Three years of adventure and growth – time flies when you’re having fun!
For the past two “karateversary” blog posts I’ve re-capped how I spent my day. I’ll get to that. This has been a year of huge changes for me and there might be more coming in my fourth year. I want to do some comparing and contrasting first.
My daughter was training alongside me during my first year of training. However, about a month into my second year, she opted to pursue other things. I’ve heard this sort of thing is common for parents who pursue a martial art alongside their offspring.
I wrote in my first “karateversary” post…
“I’ve earned rank and medals. I’m a dojo (karate school) representative on the Board of Directors for fundraising activities and special events. My body is much stronger. I’ve learned more about myself than I ever imagined I could…”
All this is still true two years later. I’ve earned rank and medals. As of this calendar year I’m an officer on the Board of Directors (the Secretary – perfect considering my professional background). I’m getting stronger and I’m still learning about myself.
Both years I wrote about other dojos being a part of my Karate education. During my second “karateversary” post I wrote about the fun I had at “Faraway Dojo.” I used to visit that dojo bimonthly, but lately that hasn’t been feasible for me. I have a full training schedule. In fact, except for College Dojo, I haven’t spent much time at other dojos in recent months. I’ll touch the surface of why below.
College dojo was featured prominently in both past “karateversary” blog posts. I’m still helping with the college Karate Physical Education class, at least until the end of the current quarter. There’s good news and bad news about College Dojo. For the upcoming Fall Quarter (2017) the class will meet during a much better time slot. Unfortunately that time slot conflicts with my work schedule. I have only two more classes. I will miss being involved with that class, but I’m hoping that a better time slot will lead to more students. I’d love to see that happen! Who knows, maybe some day I can be a part of that class again. But for now, I have to let go and add more self-directed practice time.
For the past three years this blog has been peppered with references to other dojos within the karate organization my “home” dojo belongs to. My visits to these dojos slowed down during the Fall of 2016. I stayed close to “Home Dojo” until that dojo was shut down by the host facility near the end of November 2016. A sister dojo took me and other Old Home Dojo karateka in with open arms. I’ve sometimes referred to this dojo as “Affiliate YMCA Dojo,” or “Sister Dojo #1.” It is my new home.
I haven’t had much time for visiting other dojos because I’m getting a lot of training at my new home dojo. I get 6+ hours per week of dojo time there. If you add in the 2 hours per week at College Dojo plus the long drive time to my new home dojo, that’s a pretty big chunk of my life. I will still see the karateka from the other sister dojos from time to time. I will still be able to train with them at seminars, gasshuku, godo renshu, etc. But I think my shoes are finally nailed to the floor.
There have been shifts and changes in where I train, and what it boils down to is I’m actually where I ought to be. I am an intermediate-level student about to take the next step forward. I’ve helped out at College Dojo quite a lot since February 2016, when I suddenly found myself in the role of senior student. At Old Home Dojo I rose to the position of second-highest-ranked student, and therefore I had a responsibility to help new beginners and my other kohai (more junior students) during Old Home Dojo’s last months. All that teaching and helping has been and will be scaled back considerably. I do get opportunities to help my kohai at New Home Dojo. But after Spring Quarter ends, I will go back to spending the vast majority of my karate time either practicing or learning. This is in keeping with my current rank (4th kyu). I am content with this.
I am preparing for my next belt test. I don’t know when I will be told that I need to test. It’s a big jump because the test will be more difficult. Frankly I’m not in any hurry. Don’t get me wrong, if Sensei says I need to make plans to test at the next opportunity, I will say (or squeak) “Osu!” (“Yes, Sir!”) and go take the test. But I just want some time to fix and refine some things. I’m enjoying the longer stretches between tests.
Training in how to teach Karate will be emphasized during the next few years (from 3rd kyu until Shodan). I’m a little ahead of that game due to prior experience as a teenager and from helping at Old Home Dojo and College Dojo. But there’s so much more I need to learn!
After I earn my next rank I will be eligible to earn certification for judging at tournaments. I’ve already begun attending as many referee seminars as I can, and I’ve studied the WKF rules off and on. It’s taking quite awhile for all the new information to sink in, so I’m starting early.
