Sometimes I wonder if I was out of my mind when I contacted the local karate club last year. You see I have social phobia and training karate when you have that are more than difficult. I have no idea where I got the courage from to contact them so I guess that I was more than crazy that summer day! But maybe I was tired of being scared.
Lucky me they had an email address and not just a phone number to call, because for someone like me it’s easier to write than talk. The reason I sent that email is because I wanted to learn self-defense since someone I’m acquainted with got stalked and raped. This terrible incident made me scared of men and darkness, in fact I dreaded to go out at night. Luckily I got a friendly answer from the head instructor who encouraged me to come and try it out.
One Monday evening in the beginning of September I went to the dojo for the first time to get some more information and watch the others train. I was pretty nervous when I opened the door. The head instructor welcomed me with a smile and I’m glad that he didn’t tell me then that the karate style he teaches, Kyokushin, is the strongest karate in the world, because that would probably had made me even more scared.
However, he did tell me that there weren’t enough people to start a new group but that I was welcome to train with them anyway, he added that it would be tough for me to train with those who already had practiced for several years. And was he right about that! Particularly since the majority of the group is around 20 years old.
I wonder if these young people have any idea how hard it is for a woman in her mid-thirties to start training something as hard as Kyokushin with them, especially since I have recently recovered from an eating disorder, meaning that I have been very skinny and it had been hard to get all the muscles back. I would soon come to experience the rigor of the training. I definitely got to feel where I had my spine when we did sit ups! Ouch!
“When can I start?” I asked curiously.
“NO!” I said affrightedly.
“Aha, you want to be mentally prepared” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
You bet, I thought to myself. I didn’t think I had enough strength to do it. The thought that I have bite off more than I could chew crossed my mind. However, it did look fun and I wanted to learn how to physically protect myself, so why not give it a try.
After mentally preparing, I returned the following Thursday. This was my first karate lesson, a moment I will never forget! Kyokushin is a martial art from Japan, therefore are all the names they use for different techniques in Japanese. While I love languages, I must confess Japanese is one tricky language! I didn’t understand much.
The instructor tried his best to show me how to do different movements with my arms and legs. The only thing I came close was to look like a big question mark, it was all very difficult. This may sound silly but it can be very complicated to move your arms and legs in different directions at the same time! All the new information that I tried to absorb just spun round and round in my head. It was too much! The dojo was a stressful place for me.
While we were only around ten people that time in the class, which may not seem like a whole lot of people for some, but for me that’s a crowd! In the end of the lesson there were some physical exercises. The instructor told us to lie down on our backs in order for him to walk on our tummies. I simply wanted to disappear underground when I realized that I had to lie close to an unknown man and after that the instructor had walked on our tummies he too lied down next to me! Did I mention that I’m scared of men? Well, they didn’t know this so I endured. But that was not the end! Now it was one of the other students turn to walk on our bodies and this was repeated until all of us had walked on everyone. And oh how my body ached that night when I came home! Ouch! The next day I discovered bruises at my back.
At the beginning of the semester I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling how sore my body was because of the hard training. Sometimes I even cried, not so much because of the pain but because of the constant physical contact with the other students who were practically strangers to me. I wasn’t used to so much touching and sometimes it was just too much for me to handle. It was also very hard for me to understand what they tried to teach me, which made me feel bad despite that the head instructor had told me that it takes thousands times for the brain to recognize a movement.
The instructors often told me to let my feet slide against the floor when I did the moves. I heard what they said but I wondered if I was the only one who got sweaty feet there! It felt like my feet got sucked into the floor which made it hard to slide. My feet ached too because the skin abraded. I looked at the others’ feet and wondered how long you had to train to get as nice feet as they had. I have trained Kyokushin for two semesters now and still my feet trouble me.
For those of you who don’t know what it’s like to have social phobia; imagine that you often prefer to be invisible rather than visible, you do everything you can to avoid any potentially scary situations and you dread almost all types of physical contact. That’s why I surprised even myself for choosing to expose myself to Kyokushin. There have been many difficult situations for me in the dojo. However, what has encouraged me is something that you often hear when you start training Kyokushin: to never give up even when it’s hard. They have a saying – Osu No Seishin – which means “Spirit of Perseverance”. This has become my motto. These three little words, Osu No Seishin, I often repeat to myself. Karate is very challenging to me, I have sometimes wanted to give up, but each time my new motto has helped me to persevere.
Once I was the only woman in the dojo but I was brave to stay! At one point when we were practicing punches, the head instructor expected me to hit his hand. I didn’t think I had it in me to hit and kick people but I did it anyway, as best as I could.
“I could barely feel it” he smiled. “Remember, this is the strongest karate in the world.”
They always tell me to hit harder. And I thought that I was so brave that dared to touch him since someone like me often think better to flee than to fight poorly. The karate people are so demanding!
Anyway, I’m glad that I have the will power never to give up. I am proud to say that I have managed to get my second orange belt! You see, it’s literally blood, sweat and tears behind this accomplishment. However, this would never had been possible if it wasn’t for my two instructors who have shown such patience in teaching me all the complicated techniques you need to know in order to earn a belt. They have been very kind and understanding towards me.
My instructor told me once that I didn’t have to be afraid of the Kyokushin people. Over time I have come to realize that he was right about that. I have never in my entire life met such nice people before! I enjoy the friendly atmosphere in the dojo and the way people show each other respect. The Kyokushin people are great! Still I look at karate with delight mingled with terror and I doubt that I will stop entirely being nervous about going there. Despite all my problems I have grown to love this humble sport. It’s so much fun! Indeed Kyokushin is my latest passion.