“Following the Martial Arts way is like scaling a cliff – continue upwards without rest. It demands absolute and unfaltering devotion to the task at hand.” Sometimes I think of this motto by Sosai Masutatsu Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin Karate, because this motto fits indeed very well with how I experience Kyokushin. To me karate is as precisely as hard as scaling a cliff! You see I have social phobia, meaning I have problems with body contact and Kyokushin is a full contact Martial Art, but it’s not only full contact when you fight but also when you do certain exercises. Also Kyokushin Karate has been a male-dominated sport but nowadays more women are coming to the dojos so maybe one day in the near future it will be as many women as men there : ) That’s good for me because I’m scared of men since someone I’m acquainted with got stalked and raped and I got very affected by that event.
Anyway, once we were training self-defense in the dojo and that was why I started to train karate. I can’t remember now how I pictured it would be, but I certainly probably never imagined the exercise my head instructor told me to do with a man there when I recently had started to train back in the fall of 2010. He showed us first with one of the other students how you should do the exercise. That one was supposed to lie on the back on the floor while the other one was going to sit on top of his tummy, grabbing the person who was lying in his Gi (the karate clothes) and pretending to hit him with the other hand. The person who was lying was going to pull up his knee and move his hip upwards and push away the other person in order to get away.
The clock was around 9:00 pm, the lessons normally ended that time, when the head instructor asked one of the other men if he could do that exercise with me and of course he answered yes. I thought that I was going to die when I realized what I had to do! Since the clock was so much maybe I thought that he was just showing, not that we actually had to do it! But I endured and did that exercise with a man I hardly knew. After all, that was what brought me to the dojo in the first place, to learn how to physically protect myself and in order to do that I know that I must step outside my comfort zone. By the way, if feels like I do that all the time when I’m in the dojo : ) Later I understood that the instructor had asked me in a nice way if I was willing to do that exercise. I guess I was too nervous or too scared to get it, that he actually had wondered if it was okay for me. I misunderstood him so that was why I agreed to do that exercise with a stranger. People say it’s easy to misunderstand each other if you send texts or emails but it’s easy to misunderstand a person in real life too : )
Kyokushin is also the strongest karate in the world. I have an eating disorder that I try to get well from so I’m not strong. It feels like I don’t have any strength at all in my legs and there are lots of exercises where you have to have leg strength to be able to do them correctly, but I think that mine has vanished. I guess I should eat more spinach so I get as strong as Popeye : )
I’m glad that I’m a person that does not give up in the first try because otherwise I would have been long gone by now. Then I guess I would have left the dojo and never looked back already after my first lesson. Everything was so new and difficult for me! The instructors talk Japanese when they tell us which techniques you should do. I got confused right away when I heard those strange words! At my first lesson my instructor told us to do sit-ups and count to ten on Japanese while we did that.
When I heard the others count one by one while we did this exercise, I started to feel desperate trying to remember the words on the papers that I had gotten a couple of days earlier when I went there to just watch them train. I wondered if I was supposed to have learned all that stood there in such a short space of time! Eventually it was my turn to count. “Ichi, Ni, San, Shi…” I think that that was the only numbers I had managed to learn back then. Then the instructor said that I could say the rest in Swedish but it felt like I had forgotten my own language too since I don’t like to talk in front of others : )
And one of the exercises we had to do then was to stand on your hands. You know when you stand upside down with the legs against another person’s outspread arm. First of all you must trust the other person if you are going to do that and I find it hard to trust people. Second you must be strong. I didn’t wear a Gi since you can train in ordinary clothes when you are a beginner, so I put my jumper inside my trousers, meaning I looked like Steve Urkel : ) because I had no intention to show my tummy there : ) I did my best but I didn’t manage to do that exercise, I felt like a worthless twerp : )
Despite all my problems I continued to go to the dojo. Later I let the instructors know about my problems and they haven’t shown me anything else but understanding and kindness : ) Since Kyokushin can be hard to train at times I believe that many can get the feeling of giving up when the feet start to hurt, the knuckles bleed and when the body is sore from the hard training. I believe the key to continue training is to have the right motivation. I wouldn’t have trained karate if I just wanted to stay healthy, then I would have chosen some easier training like walking or jogging. What motivates me is that I want to be able to defend myself so therefore I still train Kyokushin. I managed to earn my blue belt (8 kyu) just before Christmas 2011. Here in Sweden you can only take the karate test if you have trained at least three months and taken part in at least 25 classes. When it comes to higher grades there are stricter rules. As far as the technical standard Sweden is far ahead.
I think I have become addicted to Kyokushin since I use to train here at home by myself. Then my cats watch me sometimes and it’s almost like having an instructor watching you because they follow every move I do : )