It will be interesting to look back on this post a year from now.
Now, here’s how I spent my “karateversary.”
Usually on Saturday mornings I go to my New Home Dojo. I’ll maybe catch the last half of Zumba then I’ll work on my arms and abs while the ladies chat for awhile after class. When the room is empty, I shuck my shoes and get to work on karate stuff. This morning was different. I’ve been feeling run down since Tuesday. I also haven’t slept well as my special needs daughter has been struggling with allergies in the wee hours of the morning. I decided the weather was perfect for practicing kata in the garage. Instead of spending time driving (about 20 minutes one way with no traffic), I took a nap. I woke up refreshed and ready to go.
The weather was cloudy and cool (59 F, 15 C). Just the way I like it. I wore shorts and a T-shirt, knowing that I would quickly work up a sweat. I set my keys, notes, and water bottle down on a table. I moved aside some bamboo I have drying for craft projects and started right in with the first kata (form) we learn. I couldn’t kiai (loud shout) because I didn’t know if the neighbors would be disturbed by it. I finished up the first kata of 18 that I’ve memorized – so far so good. My heart rate was up and a light sweat was beginning. A sip of water, some deep breathing, and I started with the second basic kata. I discovered a bad habit – my blocks were sloppy. How long have I been practicing this kata? Three years! Yike. I went through it slowly and with better form. Then full speed. I’ll have to be mindful of this in the future.
I worked my way through the basic and intermediate kata (plural). At one point, I heard a hawk twittering. At the end of the kata I was working on I took a little break and watched it glide and swoop in the breeze. Back to work. There are three kata that originated with the style I’m studying (Shindo Jinen-ryu). I’ve memorized two of them, and am itching to learn the third. I spent a good bit of time hammering those into my memory. I saw the neighbor across the street watching me. It’s OK, he understands this Karate “thing.”
As I worked through an advanced kata I realized my practice wasn’t entirely risk-free. I caught my left hand on the wire that disengages the garage-door opener. I have a small sore spot. As I practiced another advanced kata I was bothered by some weeds that were growing in cracks in the driveway, so I hacked those down. It occurred me that I could whack weeds in between kata. So now I have a small blister from the tool I was using, but a lot of obnoxious weeds are cut down to size. Oh, and I have no idea how my legs will feel in the morning – they’ll probably be sore. Again. That’s usual for me these days. I’m getting stronger.
Thursday night, the Dojo Sensei (the school’s head instructor) told each of us students which kata to work on. He assigned Seienchin to four 3rd-1st kyu karateka (higher ranking students). When he came to me, he just asked me out of the blue, “Would you like to learn Seienchin (an advanced kata)?” Did I ever! Then he assigned another sensei to be my tutor. For awhile my senpai (senior students) surrounded me as the sensei taught, so that was very cool! They eventually drifted off to practice on their own, that’s fine. I had lots of fun. Friday, I watched videos online, chose my favorite, and took notes. Today, I tested out those notes.
I was glad I’d stayed home instead of going to the rec center because I was able to go inside and look at the video when my notes didn’t make sense. Actually my notes were pretty good, so I only made a couple of changes. I forgot to note where the kiai are – oops! I made myself memorize half the kata than stopped. I prefer to build a kata piecemeal when I’m learning it – memorize each segment before moving on to the next. I’ve only been learning Seienchin for three days and I love it.
I was about ready to close and lock the garage door when I realized I hadn’t run through the most important kata to me right now – the one I will be tested on at my next belt test. Oh snap. I ran through it a couple of times. I chopped a few more weeds and then I was done. I’d put in a good solid 90 minutes on a total of 18 kata and even got a little yard work done.
Back to comparing and contrasting! At the three year mark I have 17 kata memorized and am working on memorizing the 18th. Last year, I had 13 kata memorized. The year before that, I had eight kata memorized. Notice I don’t say I know a kata. I’m still finding out things about the very first basic kata. I don’t really know any of my kata all that well. Kata is a lifetime study, really. And I’m really looking forward to learning and refining the kata that I memorized in the year to come!