“Ladies, you need to perform a second kata this round,” announced the head judge of the tournament ring.

My eyes bugged out and I gulped.  I had not prepared a second kata (form) for this competition.  I had spent most of my kata practice time prior to the tournament polishing my best kata and working a little on the vexing new kata that I need to perform for my next belt test.  I squashed a panic attack.  I realized I had a choice and I made it in an instant.  I decided not to contest the judge’s announcement even though I had every right to raise my hand to signal I wanted to confer with the judge.

There aren’t many ladies my age who compete in Karate, so tournament officials combine the intermediate ladies with the advanced ladies.  There were four of us competing in kata last Sunday (2/12/17).  Two of us ladies were advanced, and another lady and I were intermediate.  I won against the other intermediate lady and went on to the next round to compete against the advanced lady who had won her first round.

When an intermediate karateka (one who studies Karate) is competing in a mixed division against an advanced karateka, the rules for intermediate competition apply.  I was not required to present a second kata.  I could repeat the kata I’d performed in the first round.  I had won my first round with a kata that I’ve been working on for well over a year (its name is Bassai Dai).  I know my performance of that kata just keeps getting better as I refine it and discover more about it.  Obviously the judges thought I performed that kata well.  I might have won the gold medal performing that kata again for the second round.

But in the instant that I had to make the decision something stopped me from raising my hand to confer with the judge.  I realized I was going to earn at least a silver medal even if I tripped over my feet and splatted myself on the mats.  I began to feel almost mischievous.  I decided to throw all caution to the wind and perform a kata that requires one to balance on one leg not once but three times (the kata’s name is Rohai Shodan).  Even a little wobble would count against my technical performance score.  It’s pretty daring for someone my rank to attempt to perform it in tournament.  I was challenging myself.

In a heartbeat the moment of decision was gone.  I was committed to my choice.  I made the formal entrance into the ring, bowed one last time, announced the name of my kata, and began my performance.  To my left, my fellow competitor began her kata.  The judges were watching, the spectators were watching, and the big glassy eye of a camera’s telephoto lens was pointed my way.  All that faded away – it was just me and my imaginary opponents who I was systematically destroying one by one.

Kata is a lot of things.  It’s part moving meditation.  It can be a textbook on how to fight.  Kata contains all sorts of lessons as one puzzles out applications for the movements.  One’s body gets used to moving in new and different ways.  Weather permitting, I like exploring how terrain affects the movements.  And let’s face it, kata is part war dance.  I have a tiny smattering of instruction and experience in the art of acting.  When I am in a tournament or belt test I draw on my acting abilities and capitalize on the war dance aspect of kata.  “And now I shatter your elbow,” I silently snarl to my imaginary opponent, and my face reflects that sentiment.  I was totally in that zone for Bassai Dai and even more so for Rohai Shodan.

For me the hardest part of kata is standing at attention at the end.  I have to control my breathing after a rather vigorous athletic activity.  Sometimes my opponent is performing a longer kata.  I can’t watch – I must remain at attention while she finishes.  It usually takes only a few seconds for the judges to show their votes for who won and for the winner to be announced, but sometimes it feels like an eternity.  I can’t see the judges behind me nor may I turn to look, so I must wait for the head judge’s announcement.  I knew I’d done a good job technically, and I knew I had injected some panache into my performance.  I felt fantastic while I was pretending to block punches and shatter joints.  But my heart raced while I stood at attention.  Which medal would I be taking home?

When the head judge announced I was the winner, I was stunned.  I couldn’t believe I had really pulled it off.  I knew I had been gambling.  Taking the risk had paid off.

The universe has a way of keeping one humble.  After the victory in kata, I got a silver in kumite (sparring).  Um… There were only two of us for kumite, so…  Yeah.  Sheepish grin here.  I think I have a lot of work to do.

