It Beats Watching The TV

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The Problem With Kids These Days, Is They Have No Idea What Hard Work Is...

Stuart Burnham
United Kingdom
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Back in the earlier days of this blog youngest son Billy used to make regular appearances, brightening up the posts with his japes and boyish witticisms. As time went by he popped up less frequently as he got busier with more typical teenage things, friends, girls, drums, exams and he didn’t really have the time to play games at home or, often, at games meet ups.
Some of you may have been wondering what he’s up to and how he’s doing.

I’m a little sad to say that the cheeky young boy is no longer really around, but I’m very proud to let you know that he’s been replaced by a confident and charming young man. And this weekend he achieved what has been, thus far, the biggest goal of his life in gaining his black belt in karate.

Billy was four years old when he first said that he was going to be a black belt. He was watching his older brother in a class and copying the moves, determined to start the instant he was old enough. That determination has certainly helped him to scale this challenge. To put it in perspective it’s been training twice a week (at least) for around forty six weeks a year, for the past twelve years. For the past year and a bit, and as part of his black belt criteria, he’s been teaching a few hours a week on top of his own training, helping kids from the age he started himself up to around thirteen with their own skills and learning.

He actually postponed his grading from the summer as he didn’t want to be doing the intensive work at the same time as his exams. For the past couple of months he’s been training around five times a week, plus his teaching responsibilities. There have been pre-grading sessions, written exams, interviews, hour upon hour of work. And then it all came to Saturday when he had to do it all for real. Topped off with a non stop thirty minute “sparring” session.

This “sparring”, for which there is no public viewing whatsoever, and I mean doors to the entire building locked and blocked, all windows covered and all clocks removed, involves fighting between one and three black belts (who do get to tag in and out and catch a breather) at the same time for at least thirty no holds barred minutes. Fail to defend yourself adequately for ten seconds and you’re done, as well as if you ask to stop. All you can do is to survive and fight back. One of the adversaries was a (police)man who’d been his sensei, his teacher, for nine of those years of training. To quote Billy, who is not prone to expletives, the moment I saw him afterwards, drenched in sweat and (some) blood, battered, bruised and exhausted, covered in ice packs; “that was fucking insane!

And it must have been. The other two who were also grading were in an even worse state. The young lady had an ankle the thickness of her leg and her foot was bleeding quite a bit, she was shattered, but still had a smile. The other lad, a year or two older than Billy, was the colour of beetroot and had a thousand yard stare that didn’t leave him even after the presentation and during the photos. Bill also offered up the appetising factoids that he was sick twice during the fighting (“I swallowed one lot though Dad”) and that he had banged his head rather badly (“Two of them picked me up and threw me into the wall”) but as the honours were handed out it was heartwarming to see the camaraderie, the back slapping, the hugs from all who’d been fighting as they welcomed three new peers into the group. To say Bill was on a high was an understatement. Twenty four hours later, at a celebratory meal out, his bandaged hands and taped fingers were still shaking to the extent that he had to pick up his drink with both hands. I think that there is no way to really understand what he’d been through, only a certain few who’ve actually been there can comprehend.

And, forgive me for my gushingly proud parent status, that’s not all. This past year he has had spectacular GCSE results and he completed his NCS (National Citizenship Scheme) course. This was two weeks of (outdoor) activities and two weeks of volunteering and social action. After the fundraising events at the end were over he was as upset as I’d ever seen him; he said “it’s not right, we didn’t do enough, we didn’t do all that we could have, they needed more”. We pacified our distraught son, assured him that he’d done some good and that it was a learning lesson for life.
Within a week he’d met with the chief of the local mental health charity that he felt he’d let down, and by the end of summer had rebuilt their website, sorted their social media and has now moved on to setting up and chairing a young person’s council for them. He is giving a presentation at a mental health convention in December.
It's been a pleasure having had a board game playing boy, but it’s incredible being the parent of such an active, caring and conscientious young man.

Billy is awesome, and he’s special because he’s mine, but he’s not unique.
There are so many other young people who, in their own way, are just as amazing.
You see, the problem for kids these days, is that many adults have no idea just how much they are capable of.
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