Too Old

Almost four years ago I was tying on a white belt in the locker room for one of my first few classes. Someone asked if I was the instructor and was quite surprised that I was a brand-new beginner. I’ve lost track of how many times since then people have taken me for an instructor.  Obviously the stereotype is this: everyone who starts martial arts begins when they’re kids, therefore any middle-aged person wearing a gi (uniform) must have been training and teaching for decades. Adults let this stereotype dominate their thinking whenever I invite them to join class.

“Oh, I’m too old,” they say of themselves.

I have to chuckle at this. I was 44 when I started, and often I hear “I’m too old” from adults in their early thirties. I’m very nearly 48 at the time of this writing. Every once in awhile I’ll hear this from someone older than I am but who regularly lifts weights and dances in Zumba. Sometimes I wonder if they are uncomfortable with living proof that their perceptions of age and Karate are inaccurate. I get the feeling that a lot of them are silently asking themselves, “But isn’t she too old to be doing Karate?”

I’m too old to not be doing Karate. I’m too old to not do what I enjoy doing. I’m too old to be wasting years in stagnation, never growing. I’m too old to not be seeking to improve my mind, body, and spirit. I’m too old to forgo chasing dreams. I have the final half of my life ahead of me. I don’t want to waste it. But I am realistic about my limitations.

It is harder now to gain ground than when I was a teenager. I have to fight very hard for even a small improvement in strength and endurance. Even minor injuries take longer to heal nowadays. I’m a little less flexible, but not much less. When faced with a younger opponent it’s obvious I’m not as agile. And yeah, shedding a few pounds would help that. Frankly, none of these limitations are a barrier to my growth. My limitations simply prod me to develop ways to work around them.

Most of the ways I work around my limitations are mental. I have to be patient with myself and set specific, small goals over a longer time in order to improve physical conditioning – and I need to persist in reaching those goals. Injury, while unpleasant, prompts me to think about why it happened and to come up with ways of keeping the rest of my body in shape. Flexibility might or might not improve over time, but as long as I can throw a jodan mawashi gheri (roundhouse kick to the face) I’m happy – I don’t need to post a video on YouTube of myself kicking a can of soda off someone’s head. As far as dealing with younger, more agile opponents goes, there’s a saying:

Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.
– David Mamet

Frankly, there are a lot of advantages to being “old.” I have a lot of life experience that I bring to the dojo. There are things I grasp intuitively that children struggle to understand. For the most part my kohai (students lower ranked than oneself) take me seriously simply because of my age. Young whippersnappers figure out really quickly that if I can do something and they can’t, they’d better step up their game. I don’t get admonished as much as any given kiddo – but then again it’s easy for me to refrain from picking my nose and bouncing around the room when everyone else is already lined up. The biggest advantage is I deeply appreciate my abilities because I have built my skills in spite of my age.

For the most part the culture I grew up in expected middle-aged women such as myself to already be firmly ensconced in safe hobbies like crocheting. I have nothing against crocheting.  My grandmother’s and my daughter’s crocheting was and is absolutely amazing (and my daughter has won ribbons at the state fair). It’s just that one generally doesn’t get black eyes and broken toes from crocheting. Therefore some think crocheting is “ladylike” and Karate isn’t. Fortunately, the times, they are a changin’ – I can, as a middle-aged matron, join a dojo and be assured that the instructors and students will take me seriously as long as I work hard and am respectful of everyone. Women who trained in previous decades will tell you this hasn’t always been the case. We’ve come a long way, baby. But we still have echoes from the past, and I see it every time I tell a fellow adult woman that yes, you can learn Karate too. I’m not sure this mindset will go away anytime soon.

Karate will be introduced to the Olympic Games in 2020. I’m sure we will see a significant uptick in enrollment of Karate students. However, I predict these will mostly be children whose parents have dreams of seeing their darling wearing an Olympic gold medal. I contend that parents won’t see themselves having fun training alongside their children. My opinion is that there will not be a significant rise in the number of new adult students. I speculate that the Olympics might even reinforce the idea that one must start training as a child, than an adult is already washed out.

I understand how intimidating it is to look at the national and international Karate superstars and compare one’s inexperienced self to them. I know the feelings of inadequacy.  Heck, I even know exactly how scary it is to get into a ring with a superstar who’s won medals in international competitions (and YES, I have had the honor of losing 8 to 1 against such a person in sparring).   Those scary feelings don’t exactly attract adult students who already think of themselves as past their prime.

Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely thrilled that Karate will debut in the Olympics in a couple of years.  But I believe us karateka should still keep on pointing to all the other great things about Karate in order to attract more adult students. Competition is a big part of what we do, but it’s not the end all and be all of Karate. There are benefits for everyone, including slightly lumpy, middle-aged matrons like me.

That is, after all, what this blog is all about.

Tournament Weekend 3/18/18

I’ve written about my tournament experiences ten times already on this site. If you look to the right sidebar on your PC and scroll down a bit, look for “CATEGORIES” and click “Tournaments” you can read all of them. The themes vary: narratives that barely touch on anything deeper, funny anecdotes, and even an account of what I did and learned when I was limited to volunteering due to prior injury. Likewise, the last time I went to a tournament I also did not compete but I was in my new role as kata and kumite judge (USA-NKF Judge D). In every single post I’ve written about significant lessons learned. Most of the lessons are about what needs improving in my karate. One was a lesson in life’s little quirks  and another was about a lesson that I learned when I was a teenager that was reinforced at one of my first tournaments as an adult. So there are a good many similarities among the posts. This post will be a bit different – very little narrative, mostly analysis.

My role in tournaments is changing. I’ve been competing and volunteering for quite awhile but now I am also judging. This past tournament was my second time judging but I didn’t spend the whole time doing so. I was surprised by an assignment to volunteer for the first two or three hours. I was needed to help with staging the athletes – a very pleasant task, actually. The powers that be really wanted me there because I’d done well in that capacity in the past. When things slowed down I was released to judge. Then, when it came close to time for my division to be called to staging, I changed clothes for the second time that day and warmed up in staging. I wore three hats that day.

My responsibilities within those three roles (volunteer, judge, competitor) are considerable. During the seminars the day before the tournament I had another role to play – student. No matter which role I play I am representing my Karate organization and Karate in general. People are watching. Cameras are everywhere and videos go on social media. Mistakes are public. This point has been made over and over again in judging/refereeing seminars and pre-tournament officials’ meetings. But of course even as a volunteer working behind the scenes if I mess up the effects ripple outward. It’s a lot of pressure and I’ve been trusted with a lot of responsibility. I take comfort in the fact that I have many mentors – and even some who don’t really know me all that well have come alongside me to guide me when I needed feedback. I really appreciate their investment into my success, and as a bonus my “karate network” grows.

I’ve been networking for awhile but this tournament I connected with a set that I have been a little timid about – those who are among the highest ranked in their organizations. After I audited a judge/referee seminar I got to chat a little bit with someone who is highly placed in the USA-NKF. I raised my hand during a kata seminar and served as a demonstration student so that the instructor could teach us about spotting the kihon (basics) within a kata (form). This meant I got feedback from a seven-time world champion. At lunch I sat down with a very highly ranked Okinawan karate practitioner. I learned a lot about the characteristics and history of Okinawan karate and what to look for when judging Okinawan kata. I competed against a Japan National Team Member and Asian Karate Federation medalist (yes, she made mincemeat of me, I lost 8 to 1). She and I found out we have daughters the same age and promised to see each other next year. I suspect my karate network will continue to grow as I rub shoulders with more and more karateka of all ranks during tournaments and seminars.

I’m getting more out of seminars. I’m spending less time trying to figure out how to make my body move the way I want it to. I have more techniques hammered into my muscle memory thanks to kata (forms). If I’m learning a new way of moving I can compare and contrast to what I already know. A first for me was at one point a seminar leader walked up to me and my partner to suggest that we add something to the sparring drill because we had quickly grasped what had been taught. He was pushing us to the next level and we gleefully plunged right in. When I attend seminars I am now starting to look for teaching ideas and warm-up exercises that I could use in the future. This tournament I gained some insight into how to be even more discerning when judging kata (forms).

