• 10-28-2019 •
The subway ride was uneventful. Upon leaving the station in Flatbush, Brooklyn, I noticed the refreshing ethnic diversity of the area. Making my way to the school I passed many stores. This is obviously a busy area with lots of street traffic and people shopping. I felt relatively safe however kept a watchful eye on my immediate surroundings.
I entered the school and the security guard informed me I was already in their system and did not need to sign in nor walk through the metal detector. I made my way up to the second floor Guidance Office where the After-School Program had its office.
As I reached the office there was a great commotion just outside the door in the hallway. Apparently a fight had just broken out between two girls and the loser was holding her face gushing blood. There was a red puddle forming on the floor as all the kids surrounding her were cheering and laughing.
Welcome to an under-served, inner City Middle School in Brooklyn, New York City!
I entered the Guidance Office and met the After-School Program Director who showed me to the room I was to teach in.
The school bell rang and I stood at the doorway waiting to greet my students. I was determined to make a good and strong yet compassionate first impression to my new charges.
As the classroom door opened, I saw the hesitation on each students face, a mixture of fear and anticipation for what lie ahead in their first After School Program Martial Arts class. I greeted each one with a smile and an extended hand. I wanted to see how open they were and if they knew how to greet properly.
I had planned to teach them, by end of class, a first and most important lesson – how to shake hands.
First on the agenda was taking attendance. I taught them how to answer when their name was called: “Hai” which in Japanese means “yes” and then moved onto the basic rules of what I expected of them during class.
I explained how they would walk out of this and every session a different person than when they walked in. They would be more flexible, stronger, more knowledgeable and respectful. Next was basic vocabulary. The classroom we were using would transform into a “Karate Dojo”, a place to learn the way of Karate. The students will enter the Dojo, bow and say loudly: “Please Teach Me” and when exiting they would bow and say: “Thank you Very Much“. I would be called Sensei, meaning “one who has gone before”, or teacher, and MY word would be final. In the next class they would be taking off their shoes, put any jewelry into their socks and place their socks in their shoes, neatly lined up in the designated spot.
My assistant then handed out paperwork they needed to fill out and I proceeded to teach an opening and closing breathing meditation ritual finalized by the soft gong of a Tibetan Singing Meditation Bowl.
As my new Karateka, meaning “students of Karate”, exited the Dojo, I could sense relief wash over them and the slightest bit of confidence seep into their hearts.
I knew this was going to be a worthwhile endeavor for them and me.