Tie myself into the white suit. No shoes on my feet. Bow on entry to the dull community hall. Lineup. Warmup. Technique after technique, repeat and repeat until perfect. Kata. Jion, Heian Godan, Tekki Shodan, and the rest. Such beautiful sequences of movement, yet effective, even deadly, in the right hands. My body tracing the same arc as many before me who have practiced this art through time across many countries. Makes me feel connected to them all. Those millions who have released their kiai at the close of each familiar sequence. I enjoy the precision, the element of performance in kata, being able to give it my all in this safe training zone. I'm getting stronger, knowing my body better, despite the aging process. Then sparring, practice fighting, with a respected partner, sometimes a child, sometimes a grown man, sometimes a trusted female friend. It's challenging, and I wear my bruises with pride, like a symbol of my passion for life. Like they mark me as someone brave or adventurous. I want the black belt now. When I trained a few years ago I felt I couldn't prioritize it. Too much time away from my children who were younger then, needed my time, as well as my guidance. And it conflicted with my partners perception of how I should spend my time. But ultimately I lacked the self belief that I could achieve the goal, pass the trials. I know better now. My boys come and train with me these days, it was their wish to, and are learning the katas I know so well, it makes me feel closer to them somehow, learning this art together.
The training produces a disciplined mind, you find that place at times when you are challenged, where you just don't give up, you don't succumb, that spirit of survival. And your body starts to become fit, lean, agile, sculpted through functional practice and not hours in the artificiality of the gym. And when I walk alone in the night I have a small amount of assurance that I have a hope of counteracting an attacker. I'm not so naive to think I can withstand a more severe attack, but I've given myself a chance. I would hate for some ugly egotistical bastard to bring me to my end. And I don't want to live in fear of violence used against me, or against my children. I want us to walk with our heads held high through the environments and landscapes of our choosing. Idealistic, granted, there are many scenarios around the world that would set my heart racing and freeze me in my tracks.
I like the guidance I can give the less experienced students at times as well as the care the more senior members of the club give to me and others. It's nice to see how some of the younger women and girls shine in this sport. All with our whites on, the uniform of the sport, leveling the playing field sartorially speaking. I'd like to dream that maybe one day I could help some young woman overcome the pressures of body image and find love for her body and all it can do, the shapes it can make, the power it can wield.
So there it is, just quietly, a goal, now written in the cyber equivalent of ink - I will make an attempt, or perhaps more than one attempt, to gain a black belt in Shotokan Karate.