Fifth Karateversary

June 3, 2019

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 doing this: 1) look to the right of your screen, 2) scroll down a bit, 3) under “Categories,” click “Karate Anniversary”

So here are the highlights of each month.

June 4 – June 30, 2018

Surprise! I tested for 2nd kyu on June 9. I was not expecting to test so soon after my 3rd kyu test 10 months prior. For some reason, I was calm during this test. I remember just trusting my sensei(s)’ word that I was ready. I actually had fun, and I haven’t said that of every belt test I’ve taken.

July 2018

Talk about learning and growing – my experiences at the USA-NKF National Championships were tremendously good for me. My parents and I took a road trip to Reno, Nevada for the event, so we enjoyed sightseeing before and after. I think I improved more in judging than in karate, but my parents disagree. My parents watched my next belt test (December 2018) and said that I had significantly improved since Nationals. Dad once reached an intermediate rank in Karate, and Mom once was very much into figure skating (she has a good eye for excellence in human movement), so maybe they know what they’re talking about.

Soon after, my younger daughter joined me in training.

August 2018

Our Gasshuku (camp) was led by a few of our sensei(s). As always it was a great experience, particularly for my daughter. She was free to learn in a safe environment, and she did well. It was nice for me to let go a little bit and let her learn on her own. At camp she could function a little more like the young adult she is. Autism presents any number of challenges, so I’m grateful for the karateka who were patient and caring with her.

September 2018

Looking back at my journals, I see a lot of introspection. It’s there in September’s blog posts too. In stark contrast to September’s positive blog posts, in “real life” I felt burnout for the first time. I blogged about it in October. As I wrote a few months later, it’s easier to push through growing pains than it is to live with regrets. I did not quit, and I’m glad.

October 2018

Testing for Shodan (first degree black belt) and beyond is held yearly in October. Some sensei(s) have their other students test at this time too. This year saw a number of my friends from Washington and Oregon moving up to 1st kyu (right before 1st black), Shodan (1st black), Nidan (2nd black), Sandan (you get the idea now, right?), and Yondan.

I learned that my time helping out with the college PE class was coming to an end. As a college employee I can see class schedules before the students can, so I saw that starting in Winter Quarter, the class days and time would change. As the change was incompatible with my work schedule, Fall Quarter was my last quarter helping. The college sensei, who is also the chief instructor for Washington State in our organization, made it clear that he wants me to push harder in my own training. I now have more hours to do just that.

November 2018

Early this month I was told I would test for i-kyu on December 1, 2018. I-kyu is the last colored belt rank. I was stunned at testing only six months after my ni-kyu test. It felt unreal, and I think I was kind of like a deer in the headlights for the entire month. I had extra help after the college class, for which I am very grateful.

I threw myself headlong into training. That said, I did set aside an hour for just plain fun. I participated in a one-off Capoeira workshop and enjoyed it immensely.

December 2018

December 1 saw me in Oregon testing for I-kyu, and I felt it was my best test ever. This was my last test for a colored belt rank. My next test will be for Shodan (1st degree black). I-kyu is a big milestone. Training after i-kyu is very tough, as the expectations get ratcheted up way more than a notch or two. There are more requirements for Shodan than for any previous test. I don’t know when I will test for Shodan – I will be told when I am ready. All I know is it will be October of some year. Regardless of whether my test is in October 2019 or a later year, I am expected to train as if it is imminent.

A few days later, my daughter earned her first belt.

The last day of the Fall Quarter PE class was bittersweet. What a great experience – to help teach where the head of our karate organization got his start in establishing his life in America! I miss it. There is no doubt in my mind that teaching new beginners helps one’s own development in the art. And yet… I learned it’s OK for me to let go. I need more time for solo practice and for just plain conditioning. I am, after all, training for a very difficult test. Others are filling my shoes, so the class is in good shape.

January 2019

Kigami Baraki – the first workout of the new year at our hombu dojo (the headquarters of our organization) was fun. I feel like Oregon is my second home!

The next day, I attended a self defense seminar taught by one of our sensei. This was my fourth seminar. My interest in someday teaching one-off seminars is still strong. It’s a good fundraiser and it might bring new students into the dojo. But most importantly, it gives people self confidence and a few tools.

My daughter and I switched dojo(s) (schools) this month. I was fed up with traffic, which has significantly worsened even on my little neighborhood streets. My daughter couldn’t take any more late nights. Her school frequently called me at work about behavior issues. We switched to another dojo within our organization so we could spend less time away from home and so my daughter could get to bed earlier. The phone calls ceased for awhile.

