What was my choice? It was whether or not I wanted to join Shorin Ryu Karate. I was indecisive for a while, so I weighed my options. First I thought about the positive outcome of karate - self-defense, the release of stress, the chance to meet new people, coordination, and the opportunity to learn about a different culture and language. Then I thought of the downfalls, and I could only name two - the money, and the extensive conditioning of the body.
The money wasn't my biggest concern, rather it was the fear of body conditioning which is the slow process to prepare the body to absorb a strike or apply a block without hurting the other person. We do this through striking the floor with our hands, fists, toes, and balls of the feet. Another way to condition is by doing partner walking drills, in which we fully block and strike each other.
There is an endless number of drills, basics, for our system of karate. A few are kata, one step sparring, body change, sparring, and the forty basics, which we do at the beginning of every class. They're the forty basic moves and combinations of our system.
Next is kata, also known as forms. Kata is simulated fighting without a partner. I know only three katas, but there are many more.
Kicking and punching drills are used to strengthen and coordinate our hands, feet, arms, and legs. They can be stationary, walking, stationary with a person holding a shield, walking with a person holding a shield, or what ever Sensei Gagne can think of.
Body change and one step sparring are next, which you learn at the same time. Body change is the process by which Shorin Ryu students learn to move out of the way of an attack. One step sparring is when one person will attack another, whether a punch, a kick or both, and the student will need to counter the attack. Sometimes this means using body change. This whole concept may sound extremely easy but it is much harder.
Finally when we fully apply all of these, we call it sparring. Sparring is when two people (or sometimes more people for upper ranks), get in a taped-out ring and apply their knowledge - they fight. But they do not go wild and try to hurt another, they fight with technique. Yet we do not play tag, if we see an opening, we take it.
I made a choice - and it turned into a passion, a need, a way of life. Even though I have only been doing karate for a short time, I feel this way and everyone at the dojo does too. If you ask anyone in the Okinawan Temple what Shorin Ryu Karate is, they will say it is a way of life. This is why I, and all the other students under Fusie Kise, are so dedicated. l
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.