I've written before about how and why we wrestle at Woodland Park, so I won't go into the details, but rather share our wrestling experience from yesterday.
A few of the boys had been turning our "lounge" area into a place for rough housing. I don't usually mind a low level of that kind of play, but since it was reaching the point that less rambunctious kids were being driven from the area, I needed to tamp it down. When I broke it up last Thursday, they asked if we could wrestle. It was near the end of the day, so I had to tell them it would have to wait until this week. I shouldn't be surprised that they were craving a little full-body contact. One of the downsides of the 2-6 year-old-age range that has characterized most of our summer is that wrestling is out of the question given the dramatic body size differences between the kids. We tried one brief wrestling experiment earlier this summer with 2-year-olds involved and while a couple of them -- those with older siblings -- managed themselves well, others were just hurt and confused. This final session of summer, however, is a 3-6 group, skewed heavily toward the older end.
We rolled out the mats, dividing the room as I've learned to do into the "wrestling" and "tumbling" areas, because not everyone craves this kind of physical contact, but they still want to play on the mats.
In my last post about wrestling I focused on the physical and social aspects of the activity, but yesterday as I refereed, I found myself thinking more about the emotional aspects.
I reminded the kids, as I always do, "If you're hurt or crying, you can come sit on the bench until you're not hurt or crying any more."
"Wrestling isn't fighting. If you feel angry or if I think you look angry, I want you to sit on the bench until you don't look or feel angry any longer."
A couple kids took injury breaks, but got right back at it moments later. Wrestling is too much fun to be hurt for long.
We had two boys take crying breaks, one because he bumped heads with a friend (the most common wrestling owie by far) and the other because he was mad. He sat on the bench and shouted at the boy who had done whatever it was to anger him, "Stoooooooooop!" The offending party had no idea that the shout was meant for him, but the impromptu scream therapy worked its magic anyway and seconds later everyone was back on the mats.
One of the hardest of our wrestling rules to remember in the heat of the fray is to keep your hands away from the faces and necks of the other people. I only had to issue a couple reminders yesterday.
The other rule (which was necessitated years ago by Willie, who was taking Aikido classes and really knew how to do "throws") that is usually hard to remember is that if you are knocking someone else down, you have to fall with them. It's hard even to describe, but it really means you can't just run around pushing or throwing your friends down. I didn't have to remind anyone about that as shouts of, "Take down!" filled the room.
It was a blur of bodies as you can tell from these photos, which really demonstrate the weakness of relying on a camera phone.
They went home tired.