A Little Bit of Authority

Jackie Bradbury, in her recent blog post, “The Question of Authority” asked,

“Are you an authority?  How did you get recognized as such?  What are some of the downsides of how authority works in your neck of the woods?  Upsides?  Join in the conversation and let us know what you think!”

I found myself writing more than a Facebook comment could handle.  Thank you, Jackie for the inspiration!

I help out at College Dojo, and I guess that makes me a junior authority.  College Dojo is, at its core, a college class that students take for credit.  Two quarters are offered, and both PE 116 and 216 meet at the same time, same place.  Most students take only one quarter, so it is possible for an intermediate-ranked person to assist such a class.  That said, College Sensei wants me to work my butt off in my own training so that hopefully sometime in late 2017 my belt rank will finally match my function at his dojo.

I originally came to College Dojo as a very low-ranked student seeking to really solidify my foundation by practicing the most basic skills of Karate alongside new beginners.  I stayed on by the indulgence of College Sensei and I have no doubt the extra training has given me a great boost in my progress.  Suddenly a year ago I found myself to be the second-highest ranked karateka in the dojo.  A black belt had already retired and a brown belt moved away.  The class is during the business day so it’s hard for most brown and black belts to come help.  Logically, my role changed.  That said, I’m not so sure that my belt rank automatically entitled me to the authority that comes with the role I play now.

I think College Sensei could probably run PE 116 and PE 216 without an assistant.  It would be tough for him and the students, but I think he could pull it off.  He could also insist that only paying students are allowed into the class, which would leave me out.  He must have seen something in me that prompted him to let me grow into the role that I found myself in.  So really the vast majority of my authority comes from College Sensei allowing me to assist with the class.

A tiny bit of my authority stems from where I am now and where I have been in life.  I’m old enough to be the mother of almost every student in College Dojo.  I am in fact a parent of a college student.  I was once a college student myself.  I work on campus and deal with college students every day.  I know how they roll.  So part of the authority I have stems naturally from how a middle-aged matron relates to her kiddos’ peers.  I’ve been affectionately called “Mama Senpai.”

An even smaller piece of my authority in College Dojo comes from the mystique of my abilities in the eyes of newbies.  I look OK when I do Karate – not the best but just right for my rank.  But to someone new to the martial arts world I look amazing.  Advanced kata?  Boo yeah.  Light free-sparring with College Sensei?  OMG.  Sure any given black belt smiles indulgently at me and can pick everything I do apart, but let’s face it…  New students don’t know my green belt with a stripe represents an intermediate rank. They don’t know my abilities don’t even come close to what more highly ranked karateka can do.  New students see a middle-aged lady doing something athletic that looks like it would hurt someone pretty badly, and that does give me a little bit of a mystique in their eyes.

“I think you’ll be giving me a run for the money,” I told a big guy once before sparring with him.  He’d trained a bit here and there in boxing and a couple of other martial arts arts.

“Yeah, but you have skills,” he offered, emphasizing the word, “skills” in a slightly awed tone.

I grinned, “For this fight only, don’t limit yourself to what you’ve learned here.  I want to learn from you.  Stay within the tournament rules, though.”

We had a good fight.  I hope he learned not to underestimate his abilities and his potential.  I know I learned a thing or two about my own fighting style.

College Sensei has on many occasions given students a chance to see me as a work in progress.  He’s sparred with, uh, played cat-and-mouse with me while everyone else watched.  He’s called on me to perform kata that I’ve barely memorized in front of the entire class, then a month later he’ll have me perform it again.  On any given day before or after class anyone can watch if College Sensei decides to work with me, so I don’t mind it when he wants everyone to pay attention.  They learn what’s expected from a student of my rank.  So my authority is put into context.  I am a senior student, not a fully accredited instructor.

