Last week, as part of my all-encompassing plan to better myself as a whole instead of making a New Year’s resolution, I visited a local karate class to see if the style would suit my wants, needs and expectations. Since I’m not here to endorse any one given school or style, I’ll keep what school I visited to myself until I’ve officially joined and have decided to stay in. Although I HAD been training at a local karate school since 2016, the pandemic put a chink in that when restrictions hit and the school was forced to close its doors. At one point, they compromised by having classes over Zoom, which wasn’t great but it kept us all seeing each other and practicing techniques as a group instead of training alone.
The Zoom classes topped without notice and when i inquired about it, I was told they had halted and we would be returning to classes in September. I was happy but also a bit curious as to why I hadn’t been advised. The school opened back up, albeit in limited numbers and with increased restrictions on paired training and direct contact. Fair enough, I could work with that. We got through about a week’s worth of class before the Provincial association that oversees that dojo decided to shut us down due to increased case numbers in Saskatchewan and further restrictions. That was last September. Now, even with most dojos operating, I haven’t heard anything from the school or even know if classes are happening.
On the one side, I could just suck it up and reach out to them. But there’s something tickling the back of my mind about the fact that I was overlooked on the group email that discussed the end of Zoom classes and the start of in-person training. For years, the head instructor’s wife included me on a group email that went out to all students whenever there were cancellations, plans or events. So, it isn’t as though she simply didn’t have my email address or contacts. It’s left a bit of a sour taste and since the basic fundamentals of that style didn’t mix well with mine, I’ve decided it’s simply easier to seek out a new dojo.
I visited a local karate school with a style that’s closely related to my own. There is a school of Uechi Ryu in Alberta, which would be easier than flying 3,400 kilometres to go home for the possibility that Sensei would accommodate me. But I’d still find myself travelling for about 7 to 8 hours by car, would need to take days off of work and leave my wife and children behind as I do. How often could I do that before the cost and the toll would begin to be too much? So, I’m back to the thought of starting over, somewhere else. With that in mind, last Wednesday, I walked into the dojo and introduced myself to a young black belt who was sitting at the door.
Through our conversation, I was honest about the fact that I held a black belt in another style. My preference would have been to keep that information to myself, but he asked if I had trained before and what rank I had obtained. Given my personal policy of honesty, I answered truthfully. When the head instructor arrived, she asked all the same questions and explained that it was up to me how I chose to train; I could wear my black belt and they would integrate me and within a couple of years I could continue on my black belt voyage. Or, I could start from scratch as a white belt but I was warned of how long it would potentially take for me to once again reach black belt grade. Ultimately, not matter what colour is around my waist, I was there to learn.
I was asked why I didn’t bring a gi, to which I answered I preferred to observe a class to see how well I would potentially fit in to how they trained. I was given a place to sit and class begun. I was a bit concerned over the fact that class was only an hour in length. I was raised with classes no shorter than two hours and I had difficulty picturing how they would cover enough material in that amount of time. The previous school I trained in had classes that lasted an hour and a half but they spent 30 to 40 minutes of that time on stretches and warm-ups (which should be done by the practitioner BEFORE class), which pretty much cripple their available time.
I was impressed to see that they spent a brief 10 minutes of calisthenics and warm-ups before moving on to actual, structured techniques and forms. They focused the majority of their time on forms, doing them slowly, quickly, individually and together by count. So comprehensive were they, that I caught myself leaning forward in my seat in anticipation of getting on the floor with them. I found myself trying to analyze their katas and predict their movements. Without trying and without skipping a beat, I became vested in their training and was suddenly immersed. When the hour was done they closed out the class and they were all breathing hard, which is how practitioners should be, after training.
I was totally sold and I told them I would return for the following night’s class. And then life happened… On the following morning, which was a Thursday, I was driving down the main strip on my way to work when I received a warning message on my dashboard that said “SERVICE STABILITRAK.” What the fuck is Stabilitrak??? This was followed by another message that said “TRACTION CONTROL DISABLED” and “ENGINE POWER REDUCED.” What the hell is going on??? Bearing in mind that it was about -50 degrees Celsius with the wind chill, I wasn’t entirely surprised at the vehicle having difficulties.
But the reduction in power caused the vehicle to be unable to go much faster than about 30 km/h. I was driving in a 50 km/h zone, so you can imagine the plethora of car horns and middle fingers I was subjected to, during this time. Don’t believe all the hype about Canadian friendliness. It ain’t all maple syrup and Timbits! I managed to make it into work, albeit much slower than usual. I took a few moments to search online for the messages I received and confirmed that it could be some significant issues with the accelerator assembly and that I should get it looked at. I managed to book an appointment for 8:45 that morning. The current time was 8:20.
I updated my boss about my short-term absence and drove to the repair shop and dropped off my vehicle. I was told that they had vehicles that were brought in the previous day that they hadn’t looked at yet and that I would need to leave my car with them for the entire day. I was a little pissed about the fact I had scheduled an appointment and now it wasn’t being honoured, but the vehicle needed to be checked over so I took advantage of their shuttle service and made my way home, where I worked remotely for the remainder of the day.
It was a little after 4 pm when they finally called to say the repairs were completed. I asked for their shuttle to come pick me up, which I was told would take upwards of an hour. By the time I reached the repair shop, it was about 5:30 pm and then i had to fill the tank, putting me back home at about 6 pm. Then, supper had to be made to feed the kids and my oldest had a batch of addition flashcards sent home by his teacher since he was apparently unable to perform basic math when asked. Lovely. Where I’m going with this is that I didn’t make karate class, which is unfortunate as I was hoping to see how well my gi fit after gaining my COVID gut.
Here we are on Sunday, and the next class is tomorrow. I’m trusting the fates to make it possible for me to attend without throwing any other monkey wrenches into my gears. After the last few years I’ve had, it would be nice if life would stop kicking me when I’m down. Hopefully, with a bit of effort and luck, I can make it to karate on Monday and start a new leg of my martial arts journey without any further issue. Here’s hoping… ☯️