I totally missed the NYE celebrations. Well, that’s not totally true… I was in the garden dancing to all sorts of music thanks to Covid. Yes, we are in lockdown as the house is hit with another case. To be fair, we made it through the Christmas and had a lovely time in Northern Ireland…thank you once again @LaurenceRoman!
So… 2021… if 2020 was all about battening down the hatches to see what was about to happen, then 2021 was a year of change. I should have known going into 2021 that it would be a ripper. My first post-Christmas work task… stick 13 people on furlough. You can imagine it right…”Hi, welcome back… by the way, I need to speak to you about something…” I don’t think that I will ever forget that week.
Before the year properly started, the family was hit with the worst news. The phone rang…I could hear the tears. One of the main reasons I started Karate was that my Uncle Rob was an outstanding Karateka. I grew up reading the magazines that he piled on the toilet cistern and used to crash in his room in my Granny’s house when he was away. Karate was everywhere, he went to Japan when travelling to London (we lived in Dublin) was considered an undertaking and he was a kumite person. I watched the funeral from my couch and cried for 2 days straight. I think of the family a lot and continue to send all my positive energy their way.
In London, news was on the way…. a vaccine had started to roll out in late December 2020, and it was only a matter of time before we would all be free again. Well, that didn’t happen, and for months I was the only person going to the office to keep it running whilst at the same time trying to sublet 10k square feet of office space, in London, during a pandemic. Full of optimism that this could be achieved, I started sourcing space that we could move back into… I mean, how long was this pandemic going to last… I should have known something was up; three of us headed to view the space and met with our brokers; we divided into two separate lifts and then nothing. One of the hottest days of the year, and we were stuck in a lift with only a tiny window and two very embarrassed brokers trying to contact the lift people. Who, by the way, said it could take up to 4 hours to get someone to us. What followed was almost 50 minutes of random chatter as one of our group, it became evident, didn’t enjoy enclosed spaces. Now I might be daft, but surely lift engineers would, on entering a building knowing there is a problem with the lift… take the stairs…? But no, these guys arrived in the other lift…
Training was totally changed, of course; instead of leaving the house on a Saturday to ride across to the dojo, I had to negotiate the two cat pile up on the stairs, put enough make-up on for virtual meetings and start training. Yes, dear readers, I changed my make-up to be “screen ready”, but that’s a story for another day. I eventually managed to get up, dressed, make-up on, cats fed and the dojo area swept in a total of 15 minutes. Training started at 11, so that was a lovely 10:45 get up. So many gasshukus were online in 2021, and whilst I enjoyed each and every single one, they were also bittersweet. I yearned for the opportunity to be back in the dojo and work with people. I’m a kumite person. Thursdays, long known to be “fight night” in Tooting dojo, was now fight night in my home dojo… I had to find different ways of keeping the intensity in my training and so turned to the beautiful world of Virtual Reality. It was really Nakamura Sensei who encouraged my more expansive thinking in this area, and before long, I was doing many, many rounds on my Oculus, my chosen game, “Thrill of The Fight”.
Then, one Saturday, the phone rang… it was Sensei Linda. Now we had trained that morning, online as we were literally building our new dojo, my first instinct… “shit, what’s happened?”. Nothing was wrong, but I now had a mission. Godan, 5th Dan, Grading… in 8 weeks, in person, in front of a grading panel. IN-PERSON. I had a date and now needed a plan to get there. 8 weeks isn’t a long time to get ready, and I had both fitness and bunkai to worry about. Thankfully, I was doing a massive amount of power zone training in Peloton, so the jump needed wasn’t massive. Now at this point, I have to say a huge thank you to my Sensei. She came to the house to teach from my wee home dojo, trained with me, and coached me ahead of the grading. Disaster struck a few weeks out when I gained a wonderful ankle injury… worse was to come. The day of the grading, I was in agony with the ankle issue and probably a bit high on painkillers… a training incident saw me hurtle backwards into bleachers and BOOM, instant head injury. Now I’ve had a few of these in my time as you can imagine, back in the day, competition training was pretty intense… there were no safety rules as we have today, so I immediately knew it was a doozie…
I don’t really remember what happened for the 20 minutes afterwards and I probably should have had a HIA (Head Injury Assessment) but in only the second time I had trained with actual people in almost a year, we were doing a grading. 3 lovely hours later, I heard the words… “And last but by no means least… Ciara, Godan PASS!”.
By the end of 2021, Covid had gotten me, luckily a reasonably mild case but a bugger nonetheless. That said, I am glad to have the antibodies. Unfortunately, the arrival of this virus meant that I missed saying a fond farewell to my Sensei Fi. Someone with whom I’ve travelled the world, left airports when we were not supposed to and wandered around Mumbai… almost got pulled by the Police in Canada and speaking of Canada… one amazing trip where Sensei basically navigated his way back to the middle of no-where by memory. There is also the story of how Sensei was drying himself with a hairdryer… but that’s for another time. Suffice to say… I’ll miss standing beside you in class Sensei Fi! But rest assured I’m coming to Jamacia.
I really don’t want to see 2022 go in any way like the last 2 years. We need to live with this virus now; we are all going to get it… possibly a few times as it mutates… I’ve had friends who have been really, really ill with this, and I was so worried about them! I hope that the future for all of us is brighter, healthier and full of freedom to roam and build our lives as we see fit!
My love and best wishes to everyone in 2022! x