Saturday, January 02, 2010

Norfolk Invitational Championship: Norfolk Karate Academy's Tang Soo Do Tournament 2009

On November 14, 2009, in the beautiful new gymnasium at St. Patrick's in Norfolk, the Norfolk Karate Academy held its first annual tournament. I was proud to assist in the organizing of this awesome event. The kids had a great time. The smiles of the winners, the cheers of the audience, and the majestic regularity of the schedule justified all of the bustle, the hustle, the scribbled lists and the head-scratching moments when we all tried to think of exactly what was needed to pull it off. We did good! And I got an official NKA polo shirt to wear! It was fabulous!

The main event sponsor was of course Norfolk Karate Academy, but we were generously supported by Turtle Press Books, your online niche bookstore for all things martial arts. We also received prize donations from Fellini's Gourmet Pizza Cafe, and our volunteers ate muffins and drank coffee courtesy of Borjo's Coffeehouse, our neighbors on 45th street.

Here are some pictures of the event:

The winning line-up in the teen advanced sparring. A memorable battle!

Little kid sparring champs. No less fierce, but a little more willing to smile for a picture.

Karate moms at NKA are awesome!

Max takes on Master Odom during the grappling part of the event.

Tiny friends Sadie and Miranda came in first and second in their beginner form competition.

We love our new students at NKA! Yellow belts rocking the forms.

Benny had a day of ups and downs. There was one time when his emotions got the best of him and he kind of freaked out on another kid. Then there were times when he was delightful and patient, thrifty, clean and brave. The road to black belt continues, bumps and all.

Thank you to Fellini's Gourmet Pizza Cafe, Borjo Coffeehouse, and Turtle Press, and a big thank-you to everyone at NKA who helped before, during, and after the event. My children had a fantastic time at this NKA event, as usual. That is really all I care about, but that is everything!

For many more pictures, visit this Flickr set. If you'd like to download or print any pictures of your child, please feel free to do so!

How to Integrate Martial Arts and Homeschooling

One of the glorious benefits of homeschooling is being able to focus a curriculum around your child's passions. Instead of waiting around for a topic to randomly pop up that interests him, out of a collection of topics that may appear in a traditional curriculum, the homeschooled child can fully immerse in that favorite pastime or area of study, until the lines between play and work are magically blurred. This is the moment when learning is fun: the holy grail of homeschooling.

I know many of us have gone out of our way to make curriculum work for a horse-obsessed child or a Civil-War-obsessed child, etc. You make writing assignment, study vocabulary and spelling generated around the topic, create word problems with relevant elements. However, it's even better when you can find a book or curriculum that will do it for you, and I have! My karate-obsessed child is now a brown belt. How I wish I had this book when he was just starting out in karate. It's a wonderful workbook full of puzzles, writing prompts, short essays, and more. I know that my daughter Sadie, a white belt, will get a lot out of it, and I look forward to seeing how she develops in karate as she fills in the pages of the book.

Published by Turtle Press and written by Art Brisacher, the Martial Arts Training Diary for Kids is a diary, a game, a keepsake, and a homeschool helper!

Here's an excerpt:

"Welcome to one of the best adventures you will ever have in your entire life! It is an exciting journey--it's your martial arts journey. Your friend and your companion on this journey will be a different and a very special martial arts book. This book is better than a book about famous movie stars or television actors. This book is even better than a book about your favorite sports hero. This book is like no other book you have ever seen or read. This book is about YOU and it will be written by YOU and lots of people will want to read it. The best part will come one day in the future when your son or daughter will want to read the book that you wrote when you were just a kid! When your child wants to hear about your true martial arts's adventure, you will be able to share it with them."

If your child is just starting out in karate and is over the moon about the idea, this is more than a writing assignment; it's a way to link learning to what your child loves.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Jungle Book: Presentations

At the beginning of the semester, I challenged my academic track Jungle Book class to each present five minutes on any animal that they found interesting, as long as it appeared in the Jungle Book.

I thought I would share some pictures that came out of their very creative presentations:

With the children completely undirected and able to do whatever they wanted, we had all kinds of five-minute lessons! We had crossword puzzles, games of charades, we had comics, we had a demonstration on how to care for a horse, we had lovely pictures, we had a simulated visit from an actual working elephant mahout, we had an astonishingly huge full size king cobra created from fabric, we had earnest, interested, engaged children sharing ideas and facts with each other -- it was awesome to watch. Thanks for all your participation!

