When my oldest son started struggling with wanting to go to his regular karate class, I was desperate for a solution to keep him going. His martial arts practice had helped him in so many ways — including with self-control, patience, and perseverance, but he kept insisting his dad and I didn’t understand how hard it was for him.
Half-jokingly, I asked if it would help him if mommy joined karate too, and to my horror he said yes. While I originally said yes to show him that it’s OK to try new things and feel silly, I’ve ended up learning so much about myself and am actually having fun in the process.
The dojo’s sensei was super kind and welcoming getting me started, but I struggled to see myself as some sort of real karate student. I ended up just doing the cardio-focused classes for a couple of months until one day my sensei gently but firmly suggested I join a “proper” class one of these days.
The first covid-related shutdown happened just as I signed up, so I’d never gotten an in-person class and was strictly virtual. I didn’t think I’d be able to learn not being in person, but figured I had to give it a go as I was asking the same of my son.
I certainly felt silly those first few classes. From my stiff, scratchy uniform to my inability to tell left from right, my son had a good laugh at my expense. But he also got to see me trying my best. And trying again when I messed up. He got to see me stick with something even though I found it difficult. And I got to see myself persevere. He got to see himself as my teacher, going over moves between classes. I got to see my plus-sized body move in ways I didn’t think it could, beyond the arbitrary limits I had set for myself.
Slowly but surely I started getting the hang of the basics, and I felt less and less like an imposter. During the break between lockdowns I was able to make it into the dojo for a few in-person classes, where I was able to really correct my form and sharpen my skills.
I felt even more embarrassed in person than I did doing online classes, but my teacher and the other students were nothing but welcoming and helpful. I learned to let go and stop thinking, and have discovered an almost meditative aspect to karate classes.
Eventually I was invited to test and earned my yellow belt, and have since also earned my orange belt. I think I’m getting close to testing for my next belt soon. While I originally said yes to karate to appease my son, I’m learning a lot about myself (while having fun.)
I’ve learned that I can do more than I give myself credit for, if only I’d try. I’ve confirmed that it’s OK to look silly and try new things — I have the most laughs that way. I’ve learned that I too possess the patience and perseverance required for the sport, as I’ve recently passed my one-year anniversary. I’ve learned to set lofty goals for myself — one being to earn my black belt before I turn 40 — and to ask for (and accept) help achieving them. I’ve learned to throw a proper punch and now have a decent round kick.
I’ve made friends with other students who’ve graciously showed me the ropes and answered my endless questions. My sensei has become a confidante and partner in helping keep my son focused and interested in his own practice, while also guiding my practice.
I’ve also learned that I can tell my left from my right, if I don’t overthink things. And I’ve learned that you’re never too old, too green, too *insert excuse here* to try new things. You might just even enjoy it!