Karate: Always Moving Forward

Karate has been quite eventful this summer. Every time I tie on my belt and bow onto the mat, it amazes me how far I’ve come in the two years I’ve been studying.

Earlier this month, my sensei named me Senpai of our dojo. This is loosely translated as senior student, but when used as a title it is indicative of a mentor relationship, often used in the sense of “older brother.” It doesn’t change the way I’ll train or attend classes, but it’s an acknowledgment of my efforts and contributions and I’m honored to have received the title.

Now I just have to get used to people calling me that…

We also had our annual Break Day last month, where every student gets an opportunity to break a board. This time I chose to try a standing empi (elbow) strike.

Too bad I cant solve problems at work this way

Too bad I can't solve problems at work this way

Sensei suggested I try one board because I’ve never done it before, and it was a lot easier than I expected. I also wound up doing it twice because we had trouble with my video camera. Of course by the time I got around to doing it the second time the video camera battery ran out, so I’m stuck with stills for this year. Ah well.

In May I was asked to be on another student’s attack team for his black belt test. I hear a lot of horror stories about black belt tests at our school, and this will be a good opportunity for me to see one first-hand and get a better idea of what to expect when my turn comes around in a few years. My job is to attack the black belt candidate in his kata, short forms, and self defenses, and while our Sunday workouts are intended to help us all prepare for the test day, they also give me a good chance to polish my own kata and techniques and pick up a few extra insights from the other, more experienced students on the team.

These are exciting times for my school, the Academy of Okinawan Karate, as well. They celebrated their 30th anniversary this week, and last night they threw a party. They covered most of one wall with photographs from those three decades, and it was interesting taking in all that history and listening to Shihan Walker’s stories behind several of them. It made me realize while I’ve come a long way, I’m just getting started.

When I look forward, I often think about one thing: black belt. This is not uncommon, as it’s the first major goal for any karateka. But what happens then? Right now it’s like looking into a fog: I know there’s more karate for me out there, but I can’t be sure of which direction it’s headed or what shape it will take.

The only thing I’m sure of is I’ll keep moving forward.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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  1. Mikey says:

    Congrats on becoming Senpai, Mike. Goes to show you what dedication and (lacking a better term) sticktoittivness gets you. I can see you going a long, long way with this…maybe someday owning your own Dojo. You oughtta think about gathering up your writings on your art the way Brian did for NO REST FOR THE WICKED. Let someone outside you edit, then put it together as a small motivational book. And, again like Brian, you will have more material in the future.

    Congrats again, Senpai.


    • Mike says:

      Thanks, bro. I wouldn’t put owning/running a dojo on my list of goals just yet, but I have enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to teach classes. If I were to move away from my dojo and the other schools in my style, I have little doubt I’d start my own program. Maybe start with something simple in a Y, local gym, or park district and see where it takes me.

      Good idea on the writing. I’ll have to start rolling on that.