By Jenifer Tull-Gauger

I stepped in the door under the big block “KARATE” letters.  A class was going on back in the big, blue-matted room.  They were moving and making noise in this local karate school.

A lady introduced herself with a friendly smile.  “My sons both do karate here,” she said.  She told me about the Intro Program with 3 private lessons.  She took my name and number for the teacher.

I was stepping out of my comfort zone into this new place called a dojo.  I didn’t know these people doing class or waiting on benches.  But they seemed happy.  I watched the class for a little while.  It looked like fun.  My husband and I could learn the moves.

When I left, I went to another nearby “KARATE” school.  When I walked in, I was greeted by an instructor.  He said they did taekwondo and I don’t remember anything else he said because my husband and I were specifically looking for karate.  I left pretty quickly.

My husband and I had talked about doing some kind of martial art for years.  We had concluded that we wanted karate.  This was mostly because of the idea of stopping/disabling an attack.  It was March, 1999.  My husband had said to find a place for us to try karate.  My birthday present would be for us to try it together.

Michael, the karate teacher from the first place, called and we set up an appointment for me, my husband, and our young son.  I remember that first lesson: filling out our applications, getting our white uniforms.  My husband said they looked like pajamas.

Michael—Sensei taught us how to bow onto the mat.  We learned horse stance, high blocks, and punches.  What I remember most was Sensei’s positive attitude.  He loved karate and now we did, too.

It was different for our pre-school-aged son.  He was taught by a young lady black belt.  She had him do fun stuff, but this was his first time in a formal class.  He didn’t like taking instructions from a teacher.  He started karate later, when he really wanted to and knew more what it was.

We all have a different karate path.  But all students and our instructors have one thing in common: we all have the magic day that we stepped out onto the dojo floor for the first time.  On that day we all had clean karate slates and courage (which for some of us was hard to find).  The decision to start karate put us each on a path to a better life.

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