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 🙂