I’ve only judged for two tournaments but I’m finding I’m more comfortable judging kata than kumite (sparring). I’m building familiarity with kata that I don’t personally know – and yes as a matter of fact I can judge them and am licensed to do so.  I follow the WKF guidelines (page 31). I’m becoming more aware of details that I need to teach students. I’m building a rudimentary knowledge of the characteristics of different styles other than the one I study. Judging kumite (sparring) is a different story – I’m not as comfortable with that. The section of the rules dedicated to kumite is a lot bigger. It’s fast-paced and I have to make split-second decisions. Of course I accumulated more tips and feedback this past tournament. I do think I have improved a little since the my first tournament. As long as I keep making progress I’ll be satisfied. I’ve been told over and over that every single judge and referee had to stumble a bit until they hit their stride. The rules are still being tweaked, so even the highest World Karte Federation members are still learning!

All this might seem very “advanced” to those who are new to karate, and yes I have made progress since I first stepped into a dojo. I’ve learned a few things but I still have a lot to learn. I know I’ve touched on this before in previous posts, but I’ll write it again: I still am a beginner and always will be. A friend of mine, Clifton Bullard, once heard his sensei say to a newly-promoted Shodan (first degree black belt), “Congratulations – you are now officially an interested beginner.” To expand further on this, Clifton writes:

What he said (as nearly as I can remember it after 30+ years lol) was that it meant that you know how to be a student, so now you must BE that student, and learn how to become something more. At a different point, he said that shodan was not the end of the journey. It meant that now your bags were packed and you were ready to start YOUR journey.

In spite of the fact that I’m moving into more advanced roles and material, I am still packing my bags. Stay tuned to this blog for more!

The Teacher is Also a Student

For a little over two years now I’ve been helping out with teaching beginners. Normally this doesn’t happen until one reaches the rank I earned back in August (2017), but circumstances in two dojo(s) called for me to step up to the plate. I’m grateful for the teaching I did when I was a teenager  and the research I did into how people learn  before I started home schooling my children. All that said, I’m still learning about teaching and I’m still learning as I teach.

I studied Karate first as a teenager under a different organization. Some of the sensei(s) broke away to form their own organization – among them my dojo sensei’s assistant. My dojo sensei began to rely very heavily on senior students and she saw my potential. I started teaching “first lesson is free” people and getting new students up to speed so they could join the beginner class. I learned how to adjust my teaching according to each individual’s need. I think the biggest lesson I learned was that everyone in the dojo believed in my ability to teach. For someone who was routinely put down at school learning that I have a talent that people respect was a wonderful and powerful lesson.

As I’ve covered in previous blog posts, I quit Karate for 27 years and during some of those years I home schooled my children. Researching learning preferences and tweaking lessons to meet my daughters’ needs on an hourly basis taught me a lot about my ability to improvise. My daughters are both “out of the box” – one is gifted, the other is autistic. I was very inventive during those years and I tried hard to transmit my passion for learning to my daughters. I became sensitive to things that work and things that don’t work, and moment by moment I adjusted my teaching accordingly. Of course when the time came I brought these skills to my assistant-teaching at the dojo(s) where I now train.

During my teenage and home school years I was teaching very small groups or one-on-one. This continued for awhile starting roughly two years ago. Since then I have been occasionally given opportunities to lead class for groups of roughly ten or twelve people. Often there is a deadline to meet, so certain skills must be built by the end of the class. I’ve had to learn how to back off a little from those individuals who are struggling. Either there will be time after class to address their needs or they will practice on their own. It’s hard for me to do this because I’m so used to making everything work for everyone, and that’s possible with groups of up to four people but not for the larger groups I’m learning to teach.  Teaching larger groups of people who need to be up to speed on specific skills by a certain date is something I’m still learning how to do.

I recently led class for ten beginners.  Something I didn’t think about much before that day is the importance of the role I usually play:  assistant instructor.  Don’t get me wrong, none of my sensei(s) have ever taken me for granted and I know they appreciate me.  It’s just that when I stepped into the role of instructor I got another perspective on the value of an assistant.  My assistant the day I led a beginner’s class was a young man who is five ranks below me. Giving him his chance to help teach was gratifying to me. Also I knew I could count on him to help me demonstrate what I was teaching. I had the class switch partners frequently and I heard him helping his partners if they were struggling. It was nice to know that he would take care of at least one student while I was busy helping others. I came away from that class with a deeper appreciation of my own role.

