The next day, I took Lucas to his first sparring class. This was a big step. He hadn’t embraced the martial arts like we thought he would: rather than the steely-eyed focus of a Crouching Tigercub, there was fidgeting, and playing with his belt, and talking to the kid next to him. “It might not be his thing,” Beth said on more than one occasion, and I was starting to believe her. Team sports, he loved. He’d recently become fond of lacrosse – I bought us a pair of mini-lacrosse sticks, and we played one-on-one in the yard. He’s fierce, smacking me on the hands with the stick, dropping his shoulder and putting it into my hip, whipping the ball into the net with the force and accuracy of a much older kid. This was a tangible thing: you shoot, you score. Tang Soo Do, for the most part, consisted of punching, kicking, and blocking…air. It was all theory, moves performed against imaginary opponents, punctuated with talk of “self-discipline” and ten-counts in Korean. He was bored. The owner of the studio understood – Lucas, he said, loves sparring, and is fearless; some of the other kids don’t like the idea of actually facing an opponent. Not Lucas. They do non-contact sparring in the regular classes, and Lucas digs it. (Also, it turns out that he’s quite handy with the nunchuks.) Maybe we could try the advanced sparring class – he might do well, he’s very competitive, and this might be the thing that turns on the switch.

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