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Karate: Not Enough Hours In The Day In The Good Old USA!

Do you find that you have a favorite time of the day for doing Karate? Some people are night owls and love nothing more than popping on the gi after a long hard day at work. Whatever shape work happens to be, there is no doubt about it that after a particularly tough and stressful day, you cannot beat that great feeling of having gone to the dojo, been pushed as hard as you could, and then a bit harder again, until you step off the dojo floor with your gi wringing wet, knowing darn well that you had given it your all and although exhausted you just feel alive and, well, just great.

To be honest, I tend to find that I feel equally good, be it after training at night mid-week, or in the afternoon at the weekend. The truth is, it does not really matter, so long as you are turning up, putting in the best shift that you can, having a nice hot shower while sharing banter with the lads, or indeed lasses, and then going home knowing that you have lived the day to the full.

Someone asked me once: "Can you ever do too much Karate in a day or a week?" Interesting question, and I suppose that it depends on the individual.

However, I recall that as a fresh-faced twenty-one year old, I had a job teaching Karate at a summer school in northern New York. The deal was that as young European students, if you fancied an adventure, you could apply to be a 'counsellor' as they were known, for two months in camps all over the USA, so long as you had a particular skill or sport that you could teach.

I was a brown belt back in 1981, and at university, where I helped teach in the club dojo, the truth was that I really fancied something different. So I applied, and was interviewed by two nice American lads called Chad and Brad, and then offered a place. So, there I was suddenly in a YMCA in downtown Manhattan, from where I was dispatched the next day, on a four hour drive north, on a Greyhound Bus, to a place called the Adirondack Mountains, nestling close to the Canadian border.

It was a camp in the middle of nowhere. Truly, the nearest town was an hour's walk, and the whole camp was utterly isolated. It was a mini village, self-sufficient in every respect.

My job was to teach Karate for five hours a day, five days a week for two months. The kids we were teaching ranged from 6 to 16. Most of them had absolutely no interest in Karate whatsoever. This meant that we had to be imaginative to get them to engage, which we did.

On the positive, there were 5 of us teaching Karate from three different styles, Shotokan, Shukokai and Wado-Ryu. We were an eclectic mix: 1 Scot, 2 English lads, 1 Welsh lad, and a German gentleman who was older than virtually everyone else by far, and was skilled in several martial arts including Kenpo, and as a former soldier, proper self-defence techniques.

Yes, a mixed bag, but we all loved martial arts, so we trained together every day, sharing our skills, sharpening our speed and in the process getting uber-skilled, as all we did was train and teach.

And then, one day, we were asked if we would like to take part in a Karate competition with some guys from a club at what turned out to be the nearest town, which was one hour's drive away.

Well, it was manna from heaven. "You bet!" we said and so it was arranged. The date was set for the second last Saturday and it was to be held at a school.

So we boarded the bus and when we arrived, I could not believe it. There were hundreds of people there. All had turned up looking forward to see the good old USA kick some Limey/European butt.

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, despite utterly biased refereeing, we beat the daylights out of them in both individual Kumite and gloriously in the team Kumite. It was an undisputed 5 - nil.

Point is that when all you are doing is Karate for 5 hours a day, five days a week and you are 21, you are going to be super sharp, no matter what time of the day or night it is.

Great memories and I would not hesitate in recommending the experience to anyone who fancies being adventurous, after all life is too short.


Sensei Austin

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