I don’t really remember my first Karate class. It was so long ago, I do remember being dragged along more or less against my will. My Dad knew someone who knew someone and we were told we were going. We started in the summer when it was really hot, I remember that, in a community hall with one changing room… for everyone! Interestingly, one Sunday the parish priest visited and noticed that we were all changing together, following week… a wall had been constructed down the middle of the room 🙂
We trained in a mixed class, adults and kids together and we were dropped down Tuesdays and Thursdays at 19:30 on the nose. For me the first few months were tough, physically and mentally. We lived in the country and I loved taking the dogs out for walks, messing around with model aeroplanes and listening to angry guitar music. In honestly I was (am) a bit of a loner.
Despite what people might think about me, I am not very confident. I certainly was not confident back then, not by a long shot. In fact, I can be pretty introverted and although my job now means that I spend many hours standing in front of people, pretty much every time I am a bit nervy. Sometimes that is a good thing, it does make me perform. In the early years of training as soon as we had to come out in front of the class my eyes went to the floor and there was no way I was going to make eye contact! I didn’t want to be the centre of attention and I certainly didn’t want to be watched by others. I remember the few times that I was brought out on my own how much bigger the hall seemed!
As I said, the first few months of training are a real challenge, first of all there is the need to know your right from left hand and foot. I don’t know how often I got those wrong… then there is the need to actually figure out which is which when he working language is in fact Japanese. I also stuck out like a sore thumb… I didn’t have a karate gi and so I was right at the end of the line. Initially I didn’t really mind. But then things started to change… I found out I was competitive. Like really competitive… I still wasn’t confident, but I was more than willing to work hard to get better. Now instead of being dragged to training, I was often in the car waiting for my parents!
Ever so slowly I started to move up the line, new beginners came along and my belt colour started to change. Our Sensei was very traditional in his view and we were only allowed to grade every 6 months-if that. As my belt became darker our world increased. There were more opportunities to train in other clubs with local and international instructors. I was also gaining more experience and was taking warm ups and teaching beginners. Little by little my confidence grew. Competitions, University, Gasshukus all helped me to stretch myself, even move to a new country, I had a safety net, I knew loads of people who were active in the Karate world and so the move wasn’t so scary after all.
Karate in various flavours has been with me my entire life. I’ve stood on international competition mats, in the most hallowed dojos in the world and through out all of this I have been very aware of the journey I have been on. Over the years I’ve been asked many times about. opening my own dojo and it was only when I saw an advert for a space that I thought about it seriously.
So I grew up. I took the plunge I’ve opened the dojo and I’ve given myself 6 months to see if this is going to be a proper endeavour or if it is going to be a failure. Am I confident… no…but… I’m going to work as hard as I can to try and create a space for people to come and train and find a safe harbour. Even if I only help one person, well that’s worth it in my book. I also have reminded myself about how hard it is to start training. I have the utmost respect for people who start training, sometimes the hardest thing is to just walk through the door and say hello. I have had only positive experiences in the dojos that I’ve been lucky enough to know… the more I think about it, the more that I feel I have taken on a huge responsibility. But I guess that is all part of growing up. Time to ensure that this dojo offers as much as I can give!