For that particular class I had to come up with a lesson plan. This in itself is nothing new to me – I learned to do this from home schooling my children. However I never worried much about time in home school. I had fifty minutes for this class. Less – probably 40 minutes of actual teaching. I had to leave time for opening and closing ceremonies, taking attendance, and cushions of time for setting up the room (we ran two minutes over time) and changing equipment. My plan coalesced a few days prior when I saw some definite needs in the students’ jiyu kumite (sparring). I’m glad to say that my lesson plan went well and we had enough time for very nearly everything that I’d come up with (I had planned an extra drill just in case I needed to fill some time). Even though things went well this first time I will most definitely need to further develop my skill in planning out material that fits the time slot and meets the students needs.

I’ve been told over and over that one way to improve skills is to teach them. I’ve seen that with kata (forms) and kihon (basics). Now I’ve seen it with kumite (sparring). At sparring class the next night after teaching I found myself doing exactly what I’d taught the day before. It’s not something I’ve drilled much but it was simple enough for beginners. I had not done many reps myself, but of course I had to break things down for the students and help those who didn’t quite understand right away. I had the students get out of the way of oi tsuki and mae gheri by slicing forward at a 45 degree angle. The next night I was fighting someone who usually keeps me on my toes. I used exactly what I’d taught and I wasn’t sucking air after fighting him like I usually do. It was like magic, and was just what I needed. I haven’t been feeling good about my sparring for a few months now, but now I know I’m back on track – at least when it comes to sparring with that particular fellow student!

Yes, I’ve learned a good deal about teaching but I’ve also learned about how to improve myself through teaching. It’s not just being a better and better teacher and it’s not just building my skills. It’s also building my patience. I’m learning more about communicating. I’m learning about turning students around when they’re not engaged. That’s an ongoing process because students can be very creative in their way of expressing their desires to do anything but what the teacher would like them to do. Sometimes buttons get inadvertently pushed – either the teacher or the student is triggered. As the senior in rank, I have to overcome my own stuff in order to be a good example and to think creatively so that the student and the class can get back on track. Everyone wins, but sometimes I think the teacher gains oh so much more – not because the class is running smoothly but because the teacher has overcome his or her own self in order to make that happen.

It may sound like from this article that I’m mostly “there” already. In some respects, maybe I am. What I bring to the dojo from my life experiences helps.  But there’s a lot I still need to learn about teaching Karate specifically and I’m grateful for my mentors. I am also learning how to work within guidelines set by my dojo sensei and not by myself! There’s always more to learn from my mentors and peers about what works and what doesn’t work. Through seminars and the Internet martial artists can swap creative ideas for teaching others. Every so often I’ll buy a book about martial arts and when I’m teaching I’ll use what I’ve gleaned. Keeping things fresh and sharing experience benefits everyone! And that’s what teaching is all about – making everyone better then they were when they walked in. I was reminded at a recent seminar that teaching a class is not about me making everyone else do what I want in order to raise my status and puff up my ego. The seminar leader reminded us that we’re all learning together.

Spectrum of Engagement

I came to work just a little early on a Friday morning and did some small tasks to get my brain warmed up. Before I’d really started my day we were told to go into lockdown. Two hours later the SWAT team came to evacuate us. No evidence of a gunman was found but the police weren’t taking any chances. As I filed passed one of the SWAT team members I shuddered at the sight of his submachine gun. I do not want to be that close to such a weapon ever again. I fixated on that submachine gun during the adrenaline crash I experienced that evening.

The next day a sensei (karate instructor) told me about a martial artist who worked in airport security. This other martial artist was threatened while on the job. He begged, “Please, sir, don’t do this.” When the aggressor escalated the situation the martial artist defended himself and sent the aggressor to the hospital. He had given the attacker a chance to disengage but the attacker didn’t take it.

While listening to this story I suddenly realized why I didn’t like the SWAT team’s submachine guns. Having the power of near-instant death that is launched from a considerable distance away from your enemy means you can very easily choose not to give the enemy a chance to walk away. In many situations this is a very good thing. But in each of the situations I’ve actually been in if I’d had such a weapon and if I’d discharged it I’d be sitting in prison right now. To me, the submachine gun represents a level of power that I hope I never need. So it’s not so much the cold metal thing itself that bothered me – it’s more that I was disturbed by the fact that I’d been in a serious situation where having such weapons handy was necessary.

