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Bambi and Pantomime Horse

Can you ever remember a time in your Karate journey when you thought to yourself: "God, this is hard. I am not sure that I can ever do this?" No? Well, lucky you. To be honest, I have thought that more times than I can care to remember. And what is always really interesting for me is this; whenever I watch or indeed teach people who have never done Karate before, they struggle a lot. Simple things like punching with the correct arm (remember, it is a 50/50 choice: is it left or is it right?) And as for the challenge of learning the first kata where they have to turn and change direction, it seems like a nigh on impossible task at first. And then, hour by hour, week by week, you see them beginning to get it.

Then you see them in a Karate gi, and that is where the learning really starts. I often like to think back to my early days as a young teenage boy of 14, back in 1974, where at my first ever dojo we were taught by brown belts as back then there were very few Dan grades.

I can still remember thinking at the time that the three brown belt instructors were clearly Gods who had descended from Olympus, two nights a week, to teach us mere mortals Karate. At first, we were a shambles stepping out on the wrong leg, turning in the wrong direction; at times we looked like a cross between Bambi on ice and a pantomime horse. But as the weeks moved on, those that stayed the course picked it up. And slowly but surely the training and technique, and slowly the skill, began to creep in.

And suddenly, after a few months, the first stressful, nail-biting examination took place.

In my first case, under the watchful eye of a senior famous Japanese instructor from the famous Temple Karate Club in Birmingham.

The grading took place on a hot Saturday afternoon. We were in complete awe of this man. His charisma and aura were electric and the way that he moved was amazing. I can vividly recall thinking: "God, I can never be like him!", but at the same time wanting to be like him.

And that is the thing: how do you go from walking in, not knowing your right from your left, to all those years later doing Unsu, or Gojushiho Dai? The answer, I believe, is simple dedication and commitment, coupled with a desire to want to learn which has never left me. Indeed, now as I teach more, I learn not only more about Karate and myself, but I also have come realise how much more there is to learn.


Sensei Austin

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