2016 Year In Review

The three ranks I’ve held during 2016 – High Purple (6th Kyu), Low Green (5th Kyu) and High Green (4th Kyu).

2016 has been a banner year for me.  I have grown in so many ways because of the incredible adventures I’ve had.  I’ve put together a potpourri of journal entries, blog posts, reflections, and pictures for my annual year-in-review.  Enjoy!

Journal entry 1/6/16:

College Dojo has a big, tough brown belt guy helping out.  He’ll assign pushups at the blink of an eye and his warmup routines are killer.  He’s a good teacher, so it’s worth enduring the drill sergeant stuff.  Only makes me tougher, right?  So today…  He showed up with a 7 week old puppy tucked inside his gi.  That puppy rode around in there the entire class.  Priceless.  I so wish I had a camera!  True to form, he snarled, “If anyone talks, giggles, or is distracted in any way, you will do push ups until you puke!”  I was definitely holding my breath trying not to laugh at that.

Reflection on 1/11/16:

For about a month this winter I volunteered to teach the beginner white belts at my “home” dojo so that the senior student could concentrate on his training in preparation for his next belt test.  It turns out I only had one student.  He was a wonderful student, and I looked forward to each class.  On 1/11/16 my protégé was integrated into the rest of the class.   I watched him throughout the rest of the year, and was ever so proud of him when he passed his belt tests!

Journal entry 2/17/17:

Change can happen in a heartbeat.  One minute you’re in your comfort zone.  The next…  WHAM.

College Dojo’s brown belt helper is moving away.  He announced this was his last time assistant teaching in the dojo.

Every indication from every single black belt who knows me has been that I should move up to my next rank – the sooner, the better.    But now I have even more reason to buckle down in the next few weeks.  I’m senior student at College Dojo by only one belt.  The college kids are hot on my heels.  5th kyu would give me more authority.

I’m ready.

And I’m also a little scared.  I never expected to have this much responsibility so soon.

Still – it’s a bit scary.  BAM.  Suddenly I’m the senior student.  Out of the blue.

I need to get used to this idea before Monday.  I need to show up on Monday with a smile, with a plan for warmups, and with the ring of authority in my voice.

Journal entry 3/5/16:

Got my butt kicked sparring today.  Literally.  Wicked crescent kick targeting my ribs, I turned to avoid it and maybe counter with a side kick. My opponent’s foot gave a glancing blow to a (ahem) bigger and lower target.  We were sparring tournament-style, so the Sensei called a halt to confirm score or no score.  He was on the “other cheek” side, so he didn’t see.  Sensei asked me, “Where did that hit you?”  and I just started laughing.  I couldn’t help it – it was funny!  That told him what he needed to know, he asked for confirmation from his mirror-judge, and no score was awarded 🙂

Reflection on 3/31/16:

I earned 5th kyu on this day.  This new belt most definitely indicates I have moved beyond where I once was when I trained as a teenager.

I had to present my first advanced kata (form) for a test (the kata was Bassai Dai).  Ever since I started competing in tournaments, where nobody counts out the movements for anybody’s kata, I’d been looking forward to performing a kata for a test without anyone counting out the movements.  I found it to be a huge relief to perform kata freely – of course staying within the cadences that reflect the bunkai (interpretation) but tailoring it to my own body’s capabilities.

At the end I laid aside the purple belt with a tinge of sadness.  That belt (7th kyu) had been presented to me by one of my Sensei (instructors) who had to move away.  The stripe on the belt (6th kyu) had been earned on one of my adventures out of state.  I’d had loads of fun wearing that belt, lots of great memories, lots of sweat.  There was no time for tears – I had to tie on the new belt immediately.  That said, the new green belt (5th kyu) felt great.

Reflection on April, 2016:

“Ohhh, look at how pretty this girl is,” my co-worker gushed, “She must be a dancer or something!”

I looked obligingly at the photocopy of the prospective student’s passport.  Passport pictures are usually not at all flattering, and photocopies of passport pictures are almost always dreadful.  The black-and-white picture was extraordinarily beautiful, and I quickly memorized the name.  The nice picture would give me something to talk about with the prospective student.

I had the honor of serving as her punching bag on numerous occasions…

Imagine my surprise when, a couple of weeks later, College Sensei announced we’d have a special guest from Japan studying with us.  I felt a jolt of recognition when he announced her name.  The next day I dug around in the filing cabinets and confirmed – it was the pretty passport picture girl.  I was even more surprised when I was invited to a special training session and I got to meet her before anyone else at College Dojo!

Little did I know she and I would spend a lot of time training together.  Since April she’s gone from a pretty photo to being a friend.  Her kata is amazing, and I have learned much from watching her.

Reflection on 4/30/16:

I was sick with a sinus infection and almost withdrew from the tournament held that day.  However, I’d promised my new friend I’d give her a ride.  I figured I might as well compete.  I was tired, grouchy, and just wanted to get it over with, go home, and crawl into bed.  I was glad I didn’t.  I won my only gold medal that tournament season.  I give a lot of credit to my coach.  You can read more here.

