Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ode to My Brown Belt

I’ve been thinking a lot about my obi, lately. My brown belt was first tied around my waist in May 2007. In many ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. In many more ways, it seems like yesterday.

I remember moving my surgical reconstruction date from March to June so I wouldn’t miss the Spring grading that year. I remember handing my new belt to the surgeon before I was wheeled into the operating room. He promised he’d keep it nearby during the entire 11-hour surgery and I remember finding it in a plastic bag under my pillow when I woke up. I remember walking very slow laps around the hospital floor holding onto my belt for inspiration. And I remember mourning with my belt the inability to be able to simply get up and do Gesaku Dai kata because my body simply couldn’t bend that way for a while.

This belt is the one I’ve had longer than any other. There’s nothing particularly special about the way it looks and I know it doesn’t hold any magical powers or anything, but for this karateka, it’s more about what it represents.

As I started this journey in the middle of cancer treatment, training in the hard/soft style of USA Goju Karate – including doing very physical things that I'd never even attempted before – was the one constant throughout treatment and reconstruction. Whether I had two expanders or even one implant and a prosthesis, I was always able to do something in the dojo to keep my feet moving forward on the path. I may have had cancer, but because I could throw a reverse punch or a jodan uke and do pushups until my pecs were screaming, cancer didn’t have me. Having my brown belt for as long as I have has made me really appreciate all that I’ve gotten from karate - and all there still is to learn.

I’m think I’m really going to miss my brown belt.