The disadvantages of me being in any sort of position of authority are slight, but are, nonetheless, “out there.”  I’m not sure but I probably am not “supposed to” have this much authority until I’m at least one rank higher than I am now.  The role landed in my lap when I was two ranks lower than I am now.  Maybe some consider the mismatch between my role and my rank to be acceptable, maybe some don’t.  That’s OK, I totally understand.  That said, the sooner I achieve my next rank, the better; then that point will be moot.  Another disadvantage is I’m still adjusting from one-on-one teaching with no deadlines to group teaching with deadlines (the end of each quarter).  I do not have decades of experience practicing and/or teaching Karate, so I’m not exactly a superstar expert. I am what I am, and I am growing.

The advantage of me helping out is College Dojo runs smoothly and the students get the benefit of two completely different teachers.  Yes, I feel free to be myself and to teach in my own manner (and College Sensei does give me feedback).  Both as a student and as a teacher I can tell you that sometimes having input from more than one person can make the difference between struggling and understanding.  I am quite comfortable leading either PE 116 or 216, giving feedback to individual students while both classes drill together under Sensei’s direction, leading warm-up exercises, serving as a role model, or any other job a senior student has (like being Sensei’s uke for throws, LOL).  I’d leave a big hole if I couldn’t continue.

I am trying hard to make sure that those students are getting their money’s worth.  And no, I don’t get paid.  I’m volunteering.  Willingly.  The college already pays me for something I’m very good at and have extensive experience in – namely, secretarial work.  I’m good at teaching beginning  karate students too (I started when I was a teenager), but I’m still learning the ropes of running the college classes and I’m not nearly as good at this as I will be in six years, ten years, or twenty years.  The students sometimes hear Sensei giving me my marching orders for the day’s lesson, and sometimes they observe that I’m getting feedback from him after class.  That’s OK – the beginners will see that even though I have a bit of authority, I’m still learning and growing.

Most importantly, I’m having fun being in this position.  I truly enjoy helping to introduce young adults to Karate even if I never see them again after 22 classes.  This is my favorite age group to work with.  Yes, the responsibility that goes along with even this little bit of authority sometimes is daunting, but I’m handling it and I’m growing.  Being in this position has definitely led to growth in my own skills – leadership, patience, innovation in teaching methods, and self confidence.  Being something of an authority figure at College Dojo is very rewarding, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to serve in this capacity.

Hey, here’s some related reading by my Australian counterpart whose journey parallels mine in lots of ways:  Back to Basics – Teaching is the New Learning

Taking Notes

Last week I posted about what I’d learned from watching a belt test.  I didn’t know then if I’d be too tired in the aftermath of the flu to drive three hours in order to watch another belt test in the state next door.  As it turned out, I was well enough and yes, I brought a notebook and pen.  Now I get to blog about what I learned from the exercise of writing down what the candidates were tested on and my observations about the candidates.

It should have come as no surprise to me that if I observed something either positive or negative in an individual or in a group I’d see it over and over again.  I don’t know why I was so surprised at the number of times I wrote things like “see prev. note” [see previous note] or “heiko d. (again!).”   Obviously if someone’s upper block is mediocre while he or she is just standing in shoulder stance, that person’s block is still going to be mediocre if he or she is doing it as part of a combination of basics while moving in a stance, and yes, you’ll see it again in kata (forms).  Guess what?  In kumite (sparring) that same person will get popped in the face.  I think the act of writing down the same observations over and over reinforced my awareness that there are connections among kihon (basics), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).

Until I took notes I took for granted that one can build off of the combinations of basics given to lower ranks in order to challenge the higher ranks.  This is often done during regular classes as well.  The act of writing down each rank’s “assignment” solidified this concept for me.  It’s a good way to alert the higher ranks to the primary technique the graders want to see, as the white belts (testing for their first rank) are generally given instructions first, then the orange belts, etc.  This progression also makes things easier for whoever is in charge of formulating and calling out the combinations of movements.

