I have taken up martial arts three times in my adult life. It has been a crucial and wonderful journey in my life.
The first stop was in Tai Kwon Do. I only lasted two months. It was not the school for me. First, I am not overly tall plus I tend to be on the heavier side. Not going to get a leaping kick to the head from me which this school emphasized. Second, the testing seemed a little rushed and no preparation for the students. Having been part of testing since and learning of the school, their goal was to have a black belt in a couple of years. Strike that school off when thinking of self defense in the streets.
The second stop was in Goju Ryu karate, and it lasted roughly year and half. I liked the instructor. Much respect for him. Still see him occasionally. Unfortunately, my life was very stressful and in turmoil. I have a stressful job, third child on the way, and I needed to be home to take care of responsibilities. Achieved blue belt and hung it up.
After Goju Ryu, third child came into this world, and this would be my youngest child. I was blessed with three wonderful girls. My company also sent me to graduate school virtually. Three young daughters plus stressful job plus grad school equals many sleepless nights.
Oldest two girls decided to take EMT class. I joined in as the supportive dad who also was interested in learning, bettering myself, and be able to help others in my community even though my overall career calling is in computer science. After a few ambulance calls, I realized it would help to brush up on my martial arts training. Never want to use it, but I also do not want to get into a situation where I am helpless.
In August 2014, I spoke to my Goju Ryu instructor who no longer did training (he has since started again) about going back into martial arts. We discussed one of his previous instructors who I was familiar with. Going back to my first stop revelations in Tai Kwon Do, I am not overly tall, not wirily, and I did not lose any weight from my early 20’s to now my 40’s. Karate would be my path.
I walked into Shorin Ryu karate dojo to an instructor on that Wednesday night who was not thin but very fluid in his technique. Proud to say one of the best martial artist I know who I am also proud to say I witnessed his well deserved third degree black belt testing when I did my first degree black belt test years later.
When the head instructor, my sensei, was present on Monday, the learning adventure really kicked in. Once a week, the head instructor will go to another dojo to train with his sensei. My sensei’s sensei’s dojo is an hour away for me, while my sensei’s dojo is 30 minutes away. My job keeps me closer during the week.
I took what I gathered of our style which is headed by a well known gentleman two hours away. I found older training videos he had filmed which could be bought from the organization’s website. I ordered them. This would be my first purchase on a path to many more.
Over the years, the purchases have included punching bags, countless books, martial arts weaponry, and putting my own personal dojo in the basement, plus hours spent of research in online websites & videos which contributed to my well over hundred pages of karate notes. With my sensei having traveled to multiple countries for tournaments in the past 40+ years of his training, his sensei working directly under the organization’s head, and training partners who have been in charge of training for police & military, the notes keep growing just from the opportunities of learning from these many experts.
One of the things I have said, and another student who was getting her counseling degree agreed with me on, is martial arts is a great counseling session. During the last few years, I have been through a divorce as well as dealing with the pandemic like everyone else. Martial arts has kept me sane and improved my outlook on life.
The true gift of my training is understanding myself more. I have stated many times good health is mind, body, and spirit. Traditional martial arts pushes me to exceed where I had previously limited myself. A good school and good instructors are crucial.
I wish I had this insight into myself in my younger years. It has produced discipline in my every day life, humbleness in my thoughts and actions, strength to face my fears, and a yearning for continuous improvement. When I say I am not the man I was yesterday can be attributed to the bettering of myself through the world of martial arts.