How It Began
03 Nov 2020
Recently Grand Master Michael Ajay and I were reminiscing about when we started Taekwondo. It was back in the 1960s. In 1966 he was 10, and in 1968 I was 8 when we both began our journey into martial arts. Back then, there were not a lot of children training.
There may have been one other boy when Grand Master started, and Grand Master was the only other child I remember when I started! We attended classes averaging five days a week, give or take a day here or there. The classes were 60 – 90 minutes each. We trained hard with the adults; there was no children’s class initially. And as new students, we didn’t know any different anyway.
We went along with the program, and what our master told us to do, we did it! We didn’t have a lot of other things to distract us. There were no video games, no cell phones, and not a lot of alternatives easily accessible – at least I didn’t know of any. I knew my best friend in elementary school did gymnastics, and I knew there were Brownies and Girl Scouts, but none of that interested me. I wanted to take “karate”! Living in the city, I wasn’t aware of any other organized sports until we moved to the suburbs. Our parents attended classes with us as spectators. They stayed in the dojang and watched and listened to our classes and instructors. This made it feel like a family event. It made us feel like what we were doing was important to them, so that made it important to us. As I mentioned, there were no cell phones, so our parents were in the moment with us.
There were no distractions for them either – although Grand Master’s mother and my mother became friends and they were sometimes a little chatty during class! That is a happy memory for both of us!
We lived Taekwondo, and we loved Taekwondo. We practiced at home, we put on our own demonstrations at our schools for different functions. We attended big demonstrations, like at Cal Expo, and we competed in big tournaments – some in the Bay Area, and some were mixed styles. Again, even as we got older, we did all of these things because it was expected, and we wanted to do them. And our parents encouraged us and took us to these events because that was part of the program. In those days, most of the dads worked, and most of the moms stayed home with the children. This made it easier in some respects but harder in others, I’m sure. But they made it happen.
By the time I was 12, there were more children. I remember teaching a Saturday children’s class before I was even a black belt! By the time I was 15, there were quite a few teenagers. But that was around the time “Enter the Dragon” came out, there were a lot of aspiring Bruce Lees joining martial arts of all styles. We didn’t have YouTube so we went to the movies a lot and watched all of Bruce Lee’s movies over and over again. Sometimes we would go with our parents, sometimes with friends. And if we went with friends, sometimes we would spar outside of the theater as soon as the movie got out! More happy memories!
When “The Karate Kid” came out Grand Master says that’s when the influx of children started signing up. I had gone into a different journey by that time so I missed this stage. But when I returned to Taekwondo in 2011, I was shocked to see how many children were enrolled in Ajay’s Karate! What a change from when we were the only kids! Parents, keep your kids active, stay involved, and make happy memories for them too!
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Our studio, Ajay’s Karate, is a traditional martial arts school teaching the very best in technique along with values that our students will carry with them throughout their lifetime. We are family-owned, serving the Sacramento and Elk Grove areas since 1980.
By Master Lydia Ajay and Co-Owner of Ajay’s Karate, Elk Grove, California.