February 2019

Snow, a sinus infection, and my family’s needs kept me from doing much training during this month. Stuff happens. I did manage a trip to Oregon for brown belt training (3rd, 2nd, and 1st kyu all together) at the end of the month.

March 2019

The Karate organization I belong to holds a tournament in Oregon every year in March. I attended seminars and renewed my judging license on Saturday. On Sunday, I sat in a judge’s chair for most of the day, then competed. I was surprised to find myself in the medal round for kata (forms) and won second place in a field of eleven. I got thoroughly trounced in kumite (sparring) to make up for it 🙂

Later in March I attended a free one-off introduction to Tai Chi class at the local library. This was very interesting for me. I hope to have more opportunities to play with other martial arts!

April 2019

One perk of working for the college is, if an employee is lucky, said employee might get to be a lab rat for a student in the Personal Fitness Training program. At the beginning of Spring quarter, the stars aligned just right for me. I started training under a wonderful young lady who loves pushing me hard. I have learned a lot about fitness from her, and I plan on using what I’ve learned after the quarter ends. I need every bit of conditioning I can get.

I also had the opportunity to take on a sensei’s responsibility. I called out movements for the lower ranks during a belt test. I’ve done this before, but this time it was for one of our Oregon dojo(s). I was nervous because I haven’t done this outside my familiar dojo “homes.” It was a great learning experience. I also was shushin (referee) for the sparring portion of the belt test. I did get a chance to play – two i-kyu candidates needed a sparring partner. I was happy to oblige!

May 2019

My daughter decided to set aside her training for the time being. She has good reasons, and none of those reasons have anything to do with our dojo. Basically, her autism is getting in the way. She is burned out after school and needs hours to recharge from the strain of having to be social. This has happened before with other after-school activities we tried throughout the years. I had been getting calls from her school again even though she was getting to bed on time. Now those calls have ceased. I miss her. I must say, though, she stuck with Karate far longer than anything else.

Tournament season is intense, particularly when I choose to both judge and compete. I’ve told myself this year it’s OK if I choose not to compete sometimes. There are some aspects of judging that I’m still struggling with, so if I feel I need the time in the chair, that’s what I do. At one local tournament in May I gained a little more experience with refereeing, which is the next step up from judging.

And now for the good Karate stuff I did on my fifth “Karateversary.”

June 3, 2019

I didn’t do much Karate today, but I did do a lot for my karate. Today was the next to the last day with my student personal fitness trainer and the first day of a two-day assessment, my third assessment this quarter. I’ve lost four pounds and gained strength and endurance. Compared to when I started in April, I did more crunches and push ups and ran 100 meters more – some measurable gains! These workouts remind me a lot about training alongside athletes going to Nationals a couple years before I myself went. My trainer pushed me hard, and was so sweet and encouraging about it! I think my sensei (karate instructor) has noticed a difference – he’s been pushing me harder!

After doing all sorts of fiendish exercises and finishing a run of 1.9 kilometers (1.2 miles) in 12 minutes, I stretched, went home, and practiced five kata (forms). Here’s the five I chose:

Rohai (Vision of the Crane) – I love this kata. I like “showing off” by balancing on one leg not once, but three times. I’ll always remember my sensei when I was a teenager telling me that the “crane kick” in the original “Karate Kid” movie wasn’t completely ridiculous, that there is a move in an advanced kata (Rohai) that is somewhat similar. Now that I’ve actually learned this kata… I still think that “crane kick” is totally ridiculous and my bunkai (interpretation) of the somewhat similar move in Rohai is that of defense. Sorry, Sensei.

Aoyanagi (Blue Willow, not taught in the system I study) – To make up for my opinion of the “crane kick,” I practiced the first advanced kata I ever learned for tournaments when I was a teenager. I stepped out with the wrong leg forward the first time I presented it in a tournament! Thanks to Sensei You Tube I re-learned this kata about three years ago. Someday I would love to learn its counterpart – Seiryu, which is not in our system either. My first sensei said that Aoyanagi was taught to women and another version was taught to men (I suspect she was referencing Seiryu). I haven’t remembered to research that.