Reflection on 5/21/16:

On this day I was invited to do the full training for the USA Karate Nationals tournament even though I wasn’t going.  I was thrilled, and even a little tiny bit scared.  I’d done the training only on Saturdays last year.  I knew that doing four days of intense training four days per week would be brutal.  It was all that and more, but I learned a lot – not just about techniques, but about the very core of myself.  You can read more here, here, here, and here

Blog post on 6/18/16:

If someone had told me in 1987 (after I’d quit Karate) that at age 46 I’d be one belt rank higher and competing against people who significantly outrank me in a tournament held under the tail of the Spruce Goose, I’d have told that person, “You’re crazy.”   Life is crazy.  Read more here.

My first interview – June 2016

An online acquaintance honored me by interviewing me and writing a very nice blog post about me.  You can read his article here.

Reflection on July 2016:

It was an honor training over the summer with a small cadre of dedicated students and the two ladies, including my new Japanese friend, who actually competed at the USA Karate Nationals. They both did quite well!

Blog post on 8/12-14:

Our annual Gasshuku (retreat) was quite fun.  I borrowed my parents’ big tent so that my new friend from Japan could camp in style.  This was her first camping trip.  You can read more about what I learned at Gasshuku here.

Reflection on 9/29/16:

I didn’t go to Nationals, so all that hard work I put in over the summer was wasted, right?  Wrong, wrong, wrong!  I earned 4th kyu, so I put a stripe on my green belt.  For this rank I had to perform two advanced kata: Nijushiho and Rohai Shodan.  I had a pleasant surprise when my parents sent me pictures from my test and scanned copies of pictures taken when I had trained as a teenager.  Here’s pictures of me and my former Sensei doing the signature movement from Rohai Shodan!

Blog Post on 10/8/16:

Godo Renshu – read more about the fun I had here.

Blog Post on November 2016:

In a nutshell, I’m thankful for all the ways I’ve grown in mind, body, and spirit and for those who have been with me on this journey.  Read more here.

Reflection on December 2016:

Our annual holiday party was, as always, wonderful.  This was my fourth – my first was when I wasn’t even a student but I accompanied my daughter who was taking the college Karate class at that time.  I remember not knowing anyone but her Sensei.  I knew most of the people in the room this year.  The space we rented for the event was special to me too – I have a 43 year history with the building and that particular spot in the facility used to be the children’s section of the public library (which has since been moved).

I’m looking forward to the adventures I will have in 2017!  My goals include testing for 3rd kyu (four tests to pass before I tie on a black belt) and actually competing in USA Karate Nationals.  I know these are ambitious, but so far every time I’ve set goals for a new year, I’ve ended up exceeding my expectations.  For 2017, I’m dreaming big.

2014 in Review

The following is in response to Jesse Enkamp’s article, “2014, My Karate Year in Review,” in which he invited readers to share their year in the comments section.  As usual, I have tons to say, so I figured I’d be better off posting this on my blog!  This comes at a good time as our state’s branch of our organization is going to have its  annual Christmas party this weekend.  So here goes!

December 2013 – Annual Christmas party

My daughter just got through with her first quarter at the local community college and had earned her first belt in Karate.  None of the other students from the community college were there, so the only people I knew at the party were my daughter and her Sensei.  Some other Karate moms (not students themselves) found me and my daughter sitting alone at a table and joined us.

February 2014 – Grandpa Watching My Daughter’s First Tournament from Heaven

This was bittersweet for us.  My grandfather had passed away only a couple of days before the tournament.  He never quite understood the attraction of Karate for me and my daughter, but he always believed in physical fitness and supported us.  Grandpa was born prematurely and fought for his life.  In high school, he played football and baseball.  In World War II he was one tough cookie – the Battle of the Bulge was an incredible test of his will to live.  Grandpa enjoyed bowling until he wasn’t able to throw the ball.  He walked in the neighborhood until he fell one day.  He worked hard in physical therapy until he couldn’t move.  He ended life as he began it – fighting death.  I think he was hanging on so he could listen to the radio broadcast of the Superbowl, when his beloved Seahawks finally won.   Grandpa knew my daughter was going to the tournament, I guess he just decided he wanted to watch from above.

March 2014 – Behind the Scenes

I traveled with my daughter out of state for seminars and The Big Tournament our organization puts on every year.  I volunteered for a few “behind the scenes” jobs while my daughter attended seminars and sat around waiting for her division to be called.  I found out the black belts do most of the work, so as I was sweating alongside them one day and serving in the VIP break room the next, I got acquainted with a few.  Great people!

April 2014 – A New Dojo

My daughter was just about done with the only Karate classes her community college offers.  She decided to continue her training at the local YMCA.  Now I had two more Senseis urging me to get back into training!

