Holy shit, you do karate? A journey to becoming a sensei

Sitting here, my mind goes to karate, to which I celebrated my ten year training anniversary this summer. I don’t think I ever shared HOW I got into it, and WHY I stay.

Let’s flash back to May 2007. I’m visiting my uncle in Winnipeg, and he’s taking pictures of me as we go around doing our thing. Looking at the pictures, I was NOT happy with how I was looking – and I was starting to creep up in pants size. So, I made a decision on my flight home that I was going to get into shape.

Now, one of the girls I used to work with at Farm Boy had tried to get me to come to a kickboxing class with her. Having moved to Westboro, and she being in Kanata, I didn’t want to sit on the bus for that long. But the idea of kickboxing sounded cool, so I did my research. I found Douvris Martial Arts, which was convieniently located a 15 minute walk from my apartment building – and they had an intro for $20! So I went, did my intro classes, and really enjoyed it.

I have a habit of being early, so when I went to class, I always ended up watching the karate class beforehand. Now, between watching that, and memories of Power Rangers in my pre-teens and teenage years (don’t laugh, I’m a 90s kid), I thought, this looks cool. So, I went up to my kickboxing instructor, and told him I wanted to start karate. That Saturday. I left class with a crisp white gi in my arms.

I showed up on the Saturday, and had my intro class. Now, normally, you get your white belt after two intro classes. For some reason, and to this day, I have never found out why, I got mine after one. ONE! Little me, super out of shape. So, I committed.

Now, it’s not to say it didn’t have it’s ups and downs in the early years. Crying because I couldn’t do a back stance as a white belt, being scared to hit people, things like that. I think, I just wanted to impress people.

Something clicked though around my green belt. I liked this. I was GOOD at this. I had started helping out with the kids classes at this point, so my inner desire to be a teacher was fulfilled. So, I quit the community concert band, walked up to my sensei, and told him, “I’m in. I want to join BBM and get my black belt”. I got my red gi the next week.

Pedal to the metal, and I went crazy with training. Between my own classes, and teaching, I was at the dojo six days at week when I was a blue and brown belt. There was a core group of us, who met up at green belt, that kept advancing up the ranks together. It all climaxed in June 2010, when I tested, and earned, my first degree black belt.

The day after the ceremony, it was back to the dojo. When I was addressed as Sensei for the first time…you can’t forget that warm, bubbly feeling. But then, my sensei made the mistake of saying to our group, “so you have two years until you can test for nidan”. I saw that as a challenge, and well, I don’t back down from challenges.

It was certainly a challenge, as I encountered a job loss and job gain in the middle of black belt preparation season. However, in June 2012, I tested for, and earned my second degree black belt. Content, I thought, this was as high I was going to go in rank, and that’s cool. It was time to just enjoy training.

Which I always did, and concentrated on…until probably September 2015…and an email saying I was eligible to test for sandan. Now, at this time, I had already started competitive latin ballroom dance, so needless to say, it was an interesting year. Again, another job loss and job gain in black belt prep season. But, myself and my training partners did it, and earned our third degree black belts in June 2016. Three of the people who earned their belts with me, were part of that core group, who had tested together since late 2008 for various belts.

But that was over a year ago Miriam, you ask. What’s next, you ask? Well, I continue to train (not as much as before!) to stay in shape, and to keep up my skills. But what I enjoy most is teaching the kids. There’s something about seeing the joy in a little one’s face when they get a technique right, or they win a medal at their first tournament. I can see why my own senseis enjoy teaching so much.

I started to get in shape and to prove something to myself. I continue, because it’s fun, and I can’t imagine life before karate. I don’t think I would have a shred of self-confidence if I hadn’t started…and that’s just not right for me.

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