Some minor, some major, but all infuriating in their own way. Even writing, as much as I clearly need to do it, tends to make me crazy. I worry, I criticize, I agonize over it. There’s a whole lot of stress coming from it, rather than stress relief. I hope someday that will change, but historically that’s just been how it is.
Needless to say, I need things that make me feel better. Things that help me de-stress. Things to keep me sane. I love my home. I love any time I get to spend with my boyfriend. I love snuggling and playing with my dog. I love quiet moments where life pauses for just a second and you feel rather than act. And I LOVE karate. Karate is my number one stress reliever, my number one aid. It keeps me sane.
And on days like Saturday, when the entire day is all about karate, I feel particularly blessed. Because we had our annual home tournament on Saturday.
My gym’s tournament team is pretty active. They do local competitions, state-wide championships, national tournaments, even a few kids got selected to go to the international tournament. But I’m not on the tournament team (another story altogether) so I miss most of that. But when we’re home in our own gym welcoming other schools it’s a big deal. Everyone is involved. And I was very involved this year.
I got to judge, which I’ve never done before. It was a little nerve-wracking at first because I had no idea I’d be asked to judge until I got there Saturday and they explained the judging rules to us all. I was nervous the first few rounds, but I got comfortable with it pretty quickly. Seeing the little kids do their forms with so much intensity was awesome and being able to contribute a high score to the ones that clearly deserved it was great. (And being able to put the medal on them at the end was pretty great, too.) It was one of many activities that gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling I so desperately crave and I can’t wait to do it again next year.
And then I got to score-keep (which I did last year so I was far more familiar/comfortable with it). I got a kick out of that because the masters of our gym and my friends got to perform their forms and I got to call out their scores. They all did absolutely amazing and it was a great reminder of the character of the people I train with. Their passion and drive pushes me along, too, and I know that I owe so much of my progress to the teaching and camaraderie they’ve given and continue to give me every single class. I love the people of my gym and truly believe that I am damned lucky to have fallen in with them.
I know that I’ve never been at another gym so I can’t really speak to the character of other establishments- but I can’t help but get the feeling that some of them exist for the wrong reasons. Money-making gyms that test you 20 times a year just so they can get another testing fee out of you and sell you another belt. Gyms where the founders are clearly interested in using the art as a source of power rather than teaching it and spreading the knowledge. Gyms where physical violence is praised and the techniques are taught for the purpose of fighting rather than art. Gyms where the traditional values the art was founded on are non-existent.
I am lucky. Our Sah bom nim has so much respect for the art form itself that he is constantly pushing himself to be a better teacher, to learn more, to expose us to more practitioners who can show us more than he can, to push us to excel ourselves- usually at the sacrifice of his own training. And because of his character he’s attracted a truly amazing group of people to him. People who feel so good being part of this amazing organization that they will happily donate their time, effort and energy to pulling off a huge operation like Saturday. People who demonstrate the meaning of the word community.
I started karate, originally, because I was bored. I needed something to do with my free time, other than sitting on the couch like a slug and watching massive amounts of television. I liked it because it was (and remains, mostly) the only form of physical activity I have to prevent me from gaining a hundred pounds and suffering a heart attack by 40. I continued because I felt really good about myself when I learned a new form or performed a technique correctly. The belt colors changing and the pride my teachers had in me as I advanced kept me going.
It’s only in recent years that I realized what karate was really doing for me- keeping me sane. Not just because of all the reasons I just said, but because I am a part of my gym and we are a family. These people- these amazing, passionate, genuine people- are my family. They love me, they push me to become better, and they offer me the chance to be part of something I so desperately need to be a part of. They welcome me with open arms each and every time I go to class and are always glad to see me. It’s like coming home at the end of a long work day. But with jump kicks.