I prefer having a spectrum of engagement over needing the power of instantly killing from a distance. Here are five levels that I see along the spectrum:

1) I don’t know about you but I usually can avoid being in a bad situation in the first place. Not always, but usually. For instance it’s very easy for me to choose not to be at a bar in a sketchy part of town at two in the morning.

2) If possible walk or run away

3) Try to talk. “Yeah, having no money isn’t much fun, right?” “Who hurt you? Someone must have hurt you for you to be so full of anger – was it your mother?” Or, if tactically necessary, say something bizarre in order to cause momentary confusion – for instance, “Hey, do you smell ice cream?”

4) Defend and run

5) Maim and run

6) Kill

At levels 2 through 5 the aggressor has the choice to disengage. Call me soft, call me a hippie, call me whatever you like – I don’t think there’s any shame in giving someone a chance to stop walking the wrong path. Of course there’s no time for that in a war or in a mass shooting. But if you’re only at levels 2 or 3 with someone there’s no justification for lethal force.

Here’s a very human paradox I found within myself in the days after the lockdown incident. I definitely have some reservations about killing someone with an instant spray of bullets but I have no problem with disabling or even killing an attacker at close quarters. Most of the bunkai (application of movements from forms) I’ve been taught involves being very up close and personal with your attacker. Close enough to hear and feel exactly how you’re breaking someone’s body. Surely that’s more gruesome than dealing death from a distance? On one level – yes, absolutely it is a horrible, ghastly thing. So why am I not squeamish about close-quarter fighting? It’s more than just my training. If an attacker is that close to me  the attacker has crossed a clear and definite boundary. It’s realistic for me to conclude that my life is in danger. Of course I can also choose to step into my attacker’s space – but I will do so only if that is my best option for saving my life or the life of another.

Taken by a colleague outside our office door

As the grand-daughter of a World War II veteran I do understand there is a time and a place where weapons like submachine guns are appropriate. But I have no desire to own such a weapon nor do I think they’re “cool.” My grandfather talked to me about what it means to take a human life. At first I didn’t understand my revulsion at seeing such a powerful weapon at close quarters – especially when I’m trained in an art that, let’s face it, is designed for levels of violence from mild to lethal at distances from the reach of one’s leg to grappling. I had a lot to think about and analyze after I saw that SWAT team member’s submachine gun. What it boils down to is I don’t like how easy it is to take shortcuts when one is in possession of a submachine gun – to go from harmless to lethal in a split second without stopping to analyze whether or not such force is merited. Again, there’s a time and a place for dealing instant death. But my preference is to be able to stop conflict at any point along my spectrum of engagement.

P. S. – A book that has helped me to understand Level 3 (talking) on my spectrum of engagement is _Conflict Communication: A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication_ by Rory Miller

Another New Role

I’ve been to karate tournaments as a spectator, a competitor, and as a volunteer. When I earned my brown belt last summer I became eligible to try for a judging license. This past weekend was the culmination of over a year of preparation. For the last year I’ve been reading the World Karate Federation rules and auditing referee seminars. I’ve watched officials at tournaments. I tend to be a “whole to part” learner, so it takes awhile for details to settle in. I spent January hammering in as many details as I could and hoped they were the right details. I got my criminal background check and SafeSport certification done in plenty of time for the seminar and subsequent exams to earn my USA National Karate Federation Judge D license. I took practice tests and hoped for the best.

I won’t go into detail about what I did wrong in the first tests on Saturday. But I will say that I am now far more familiar with the format of each test therefore I now know how to study for each of the first tests. There’s more license testing in my future! My poor performance in the preliminary exams called to mind my experience with the SAT (a standardized test for US high school students who are planning to go on to college). My grades were quite high so obviously I knew how to function in the context of high school academia. But when I took the PSAT (Pre-SAT, administered as practice a few months prior to the SAT) I scored poorly. After receiving my scores I bought a book that was full of tips, practice questions, and practical advice. I did much better when it came time for the real test and scored highly enough to get admitted to the colleges I was applying to. I may have done poorly on the first tests for my judging license, but I will do better when I re-certify or try for a higher license.

