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.
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.