The Lighting of the Candle

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Have you ever had something change you? Well I have, can you guess what it was? I guess not—it was karate. I know you are thinking, “How in the world can karate change someone?” Karate isn’t just a physical sport, it’s also mental. It allows you to set goals that could be for the sport and also help you in the real world.

It all started with a flyer that was passed out in my class when I was in elementary school. It caught my eye like the perfect present under the Christmas tree. When I got home, I mentioned it to my mom. She seemed interested too; she said something like, “hmm… Shawnee hasn’t really had something like this before.” A few weeks went by and I had the form and money for the class in my backpack. The karate candle was lit.

There were people in their own little groups waiting for the class to start. As I assumed would be the case, there were more boys then girls. It seemed like we were at a private school, because we all had the same form of outfit. As I looked at my reflection, I saw shorts, a t-shirt, and gym shoes, and, like the other girls, my hair was pulled back. Then, as I wandered back to reality, I heard a voice saying, “Let’s all line up.” But it didn’t sound like a familiar voice. As I turned around I saw a short women, short black hair, and in a very different uniform. It was called a ghi and had a patch on the left side, and she also seemed to have some sort of black belt on. But it wasn’t a regular belt you wear to hold up your pants. It was thick black silk and had strange-looking purple writing on it. As we got into class, she explained her uniform. It all seemed so interesting to me.

During the class we learned certain movements, a form called a kata, which is a lot of movements put together. We also learned the history of the type of karate we were doing. We learned one take-down. A take-down is something you do when someone is going after you with a certain move; then you actually take them down. Last, but not least, we learned to count in Japanese. I think that was one of my favorite parts. I love learning new languages. But as class came to an end, my instructor said, “Class, it’s come to the time that our ceremony will be taking place.” I could feel the rush of excitement through the gymnasium. The ceremony is when we would be tested on the things we had learned during class and if we passed, we would all get our white belt! One step closer to the golden goal; the first class I started I knew this sport was meant for me. As the instructor continued, “It will not be taking place at Shawnee. It will be taking place at where I work: it’s called Buckner Martial Arts. If any of your parents have any questions for me about the ceremony or paper I will be handing out, please have them call me.”

It was Saturday morning, but it wasn’t any Saturday morning in my world. It was the morning I would be tested for my white belt. I got up and got in my regular outfit that I would usually wear to class. As my mom drove through the parking lot, I had so many questions on my mind. Will I pass and get my white belt? Will my mom let me continue with it? Will I like the main place? As I walked out of the car I already started observing the place, like a first impression of people. The place, called a dojo, was next to a LaRosa’s. The building was brick, with big windows on both sides. As I walked in, I noticed a big room with benches and counter desk with all the stuff you needed or wanted for the sport behind it. On the side of both of the walls there was one door for each room that connected it to two more big rooms for classes that took place. They also had big windows so parents could watch the class while it was taking place. Then, there was a hall that led to the back to the girls and boys locker room. As I walked into one of the big class rooms, the floor was matted. A bunch of people were there. Some I did knew; others I didn’t, like my instructor and my classmates, and parents. But, for some reason there were other instructors. Some were around my instructor’s age, some were older and some were younger. I learned why later on. As the ceremony went on, it seemed to get easier and easier for me. I got called on to answer one of the questions. It was something we had reviewed in class, so I could answer it. I felt proud when the head instructor, called the shihan, said “good.” But, unlike the other instructors, he was wearing a black ghi with gold seams. He seemed like pretty nice person. Who knew I was going to be spending a lot of my time around him and his daughter Stephanie? I felt a big accomplishment when the shihan said, “Congratulations, you have all passed.” After we got our belts, my mom got pictures, and as I look back, it shows the beginning of my adventure.
I tell my mom I want to continue and she signs me up before we leave.

So, as I continue with my big karate adventure, I have a break in the action and start to get bored with it. The candle flame was flickering. But it’s not surprising that I did. I always have been someone who has to try new things. I was the verge of quitting when the head instructor, Shihan, asked me to come back and join his competition team. Being asked to join the team was an honor, and you could only be on the team if he asked you— there were no try outs or anything. So, I gave it some thought and decided, “What is the harm in trying it out?” Turns out that I liked the team. There was a big range of ages. Some were as young as 6, others were as old as 17. The only thing was, there were a lot more guys then girls. There were probably only like 3 or 4 girls out of 15 people. The instructor who taught the class was Stephanie. She was strict, but that made the team so successful. As I kept on the team I was working my way up the chain for my black belt. Being on the team really got me ahead for my black belt test, because the kata I was doing for competitions was the kata I had to do for my testing. As black belt testing came around, I had done my kata over 100 times, and gone to so many private lessons, spent most of my week at the dojo, broke boards I could probably do in my sleep, won ribbons and trophies in lots of tournaments, even the national tournament, and sparred with people who were twice my size. The flame in my candle seemed bright and endless. I was surely prepared. My black belt testing came and went in a blink of an eye. It seems like my white belt testing was harder then my black belt one was.

But, my interest in the sport starting fading, like a candle flame going out. I was missing out on the stuff my friends were doing. I had missed lots of birthday parties and sleepovers. I had even forgotten what relaxing was. My life was on the fast forward mode. So, as I gradually dragged, not wanting to go to class, competition team, or to the dojo in general, I knew it was time to quit. I remember the day. It was a Saturday morning when I had competition class. I got all ready, but it seemed harder to get ready. It was the day my mom had to go in and take the team picture because we just finished a tournament the weekend before. Before, we even left the house, I burst out crying. I had reached my limit. But now that I look back on it, I don’t regret anything I did and was proud of what I achieved. I will always remember the people there and how they warmed my heart every time I walked into that dojo door. Even though I had some tough times, karate made me who I am today and I will always carry the things I learned there, like a candle glowing softly within me.





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