I was in a dojo in another state, so this was a good opportunity for me to compare and contrast familiar students with students I didn’t know at all (with the exception of one of my friends from my home state).  I was secretly delighted these candidates were having trouble with something too.  My fellow dojo-mates and I had drilled that particular thing during the prior week in response to what the Chief Instructor for our state saw in the latest belt test.  I was very impressed with a couple of things that, in our state, are not expected until slightly higher ranks.  It’s good for me to see that each dojo has its reasons for doing things, and none of those reasons are necessarily wrong or better.  Just different.

Next belt test it will be interesting to see if my observations of, for instance, low purple belts will be the same or different.  I wonder if there will be new positive and negative trends.  I do have an idea of what’s expected for the first two ranks due to my observation of seven tests held for the college class.  But I need to increase my knowledge beyond that.  Some day I will have students of my own.  I will need to prepare them for their tests.  Some day I might be called on to be in charge of what the candidates do for a test.  By taking notes and thinking about what I’ve written, I’m taking a step forward to prepare myself for that “some day.”

I am slowly transitioning out of the comfort zone of one-on-one teaching (home school and helping lower-ranked karate students) and into the increasingly more familiar territory of group learning.  One-on-one teaching has been my groove ever since I helped out in the dojo I used to train in when I was a teenager.  I’m challenging myself to stretch and grow beyond that comfort zone.  I don’t have to learn how to run a belt test until later in my karate career; I just want to do something more than help stack chairs and congratulate my pals when I’m not actually being tested for my next rank.  I’ve learned a lot from thinking about the nuts and bolts of a belt test, and even more from taking notes and analyzing those notes.

Growth Via Observation

Last Saturday I watched some of my fellow students test for their next belts.  I myself will have to take all the rest of my belt tests at the Hombu Dojo (our Karate organization’s headquarters) from here on out, so I didn’t go to this test in order to see what the next test holds for me.  I was there to support my friends.  It didn’t take long for me to decide that I should look for lessons I could learn.

My brain was a little bit foggy from cough medicine and fatigue, so it didn’t occur to me until after the moving basics part of the test that I should take a notebook to future belt tests and write down the combinations of blocks, strikes, kicks, and stances that were called for.  If I keep a record of which things were assigned to each belt level, it will give me a better idea of what to teach in the future.  If I ever actually run a belt test, I will know what kind of things I can call for.

It just so happened that I was sitting near the long table where the black belts were clustered.  Some of them were grading the students.  Some were there to watch.  I was able to hear some of their talk from time to time.

“Graders,” the Chief Instructor asked, “Do you need to see the students do that again?”

Communication is key –  each grader had roughly three students to look at.  From time to time while doing combinations of moving basics, the students would only get three repetitions in before running out of room to move forward.  Sometimes there wasn’t enough time to analyze each student.

Maybe I’m giving myself more importance than I have, but I’m going to go out on a limb anyway.  I couldn’t help but feel I was responsible for one good thing I saw students doing and for one mistake that I saw one particular student doing.  I  know, it sounds egotistical, but hear me out on the evidence.  The positive thing was something I actually pulled off when sparring against someone who outranks me – and a bunch of the lower ranked students were watching.  A couple of these students used the technique during their own sparring matches for their belt tests, and one succeeded.  The negative thing I saw one student doing while performing his kata is a direct result of me tutoring him – and I didn’t even know he’d picked it up from me until I saw him.  It was subtle, he passed his test, but I’m going to have to point it out to him and apologize.  I need to get used to the fact that as I advance in rank and skill I’m going to have more and more influence on what students do.  They’re looking up to me.

After the test, the Chief Instructor had a bit of feedback to give the Sensei who was in charge of calling out what the students needed to do.  As I listened it hit me that in order to pull off a belt test there’s a lot of details that need to be thought about and planned ahead of time.  I told myself I should bring a notebook next time and write notes about the nuts and bolts of the belt tests.  As it gets close to the time for the next belt test, Sensei-s like to run the classes through simulations of the tests.  If I write things down now, I can better plan such classes and the tests themselves in the future when it’s my task to do so.

