For some of our feature articles, we have asked parents to contribute their perspectives as to what karate training means for them and their children. For this first feature, we have a unique bonus: a father and son who have trained together for many years. In this article, proud parent and advanced martial artist Bob Schertz discusses the training that he and his son Alex have experienced. Bob and Alex have been a wonderful father-son duo in our program, and it’s an absolute joy to see them training together.
Late September of 2005 my son, Alex Schertz, began his journey in karate. Alex was small of stature but loaded with confidence and a competitive nature. I decided to have him take karate due to his size. I also hoped that at some point it would be something that we could do together.
It was not a surprise that, with the help of some amazing instructors, Alex took to karate. He is very competitive and worked hard for every stripe and with every stripe he wanted another one. As he progressed to his green belt he started asking me why I wasn’t taking lessons as well. I had been so involved in his lessons that I had forgotten how much I wanted to learn karate and have the chance to grow in Karate with him.
After my first lesson Alex came to me and said, “Way to go Dad.” It meant a lot to me that he was proud to see me out there taking lessons with him. As our lessons progressed we started working out together at home doing our katas, ippons, and taesus together. I was a very proud Dad watching him grow and become more confident. One of his first tournaments he took Grand Champion over higher belts and I remember him beaming with excitement that he won a trophy bigger than he was.
When the time came for the US Open tournament in Orlando our Sensei, Joe Chianakas, talked to us regarding the tournament. He asked us if we would be interested in taking Alex. This would be a big step for Alex as he would face World Class competition. He was full of excitement and worked hard every day to get ready.
The first day of the competition he participated in weapons. He place seventh out of fourteen competitors. This was the first time that he had not placed first in a tournament and it was a hard lesson. It was difficult to tell a nine year old child, who was in tears, that he needed to think of why he lost and to come back tomorrow with renewed confidence and do the best he could in forms.
Alex went back to the room and practiced his form for several hours before he went to bed. The next day he went to the ring and found 32 of the best martial arts students in the country and some from over seas. I was worried that the number of competitors would bother him but it did not. When his number was called he presented himself and did the best form he had ever done. I heard one of the judges say “WOW”.
He was in first place up until the last contestant who beat him by 1/10th of a point. He looked at me with a smile on his face and said that he did the best he could and that the other contestant was better that day than he was. After that tournament I knew that Alex had taken a big step forward not only learning to lose but learning how to win. I knew that as competitive as he is that he would carry this forward in other areas of his life.
Both Alex and I have continued to take lessons twice a week and it has provided us with a wonderful experience. I have been injured several times, most recently with a tendon that was torn off one of my fingers, during sparring. It was a serious injury that required surgery and the fusion of a bone in my hand. I was not able to take lessons for 3 months. I have even had to give up breaking due to the injury.
Alex noticing that it was hard for me not to be taking lessons asked me if I wanted him to stop, until I was able to come back. I was very proud of him for asking me knowing that he offered to give up, even temporarily, something that he enjoyed so much. I told him that I wanted him to continue and I would be back as soon as I was able.
Since then we have continued with our lessons and have advanced to different belt levels. Alex should get his black belt this year. Getting to all of the lessons has been difficult due to basketball, soccer and baseball.
Alex is an athlete that excels in every sport he tries and I can give credit to karate for his success. The discipline and confidence that he has learned in karate has helped him mentally in every sport. The countless hours of lessons has also given him physical strength that most kids his size do not have.
However, what matters the most is the hours that we have spent together learning a life long skill that will benefit both us as we go forward. When Alex leaves for college, his hopes are to be a third degree black belt and mine are to be a second degree. No one can ever take away this time we have spent together and my hopes are that he will someday do the same for his children.