from first to second

12:33 PM

I earned my first degree black belt in May of 2007. Five years later, nothing has changed. Or rather, my belt hasn’t. But I have. Five years later and I’m, well, no longer a teenager. Physically, socially, and especially emotionally I am a different person than I was as a new first degree black belt. I have learned much in this time. I have learned to take more responsibility as a karate instructor. I have learned that I can push myself. Most of all, I have learned what it means to be a true martial artist.

I have been teaching, or at least assisting, in karate classes ever since I was a blue belt. Though I always enjoyed it, I now realize that my sense of responsibility was low at best. Karate has contributed so much to the person I am today – my self awareness and confidence stem directly from the teachings of my own Sensei (I owe her so much). Teaching a child, teenager, or adult the same skill that now defines me is, indeed, a greater responsibility than I ever grasped at age fifteen. I don’t just want them to “get the gist” of a beginning form; I want them to continue to black belt. I want to see them grow into martial artists and gain confidence inside and outside of the dojo. I care about their success, not just awarding brief recognition. Teaching has gone from something that I do, to something that I prepare for and something I care about. I want karate to change their lives as much as it changed mine.

A twenty year old body is, sadly, much different from a fifteen year old one (and I’m still young, I know). However, I have learned that even though this body isn’t as spry as it once was, it is still capable of a lot more than I ever believed. Even though it rejects any motion related to jumping kicks, practice really does lead to improvement. My contorting, nimble teenage body may now be replaced with a wider, clumsier facsimile; but, with discipline, I can master a jump turning heel rake as well as any fifteen year old (well, almost). I am currently training to run a marathon. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I could ever actually walk, let alone run 26.2 miles; yet, I know that my fat thighs are capable of taking me to the finish line. The skills I have acquired from karate have helped me realize my potential.

The Shin-Toshi Karate first degree application asks the applicant to discuss the difference between a “martial artist” and a “martial arts practitioner.” For some reason, this question has stuck with me throughout the years. During my hiatus, I often thought of karate. I searched the internet for weapon demonstration videos, and I reviewed my forms and defenses. I came to understand that karate wasn’t just something I did, it was something I loved. I had internalized everything I had learned to the point of thinking about karate even when I wasn’t a regularly practicing student. I knew then that I had crossed over from practitioner to artist. In this growing period between first and second degree, I concluded that karate would be a part of my future. I have hopes of opening my own school one day – an idea that I had only toyed with prior to first degree.

Karate Shin-Toshi has influenced my life more than any other activity I have participated in. Though my journey from first to second degree was several years longer than I would have planned, I would not change anything. I know that I am more emotionally prepared to continue to second degree than I would have been at any other point in my life.

Join me on May 19th, kids. This Sensei is about to be promoted.

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