Seiunchin (To Control and Pull) – This is currently my tournament kata. I’ve had good success with this kata recently. There’s a tournament coming up on Sunday. I’m on the fence about competing. If there’s a chance that I will compete, I’d better have this in tip top form (yes, bad pun, I know). I don’t like judging this kata because by the time the first three moves are complete, the other competitor is mostly finished. I like performing this kata because by the time I compete the first three moves, my opponent is mostly done with her kata. All that aside, I do love the contrast between slow/powerful (“soft”) and lightning-fast (“hard”) movements that typify the Goju-ryu style.

Seipai (Eighteen Hands) – Another kata from the Goju-Ryu style, and just as with Seiunchin, I love the contrast of hard and soft elements. I have to present this kata for my next belt test (Shodan – first degree black) whenever that will be. There are still a few places that frustrate me. Oh well, I’ve only been practicing this since February 2018, so I’m not as “fluent” with this kata as with others. One of the lines from our Dojo Kun (school motto) is “Be patient and not discouraged.”

Empi (Flying Swallow) – Like Seipai, I will be presenting this kata for my next belt test. Other kata from the Shotokan style that I’ve learned are brutal – a real test of endurance. This one is short and sweet, very repetitive, but fiendish. That said, I absolutely love the signature move – a jump with a full 360 degree rotation. Just as with Rohai kata, I love showing off what an old lady like me can do.

I have no idea what my sixth year will bring. My family and I are going through a tough time right now. We hope that we’ll be able to live in this same area, but we might have to move to where it’s easier for my husband and my older daughter to find jobs. I’d have to find a new dojo, adjust everything I do to fit a new style, and jump through whatever hoops I have to jump through to catch up to the equivalent of the rank I am now. Or I’d have to find a new martial art (I’m partial to Filippino Martial Arts, but I’d be willing to go with Krav Maga or Kung Fu). Oh well, the journey is more valuable than the belt color.

That said, you can help us stay in our house and get off food stamps. See that bar on the right? Somewhere along that bar is a link to my Zazzle stores. Or just click here. Buy something – I get a royalty, you get a high-quality product. Thank you!

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:


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!


Three Year Karateversary

Click here to read about my First Karateversary

Click here to read about my Second Karateversary

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!

Two Years

Faraway Dojo is so far away I need a GPS!

Friday, June 3 was my two year “Karateversary.”  I would have been training with the folks going to the USA Karate Nationals but before I was invited to participate in that, I’d already arranged my visit to Faraway Dojo.

I visit Faraway Dojo bimonthly.  It takes a couple of hours to get there when there’s traffic, half the time when the roads aren’t jugged up.  Last time I was there, Faraway Sensei went over bunkai (interpretation) for Bassai Dai kata (one of our forms) with partners.  We continued that during the first hour.  This was hands-on learning with partners, and I loved every minute of practicing these crippling moves (gently and without hurting each other of course).  Later on, I spent half an hour writing it all down.  I spent a good bit of Saturday morning refining and practicing Bassai Dai, and I think my time at Faraway Dojo has made a difference.

The second hour was spent on bo.  I have only picked up a bo maybe six times in my life.  But here’s the interesting thing – I didn’t have much difficulty following along with the bo kata.  I’ve learned two new advanced katas since the last time I was at Faraway Dojo – the day after I earned my green belt.  I was making connections right and left, and I found that a good bit of what I’d learned empty hand translated well to the weapon.  We finished up with a drill where we had partners and clacked our weapons together.  I learned quickly not to visually track the weapons, but to see my partner as a whole and respond accordingly.

The time flew by.  It was a great way to spend a “karateversary!”


Wednesday 6/8/16 was the last day of two academic years with College Dojo.  At the start of the 2014-2015 academic year, I asked College Sensei if I could work out with his class in order to solidify my basics and get in shape for an upcoming tournament.  I ended up staying for quite some time.  Last Spring, the black belt who assisted College Sensei with the class retired.  In February, the brown belt assistant moved away.  This left me as Sempai.  Getting a little more authority in College Dojo was a major motivation for me to test for my green belt a couple of months ago.

The last day of every quarter, College Dojo holds its own belt test.  Usually College Sensei has me working out with everyone as a kind of practice run for me.  This time he decided I could be of more use as an assistant.  I didn’t do much, but what I did saved him some time.  For one thing, he didn’t have to come up with a fiendish combination of techniques and stances for me to do 🙂  I did a couple of little tiny tasks.  The biggest thing I did was console a young lady.

