True story: I met a martial artist lady who asked, “How long have you been training?” When I told her, “About 18 years, since March of ’99,” she exclaimed about how short a time I had been training. To be honest, her reaction surprised me.
When I asked her how long she had been training, she responded that it had been 35 years for her, except for the period of time that she took off to raise her kids. To be polite, I did not say anything.
But I have to admit that her comments, both of them, especially when taken together, bugged me.
When I started Karate in March of ‘99, it made its way deep into my heart. Since then, I have trained several days a week, every week, with very few exceptions. Those include a week of vacation here and there and a period of two months that I took off due to childbirth.
In the last 18 years, I have made Karate my way of life. I trained with the group the last evening at the location where I started. Newland Renshi had bankruptcy looming and wondered about the future of the dojo. (I remember Renshi saying there was no place he would rather be at that moment, than training with us. His passionate spark of enthusiasm for karate ignited my passion for it.) I trained and taught while I was pregnant, including very pregnant. (Later, a student’s parent told me they wondered if I would go into labor while teaching in horse stance.) I brought my infant with me to class, where on the sidelines, karate parents and siblings took turns holding the baby. (I remember Kaicho holding the baby [who was asleep] while on the mat, teaching a women’s self defense seminar.)
Traditional Okinawan Karate is family-friendly and family-oriented. You don’t just do it when your family doesn’t get in the way. You train with your family, and for them too.
If your family really doesn’t want to train, that’s okay, but they need to understand that they are still part of the dojo family. They are still involved, and you bring them to potlucks and dojo family events. The smart karate spouses and families see that karate training makes their beloved martial artist a better person. They encourage and support their time and efforts at the dojo.
I don’t know how long the aforementioned lady took off to raise her kids, or how often she has gone to the dojo or practiced throughout her last 35 years. I don’t know the effort she has put in to support her dojo(s), or to promote traditional martial arts. But I know that for me, it is permanently in my heart and it is in my life, every single day of my life. I hope to pass that spark on to others who will live it consistently as well.
By Jenifer Tull-Gauger