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!