College Dojo has a belt test every quarter (according to the college’s schedule) – three out of the four quarters.  Our organization has tests for regular students every three months.  So far I’ve been pretending that I’m grading students.  I’ve got a good handle on what’s expected for the first two belt levels because that’s all that’s usually tested at College Dojo.  I need to pay more attention to the next few levels.

For the first time, I looked for general trends – positive and negative things that were universal to all the students who were being tested.  I know the Chief Instructor gives all the Sensei-s feedback on what, overall, needs to be tightened up a bit and on what went well.  I did spot four or five trends – some positive, some negative.  These things could go in my notebook as well.  The next week, we worked on one of the trends I’d spotted.

Near the end of the test I started to think holistically.  All throughout the test I remembered bits and snatches of my own journey. I could look down the lines from the lowest position to the highest and find something I could relate to at any given moment.  Often, good memories were triggered.  The formal rituals of awarding new ranks are an awesome way to acknowledge the milestones each student has reached along his or her Karate journey.  It’s good to see students who are lower ranked than I am meet the challenges of their tests.  When I see them, I remember my own milestones.  I saw a good segment of the journey, as five ranks were represented among the students, from the first rank (10th kyu) to just a couple levels below my own (I am 4th kyu, the highest earned that test was 6th kyu).  When I realized I was seeing a good segment of the first part of the Karate journey, I looked at those who are further along in their  journeys than I am.  I realized that from the act of observing and analyzing the belt test itself I had caught glimpses of some of the things that will be my future milestones.  Someday I will prepare and grade students and maybe even call out instructions during a belt test.  It must be a great feeling to see one’s own students pass a belt test.

I think I reached a couple of milestones myself that test – and all while sitting in a chair observing and thinking.  Next time, I will be writing in a notebook.  I think I will grow a little more each time I watch a belt test.

Prediction vs. Reality

Monday, January 9, 2017 was the first day of class at the college.  This is a physical education class that people take for credit.  It’s rare for students to take both quarters that are offered, even more rare for a student to audit in order to attend beyond the two quarters.  How I became involved is a long story – and as of last Spring I’m the highest-ranked student and therefore have some responsibilities.  It’s a rewarding experience to help introduce young people to Karate, and I always hope that they remember the class fondly and take up the art again after they’re done with our little class.

I’ve decided to do something a little different this week on this blog.  I wrote down how I anticipate the first class will go.  Then I wrote about what actually happened.

Here’s my anticipation, written Sunday night (1/8/16)…

I’ll tear myself away from the busy front desk at the office, reluctant to leave my co-workers to deal with the crowd of students who always come in during the first day of class.  But my involvement in the Karate program predates my job and one of the conditions I laid down when I was hired was that I can flex my hours in order to continue to be involved in the Karate class.  I’m anticipating seeing at least two of our International students in the dojo.  I don’t recall what they look like, but I’ve memorized their names.  I’ll surreptitiously peek when Sensei does the roll call.

I’ll stop at my car to retrieve my gear then hustle to the locker room.  My transformation from office professional to karateka begins with switching my bifocals to contact lenses and ends with tying my belt and shoving my feet into flip-flops.  I’ll experience some sadness when I remember students who I won’t be seeing this quarter.

It’s quite likely after I bow into the dojo that someone will ask me for a hair band or a Band-Aid.  That always seems to happen the first day of every quarter.  I always keep things like that on hand for those who need them.  I’ll put my gear down in a corner by Sensei’s bag, shuck my flip-flops, then help Sensei put tournament mats down on the floor.  I’ll explain how the mats are supposed to be laid out to eager students who are anxious to help.  Once this task is done, I’ll ask people to remove their shoes and socks.  I’ll probably do that two or three times before class starts.  If I’m lucky, I might get to practice kata.  I think I’ll do Rohai Shodan – an old lady balancing on one leg (sagi ashi dachi) is kinda impressive.

