The little guy can only keep his balance for about two seconds at a time. That makes a snap kick hard to execute. He, like most young children, can’t point his toes, which makes a snap kick potentially painful for him. He doesn’t level out his thighs when he gets into a horse stance, and he has trouble remembering right from left. Yet, he is an excellent student.
His eyes stay glued to my hands when we’re doing double straight punches, and I can see him mouthing the numbers I’m calling out to him, as the repetition count grows. He emphatically announces, “I remember that!” for every technique reviewed from Sunday’s class and quickly demonstrates the accuracy of his recall. He takes it upon himself to review his knowledge of left from right, sporadically checking with me on which is which: “This one is the right, right?” Above all, he does every exercise I ask him to do without complaint. That’s a first for a five-year-old student.
I’m fairly certain that, though he seems to like me just fine, he’s not all that interested in kung fu. He’s in my class because his father wants to foster some kind of athletic interest in him. He works hard regardless because he wants to make dad proud.
I can’t teach him the same way I do the ones who want to be there. I have to switch gears and tactics to keep from losing his attention and his smile. It’s a challenge I’ve never encountered before. I wasn’t permitted to care at the guan whether students were having a good time – or, rather, I wasn’t permitted to show that I cared. But now that the rules are my own, I have to do my best to meet this challenge. An excellent student deserves no less.