Started training: January 2007
Tested for red belt: July 28, 2012, age 37
Was it just the other day or a lifetime ago that I first bowed onto the mats? I was awkward and uncoordinated and the basic movement of a knife hand cross up was a challenge. But from the very first private lesson I knew this was it for me. Like a missing piece to my puzzle, it fit just right. I had never participated in any organized sport or even an exercise class, so learning to connect my body with my mind, and find the body awareness necessary to perform so many new skills (and get my body to listen to what I was asking it to do) was quite a challenge. My first rank test lasted nearly four hours. I learned that when Sensei says “one more minute”,… he isn’t a very good judge of time… I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The only thing I had experienced that required the same kind of mental and physical effort and toughness was natural childbirth. It was the same mantra going through my head, “you can do this”, “keep breathing”, “relax your body knows what to do”. I reminded myself, “if you can make it through two labors without drugs, you can finish this test. Thank you, Ashlyn and Aynslee for being my first training partners and kicking my butt. When the test was finally over the feeling of accomplishment was tremendous. My brand new yellow belt baby was born. From that moment on I knew this was a journey I had to complete. No question of ‘if’ just ‘when’. That is not because of confidence, but simply determination to see this thing to the top. Knowing that I could leave no room for doubt, because doubt becomes fear and fear leads to excuses. Like a child each rank test grew and became more difficult to deal with, but you can’t help but love them anyway. It has been a hard path, with a constant internal struggle of guilt. Guilt, because I don’t train enough, and guilt, because I leave my family too often to train. But every time I drug myself away from the dinner table and the sad faces I left behind, I reminded myself that I was one step closer to achieving something great.
Even though my knife hands have gotten sharper and my stances a little lower, I still struggle with that same feeling of awkwardness every time Sensei teaches me something new. The voice of self preservation yelling at me “NO, don’t”, but my spirit yells back louder, “you can do this”. And I will keep trying until I get it right. Every bump and bruise has only made me stronger and I see each one as a badge of honor, symbols of my struggles and triumphs. I’m proud of the calluses’ on my hands because they remind me of how hard I’ve worked to get this far, and more importantly they remind me that I have to keep working hard, for the real battle is just beginning. I don’t do this because I want a black belt; I do this because I want to BE a black belt. There is a difference.
When I started my first session of Little Warriors a few years ago it was a scary and exciting endeavor. I had every minute of class planned out and accounted for on paper. Literally, EVERY MINUTE! A parent asked me if I was to be called sensei Andrea, and I was embarrassed and felt like a fraud when I said yes. Slowly my notes got smaller and my confidence as a sensei has grown. But the more I teach the more I realize how special Sensei Brian is, and how hard he works for all of us. Pouring out his heart and soul, he serves us all selflessly day in and day out for countless hours at a time and only wanting in return for us to grow, to be better, not just at karate, but at life. Sensei, I thank you for all you do. Thank you for teaching me, for pushing me to grow, for being gentle with all my weaknesses and encouraging of my strengths. For being patient enough to tell me the same things a 100 times until I finally listen and do it. (Maybe that is why your minutes last so long…) And thank you for setting such a great example of what it truly means to BE a black belt. I look so forward to joining you on the mountain top. Joining all of you. You all lead and encourage me in your own special way. Oss!