Raising The Karate Kid

*Editor’s Note: I love Alan’s writing. It’s entertaining. It resonates (especially if you love all things 80’s). This post is no different. Read as Alan channel’s his inner Mr. Miyagi and teaches his son Jack about character.

I think most people have one movie that, no matter when it’s on, they’ll sit down and watch it. It’s like a surprise when you’re flicking channels and stumble on it, one that settles you back into the couch even if it’s half over.

Mine is The Karate Kid. (The one with Ralph Macchio, not the Will Smith Junior remake.)

I don’t know what it is about this movie, still, that speaks to me. Maybe it’s that, growing up, I was small for my age and had skipped a grade to boot, so until my sophomore year in high school, I felt like everyone’s little brother. The little brother who could get his ass handed to him by pretty much everyone.

Last Saturday afternoon, I watched it again. If you want to really analyze it, it’s kind of a weird movie. What are the odds that you’d move to a neighborhood lorded over by a bunch of motorcycle-riding, skeleton-costume-wearing, karate-kicking teenagers? Or that your handyman could teach you karate by getting you to wash cars, paint fences or sand decks?

Jack woke up from his nap just as Daniel-san was about to start competing in the dreaded All Valley Karate Tournament.

“Whuzzat?” he’d point.

“They’re doing karate.”

He’d watch, then try to mimic them. Jab. Jab. Jab. Front kick. An occasional, “Oh!”

He walked around our bedroom doing karate and I love this kid so much, watching him writhe around on the ground, just like Daniel was after Kreese gave the order for that little bastard Johnny to sweep the leg.

“Ow. Foot. Foot.” Jack says, holding his own.

Daniel wins the tournament and gets his trophy. Then the synthesizer kicks on and Survivor’s “Moment of Truth” starts and Jack is transfixed.

I am too, watching him bob back and forth, listening to the words in a way I don’t know that I have before. Take the 80s cheese out it. These are things I want to instill in my son.

It’s the moment of truth
You’re giving it all
Standing alone, willing to fall.
If you can do it
Get up and prove it.
Get up and show them who you are.

The song ended and he turned to me. “More karate song.” I went to my computer and found the track on Rhapsody and played it for him. More than once. And I’ve done the same every morning this week, because he’s asked.

Jack is at that age where he shows interests, but we have no idea if any of them will stick. Right now, he’s into superheroes and cars and shooting basketballs. Right now he’s into an 80’s power pop ballad.

I don’t know that he always will be. But I hope he always hears these lyrics when he needs to. I hope I teach him to believe that they’re true, that if he works and believes and tries, what he wants will happen.

And I hope that he knows that even when he is standing alone, that I am still there with him, no matter what.

Read more of Alan’s writing on his blog Always Jacked. Follow him on Twitter @alankercinik.