May 2014 – The Decision

I’ve lost count of how many tournaments my daughter went to during the Spring of 2014.  Enough to where I had plenty of contact with her Senseis beyond the normal chats parents usually have with kids’ instructors.  On the last day of this month was a casual tournament (not a qualifier for anything) and a pizza party.  As we were walking out the door of the pizza party (and yes, the Senseis had been gently prodding me to get back on the mats) my daughter pointed out I could help her with kata and she could help me with kumite.  That did it.  My daughter’s birthday was right before the next class, so I didn’t tell her about my decision.

June 2014 – Action

I ran right out and bought myself a gi.  The day after my daughter’s birthday was the first class in June.  I dropped her off at the door of the Y as usual, then parked the car, dashed into the locker room, and changed clothes.  The smile on my daughter’s face when I bowed into the dojo was priceless.

I about died the first fifteen minutes of class.  When I came home, I stank so badly the dog started gagging.

But I loved every minute of it.

To my surprise, my Senseis tapped me for promotion  23 days later.  I guess I remembered enough from training for about 4 years as a teenager more than a quarter century ago.

July 2014 – Not much to tell

Somehow I managed to hold my end of a banner with an injured elbow in a 4th of July parade (I wrapped the elbow in a red ace bandage for the holiday).  I’d thrown sloppy technique during sparring and something in my elbow didn’t like it.  I recovered just fine in a couple of days.

August 2014 – Gasshuku

My daughter and I called a tiny tent “home” for the weekend, and I’d forgotten how much fun it can be.  All of us worked out in a beautiful green field surrounded by trees under the open sky.  I learned I have far more endurance than I ever imagined.  We also got to play with bos for an hour!  During mealtimes, we’d sit and ask the Senseis questions.  Everyone’s nice white gis were multicolored by the end of the weekend, everyone was dog tired and stinky, but we all had a great time of fellowship and training.

The seminars were fantastic and all the black belts were ever so patient with us when we needed help learning something new during the seminars.  They didn’t want anyone feeling frustrated or discouraged, so as long as we gave it our best shot, they worked with us one on one until we could follow the main instructor on our own.  Our main instructor was actually a Sensei from a different style, so all of us were learning new ways of moving, a new kata, etc.

During Gasshuku there was a promotion, and my Senseis told me to test again.  I passed my promotion test in the open air, sun shining down, barefoot on cool grass.  Right before I entered the “ring” for kumite, I heard a bald eagle calling.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget this promotion, and I’m going to try to remember the sound of that eagle piping every time I start kumite from now on – it really set off an explosion of fierce joy that carried me through.

September and October 2014 – Blogging and Visiting Sister Dojos

At the urging of Sensei Andrea Harkins and Sensei Ando Mierzwa I started this blog.  Thank you, friends!!!

Visiting sister dojos started with the week that our local YMCA closes down for maintenance.  My daughter and I visited another YMCA and a major employer’s Karate club.  We’d gotten acquainted with the Senseis throughout the year and our own Senseis gave us their blessings.  We continued visiting the other YMCA regularly during these months because my daughter has seasonal volunteer work near that dojo.  We also dropped in on the Karate club a couple more times just for grins.  My daughter and I made many friends and ended up taking classes under many Senseis.   I feel honored to have had so much input!

November 2014 – AGAIN?!?

Sometime in late October, one of my Senseis took me aside before class and asked how confident I was with my newest kata.  He asked if I could travel out of state to the Hombu Dojo’s promotion test or if I would prefer to wait until January and test locally.  He informed me there would also be a black belt test I could stay and watch.  With that incentive, I told Sensei I didn’t want to wait until January for promotion!  What I didn’t tell him is how hard I’d have to work before I’d feel comfortable testing.  That was OK, and I took the time to work on my own.  I had butterflies in my stomach before I left, but I felt very calm and confident during the testing on November 22.

You know the funny thing is when I think back on that day, the first thing I think of is seeing all the higher ranks promoting, the second is cheering on friends from other dojos, the third is getting acquainted with two more-or-less local lady Senseis, the fourth is one of my Senseis and I carrying out a tradition of serving one another at the buffet during the after-party, and only after that do I think of my new rank.

December 2014 – Seminar and Anticipating the Christmas Party

Last Saturday, I attended a seminar.  Two hours on kumite drills and two hours on kata.  I fell in love.  Whoa, whoa, whoa – I’m not about to run away from my husband!  I fell in love with Bassai Dai kata.  Much to my delight, Sensei ran the class through it last night!  We didn’t get much bunkai at the seminar (the acoustics in the big gym were very bad) but Sensei gave us some interpretations last night.   WOW!!!

I am looking forward to seeing many, many friends of all ranks this Saturday at the Christmas party!  I will be helping to set up, so there will be a good bit of camaraderie to be had during that time.  I won’t find myself awkwardly sitting at a table with just my daughter for company.  I have a cute outfit to wear in a much smaller size than what I wore last year – I’ve lost seventeen and a half pounds (7.94 kilograms)!  Best of all, I have so much to look forward to in 2015!