This month I am excited to be featuring an interview with Arlo and Kate Sawicki, who have been working with me for the past 3 years. Arlo has made me very proud to be his Sensei and it was a lot of fun for me to see how he thinks of his time at the dojo! I hope you enjoy.
Arlo, how old are you and how long have you been training karate?
I am nine years old. I have been training karate for about 3 years.
Why did you want to try karate?
I wanted to do a sport and one of my best friends, Theo, was doing karate. I thought it would be a good way to spend more time with him!
What is your favorite part of karate?
My favorite part of karate is learning the katas and moves…and going to tournaments, though the tournaments can kind of be scary.
Are there any big goals you have for your training?
My goal is to get to my first-degree black belt. I want to go to Japan with sensei!
Do you have a good story about karate that you can share?
I went to a tournament and did a kata(karate form) called Ananku. I got first place! Then a year later, I went to another tournament, did the same kata, but better this time, and got first place. This time though all the people who got first place went to a separate group and when they did it again I got first place and I got a very large trophy. It was bigger than me!!
Do you have tips or advice you could share with new students?
I would suggest that new students should always be focused. Every time we have a promotion we have a test. You should always stay focused and work hard to get better at the old kata and learn the new kata for your test. One more thing, the first thing you will learn are the 5 basics: oi-zuki, kukon-zuki, mae-geri, sokuto-geri, and mawashi-geri. That’s enough advice for now!
I interviewed Kate for another perspective on Arlo’s experience at the dojo.
Kate, why did you enroll Arlo in karate classes?
Honestly, we started karate so that Arlo could spend more time with one of his best friends from preschool. I wasn’t terribly interested in or knowledgeable about martial arts, but I did love seeing my little guy in a gi!
Did you ever think your son would like karate?
His father had trained in karate as a kid, so I had a feeling that he might like it as well. He has always had a focused personality–he can work on a Lego project for hours! I thought that “focus” might very well benefit him in karate.
What benefits for Arlo have you found in this activity?
Confidence and a passion for a particular physical activity. Before we started working with Sensei Eli, Arlo tried out soccer and other sports. Nothing quite clicked. But once he started training in karate, I could see how focused he became on perfecting his technique, even at 6 years old! He would ask me to record his sensei doing the katas so that he could practice. He would practice his “moves” over and over at home, trying to perfect his form. By first grade, he was writing in his school work about his katas and his desire to earn a black belt!
Are there any really memorable moments that you could share?
Arlo mentioned his first tournament and how proud he was of himself. What he didn’t mention was how terrified he was to go. He absolutely refused at first and said, “I don’t want to compete. I’m just not that kind of guy!” Sensei Eli was so calm, so easy-going about it though. He worked with Arlo on his kata again and again, praising his efforts and gently correcting his form when necessary. He encouraged Arlo and helped him to see how much he had grown. Most importantly, he stressed how the tournament wasn’t about “winning”; instead, it was about Arlo showing what he could do and how hard he had worked. When we finally got to the tournament, Arlo was quite literally shaking with fear, but, right before he was called up to perform, he said to me, “Mom, I want to make Sensei proud!” It was so genuine, so heartfelt that I knew we were working with the right person for Arlo.
Do you have words of wisdom for other parents or students just starting out?
When we first started, I was worried about the physical aspects and didn’t want him to get hurt–he is such a little guy. However, I quickly learned that, with proper training and safety measures, which Sensei Eli always stresses, he is going to be fine. Parents, let go and trust Sensei Eli, and you will be amazed at what your child can do.