My children and I had been very active when we were in Singapore. Having lots of out-of-the-home activities and not having your own car does that to you. Ms M had been taking swimming lessons and Bear too enjoyed the trips to the pool. Moving to Pakistan did nothing to curb their active spirits – they kept busy playing outdoors and gardening. In a burst of inventiveness, they even built their own workshop on the terrace out of bricks, crates and an assortment of tools and cast-off materials.

Still, I longed for them to take up a sport. They missed swimming and I tried to look for lessons, but membership fees to pools/clubs are ridiculous! We paid between $0.80 and $1.50 for entry to pools in Singapore and no time limit was imposed, but here, you pay crazy money to swim for an hour each time you enter.

One day, while shopping for sandals, we spotted a little boy in a karate gi and immediately approached his mother to ask about lessons. She gave us directions and the very next day, we met with the teacher. After a trial, Ms M was enrolled in the Afridi Martial Arts Academy, with Bear to follow later.

The kids attend class 6 days a week. I had balked at the schedule at first but my fears were unfounded – it sounds more gruelling than it really is and at any rate, the pace is necessary. The skills in martial arts can only be mastered with fitness, discipline and consistency. The children learn that they must put in their all if they are to succeed and they learn that they can achieve if they really apply themselves to the task. Even though they feel tired at times – particularly when they have to prepare for exhibitions – there is no doubt that they feel a deep sense of satisfaction when they have learnt a new skill or are able to perfect a move.

It hasn’t been a bed of roses, though. Bear experienced her share of problems. In the week prior to last night’s exhibition, she felt apprehensive and often wept during training. She had not known what to expect and had mistakenly thought she had to perform difficult stunts! Alhamdulillah, she overcame her anxiety – she executed a move called “the bridge” admirably ma shaa Allah and had a whale of a time with her buddies. Today, she declared that she wished there were more exhibitions and that she wanted to attend more. :)

Bear, at the karate exhibition

Bear cheerfully waving a flag for the exhibition, nerves and distress banished!

As for Ms M, during the first exhibition in June, she failed to break the tile on her first attempt. I remember another parent crying out, “Oh no!” – no doubt feeling anguish our behalf – and the tension that ensued. Alhamdulillah she squared her shoulders, rallied herself bravely and ma shaa Allah smashed the tile on her second attempt. We were all so proud of her – she had been in the class for about 10 days and had had no idea she was to perform. She was determined to redeem herself during the second exhibition held yesterday, even though we had told her she was already a champion. Alhamdulillah, she broke the tile on her first attempt and performed well in two other demonstrations as well. I was just happy that she was able to relax and have fun with her mates.

Maryam & Salar

Ms M and her karate mate Salar Khan with their new belts
– Salar is the little boy who introduced us to the karate school.
Both were promoted from white to yellow belt yesterday alhamdulillah.

In the past couple of months, my kids have learnt from their classes and the examples of the seniors that being a winner isn’t just about coming in first. It is about fortitude, resilience sheer determination and plain hard work. They have learnt to hang in there and push on when things get rough as they usually do during classes. They have also learnt that every setback teaches them something – while failures delay their goals a little, they are but steps away from success if they can muster up the enthusiasm to bounce back. Alhamdulillah.

May Allah guide our children, strengthen them in faith and give them courage in the face of adversity, ameen.