Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Technique of the Week (November 1st, 2004)

From Matt Kaplan, Shihan,
Ueshiro Okinawan Karate Family Club
State College, PA


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An Unexpected Example of Warrior Spirit

Last weekend, I learned something new about warrior spirit. And it had nothing to do with karate. I attended the Kinship Family Retreat in Hopwood, PA, an event planned by Penn State Cooperative Extension for 35 with grandparents raising grandchildren families.

Previously, my understanding of kinship care families was solely in statistical terms. For example, I knew from the 2000 U.S. Census Report that nationally, 4.5 million children are living in grandparent-headed households (6.3% of all children under age 18). (This represents a 30% increase from 1990.) I also read about the host of emotional, legal, health, and daily living challenges that kinship caregivers, particularly grandparents, face as they unexpectedly find themselves in the position of raising a second family. The literature talks about how kinship caregivers are often isolated from friends and other family and frequently suffer from stress related illnesses, such as depression, hypertension, insomnia, and gastric distress. The children too have problems; they are twice as likely to have behavioral and emotional problems.

Last weekend gave me a chance to see these families up close. My overall impression was that these grandparents displayed nothing short of heroism. In the face of serious family tragedies that have taken the children's parents out of the picture (e.g., HIV/AIDS, incarceration, and even death), these grandparents have unselfishly stepped in. In many cases, they have had to sacrifice their jobs and even their homes to be available to handle the excessive care needs of many of these children. Several of the grandparents even let their own physical health needs go unmet. Even those barely able to walk had facial expressions of silent determination which masked grimaces of pain while partaking in activities with their grandchildren.

In my mind, as karateka, we can all draw inspiration from these magnificent human beings and their unwaivering perseverance, love for others, and sharply honed survival instincts.

Matt Kaplan, Shihan,
Ueshiro Okinawan Karate Family Club
State College, PA