Sunday, August 5, 2012

25 to Life

Friday night was a hot one here in the northeast US. Class was held anyway - complete with more frequent water breaks and an extra fan as we do not have air conditioning in the Salvation Army gym we use as our dojo. I'm still on the disabled list and taught from my trusty chair, but I was sweaty by the end of class - though not as much as my students. Suffice to say it wasn't the most comfortable evening to be training.

As we have a tournament coming up in a few months that will be, for some of our students, their first ever, we got into a little kata presentation after our invigorating warm-up. Because of our lack of cool, conditioned air, our students wear their school t-shirts and gi bottoms to class. School t-shirts are all they are allowed to wear on the mat other than their gi tops (and we sell them at cost, so there is no money to be made from their comfort) - simply because it is a way to keep the uniformity and discipline while keeping everyone from suffering from heat exhaustion. It works for us.

One of our teen girls who has not gotten her t-shirt yet and wears her gi top to train, stood up, got herself to the middle of our make-shift ring and told training partner Ed and me - her judges for the day - about her style and kata without a hitch. But what she did next in actually presenting the kata was almost just as flawless. Sure it needs work, but her kata showed the two things we stress most to our young charges: that to an observer, it should look like the practitioner is in a fight and that he/she is winning that fight. We gave her her "homework" (the main things she should work on to improve her presentation for next time), which she accepted before bowing and returning to her spot against the wall.

After class, found her and told her just how solid her presentation and kata were. She humbly thanked me and said the most endearing thing ever: that she could honestly see herself doing karate for the rest of her life. A good student on the mat and in the classroom who is respectful to her instructors as well as her dojo mates and her family, I have no doubt that she will continue to train for a long time.

But then, just as young people are want to do, she changed the subject and began talking about her love for martial arts movies - especially those with female lead characters. We spent the next few minutes comparing notes about her favorite ("Chocolate" - which I have not seen) and mine ("Kill Bill" - which she has not seen). We are exchanging DVDs next week :-)

I've seen those I train with and instruct do amazing things on the mat, including compete/grade with confidence and amazing skill. As we also check the report cards of our students, I know what it feels like to see that "is a pleasure to have in class" comment from our students' teachers. But it's a whole different animal hearing a student expresses her desire to continue on the path you've simply pointed her towards.

"Thanks for a great class, Sensei," she said when our chat was done.

No, kohai, thank you :-)


  1. Beautiful, Sensei. :) Thank you for sharing it! I know how it feels/should feel, cause that's what I'd love to see in my son and my students.

  2. "Chocolate"...At first I thought you were referring to that movie with Johnny Dep and I thought, "Damn, I've gotta check that out! Why did everyone say it was a chick-flick?". LOL

    I sincerely hope I infect my niece with that same "25 to life" sentiment.

  3. You reminded me, it's not a martial arts movie as such (although it does have fighting) but does have a kick-ass female lead, and that's the movie Hanna. I love it - one of my favourites of all time.

    1. Fi - as per your suggestion, I found "Hanna" a few weeks ago on DVD. Loved it :-)

  4. Nice post and something we all appreciate coming from those we coach and mentor.

    Steve (stevebjj)