Today, I successfully tested for green belt. I was the most senior adult at the ceremony — which felt strange. So, since we had an odd number of juniors testing, I was pulled to work with some of them, including for free-form sparring.
It was merely one year ago that I joined East West Karate, and now I am beginning the “second half” — the more intense part — of the kyu ranks (green belt falls right in the middle of the white-yellow-orange-green-blue-purple-brown sequence leading to black). It occurred to me that this week, a few interesting things have happened at the dojo. On Tuesday, I went to sparring and ended up being in the ring for a full 35 minutes, facing off against five consecutive opponents. And I held my own well enough. On Friday, I assisted the sensei who was leading the kids class, much to her gratitude. And during today’s test, some of the loudest applause came when I squared off against a fellow student during the sparring segment — we were fairly intense, and the assembled spectators were suitably awed.
Which, in its own way, seems curious. I still don’t generally think of myself as an athlete; my self-perception is still, in a lot of ways, rooted in the body of “fat Jason.” That I’d receive serious applause for karate sparring reinforces just how far I’ve come in the last few years. No longer too winded to climb the stairs at work, I now run a 10-K, 3-4 days per week. I do karate, escrima, and yoga. I’m confirmed for scuba training in March, and I’m going to do the River Bank Run in May. Not to mention skydiving over the summer. I’m like my own little version of the X Games, hahaha. And none of it would I have foreseen just three years ago — whoda thunk it, that I’d one day turn into the kind of person that I had always admired but believed I could never become?
On Thursday, I brought Rick to the dojo so he could see the karate and escrima classes. He was quite interested, and Kathy the billing goddess even provided him with a coupon for a free month, which should satisfy Rick’s inherent cheapness. Whether he’ll sign up, though, remains to be seen.
I recently read Running for Mortals, by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield. There was a powerful statement in the book from Bingham: After he completed his very first marathon, having spent the opening 40-odd years of his life as a fat smoker, he noted in his journal that the miracle wasn’t that he finished — the miracle was that he had the courage to start. The courage to overcome the self-doubt, the self-loathing, the lack of confidence, the challenge of the raw physicality of training.
Looking back, I can feel the power of that sentiment. My own miracle wasn’t that I successfully earned a green belt; the miracle was that I had the courage to step foot in the dojo or the gym, or to run the Kentwood sidewalks, for the very first time.
I hope Rick will have the courage to call the Shihan and arrange for his introductory classes soon.