Superstore Karate

Chongul pandae chirugi. Kima yop chirugi. Hugul sudo hadan makki. To me they all mean the same – “just another way to beat up Dad”. Of course it also means something else – and that’s “a way to beat up future boyfriends”. But that’s why I like it.

Three years ago we started on a mission. At the time it was more about preoccupation (for us all) after losing Elena. I told everyone it was about getting Gracie ready to beat up all the boys, but in truth it was just as much about finding an excuse to get out of the house. At the time I was unsure if Gracie would stay with it. And after sitting for hours on metal folding chairs watching endless lines of forms and posturing, I almost hoped that she would give us both an excuse to give up. One month in I almost had my wish. The tears flowed with every critique from her teacher, but the allure of the yellow belt was just too much. With it came new responsibilities, new challenges and most important to Gracie was status. She was no longer a white belt and it mattered. And she had a new place in line.

I remember the day I learned the value of her training – and that lesson was painful. It started in the line of the local Sam’s Club. It was our first stop after karate – a 40 lb bag of chicken and a 200 can pack of soda. At the register I pulled out the check while Gracie clamored for my attention. “Look Daddy, look what I learned today”, she said while pulling at my sleeve. I kept on writing, waiting for the screen to either show me how much I owed or the payment plans necessary on the 40 lbs of chicken. “Daddy, daddy – KEITH!” she tried, this time with emphasis. Still I looked on, calculating the pennies.

Two seconds later I was on the ground. Gracie had lost her patience. Standing over me, she now had my attention. “Look Dad”, she exclaimed proudly while standing in a fighting stance, “I learned how to sweep today!” Checkbook in hand, I dusted off my shorts, cautiously bracing myself for a second-wave attack that I was sure was to follow. None came, but I learned my lesson. Even cashier noticed, covering her mouth to conceal her giggle.

To this day Gracie has my undivided attention when it comes to anything she learned in karate, lest I fear the hidden punch, a chokehold or a crane-karate-kid-move designed to paralyze me below the waist. Now six belts higher, the punches are harder, the kicks are higher and her confidence is unwavering. Now the boyfriends really have something to be fearful of. So does Dad.

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