Sensei will call us to line up, and I will take my place in the Sempai position.  I will remember three people who used to be in that position.  I will do my part in the opening ceremony, pausing so that Sensei can explain each step.  Then Sensei will ask me to lead warm-ups.

I like to be cheerful and human.  I’ll introduce myself briefly, and probably make a wise crack like, “You guys are lucky – I just got over the worst flu ever, this is my first workout since before Christmas, so I’ll go easy on you today.”  I will take maybe five or ten minutes to hit major muscle groups.  There’s no need to kill myself or them.  We get only an hour anyway, so it’s best not to spend too much time warming up.

I’m anticipating three or four students taking the second quarter.  I don’t remember which of them tested for their orange belt last quarter.  No matter – the ones who didn’t test can still learn their new kata (forms).  Sensei will tell me what he wants me to cover, and he will take the newbies – typically we have about eighteen or so each quarter.  I get to teach the second-quarter students on the first day.

I think Sensei will want me to review kihon (basic movements).  I like to hammer in the Japanese terms, so I’ll be sure to incorporate that as we go.  Given the tiny group I’ll have, there will be plenty of opportunity for me to give feedback and advice to refine their movements.  Sensei might tell me to teach them their new kata.  They will have two to learn, but one is just a variation on what they’ve already learned.  I will be running out of time after we go through the first kata, so I won’t be able to do more than briefly introduce the other kata.  I’m really hoping, though, that Sensei will tell me to do kumite (sparring) with them instead of kata.  I’d love to do some drills that involve the defenders stepping away at an angle to set up for a counter-attack.  All too often we drill in straight lines, which means defenders go straight backward.  This results in students thinking stepping backward is their only option.  I want to expand their horizons at this stage.

After class I’ll help tear down and stack the mats.  If there isn’t another class or sports team coming into the room, I’ll have a little bit of time to practice kata, and Sensei might stay to help me, or at the very least he might practice his own kata.  It’s always a treat for me to watch him, as he’s vastly better than me.  Watching him reminds me of what I need to be working towards.

Now let’s see what really happened…

When I bowed into the dojo, Sensei had not put out the tournament mats.  Blocking the door to the equipment room was a cart full of hand weights.  Sensei had stacked foam shields against the wall.  I bowed to Sensei and asked about mats, and he said we wouldn’t be using them today.  I filled out the waiver form that I have to fill out every quarter, then directed new students to remove shoes and socks.  Much to my surprise, I only had to ask students to do this once.

I had loads of time to practice kata while students filled out waiver forms.  I found out the really bad flu I’d had over the winter break had really taken a toll on me.  I had a lingering cough and got winded easily.  Still, movement felt good after seventeen days of not working out.  My balance wasn’t what it should be and I wondered if my inner ear was affected by the medicine.  I was relieved to find I hadn’t forgotten my kata.  The new students who had already filled out their waiver forms watched.  I didn’t care about messing up – I found that my need to practice outweighed my desire to look cool.  Besides, it’s good for students to see that I’m not perfect and it’s good for them to watch me patiently work through something that I just flubbed.  At one point Sensei gave me a refinement to work on.

Sensei finally called the class to gather around.  He talked about what to expect and introduced me.  This was definitely a departure from the normal first day.  Usually he has this talk just with the new people and I get to teach the returners.  I spotted an acquaintance in the crowd.  I was not expecting her there at all and I was very happy to see her.  She is a black belt from Japan, she’s my co-worker (in another division of the office I work for), and she and I have been training together at another dojo.  I recognized a couple of returning students, and was just a little dismayed that there weren’t more.  We lined up properly and Sensei walked us through the opening ceremony.  He led so that he could explain everything, so I didn’t get to do my bit until the closing ceremony.

