Fourth Karateversary

June 3, 2018

Some martial arts bloggers like to do a yearly summary around New Year’s Day. I prefer to publish mine on or just after my “Karateversary.” You can read past years’ posts by clicking on these links:

First
Second
Third

I promise I have material in this post that I haven’t already blogged.  If you want to read more details about past events that I have blogged, look at the toolbar on the right side of your PC screen. Under the word “Archives” you can search for posts by month.

June 4 – June 30, 2017– 4th Kyu (High Green belt)

I made a trip to Oregon with a friend from Japan. Saturday we visited my organization’s hombu dojo for a very tiny class – and I was the only one of four who has not yet earned a black belt! The next morning we had a beautiful drive along a mountain ridge looking down on a valley filled with pretty farmland. I was glad my friend got to see one of the most beautiful places in America. We competed in a tournament and then headed home.

Advanced class was held outside one day. I got to experiment a little with fighting off two opponents at one time.

On the last day of the college PE Karate class I was surprised by being called on to perform a role someone my rank usually doesn’t play. I got to call out the techniques and movements for those who were testing for 10th and 9th kyu. I did OK for coming into this cold, just needed a couple of prompts from College Sensei. Fast forward a few months – during open practice time at my “home” dojo I was quite comfortable running some 10th kyu candidates through their paces for a mock test as my way of rewarding them for showing up to practice time.

I also accidentally harmed a comrade during class. As in a trip to the emergency room and stitches for something that was completely my fault. It took me quite awhile to work through my feelings and I received much-needed help from been-there-done-that mentors. There were differences in responses between gentlemen and ladies.  No matter what people say, our minds do work a bit differently sometimes. Back to the topic – I still think I’d rather be on the receiving end of a training injury rather than harm a comrade. Fortunately, my fellow student healed quickly.

July 2017

I’d been studying WKF tournament rules and observing officials at tournaments for at least a few months. During a belt test (I wasn’t testing) I was called on to serve as a fukushin (corner judge). This was my first time throwing flags for a formal event. Little did I know that a few months later I would earn my judging license for judging at tournaments!

Two days later my dojo sensei said he had is eye on either August or October for me to test for 3rd kyu (Low brown belt).

August 2017 – 3rd Kyu (Low Brown belt)

August 3rd I got word that I would be testing for 3rd kyu at Gasshuku (camp) later in the month. Earning my brown belt began a new phase of training for me. In the organization I belong to, we have “low brown” (3rd kyu), “middle brown” (2nd kyu) and “high brown” (1st kyu) before we test for Shodan (first degree black belt). The time spent wearing a brown belt is time spent actively training to be a sensei (instructor, or more literally, one who has gone before).

I passed my test at Gasshuku (camp) – barely.  Gasshuku was led by Elisa Au Fonseca – one of Karate’s superstars. It was, as always, a very valuable time for learning and for building friendships.

September 2017

Weekend practice times were devoted to helping the candidates for Shodan prepare for their test in October. These excerpts from my journal sum up my experience of training alongside them.

… I’m gaining confidence that someday I, too, will earn Shodan – and hopefully beyond. I have a LOT to learn and refine between now and then, but I’m seeing Shodan as not a nebulous “oh, yeah, maybe,” but a definite “I do believe I can!”

Of course being san-kyu helps, LOL.

The meaning of “Sensei,” one who has gone before, is really starting to deepen for me now.  I’m watching karateka who are making the transition, and I know I’ll be relying on their experiences when it’s my turn…

I’m definitely preparing for Shodan and beyond. I always have been, I suppose, but it’s really coming home to me now.

Later in the month I received word that the college class was canceled for Fall Quarter due to low enrollment. Fortunately, the college allowed the class to start up again in Winter Quarter.

October 2017

The karate organization I belong to holds our annual Godo Renshu (unity training) in this month. Godo Renshu starts off with belt testing for all levels. I was a sparring partner for two candidates during their tests, including one candidate for Shodan. I always regard this as an honor no matter what rank the candidate is testing for.

Later in the month I attended a seminar by George Kotaka and, next day, competed in a tournament.

As part of Professional Development Day at work I had the option of attending a basic self defense seminar. Because the techniques were very easy for me I spent the majority of the time analyzing how to teach  and how the students were reacting to and executing the material presented. I have a dream of someday teaching one-off self-defense seminars in addition to teaching Karate.

Sadly, we lost a dear 4th kyu man from my dojo to cancer this month.

November 2017

I know that my blog is full of sunshine and cheer. Sometimes I do open up about my foibles and failings. But I don’t remember ever sharing raw grief, livid frustration, or deep sorrow. As I look through my personal journal for November I see a lot of heartache. I don’t want to go into details.  I just want my readers to know that my Karate journey isn’t always a walk in the park. Quite frankly, in my blog I want to dwell on the positive, not the negative. So please forgive me if I give a false impression that everything’s always hunky dory. Rest assured, my Karate journey is a very human one. November 2017 was particularly difficult. I came through it, and over time I’ll see the lessons I learned.

That said, there was a big bright spot during the month of November. I attended a more advanced self defense seminar. I found out I have been building a good solid foundation. I tried ground work for the first time and after a few tries it no longer felt alien to me. After I earn Shodan (first degree black belt) I’d love to cross-train so that I can teach this stuff.  I came away with a deeper appreciation for my base art.

December 2017

I had been eagerly anticipating brown belt training ever since I first heard about it. I attended my first in early December. I enjoyed being one of the lowest ranked in class – I always like this because I know I’m being challenged and learning a lot. I combined this trip to the Hombu Dojo with a family weekend getaway. That night we watched a Karate friend perform in a Taiko drum group as part of a Christmas concert. Taiko is very physical, and I admire my friend for performing after successfully testing that morning.

