I’ve put off writing this blog post. Indeed, I didn’t even write last week because I knew what I wanted to say but not how to say it. But now I feel the time is right. And yes, I’m writing this at the “last minute” before my usual automated posting day/time.
Back in February (2016) College Dojo was already down to one Sensei (instructor) and an assistant brown belt. Then the assistant moved away, leaving me as senior student. College Dojo is really a class that students take for credit. Most people take one quarter and we never see them again. A few take two quarters, and it’s a “one room schoolhouse” situation, just like any other dojo. Three or four students might stay on beyond the two quarters not for credit, but just for fun. I originally joined in order to shore up my basics and stayed on just because I enjoyed the class (and to keep my basics polished). As the highest-ranked student I inherited a boatload of responsibilities.
This was a very good change and I welcomed it. I’ve grown used to my new role at College Dojo and I look forward to being involved there for the rest of my Karate career if possible. This is my favorite age group to work with. I’ve grown as a teacher and a karateka.
September brought more changes.
Maybe someday I’ll write about what’s been going down at the dojo I call home. I’ve been too full of anger and grief and the story hasn’t fully played out yet. In a nutshell, I am very sorry that my “home” dojo Sensei cannot be Sensei there anymore. Understandably, we’ve also lost the occasional assistance of his lovely wife who is also a black belt. It’s a good thing College Dojo Sensei stepped in. I am immensely grateful. But this change means that I get to be a student in my “home” dojo only every third class until the new white belts are integrated. Add that to my teaching at College Dojo and yeah, making sure I grow in my own skills is challenging.
In my last blog post I wrote…
“I have to do a lot of work on my own and seek out opportunities to learn at a higher level with higher ranked people. This is what black belts quite often need to do for themselves so this would have come sooner or later in my career. It just happened to come sooner than usual. I am blessed to have a good deal of support from many incredible people. But even though I’m embracing this new phase, this time of transition is quite challenging.”
I wish that I could reassure myself with the thought that I will see the fruit of my teaching, but College Dojo students move on every quarter and the future of my “home” dojo is uncertain. The host facility of Home Dojo has never been entirely understanding of what we need (you can read between the lines in this article). Things have been even more difficult since I wrote that article and eventually everything came to a head a couple of months ago. There’s been more stuff heaped on us since then. Not only that, the host facility might shut down our dojo soon.
Because College Sensei stepped in to teach at Home Dojo, College Sensei is now my Sensei. I am happy with this. But if worst comes to worst and “Home” Dojo ceases to exist, “College Dojo” won’t be enough. I will need a new “home.” Fortunately, we’re part of an organization so we have other karateka pulling for us. We’ve got ideas noodling around and people are looking for solutions. I know I won’t be an “orphan.”
In the face of these challenges I am still making progress in my training. Sensei is doing everything he can to train me and I visit other dojos and have their support as well. But still, it feels like a premature end to childhood and there’s a little bit of stress that goes along with that. Also I’ve invested a lot into Home Dojo and facing the almost certain possibility that it will be shut down soon is hard. I have been grieving over the series of unfortunate events (to borrow a phrase) that have brought Home Dojo to this point. Shortly after I started training I envisioned myself with a black belt happily expanding the program at “home dojo.” That’s most likely not going to happen.
It’s time for a new dream. If I can hold on for a couple of months longer I know I’ll find one, or one will find me. Meanwhile, I just have to work through my grief and come to a place of acceptance. It sure does help that vigorous exercise and doing something positive with other people generates some lovely endorphins. It also helps that I love my art and there’s enough in Karate to keep me quite busy for as long as I am physically able to do it. I’m working towards my next belt, and that alone could keep me going strong through this time of transition. But still, I need something to replace the dream of expanding Home Dojo’s Karate program. It’ll come, I’m sure.