. (The progression is white-yellow-orange). At this stage, he is actually "tested" in class, with his classmates, as they go along and orange "tips" are added to their yellow belts. Then they have a graduation.

Zachary's graduation into his Yellow Belt was a "make-up" because he missed the general graduation. Consequently, that was a relatively intimate affair. This was the general graduation, and it was enormous. Apparently, every kid in the Valley is taking karate.

Mary got the directions from the local karate school front desk. It said, very clearly, that the affair was being held from 1 to 2 pm some 15 miles away. Mary was very worried that we would be late, and wanted to leave at noon. Meanwhile, Michael had a standing appointment with a massage client in Sun City at the same time. Fortunately, he was able to postpone it till 4 pm, which we figured would give Michael plenty of time to get across the Valley, even if the graduation ran a little late.

Zachary was ready in his ghee at noon, but no one else was ready to go; nor did we want to wait 45 minutes for the karate people to open the doors. (The last graduation we attended, we could not enter until the moment it was supposed to start.) That meant we should leave about 12:30 pm to allow for a leisurely drive and time to find parking. However, at 12:25 Michael was still in the shower ("putting on shoes" he called, but we could hear the water running) and Jenny suddenly announced that Zachary hadn't eaten lunch and we would need to stop by McDonald's on the way.

Everyone else was in the car when Michael joined us. I drove us to the McDonald's drive-thru, where suddenly everyone decided they were hungry (except for Mary) and ordered lunch. Michael treated with a contribution from Jenny. Thanks to my new GPS, we had no trouble finding the school where the event was to be held. We arrived at 12:59 pm; Zach had one minute, according to his note from the school, as no student would be allowed to enter late. I dropped the family off at the door and went on to find parking, which by this time was available at a nearby ball field about half a mile away.

When I got in, it appeared they were running a little late, as they were running the "Little Tigers" through their yellow belt tests. (The Little Tigers are three-year-olds who are so adorable as they go through their moves that demonstrate they can beat up adults.)

But it was more than a little late. Michael began to be concerned that he would be late for his client. The testing of the Little Tigers began to drag on and on. In fact, it wasn't over until after 2 pm.

Then they paraded out slightly older white belts.

Jenny decided to check with Zachary's instructor, who was one of the judges. She came back wearing a grim expression. "Zachary doesn't go on until 5:30," she said.

We all stared, slack-jawed, looking like a family from the Ozarks.

"What?" we cried in unison. Then there was a chorus of accusations and defenses. But it was clear that the faulty information had come directly from the person at the desk at the karate school, because it was there in her writing on the notice from the school: 1 - 2 pm.

It was now 2:30, so we had the choice of going home to nap for three hours, or to wait on the most uncomfortable bleachers every created for the same time.

We went home. Michael left for Sun City, and I took a nap.

At 5 those of us who weren't massaging people piled back into the car, returned to the school, and got seats just in time for Zachary's class to join 10,000 other kids in running through their paces for their orange belts.

Every kid in the Valley showed up to be tested.

Having learned my lesson before, I didn't even try to sit down. Instead I roamed with my camera, trying to get close enough to Zachary to see him. I was once at a Billy Joel concert, in which, from my viewpoint, Billy Joel was a pink dot next to a dollhouse piano. This was like that. The gymnasium was marked into six segments, two sets of three. Each of the three tested on different skills: Kicking and punching, their kadas (a routine of moves that must be memorized and appears to be a way of bringing down four assailants at once), and a freeform run in which the kids can do any karate-like move they wish.

I wasn't able to catch any photos of Zach's participation in the kicking part, but here's a sequence of him running through his kada:

I apologize for the blurriness of the pictures; I hadn't realized I would need the Hubble Telescope to see my grandson.

The free-form run was a little closer to me.

Finally…finally!…they line up all the candidates, which actually included some adults who had decided to attack their mid-life crises with karate blows, and called them, one-by-one, up to receive their orange belts and certificates of achievement.

We could have watched Ben-Hur in the time it took for Zach to be called. But, eventually, inevitably, he was.

The new orange belts then had to sit with their belts in front of them, lean over, and rub their foreheads into the belt. The purpose of this is to signify they have earned this achievement by working a little sweat, which by now beaded even the forehead of the most physically-fit kid in the room, into the belt.

Of course, as soon as we got home, Mary washed it.