It all began after watching "The Matrix". My sister had just had her first child and I had witnessed the entire thing. While staying with her I went to see that movie and was transfixed by the martial arts moves. I said to myself, "I really, really want to learn that!" For the past year my kickboxing instructor had been bugging me to join his dojo and learn Koro Ken. After seeing the movie I went to my first class. The next day I could barely walk. I had used leg muscles that I never knew were there and it felt GREAT! I was hooked, so I kept going. A few months later I tested for yellow belt. Then went to second green. Then purple. Then first brown. Then second brown. After a year at second brown Sensei Bottomms wanted me to test for Shodan with another student. I was apprehensive, but excited. At this time it was about achieving rank, seeing how far I could go. Two weeks later I was trail running and sprained my ankle. It wasn't pretty and I was out of the running for Shodan. I was upset, but not terribly so. I continued training and then started to slack off. I can't remember why or at what point in my life I was at, but I do remember a lot of transition, break-ups, moves, etc. Karate was on the back burner because it had to be at that time. So, I went back again, then met my husband, got married and got pregnant (yeah, I REALLY wanted a baby.) I went to class a few times early in my pregnancy, but was extremely nauseous and it just didn't feel right. Then Griffyn was born and I became a mommy. I went to a few of my nephew's classes to just soak in the training, but formal training for me did not begin again until last summer. At that point I had had enough waiting. It was time to go back. So I went at it full bore, and could barely do 10 push-ups. By December I was testing for I Kyu and the feeling of martial arts was beginning to sink in. I was beginning to feel it, to make it my own. The power of hara, the power of moving so effortlessly was just fantastic to feel. For the longest time I just couldn't "get" what it was supposed to feel like. I could do all the moves, and do them well, and found that when my brain was out of the equation my moves had a different flow. This was so exciting for me. For years Sensei had been telling me to "move from hara", "just let it flow", "soften, Karrie". Now I was beginning to actually live it, and not just in martial arts training.
So why write all of that? Because I do karate for the history, for the building of the foundation. It started with a movie, and whenever I see that movie I laugh at how stiff the actors look doing karate, how staged it looks. To me karate means training, it means being true to yourself, it means pushing yourself, it means trusting yourself. Never have I felt so sure of who I am, and of what I am capable of accomplishing. The trust is the biggest part of this. When you trust your teacher and your fellow dojo mates the learning is compounded by that trust. It's fun, it's easy, and it's harder. When you trust the moves they flow better. When you don't trust the moves they don't work very well.
The hardest part of becoming a martial artist (at least for me) is believing that you are a martial artist. When I started it was to learn fancy moves, not necessarily to learn about me. I thought I had already done that in massage school (at that time I was only a year into my massage career. Massage school was very intense and you do learn a lot about yourself and your boundaries.) However, as the years of training slipped by I stared to realize that karate wasn't just about the moves; it was also about internal growth. The training was also applicable to my massage career, and to my relationships (not just paramours, but family, friends, etc.) Once you give into the flow of things, everything else just fits into place, it really does.
Whew, I think I just started my Shodan paper. One more week to go. I will be glad when it's all over. My brain has been so full of everything I must know, but my body knows it better than my brain does and I trust it to get me through. It's not just about the color of the belt for me anymore, it's about taking one more step closer to myself and closer to moving from hara. I am a martial artist, I will always be a martial artist.