Jungle Book Week 12: Gond Tribal Paintings



The quiz this week is about the Gond tribe, the tribe in central India of which Mowgli would have been a part. Which of these statements are true?

1. The Jungle Book is set in an area of Central India called Madya Pradesh.
2. Kipling wrote about this area while he was camping on the banks of the Wainganga itself.
3. The Wainganga River is a real river, but the area around it is not a rainforest.
4. Today in the Seoni District, there is a tiger preserve, where 50 tigers and 30 leopards can be hunted from hired jeeps or airplanes.
5. The villagers that Mowgli encountered would have been members of the Gond tribes.
6. The Gond people practice Hinduism and also animism, which means they worship animals and ancestral spirits.
7. Gond tribes survived by trading their art with neighboring cultures.
8. Gond tribal art usually portrays technological wonders like steamboats and front loaders.
9. A ghotul is a tribal dormitory where young girls and boys go to live apart from their families.
10 Gond people believe that freedom and happiness are more to be treasured than any material gain, that friendliness and sympathy, hospitality and unity are of the first importance.

Project: I'm going to condense two weeks together here, to show you how to get this project done.

Step 1:

White piece of paper
A sense of what the Gond tribal paintings look like, and what kinds of elements they would include.

The Gond tribes painted things they would see in their everyday environment. Ask the children what kind of elements and motifs they would expect to see in a Gond tribal painting, and then ask them to create a sketch of the painting they would like to do. Here are two examples of the drawings the kids came up with:

Step 2:

White poster board
Black Sharpie

This is where you, the teacher, at home, transfer the sketches the children have done onto posterboard, and add the design elements common to the Gond style. This is hard. Don't expect to get it perfect or symmetrical -- freewheeling a little bit is fine. Here are some examples of my attempts to translate the children's art into a workable poster:

Step 3:

Poster paints
Lots of Q-tips
Paper towel
Outline drawings for each child

Make an example to show them how the paintings may end up looking. Here's my example:

Set each child up with paper towel, some poster paints, and a pile of Q-tips. Demonstrate the way you fill in the outline with "dot dot dot" action. Some of the older children may want to branch out into doing small lines to fill in the areas, or other fancy stuff. The little ones should stick to dot-dot-dot to make their paintings colorful. Emphasize that the colors do not have to be realistic. Emphasize that it does not have to be perfect -- folk art is neither exact or mathematical. Let them know that if one of their Q-tips gets squishy or frayed or otherwise irritating, they should ditch it and use a new one. Expect each kid to go through about 20.

Here are some pictures from our painting day:

For more pictures, check out our Jungle Book Flickr set. :)

Story: In the last few weeks of class, we discussed Mowgli's place in the world. Does he belong in the village or in the jungle? I left this as an open-ended question, and obviously there is no right answer. It was interesting to hear the children discussing it. I asked them where they felt they belonged -- more comfortable in the country or in the city? This led us to more interesting questinos: Is man an animal? Can people ever be truly civilized? What is perfect "city" behavior? What is perfect "jungle" behavior? Are there people you know that remind you of different animals? What animal would you be if you could? Would you be happy living the life of a wolf/snake/crocodile?

To me, these questions are more significant for young readers than the issues of race, colonialism, and caste that inevitably come up surrounding this text. They are some of the fundamental questions of humanity, and yet very accessible, in the context of Mowgli and his story, to even the youngest ones. We did talk about race and the empire, and we didn't shy away from some of the more troubling aspects of the stories. However, what I hope the children come away with is a little more awareness of the complexity of point-of-view. I hope they remember reading about seals from the point of view of scared seals and the hungry hunter, reading about the lawful jungle and the unlawful village, about the Gond tribe and the wolf pack. Maybe when they return to these themes and ideas later, they will be able to accomplish a deeper understanding of the tough issues too.

Song and Dance: We had several children who memorized all of "If" and all of "Mandalay." What an amazing accomplishment! For our final show, we had the enrichment class doing the first two verses and the academic class doing all of the poems -- it was a great performance! We also did a Bhangra dance using all 20 of the moves we worked on.

Here are a few videos for you:

Academic track kids doing "Mandalay":

Enrichment track kids doing "If":