I redeemed myself during the practical part of the exam. The day after the first tests us candidates were assigned to rings for the actual tournament. For kata (forms) there are five judges who each get a vote, and for kumite (sparring) there are four judges and a referee – in other words, I was part of a team that made decisions. Candidates for licensing were mixed in with more experienced judges and referees so we had a lot of support and feedback. We were evaluated as we worked as parts of the teams we’d been assigned to. Mostly the examiners were discreet as they observed us candidates, although I did laugh silently to myself when one of them took the role of referee and I was, therefore, part of his panel for a few bouts. He absolutely was looking at my judging then – he had to! But this was later in the day so I didn’t think anything of it. By then I’d hit my stride and he’d probably done enough evaluating and most likely was giving someone else a break.

After the last competitor received medals us candidates were called over to receive our patches and certificates. I felt like crying with relief but of course I didn’t. That one moment when I knew I’d earned my license meant just as much to me as winning a gold medal in competition. USA-NKF Judge D is the lowest of the low, but that’s OK. It’s a start, and until I earn my first degree black belt, this is all I’m qualified for. Throughout the tournament I had a generous helping of support and feedback from one of the sensei (instructors) from the karate organization I belong to. He’s leading a workshop on judging and refereeing tomorrow (2/17/18). It’ll be worth the three-hour drive to get there. I’m sure there’s more I need to know about judging and I’d like to practice refereeing even though technically I’m not eligible for that role yet.

Here are some highlights of the weekend.

One part of the exams on Saturday involved us going one by one into a room alone with the three examiners. While we were waiting, someone quipped, “What is your name? What is your quest? What is your favorite color?” Of course several of us also started quoting the movie (“Monty Python and the Holy Grail”) and telling funny stories involving quoting that movie during karate. Being rather silly while waiting our turns was a great way to let off some nervous energy.

Men’s blazers and shirts have all sorts of pockets everywhere. Women’s blazers and shirts don’t. I had to hide my whistle under my tie because I didn’t have a shirt pocket. I have to figure out how to affix my judge patch to my blazer – no problem for the men, they have cute little flippy magnet things that fit in the breast pocket that my blazer lacks! At one point I fumed, “It doesn’t have pockets. When I went to my fitting at Chez Alison, the one thing I forgot to say was ‘Give me pockets!’” Yes, there are more than a few karateka who are Doctor Who fans.

The very first division I had to judge was kobudo (weapons). I’ve had a few classes in bo, a few lessons in Filipino Martial Arts, and zero experience with using a point system to judge. There’s not much in the way of guidance for kobudo judging in the rulebook.  I was able to think on my feet with the point system, but what about judging something that, for all intents and purposes, I have never done myself? And what about judging a division where there were 3 bo, 1 set of canes (“sticks”), 1 set of nunchaku, and 1 eku all competing in the same division? How do you judge different weapons against one another? I already knew that looking at the lower body helps tremendously when judging empty-hand kata. Weapons are no different. Beyond that, I have to thank my online acquaintances and fellow martial-arts bloggers Jackie Bradbury  and Brian Johns. They’ve shown me what good weapons-work looks like. I’m not saying that I have nothing more to learn about judging weapons, it’s just that I wasn’t completely floundering when I was put into that situation.

The last division I judged were elite level athletes. I was assigned to that ring because one of my examiners thought I could handle it (this was a very high complement considering my dismal performance in the preliminaries the day before). I was judging young men in the peak of physical condition all of whom had more years of training than I. I’m sure they’ve been to more than just local tournaments. Total and complete contrast with me, a slightly-lumpy middle-aged matron who’s only been training for four years. And yet, there I was – sitting in a chair and holding flags for signaling my opinion. But yet I wasn’t nervous. By then I’d been judging all day. I reminded myself that I’ve been watching and evaluating kata at tournaments and in the dojo for quite some time. Not to mention I’ve been fixing my own bad habits and polishing the little details of the kata I’ve learned. So I sat back and enjoyed having a front row seat to some really good kata performances. I had to get very nitpicky with these competitors. Winners won by a hair most of the time.

After all was said and done, someone asked me about my weekend. I replied that it was nerve-wracking, exciting, and educational. I was both prepared and unprepared. I have a lot to learn and I know I will have help when I need it. As far as judging is concerned I consider myself to be the equivalent of a new orange belt (10th kyu – the first belt one tests for in our system). Judging at tournaments is another new role I’ve begun playing since I earned my brown belt (“low brown,” 3rd kyu, three more tests before black). The title of my blog site, “A Beginner’s Journey” is still very relevant!