Not drowning, but waving: Engaged not Engulfed.

A year ago today I wrote with excitement and anticipation about a series of advanced workshops being led by visiting instructors. I also followed up on the actuality of the experience. We aren’t having any visitors anytime soon, but I have plenty to look forward to this year (more on that later). Whilst it’s great having other instructors come and show us something a little different, I am secretly not all that unhappy that this winter so far looks to be a bit quieter than last year on that front.

Reason: I have more than enough on my plate right now in terms of my learning journey, and frankly I just want to keep my head down (so to speak), stay in the zone, and work on what I need to work on, without any distractions or interruptions.

An online acquaintance shared her experiences (which I totally relate to) in her post last week.  I feel I should follow suit, and record how I am feeling now so I can look back on it next year and reflect. Indulge me if you will!

I am currently  training harder and more than ever. Regular classes have fallen into somewhat more of a predictable pattern, which has allowed me a chance to really consolidate basics and work on incorporating these into kata and kumite. It isn’t that I disliked the type of classes we used to have, but the new structure has given me different opportunities for growth. Apart from attending classes more days in the week than I don’t, I am also practising whenever and where ever I get the opportunity (this sometimes attracts a few strange looks or comments but generally my colleagues and family are used to it now!).

I am at a stage where I want to know and do everything all at once. I am patient (as realistically I know this is going to take time), but at the same time I am not (mostly because I want to do everything while I am still well enough and young enough to manage it). I have also, of late, developed rather an obsession for kata, which is probably not a bad thing considering how many kata our style actually has!

Kata is something that fascinated but scared me until about a year or so ago. Well to be specific, learning kata scared me. And practising kata on my own also scared me because I was never sure if I was doing it right.

In the last 18 months I have been introduced to more kata than I have fingers and toes to count them on. Trying to retain and improve the ones I know best, whilst ingraining the newer ones is still hard work. However, because I have now been through the process of meeting a new kata for the first time several times before, I know what to expect.

I know I will feel like it’s going to take ages for me to get it. I know it will sometimes feel like I won’t get it. I know that it will be a while before I can get the pattern enough to work on it confidently by myself. However. I also know that I have a strategy, I have a system, and I have support. I know that even though the kata keep getting harder, the time to get things moving and shaking isn’t necessarily more each time, because the more I learn the more associations I can make, which, in turn makes it easier.

And this is why I keep asking for more. Even though I am being given more without having to ask, and even though I sometimes feel out of my depth, and even though I get the feeling I am about to bite off more than I can chew let alone swallow, I still ask for more. So if you happen to see me look like I am in trouble, remember this: I may not be doing the crawl with perfect breathing and strokes but I am treading water madly. Right now I am overjoyed, not overwhelmed; I am engaged, not engulfed, and I am most definitely waving, not drowning.


High 5!



Anniversary of New Beginnings.

Just over a year ago, when I was on the cusp of making an important decision, I wrote a poem called At the crossroads. It was a stressful time for me because I live in a small place, in which the karate world is smaller still, and I didn’t want to hurt anyone, or tread on any toes (figuratively speaking… the time I did it literally on a semi regular basis).

The decision to train Karate was virtually made for me. My husband found a local club for my son, I came, I saw, I joined in, I didn’t hate it, actually I rather liked it…..a lot. The decision to keep training was a conscious choice and a habit. The decision to keep training where I started was similar, but also a matter of comfort and convenience, and probably a measure of naivety.

Eighteen months or so ago that naivety started to change somewhat. I started to branch out and train with another instructor. I met all the network instructors by and by through network events and through my original instructor, and so I had met this instructor a few months before I first visited his dojo. I really had no conscious thought when I bowed in there for the first time that this would be anything other than extra training (particularly since my home dojo had long breaks for school holidays) and my intention had just been to go once a week or less. That idea went out the window pretty quickly and by about the end of January I was going at least twice a week, by May I had been such a regular fixture that I was invited to cross grade with them, and by June I was attending all three classes each week, giving up yoga (which had served me well for 7 or more years), in order to get to the other class. I just couldn’t get enough of it, and my instructor, so obviously passionate about karate and about teaching, was happy to quench my constant thirst for knowledge, patiently answering my stream of questions. This was a joy for me.

Meanwhile I was still going to my original dojo each week also and another one too (yes, self confessed karate addict!) I was still enjoying training in general, it was challenging (sometimes really challenging trying to keep up with style differences as a newcomer to karate), but fun.

The way the new dojo made me feel though, was different. Even as a guest, I was made to feel part of the dojo, and a very welcome part of it at that. It felt like having a second family, and in that atmosphere, it was so easy to learn and grow. Things still weren’t natural for me (and still aren’t a lot of the time) but it was ok to struggle with things, and I didn’t feel slow or stupid, and there was constructive help so that hopefully, over time the struggle would lessen. The formalities and style differences took some time to pick up but everyone was patient (can’t not be when it’s part of your rules!)

As the months passed, I got a little more street wise, and certain things became clearer. Eventually the time came to get serious about where this whole karate thing was heading and where I wanted to go with it. It was clear that it was more than just fun, more than just exercise and more than just self defence. It had become a passion, and it had become an integral part of me as a person. It had broadened my horizons and let me look at things in a whole new way. And from someone who used to only make decisions one dimensionally, based on logic, I found myself going with not only my head, but my gut, and my heart too, (and not chiding myself for it). This surprised even me! So when it came to crunch time, the decision was obvious and felt right.

A year ago today I made that choice. I decided to change instructors, change styles, and join a different Ryu ha (lineage). The transition has been easy  in someways and difficult in others, but I have always felt well supported. Not only has consciously deciding on a path, and choosing to begin again, really helped me develop and move forward with karate, but it has facilitated great personal growth and assisted me to remain positive and motivated. My decision is definitely something I have never regretted.