The Hardest Part, Walking Through the Door

Looking back at my first night in karate class I would have to say the hardest part was walking through the doors. Holding on to my walker I paced back and forth at the entrance to the dojo. I glanced inside and could see people wearing their gi’s (karate uniform) warming up. One would hold a pad while the other kicked it. I watched as others did punches or were on the floor stretching their legs.

I was spotted at the door and all of the sudden I am greeted by a somewhat familiar face.

“Hey, I remember you! I was the security guard at your middle school.” I was asked if I was there to join the class. The assistant instructor walked up to us and introduced himself to me. I was invited to step into – the dojo.  I introduced myself to the sensei. I explained to him I was interested in learning karate. He asked if I had any experience. By this point in my life I had worked out a handful of times with my sister’s husband who was a red belt in Tang Soo Do.

Sensei asked if I could kick and throw a punch. I demonstrated that I could kick and punch. I was then sent to the other side of the room with a black belt where I would learned the basics such as bowing into class, the proper stance, the front punch, overhead block, center block, and the front kick. During this time I learned the name of the style of karate was called Shorin-Ryu and that it had originated from Okinawa. I also learned that the dojo was tied to an international and national organization known as Seibukan.

After 2 hours of what seemed like an intense work out; I went home. I didn’t know this at the time but when I walked out of the dojo my sensei thought that would be the first and last time he would see me. He realized the second night when he saw me walk through the door I meant business. When I received my first stripe on my white belt I was pulled off to the side of the dojo. Sensei explained to me that he didn’t think I would survive my first night. Since I showed up a second night, he had to speak with the head of the organization. Sensei had never taught anyone who was disabled. He could see I was of sound mind and wanted guidance from his sensei on the best method for relaying the knowledge.

Sensei explained to me that one of the main principles of Shorin-Ryu is that “we teach teachers.” He could see that I was going to be limited by my physical mobility, but that didn’t matter. Karate was 90% mind and the other 10% was physical. I would focus my time on learning to teach people karate.

With my walker in hand, I showed up at the door wanting to learn karate. Watching everyone from the door way I was first intimidated. The toughest part of that first night was walking through the door. I learned that karate is 90% mental attitude, the other 10% is physical. I learned how to block, punch, and kick. More importantly I learned how to live independently.

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