This young lady was supposed to test today.  Unfortunately, on her way to the dojo, she fell.  She came hobbling into the dojo late.  I was able to quietly console her and give her information about the upcoming belt test at my Home Dojo later this month.  After this I was very, very glad that I wasn’t working out with the rest of the class!

I was, however, needed to spar with a young man who has dumped me on my can a few times.  The rest of the candidates were too low in rank and I am also the best match for his height.  I had been quietly warming up off to the side, so I was ready for the match.  He acquitted himself well and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t get thrown even once.  I barely had time to shed knuckle pads and mouth guard before I had to hustle to the front of the dojo.

Presenting newly-promoted karateka their new belts is an honor usually reserved for black belts.  For four quarters now, the honor of presenting the new belts at College Dojo has been mine.  I have wonderful memories of being presented with my new belts, and I feel incredibly honored filling the same role as some of my favorite black belts.

One thing I must get used to is college students are in transition.  I said some goodbyes.  I “grew up” with a few of the colored belts (students who continued beyond earning their two quarters of credit).  These “siblings” of mine slowly filtered out of Karate over the course of this year, and now the highest-ranked among them (as of today only one rank my junior) is moving away.  I’m sad about this, but maybe some of the newer students will stay on awhile.  Time will tell.

September 26 seems to be a long time to wait…

One Year Karate Anniversary

pay-634914_640One year ago today I dropped my daughter off at the Y as usual.  I then parked the car and went into the locker room to change into a brand-new gi.  The look on my daughter’s face when I bowed in was priceless – this was a surprise for her.  I huffed and puffed my way through the workout and was glad to have survived.

I look back on priceless adventures, many of which I’ve shared on this blog.  I am twenty pounds lighter and am seriously thinking about buying a smaller gi.  I’ve earned rank and medals.  I’m a dojo 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 – for instance a few days ago I learned I have what it takes to get back up on my feet and into fighting stance after being stunned by a blow to the jaw.

Earlier this morning I was given an unexpected anniversary gift.  The gift of a smile.  Click here to read about it.   I do feel that reading this article directly benefited my performance during my time at a sister dojo.

I headed out to a sister dojo at the local community college.  Karate is offered for two quarters, and some students have stayed on, taking the class not for credit but for the joy of studying Karate.  I started auditing the class for extra workouts to prepare for tournament season and to make sure my foundational skills were solid.  I had to stop for a couple of months due to substitute teaching water fitness at the Y, but in recent weeks I was able to join my young friends again.  Today was the last day of class for them.  Today was belt testing for those who had opted to do so.

Because I don’t belong to this dojo, I was not a candidate for testing.  However, I was welcome to work out and therefore get some practice for the next belt test at my home dojo.   Through moving basics I worked as hard as if I were promoting.  This is where the smile thing comes in – I’m not so sure smiling is all that appropriate in Karate but I did as much as I could – at the very least in my eyes and actual smiling during the very brief moments of rest.  I did all right with moving basics, and I know what I need to work on.

I watched the candidates do kata.  It was great to see everyone’s hard work and determination.   I especially appreciated it when I saw someone who looked very good for their level.   I love kata and to see it performed well is a joy.

Because there were an odd number of candidates for 9th kyu and one was a young lady, Sensei called me to pad up for sparring.  I absolutely had to be in control, and I have a past history of anxiety while sparring.  Because a mouth guard distorts facial features anyway, I went ahead and smiled.  I reminded myself of what she needed from me in this fight.   I’m 8th kyu, so as the Sempai it was my job to challenge her but not paste her to the floor.  Smiling helped.  It was a great fight – she responded exactly as she ought to the things I was throwing at her and took advantage of the openings I tried not to give her 😉

After all the candidates had sparred and as we were putting away fist pads and mouth guards, Sensei called me up to the front, indicating he needed my help.  I was not expecting what came next.  I was deeply honored to be chosen to give the newly-promoted karateka their new belts.  Ordinarily this is done by a black belt, and in the past there have been one or two Senseis who have been a part of the promotion, but no other black belt was able to come today.  I was just busting with happiness for the young people as they came up one by one.

Now it’s time for me to get out to the garage.  I have a promise to keep – I promised a Sensei I’d practice a footwork exercise that I’d mangled pretty badly in class, slowing everyone else down.  I’ve used sidewalk chalk in the garage to help me learn it.   The weather is nice, I don’t have to start dinner for awhile, and this post is done 🙂