What Motivates Me to Continue?


On this Valentine’s Day, a bunch of us are expressing our love for the martial arts we study!  This blog is going to be short and sweet because I really want you to have the time to read what everyone else has to say.  I’ll provide links to others’ articles below.

What motivates me to continue studying Shindo Jinen-Ryu Karate?

I have many reasons to continue bowing, sweating, shouting, forcing my muscles to work when they want to quit, lugging mats in and out of gymnasiums, and occasionally yelping in pain. I’ll start in chronological order, as my reasons for continuing in Karate have accumulated over time.

1) My daughter wants me to train with her.

2) I need to shed some extra pounds.

3) I love kata and bunkai.

4) There’s more than enough in Karate to keep me busy until I’m no longer physically able to do it.

5) I’m growing and changing.

6) I love finding out I can go beyond where I once thought my limits were.  Facing and pushing through challenges is quite a rush!

As promised, here’s a list of the other participants’ blogs.  Please make their Valentine’s Day special and leave a word or two of affirmation in their comments boxes!

Jackie Bradbury, “The Stick Chick:”  Why Do I Train?

Katy Garden: “Love of Martial Arts

Brian Johns: “What Motivates Me to Keep Practicing Martial Arts?

J Wilson: “What motivates you to take martial arts?”


The Best Athlete in the Family

Let me introduce you to the best athlete in my family.

17 pounds of cute!
17 pounds of cute!

Don’t let his small size fool you.  Dex is speedy enough to keep up with larger dogs, his endurance is incredible, and his agility is jaw-dropping.  He hops and trots through the treacherous jumble of slippery logs on the beach like it’s nothing.

Ready for action!

He delights in movement.  One summer we taught him to do a little Parkour…

Let’s get a little closer and slow it down some.

Every paw precisely placed.  Strength gathered and released as appropriate.  Breath synchronized with what his body is doing, jaw relaxed.  Timing of each step and leap – perfect.  Natural, graceful, and yes, joyful movement.  He doesn’t think.  He doesn’t worry.  He just moves from instant to instant.  His body knows what to do.  Each movement leads right into the other.

Man, I wish I had all that in my Karate!!!

Guess what?  Dex has a handicap.  He was born with bad knees in his back legs – his right bothers him more than his left.  The kneecaps are prone to popping out of place.  He knows how to pop them back in.  When Dex first came to us, the muscles that support those knees weren’t well developed so he often limped or even refused to put weight on his right back leg.  Daily walks, especially uphill walks, have bulked up those supporting muscles nicely so Dex rarely limps anymore.   The building up process was a bit rough for him, but he always has been overjoyed to go for a walk.  Wow.  There are times I have to talk myself into exercising!

So there you have it.  A little furry creature with a positive attitude and incredible athleticism.  An animal who overcomes the challenge of a handicap every single day and who lives in constant appreciation of the simplest things (like tidbits and tummy rubs).  Maybe I could learn something from Dex.

I Love Jogging…

Feel free to laugh.  I totally laugh at myself when I think of this incident…

Back in August, our organization held Gasshuku (extended training) one weekend from Friday evening through Sunday morning.

I think it was Saturday morning when we were told that we were going jogging.  Inwardly, I groaned.  It was announced, “If you can’t jog or don’t want to jog, we’ll find an alternative activity for you.”

I began to think.  Injured people were definitely in the “can’t jog” category – I didn’t fit that description.  What about the “don’t want to jog” people?  I began to imagine exactly what the “alternative activity” would be for the “don’t want to” people.  Maybe a thousand pushups, then a thousand situps, and a million punches in horse stance to top it all off?

I decided, “I love jogging.  Jogging is one of the best activities in the world!  Yes, I’m going jogging!  Yay, jogging!”

So I jogged and jogged and jogged with the vast majority of karateka.   After we were done jogging I found out the “alternative activity” for all non-joggers was something that was right up my alley.  They were picking up twigs, fir cones, and rocks from the field.  I beach-comb, so I’m used to scrutinizing the ground and repeated bending and stooping for agates and sea glass.