Our annual holiday banquet was, as always, a great time for bonding and looking back on the previous year. I was surprised by being named Adult Student of the Year for my dojo, mainly for my diligence in setting up mats before class. This goes to show there’s honor in even the most humble of tasks.

January 2018

We had enough students signed up for the college PE class to start a new quarter. It was good to get back into that groove again, especially now that my belt rank finally matches the role I’ve played there since February 2016.

Our organization and sensei(s) at my “home” dojo needed to work some things out with the rec center that hosts my “home” dojo. While this was in process, we didn’t have class during the month of January. Long-time readers of this blog know that I have lots of connections with the dojo(s) that belong to this organization. I was granted permission to train at a sister dojo during this month.

I hadn’t visited this sister dojo in quite some time because the class schedule had changed to the same evenings as my “home” dojo.  Classes at this sister dojo are small and intense. I fine-tuned my newest kata during my month’s sojurn there and got to test myself sparring with karateka whom I hadn’t sparred against in a year or more.

I drove down to Oregon for the first workout of the new year at our Hombu Dojo. This was the first class I’d ever attended under our organization’s head Sensei. That was both fun and an honor!

January 14 marks the day I saw one of our sensei(s) for the very last time. He was on hospice, his long battle with cancer very nearly at an end. It was an incredible visit and I will cherish the memory.

On a lighter note, I learned how to tie a double Windsor knot in preparation for wearing a judge’s uniform while earning my first license to judge at tournaments.

February 2018

My second brown belt training! Hooray!

I earned my USA-NKF Judge D license. This opens up an entirely new aspect of Karate for me. I passed up an opportunity to compete in my state qualifier in order to concentrate fully on earning my credentials. I made up for that latter by competing in another state’s qualifier in May.

The sensei who I visited for the last time in January passed away. This was our second loss in five months, both to cancer.

March 2018

One of our organization’s highest ranking sensei(s) came from out of state not only for the memorial service but also to lead a class in memory of the sensei we lost in February. We fine-tuned the Pinan series of kata, which is what he used to have his students do on a regular basis at his dojo.

I chose not to attend the memorial service. College Sensei absolutely had to be there, but the service was held during his class. With permission from him and from the college, I was his substitute teacher. This was my first time teaching with absolutely no yudansha (black belt) within a five mile radius.  My primary motive was to pay tribute by stepping up to the plate to fill a need. Also, I thought it was important for the students to have continuity – especially because there were only two more classes left in the quarter. I had help from an 8th kyu young man and I came away with a new appreciation for the role I normally play as assistant instructor and uke (LOL).

March 17 I attended two seminars. March 18, I played three roles in our organization’s annual tournament in Oregon. Volunteer, judge, and competitor. I’m still tickled pink about interacting with some of the top names in Karate!

April 2018

For the first time in our organization’s history, us brown belts got a weekend retreat all our own. A number of our yudansha (black belts) came to help out as well. Sure we had training time, but we also were given a good amount of time and some ice-breaker activities so that we could get to know one another. Our founder shared his life story and all I can say is I am amazed at all the twists and turns and how everything has turned out all right for him. I am looking forward to next year’s brown belt retreat!

During the retreat I learned of a women-only class. Later in the month I drove down for their belt test. The sensei in charge of grading gave us visiting brown belts grading sheets. We did not actually grade anyone, but we were simply practicing for when we ourselves will have this honor. At one point I got to set my clipboard and pencil aside in order to spar with two candidates for 2nd kyu (one rank above me). The women of the dojo adopted me as a sister 🙂  I even got to hold a baby!

The day before I visited that class, I served as a judge and competed in a local tournament. My division was called late in the day so I got plenty of time in the chair throwing flags. Tournaments are great for meeting people, and I did make some new acquaintances.

May 2018

I made up for not competing in my own state qualifier by competing in the Oregon State qualifier. I was way too worked up about the competition to judge. I was lumped in with younger ladies – whatever.  I still qualified for USA Karate Nationals in July and I had a great time. It’s great to see friends from other organizations and to chat with karateka from sister dojo(s).

I made up for not judging at the Oregon tournament by helping out with a tiny local tournament. This tournament was for children and officials alike to learn and grow in skill. Boy, did I ever learn! Not only did I judge, I refereed matches for the first time. I also judged Sumo, which I’d never even so much as watched on YouTube before.

College Sensei’s vehicle broke down, so I substitute taught the college PE class again. Different quarter, different students than last time I substituted. Fortunately, the previous class day, College Sensei had run the students through their paces to assess where they were mid-quarter. I saw some general trends. So when I got word that I would have to teach, it was very easy to come up with a lesson plan. College Sensei was satisfied with the students’ progress when he returned.

Towards the end of the month I twice substitute taught the Intermediate class (no-rank and 10th through 8th kyu) with help from fellow brown belts and 4th kyu students while our sensei was on vacation. It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of substitute teaching in recent months. I’ve substitute taught the new beginner’s class two or three times, the college class twice, and now the Intermediate class twice. It’s quite a responsibility!

June 3, 2018

Now for how I celebrated my fourth “Karateversary.” One of our organization’s higest-ranked sensei(s) came from Oregon to teach a seminar at my “home” dojo.  A bunch of our yudansha (black belts) came as well – it was so good to see them!  We started with a drill, built it step by step, then worked on what we learned with one partner on “offense,” one on “defense.”  The two hours flew by.  I was glad for this opportunity to learn something new to use at Nationals.

All in all, this has been an incredible year for me. Being a brown belt has opened up new doors. I’ve had a lot of fun along the way, and I know I’ll find myself in new adventures. I’ve made the commitment to train for and go to Reno in July for USA Karate Nationals – my first time. Stay tuned!

 

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

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