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5 years ago I found myself observing my sweet little girl in her first karate class. It was a proud moment as a mom, to watch my very petite doll faced baby learn how to protect herself. It was inspiring. At the time, I was going through some pretty dark periods of self-loathing. I was overweight, bored and suffering from depression. But watching my little girl, kick and punch and use her loud voice to assert herself gave me hope. I saw karate as a way to get back in shape and learn to stand up for myself, something I rarely ever did.

Karate often gets a bad reputation, and I get it. I have been to a dojo where the instructor is mean and harsh on his students. I have seen kids in the dojo pick on other kids who lost in a sparring match, particularly if a boy lost to a girl. I have witnessed the encouragement of violence rather than self-control. It is the reason we left the dojo we started our karate journey in.

When we found our new home dojo, we knew we were in the right place. When we first met our Sensei, a man who is about 6 foot 3. A big burly guy, I thought we made a colossal mistake. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Our Sensei is professional, polite, considerate, caring and lwell-rounded you could ask to meet. With the children, he is fun and gentle. He is always encouraging and never belittles a child for having difficulty with a move or stance. I see the children pour into his class, 3 times a week with eager smiles on their faces. Each of those children are also kind, considerate and conscientious. It was what is expected of the children. Violence is not promoted. Self defence is. He teaches the children that when they can to walk away, run away from a threat. He discourages fighting. It was his way with the children that had me joining the adult class and I am all the better for it.

I have been training for 3 years now. I train 3 times a week for 60 minute classes. When I started there, I was overweight. I still am, but I have lost 25 lbs and have noticed considerable changes in muscle definition. My bat wing arms are much more lean. My bum is bouncing back up to its former glory days. My core is tighter, my posture is straighter and most importantly, I feel stronger mentally and emotionally. Over the years I have learned how to protect myself. I have no ambitions of MMA fighting, nor do i wish to be competitive in karate. But what I do want is to feel more aware of my body and my surroundings when I am out. It is extremely empowering to know when, where and how to block a person who means you harm.

I have also found karate to be meditative. Think moving meditation, like Tai Chi, except alot more powerful. We practice breathing exercises, we learn to focus our energy and keep our thoughts on one task at a time, which is a godsend for anyone who needs to take a break from multitasking all day. Every single person in my dojo will tell you that going to karate class is therapeutic. On those days where shit hasn’t gone your way, the dojo is the perfect place to release some of that aggression but in a controlled and beneficial way.

In an average 60 minute class, you can burn up to 500 calories. A karate training session uses every muscle group in the body. Your stamina, muscle tone, flexibility, balance and, strength will all improve. And if you are thinking you are too old to start training, shake your head! I started at 44 years old and there is one fellow who started when he was 50. He is now a black belt and 59 years old and still trains 3 times a week.

In karate, I found myself, or at least a big part of myself. It has been beneficial to me in ways I could never have imagined and I have no intentions of giving it up…ever…period.