Sea glass is shards of broken glass that have been conditioned by the combined actions of waves, pebbles, sand, and chemical reactions with salt.
Sea glass shards are shards of broken glass that have been conditioned by the combined actions of waves, pebbles, sand, and chemical reactions with salt.


Like I said, feel free to laugh.


In any given dojo in our organization, classes meet only 2-3 times per week.  If a student shows the Senseis he or she is willing to work hard and have a good attitude, the student may ask to visit sister dojos.  I’m very privileged to have been granted such permission.  Whenever I bow in to a dojo I never know what adventures I’m going to have.  Here are some of my favorite memories.


My “home” dojo

As much as I love visiting other dojos and going to seminars and stuff, I try to never take my “home” dojo for granted.  It is the place where I do most of my learning and growing.  The Senseis have a long way to drive after work, so sometimes they make it to class early, sometimes not.  Most often, two men who are both young enough to be my sons help me with kata and kumite before class.  So really, I have two Senseis and two Sempais teaching me.  I feel very privileged to have four people to help me learn new things and refine stuff I’ve already learned.  My fellow students are all very young – the oldest is in his early twenties, the next oldest is my daughter.  Half are teens, half are young children.

Before Christmas, we spent three classes exploring the Jiu-Jitsu heritage in our style of Karate (Shindo Jinen-Ryu).  This came about when one of my Senseis said it was too bad we didn’t have mats so we could learn this stuff.  I know our YMCA pretty well by now, so I was able to tell him where the mats are stored. Sensei’s face lit up like a kid at Christmas when he saw the mats for himself.

The next class we learned how to fall safely.  At one point, we were introduced to forward rolls.  I’d done them before.  A few years ago I performed a very nice forward roll instinctively to avoid crushing a child who had fallen in front of me.  I knew the technique was in my memory somewhere, but I wasn’t confident about performing it in class.  I started feeling old. Then I reminded myself I was the one who spoke up about the mats, so I was going to have to do all this stuff.  It turns out I did just fine.

Later on I was paired up with a teenage girl (not my daughter) for takedowns.  I know better than to make things easy – these young women have to know they can use leverage to beat someone bigger and stronger.  Sensei saw my partner struggling and stepped in to demonstrate.  Boy, was I grateful Sensei had made us practice falling because I didn’t even have time to think before I was on the mats.  Some day, if the Lord be willing and the creek don’t rise, I’m going to be that proficient.  That scares me a little.  It makes me aware that I’d better be a good, responsible person who knows when to use what I know and when to refrain because these techniques are dangerous!

I wish we had class more often than twice a week.

The Hombu dojo

Our organization’s Hombu Dojo is about three hours’ drive from my house.  I’ve only been there once, and that was for promotion right before Thanksgiving (2014).  I’d love to visit there, maybe even get a chance to take a class under the head of our organization!

I was so nervous before leaving to drive down there that I decided to just pretend I was visiting yet another sister dojo.  It wasn’t all that hard to do because I’m acquainted with a good many students and Senseis.  I was especially happy to see a couple of out-of-state acquaintances I hadn’t seen since Gasshuku!

So I tried not to think much. I tried to continually concentrate on the techniques, etc.  If I did waver in my concentration, this is how my thoughts ran:  “Here I am visiting the Hombu Dojo, what a great class we’re having…  Focus on the technique…  Ignore Sensei S. and Sensei K. scribbling on their clipboards, it’s OK if they’re standing there watching.  Not the first time they’ve watched me.  Glad they’re here.  Focus on the technique…”  By the time I got to kata, I really did feel as confident as I do whenever I’m simply visiting another dojo.  I was then able to pass along as much encouragement as I could to others (while still respecting dojo etiquette of course).

I could’ve waited to promote locally in mid January 2015, but my Senseis dangled a big, juicy carrot in front of me to get me to travel.  After the color-belt promotion came the promotion for brown belts moving to black belt.  This was well worth watching!  I started thinking seriously about long term goals for sure after watching that promotion.  I’d like to learn for as long as I’m physically able.  Teaching is in the cards, so I’m thinking the more exposure I get to different dojos, the better equipped I’ll be to deal with teaching a wide variety of people.

