I am not religious in any way, despite the greatest efforts of my Catholic Irish education. I did however, for a long time follow one very distinct line of (Karate) faith, a faith that has been tested deeply over the last few years. I was very lucky to find a great Karate club in my dim and distant youth, completely by chance my parents found a club close to our house with strong links to Sensei Kase and a network of national and international karateka.
I became a Shototkan Karateka, yes I dipped into other styles, but I was Shotokan to my core. More than that, I was part of a very discrete Shotokan family who prided themselves in their study of karate as evolved by Sensei Kase. Then, I left Ireland, destination London.
Nothing I saw in London brought the same satisfaction I experienced training in Ireland. I felt at odds, each class adding to the feeling of anger and frustration at what was being peddled as ‘Karate’ by some of the dojos I visited. I was in perpetual research mode, I had one club I trained with but they had classes only twice a week and this was just not enough for me. I couldn’t see where my future journey would take me and I had completely lost my Karate spark.
Then, thanks to some friendly advice, I ended up in a Goju Ryu class. I knew nothing of the Sensei, other than the personal endorsement and I had never trained with anyone from a Goju Ryu background. So, resplendent in my white belt I took my place in the back line of the first dojo I had trained in that had a female Sensei.
After that class my search ended. I was pushed mentally and physically- very physically in fact. I loved it. Initially I was a guest and rightly so, as time went on the yearning to lean returned. I wanted more, to understand more and to be physically able to do more. I found that Goju Ryu made demands on me that I had never previously experienced.
Weeks became years, and I came to realise that I had found my new family, I was still Shotokan however, and as such still on the outside. Then Sensei asked me to grade. Goju Ryu gradings are intense, much more intense than anything I had ever seen in my karate career. Any gap in knowledge would result in a failure and the syllabus was immense. Not only that, there was a significant preparation time, during which every one of my core beliefs were challenged. For example although I consider myself a kumite player, I found myself entered into Goju Ryu Kata competitions.
By the day of the grading, I felt well…extremely nervous but different. People who knew me from my Shotokan days now commented that I was much stronger; the hours of hojo undo it seems were starting to pay off
To be honest, the transition was difficult, challenging and thankfully, ultimately rewarding. I was finally a fully fledged member of the Goju Ryu family-something I would never have achieved without my Sensei, my boyfriend and the support of the dojo. I have a vision of the future, a destination, something to aim for, call it what you like, it feels great.