I knew I wanted to continue studying the martial arts while I was attending university. It would bring a balance to my academic studies and help me to manage stress. Ju-Jitsu wasn't taught on campus, and I'd tried Aikido for a semester, but it wasn't a good fit for me.
So I went back to the list of extra-curricular activities offered at the athletic center. Let's see....karate. I knew it involved kicking and punching. We'd done some of that at the Ju-jitsu dojo. What the heck, I'd give that a try.
The first night, I arrived early. The sensei was already there, along with some black belt students. I watched as the rest of the class filtered in. Then the sensei began the class by telling us to line up.
We lined up in order of rank. The person with the highest rank is at the far right. Everyone else stands to the left of the person who is of a higher rank. Being my first night in attendance, I stood at the end of the line, wearing a white belt.
Although I had a higher rank in Ju-jitsu, I chose to wear a white belt because I was new to this martial art. I had read that this was proper etiquette. To do otherwise would have been disrespectful. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. I didn't want to blow that on the first night.
After the formal opening of the class, we did the warm-up and stretching exercises. This was followed by the repetitive practice of basic techniques. It was so much better than I'd imagined it would be. In addition to the kicks and punches, there were blocks and strikes and proper stances.
The class was challenging. It tested my endurance physically, mentally, and emotionally. Learning the new movements felt awkward and right at the same time. Karate felt like a form of exercise with meaning and purpose. There was a reason for every movement you executed, and you needed to learn how to do each one correctly. I knew this was an environment where I could thrive.
After the class ended, the sensei called me over to him and asked what my previous training had been. After I told him, he said that I could wear the colored belt of my rank in Ju-jitsu. I respectfully declined and requested his permission to begin as a white belt and earn my way through the ranks. He agreed.
I went back to the next class, and the class after that. I enjoyed everything about karate. You trained as an individual, with a partner, and within a group. There was no competition. Everyone gave their best and worked together.
The structure, discipline, and etiquette helped to ground me throughout my time at the university. When I was in the dojo, I always knew what was expected of me. There was never any uncertainty or awkwardness, as there is in some social settings. It was always consistent and reliable.
Out of the three martial arts I had studied up to that point, karate was the one that felt the most comfortable to me. I'm glad I kept looking for the right one. The third time was a charm.
Next week: Learning from Failure
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.