Sister Dojo #1

This dojo seems to emphasize sparring, which is my weakest area.  I’m looking forward to visiting more in the future!  This dojo has a good mix of adults and children.

Sister Dojo #1 is not far from the place where my daughter does her volunteer work.  The work is seasonal, so for six Tuesdays in the Fall and six Tuesdays in the Spring, it’s far easier for her and I to grab a bite to eat after her work and toodle on over to this dojo than it is to fight traffic to get to our home dojo barely in time for class.

What is it like being in class under the instruction of a world champion who is the same age as my daughter?  Well, I had to remind myself to respect his rank and not play the “old age” card to get out of doing stuff that’s a bit hard for a middle-aged beginner.  After awhile, I stopped thinking about his age and mine as I enjoyed learning things I’d never done before.

It was this young Sensei who called for two-against-one sparring (you can read the story here).  This was the turning point for my attitude about sparring.

I’ve had classes other two other Senseis at that dojo as well, and enjoyed those classes thoroughly.

Sister Dojo #2

This dojo seems to emphasize refinement of technique and form.  Three times now at this dojo, I’ve learned traditional drills that were recently brought out of mothballs.  Two of these are useful for practicing in small spaces.  The vast majority of students are adults.

One of the Senseis from this dojo graded me for my very first promotion and invited me to visit.  My daughter and I visit this dojo during those weeks when we miss our regular class time due to a holiday or promotion.  They meet on different days than our home dojo.  I happened to be in the last class of 2014 and the first class of 2015.

The chief instructor invited a high-ranking black belt from out of state to teach the last class of 2014.  Attendance was low, and I feel sorry for those who must have been dismayed about hardly anyone showing up, but at the same time, I was gleeful.  I love small classes.  However, I was a bit nervous when it became obvious class would consist of 5 black belts (including the instructor), a brown belt, and two beginners (including me) who’d had significant prior training.  Never mind I knew three out of the five black belts, I was worried about keeping up!

I needn’t have worried.  Everyone had something to work on.  The guest Sensei had us working on natural movement and drills designed to get us to move smoothly from one thing to another.  Because the class was small, we did drills where everyone could participate for the benefit of each in turn.  Usually in any given class it’s “us” (students) and “them” (Senseis), but this class was very much about everyone.  I’d been told that even black belts have things they need to improve.  But it’s one thing to merely hear it and another thing to witness it in a class. This was driven home when I heard the instructor give the same feedback to a black belt that he’d given me just a few moments earlier!

The first class of 2015 was even smaller.  It was just the chief instructor, my daughter, another student, and I.  It turns out I was the highest ranked student, so I had a significant role in the opening and closing ceremonies.  I wasn’t expecting that honor for years, as all our dojos boast quite a number of high-ranked students.  I really enjoyed getting lots of feedback.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a class as small as that, and I really appreciated the extra attention.

Sister Dojo #3

This dojo is on a community college campus, and is where my daughter got her start in Karate.  It is where the head of our organization got his start teaching in America.  Most students go only one quarter, get their first belt, then disappear.  Some stay for two quarters.  After that, one must audit or join another dojo.  The student body consists mostly of those in their late teens and early twenties.

My daughter and I are auditing this Sensei’s class this quarter.  I want to re-visit some things from the “ground” up, and I joke about going to this dojo for “remedial sparring.”  My daugther wants to prepare for tournament season by training more than the two days a week we get at our “home” dojo.

A year ago I would sometimes pick up my daughter from the community college after her last class of the day – Karate.  Quite often, I would come early and slip into the dojo.  My daughter had jumped at the chance to take the class.  I envied her – I remembered what it felt like to perform a kata well, to earn a new belt, and to have a strong body.  I was so glad my daughter was clearly enjoying herself.  I thought, “I’m to old.  I’ve got this issue going on with my body.  I’m too fat.  I’m way out of shape.”  My daughter’s Sensei had invited me into the class about a month or two in, but I politely declined, laughing that I’d probably sprain something.