After he led a brief, light warm-up, Sensei had us students partner up and I paired up with a returning student.  We grabbed the big foam shields.  Sensei demonstrated how to hold the shield and I was flattered when he had me kick it in order to demonstrate exactly why one needs to hold the shield properly.  WHAM!  I always feel so powerful when I can land a good kick on something solid.  But we weren’t going to do kicks.  Instead, Sensei walked the class through elbow strikes.  I’d never done elbow strikes outside of kata, so this was a treat for me.  I found myself thinking about my hikite (the hand that pulls back to “chamber” while the other strikes) and about my hips.  Sensei came over at one point to tell me to not “pose” at the end of the technique – strike and pull back immediately.  “You’re not a beginner anymore,” he said.  Well, technically I am and I will most likely still feel like I’m pretty wet behind the ears when I finally do get to tie on a black belt.  That said, Sensei’s point was that I need to think beyond the drills in order to build better habits.  It’s a recurring theme with me, and he’s not the only Sensei who’s been saying it to me.  I guess I’d better stop being afraid to build on the drills.

Sensei wanted all of us to remember how much power we were able to generate and said we’d re-visit elbow strikes the last class day so that we could see our progress.  Later, at home, I thought about my hikite and my hips, and I realized I still had a tendency to “muscle through” the technique.  My best strike that Sensei saw and commented on was one in which I felt loose until the moment of impact.  I have some work to do.

We ended class with the hand weights.  Sensei walked the class through the motions of punching, and we did this wit the weights.  I found out I was still fairly strong even after half a month of illness.  Putting the weights aside and punching for real felt great, especially when we added kiai.  Unfortunately, we were running over time at that point.

Sensei had us go through the closing ceremony a little more like how we usually do it on the first class day, so I got to do my bit.  I helped put equipment away and he asked my opinion.  I was flattered he asked.  I told him I thought that jumping right into bag work was a great way to start the quarter.  I observed that we seem to lose a lot of students after the first day, and speculated we’d be keeping more this time around.  I asked a couple of questions of my own.  College Sensei has been asking my opinion more in the last few months – it’s pretty obvious he’s starting to train me as someone who will become a Sensei herself.  I’m honored that he’s prompting me to think about the dojo as a whole.

One more pleasant surprise was in store for me as Sensei and I went to grab our gear bags.  One more of the college’s International students asked Sensei if he could join the class.  This student has been studying at the college for awhile now, so I knew who he was – and he’d been in to the office earlier that morning.  I love seeing the realization dawn on a student’s face when he or she recognizes me, and this time Sensei got to see it too.  Yes, Linda Lee Danvers is Supergirl and vice versa.  I checked that the student knew how to add classes online, then went off to practice kata while he chatted with Sensei.  Finally it was indeed time to clear out.  This quarter we will have the room for twenty minutes after class, so that will be sufficient to take up tournament mats and maybe sneak a little kata practice in.

When I got home I found my elbows were sore, red, and had little patches of skin rubbed off.  I’ll heal.  I had to drive the elbow strikes into the “body” rather than clip the chin as I’ve practiced in kata, so I’ve learned a valuable technique for when the opponent is quite close.  Given the force I’m able to generate, this technique could disable or at least drive off an attacker.  The lingering ache in my elbows actually felt good in a way.  The pain is a reminder that I’m grabbing life by the horns and holding on for the wild ride.

OK, so I learned technique and got high from the endorphins (which helps reinforce the lesson that this Karate stuff is lots of fun).  But there are deeper lessons learned from this first day of class.  This is my eighth quarter of being involved with the college’s Karate class, and the first day has always been pretty much the same every time (except lately I’ve been in the role of senior student).  I learned that there is always room for improvement.  It’s perfectly OK to experiment, to try something different with a class.  College Sensei outranks me vastly and has decades more experience in karate and in teaching karate to others, but he still seeks to be better.  His students, including me, will reap the benefit of his willingness to improve.  College Sensei knows my ambitions – he knows I want to teach.  He is setting an example for me.  I’m very glad to have these lessons.