Name change, game change, blue skies, and new pies.

A lot has been happening at our dojo in the last couple of months. There have been lots of changes, all positive. Everyone has been heads down, tails up, busy, working really hard, and as a result there has been much success and cause for celebration.

A couple of weeks ago, and off the back of 2 weeks of in house training and grading (for higher kyu and juniors), we had our 2nd and final panel grading for the year. This was a particularly exciting event, since my Senpai and 2 other Senpai from the other club where I train regularly, were graded to Shodan (black belt). Alongside them were a team of purple belts (myself included) going for brown belt. It was a pretty intense morning / afternoon (which took about 4 hours) and it was lovely to share some more relaxed / social time afterwards with everyone when most of us (including the rest of the club who had come to watch and support those grading) went out for lunch.

Everyone was successful in achieving their next rank. I was so proud to see everyone progressing, especially some of my cohort (affectionately known as the Green Team and more lately team aubergine) who started out  thinking they would not, but, through hard work proved themselves wrong in the best possible way.

The following Monday we were all presented with our belts and stripes….and lo, the big colour change occurred. This took quite a long time since there were 18 students, and our instructor (as handed down to him by his instructor) personally ties on our new belts for the first time; a very beautiful tradition in my opinion.

The other thing that happened that night, was that a few of us were awarded with Senpai titles. Although of late I have assisted with various tasks related to the running of the dojo,  helped my kohai learn their new kata, or assisted running parts of class at times, these have been things I wanted to and was more than happy to do. Being formally recognised for this, and being given a title of Senpai was a very special moment for me.

It was a moment I hadn’t really even considered before about a few months ago. To be honest, 2 years ago, I had never even considered the possibility of making it to this point; to being a Senpai, to earning my 2nd kyu, to thinking ahead to shodan…..and beyond….(because honestly, that is where this is all heading)….I felt proud. I felt humbled. I felt grateful. I felt emotional. I felt empowered. I felt a tiny bit scared and perhaps even a little overwhelmed. I smiled a big smile, because overall I was incredibly happy that I had made it to this point, and more importantly because I realised how incredibly fortunate I have been to have such a great teacher to get me there. I didn’t cry on the outside, but I think I did on the inside – tears of pure joy.

It’s all been a little bit surreal, and although I am starting to remember that the brown belt with its 2 black stripes in my bag is actually mine, and although I am starting to really step things up a notch, to notice more, to hone my skills, to learn to teach effectively…… every time anyone refers to me as Senpai, I still look over my shoulder…..for the other Senpai…..or nearly forward the message or text, to the Senpai who were and are my Senpai! When you get the name Mummy you usually get 12 months or so to get used to the idea of answering to it…..this name change was instantaneous!

My 5 year old who trains with us likes to call me Mummy Senpai but I have made it abundantly clear that noone else is allowed to do that (it’s cute from your own 5 year old but after that….not so much the image I am after). My husband refers to the Senpai as the “pies”; a vestige from a time when Ms 5 (in pre-training days) couldn’t pronounce the term; he wanted to know whether I was an apple pie or a cherry pie. I told him I thought of myself more as a “humble ‘pai”.

We now have 3 new Senpai in our dojo, making 4 all together. One is the new Shodan, my Senpai (in rank) and my Senpai (in title), one is me, and the other 2 are my 2 immediate Kohai. That’s a lot of people being called Senpai. It can get a little confusing, but hopefully we’ll all get the hang of it soon. The kohai seem to have adapted to the name change better than the new Senpai, that’s for sure!

All doing and no blogging

So, dear readers….you may have noticed that the blog has been slow for a while. Essentially this is because life has been the opposite of slow. Within the last month there has been a lot of exciting things going on in all aspects of my life…..and frankly as much as I have wanted to share with you, I have barely had a second to sit down and think, let alone put something vaguely coherent together.

I will give you the reader’s digest version for now and then in time try and expand on things.

At the start of October, my 5 year old and I went to the Annual TJKN Gasshuku in Queensland. This was full on (training up to 8 hours a day and basically living and breathing Karate on fumes of sleep), but even better than last year because: (1) there were several people from our dojo there with us, (2) my Karate is in a different place now, such that I could get more out of the advanced training, and (3) I got to catch up with all my friends I made there last year…..

The fun didn’t stop there though, after we parted ways in Brisbane (we had hired a minivan for the dojo – I was the main driver!!), Ms 5 and I flew out to Tokyo, Japan to meet up with my husband and son who went ahead of us. We had an amazing family holiday spending 4 more days in Tokyo, 1 day in Nikko, 5 days in Kyoto, 1 day in Himeji, 1 day in Nara, 2 days in Hiroshima and then 5 days in Okinawa (based in Naha). I had pretty high expectations of Japan; these were completely blown out of the water. Everything about it was such an enriching experience. We all left wanting to return and see more. Japan is a great place to visit with kids (well set up) and we fitted a surprising amount in as a result.

Highlights for me are difficult to choose. The culture and food and people are all beautiful to be immersed in. Tokyo was amazing and not as intimidating (for this small town girl) as I expected. Kyoto was beautiful. Nikko and Nara were peaceful. Hiroshima was a gutsy and resilient metropolis. I loved climbing Mt Misen in Hiroshima Prefecture and the meal at a roadside stall in Miyajima (at the bottom of the mountain) served to us by an older woman who spoke less English than I spoke Japanese and yet managed to accommodate our dietary needs and bestow extra food on us because she thought our kids were cute!! I loved swimming in Fukugawa falls in Okinawa as well as swimming with the locals at some of the Okinawan beaches. I also participated in some Karate events in Naha as it serendipitously turned out to be Karate day when we were there!! This included participating in the Guinness book of world records kata event in Kokusai Dori, Naha with nearly 4000 other Karateka from around the world. I also got to visit (and leave our club’s mark on the walls of) the Dojo Bar and go to the Shureido shop where I purchased a lovely new dogi of Japanese “blue” cotton made in the birthplace of karate…..and I have since started making memories in it…..

The day we got back (on no sleep) I went back to class (in my new Gi of course 🙂 ). I had missed the dojo as much as my own home when I was away….not just because I was missing several classes in the lead up to grading, but I missed my other family!! It was even more special as some of my kohai were grading and I got to be there for them.

Since then, (the last 2 weeks), it has been a blur of training, informal training with my Senpai and Kohai, and higher kyu gradings, finishing yesterday with a panel grading at my home dojo for the lower kyu and those testing and pretesting for shodan (from various network clubs including a high representation from my home dojo). I am very proud to say that everyone passed and as of Monday our dojo will have a shodan and 6 brown belts to add to the other colours as everyone gets their new stripes and belts. It’s been exciting to watch everyone grow and amazing to see the difference in people’s confidence and ability from before I went away to when I got back.

Oh….and in between all that I quietly celebrated my 21st birthday (for the second time), on the day with my family, and with some friends and my immediate family at the Adelaide Vegan festival the day after….after training of course!!

So there you have it……my excuse for being unusually quiet for a while. Hope it’s a reasonable excuse.

Here are a few snaps of what I got up to between 6th and 27th October!