Fast forward twelve months.  Earlier this week, when I entered the community college dojo in a gi for the first time, I was the ranking student.  My daughter stood in line at my left as the second highest – she and I are auditing together to get some extra training.  I’m not usually the ranking student in my home dojo.  I hesitated a moment before beginning the opening ceremony not because I couldn’t remember what to do but because it hit me that a year ago I never would’ve believed that I’d be standing there leading the class in the opening ceremony.  It was one of those profound moments that goes by in a second or two – no one else knows about it when it happens, but it’s a moment that leaves one changed, empowered, and thankful for those who have helped bring one to that point in time.  It’s a moment I’ll savor for a good long time to come.  It was a powerful moment, and I let it infuse my voice as I led the class in the opening ceremony.

After class, I thanked the Sensei for allowing me to audit his class.  I had to be brief because new students needed to order gis.  He seemed tickled pink – I’m thinking he also remembered how things were a year ago 🙂

Each and every Sensei brings something different to the table, and in addition to feedback I receive, I’m filling my training notebook with sketches and descriptions of drills I’ve learned in various places.  It can’t hurt to prepare for my future now.

Let’s look at the black belts who have had a hand in my training!

When I was a teenager:  2 seminars, 1 main Sensei, and 1 Sensei who occasionally dropped in.

Since I began again 7 months ago:  12 Senseis leading regular classes, 1 seminar, the main instructor at Gasshuku, and roughly 10 more Senseis who weren’t teaching class but who helped me at one time or another.

Roughly twenty eight black belts in all have had a direct hand in my training.  I am deeply honored and, when I think of it, astounded at how these men and women have gifted me with their time.

But it doesn’t stop with the Senseis who are teaching me in person.  Please see my post “Help from Others: Encouragement, Teaching, and Support” to see who else has helped me get to where I am now.  I am extremely grateful for all of you.

Mother and Daughter

Karate Kid and MomR

I’ve been training with my daughter for seven months now.  Because I’d trained for about 3-4 years when I was a little younger than her, I was able to promote at a fairly rapid rate after I started training again.  I caught up to her pretty quickly and now outrank her by one belt (the picture is a little out of date).  My daughter is working hard to catch up to me.  It would be fun to promote together some day.  However, if we never promote together, we’ll at least know there’s someone cheering us on!

I love it that there’s someone I can geek out with.  At dinnertime, we probably bore my other daughter and my husband with our karate talk.  But then again, they do get to listen to some funny stories from time to time.  It’s nice to have someone who was there when the funny thing happened – that way if the others don’t think it was all that funny, at least my daughter will laugh.  We spar some of the same people, then later we pick apart their preferences and go over strategies.  It’s great to have a buddy!

Our practice times together are fantastic.  Sometimes we’re in the garage, other times if there’s a studio empty at the YMCA we’ll be there.  My daughter coaches me in kumite, I coach her kata.  We want to learn partner stretches.  It’s not always easy to get practice time together because of her school schedule, but it’s worth it.

There are challenges to training with my daughter.  I have to fight my own urges to control her life.  There is an ogre in me that wants to really be on her about this, that, and the other.  She’s a teenager, so that would backfire rapidly.  I don’t like fighting the ogre, but it must be done.  I know I’ll be a better mother if I do.  That said, I have intervened once or twice outside the dojo to steer her back on course.

We’ve had little tiffs outside the dojo about things that relate to and affect Karate (like nutrition).  It’s rough, but we eventually work through those things.  Inside the dojo it really, really, really helps that the Senseis are in charge.  I’m supposed to be loosening the leash anyway.  If Sensei is in charge, I can let my daughter make her own choices and mistakes and allow her also to learn the consequences.  The good part of me backing away like this and acknowledging Sensei’s authority is my daughter’s accomplishments are really and truly her own.

I think we’re becoming more than just mother and daughter – we’re developing the friendship that comes when the relationship is good between mother and adult daughter.  At this stage in my daughter’s life, it’s great to have something we can do together.  Karate is giving us skills that are serving us well through this time of transition as my daughter matures into a young adult.