Students training for Black Belt are required to write a paper about what their Karate training has meant to their life and what they hope to accomplish in the future.
Being part of the Academy is the thing I’ve committed to the longest, and the one that has had the most impact. Over the many years I have trained I’ve experienced so much. The first time I was introduced to karate I was in second grade, my brother started a little samurai class at the YMCA. I was over the maximum age for the class, but one week I was brought to watch, and all I wanted to do was join in. I was shy but I still begged my mom to ask the Instructor to see if I could join in the next week. I was ecstatic when I was let in. There were only a few more classes for me to do but I enjoyed them and learned a lot. At the end of the trial classes they handed out a referral form.
That led me to my first day at the dojo. I was older than my brother so I was in the youth class alone while he was in the little samurai class. I learned all the bowing and other basic techniques. I was starting my training to become a black belt. In the time I’ve spent at the dojo I have learned more than I could’ve ever imagined. Many activities I did when I was little caused me more frustration than fun. I tried many different things like dance, soccer, and gymnastics but none of them stuck. None of them made me feel like I belonged. I’ve never felt out of place at karate. I remember I was always told as a beginner student that “a black belt is a white belt that never quits”. That message struck me in a way that has stayed with me since I was a white belt. The fact that it was undeniably true made it so real. It has had an immense impact on how I have viewed my training.
Some days I have been so tired and had more homework than I thought I could handle. On those days, I felt like skipping karate to get those few extra minutes of sleep. In the end, when I did go to class it was something that I needed, on those days, a break in a place where I felt I belonged. There were friends I rarely got to see and once I was there I always felt more positive as the stresses of any day got to take the sidelines for 45 minutes. I never wished that I hadn’t gone to class on those days.
I have learned so many life lessons from Karate. Everything has a purpose. I’ve been able to apply myself, become more confident and safe, as well as meet so many people, and be a part of something bigger. All of this came together to give me something to fall back on and to define myself with so that I could continue to move forward and make progress as a person.
When I mention that I do karate to my friends some share their experience at their dojo or we find out that we both go to the Academy. Others tease, and some are puzzled by the idea that I have a fierce side. I am learning and will continue to learn how to showcase my best self with the confidence I’ve gained and the things I’ve learned about myself.
As I continue to grow and face a complex world the foundation of who I am will have a deep root in karate. As I use the skills I’ve learned to help complete goals I would have given up on without karate or, be a leader, use my skills in future careers and have the piece of mind that I can protect myself. I know I still have a lot to improve upon and I will never be perfect but I know I have a place to grow, apply, and polish my skills. That is why I love karate so much. I have grown up and tried many things but karate will continue to be the one that grounds me and guides me as it always has. The tools I’ve acquired will always be by my side; my journey never ends. I will be the white belt that never quit.
Written by Genevieve Gray