For as long as I can remember I’d always wanted to do karate. By the age of 6 or 7, I was already fairly proficient. In my head. My first actual experience of the martial art was age 10 when my parents took me to a newly opened Goju Ryu karate club, close to where we lived (if you call a 30-minute uphill walk close). Gojo Ryu is a traditional, Okinawan-style form where the head of association conditions his hands on a rock. I took to the class immediately, but then I never had any doubts that I would. Classes ran for about a year before closing and the club’s other location was definitely too far for me to walk. I tried a couple of other clubs but just didn’t take to them.
During my late teens I found a Shotokan karate club. Shotokan is more comparable to other Japanese mainland martial arts with its big movements and dynamic structure. Unfortunately, this too was open for about one year before closing down but I’d started work by this time which I really enjoyed and so this and my social life had already become priority.
A few years later, one Friday evening, I was standing outside a pub chatting to my friends when everything just seemed to stop. I found myself looking around at my senior colleagues in their mid-forties (their bellies in particular). I was at a crossroads and straight ahead was not where I wanted to be. All I could think about was the instructor and their class at a club I had recently joined. Although it was already too late to get to the lesson, I made my excuses and left.
I have now been practising consistently for the last 20+ years and teaching karate is a real passion. I know everybody who comes to the club and invest my time wholeheartedly in their development.
It is only now, after all these years, I understand that during the time I spent without karate, there was a great emptiness in my life. I was without direction and often found it hard to motivate myself. Practising karate helps to keep me balanced. The dojo is somewhere to switch off from work and all the stresses of life, while enjoying the mental and physical benefits that karate has to offer. After training everything just seems better.
So if, like me, you feel something is missing or that you would like to try a new activity, perhaps you too can find what you are looking for in Karate. And if you find yourself at the door of the dojo thinking “I’m a beginner… everybody else looks like they know what they are doing…” or “I need to get myself fit before I try that…” don’t worry, just step inside. Because everybody has been a beginner and your fitness levels will improve gradually through regular training. There will never be a better time to start.
Austin Biesty 3rd Dan JKA