What I have learned since receiving my Amerikick Black Belt?
Two years ago I was awarded my junior black belt. It was a great moment of pride and achievement. I felt rewarded for years of effort and performance. It was an accomplishment. I had reached the destination….but, not my final destination. I had been emailing my accomplishments to two friends of my father. Both have achieved black belt status in their martial art disciplines. In December of 2012, I let them know that I had earned my Junior Black Belt.
I was surprised at the first response I received from Mr. Yoshi Tsustumi in Komaki City, Japan, “Thomas, it is wonderful that you received your black belt, however, this accomplishment does not mark your destination, it marks the beginning of your Karate journey.” Interestingly, Mr. Al Magniarini, another family friend, sent me a similar response saying, “This is only the start”.
Wow! … this put a whole new perspective of where I was with Karate. They were saying that all the years working hard for my Junior Black Belt was just to get me to the starting gates of Karate experience.
For me, Karate was a form of discipline and sport. It is practiced in a controlled environment. I attend regularly and enjoy learning from Sensei Mike. He is great! I have been asked to help teach some of the younger students and this has given me confidence. I had an innocence about the achievements and the routine of attending Karate lessons……….until May 2014.
After a 2014 Spring soccer game, I stayed to play on the grounds of the soccer club in Philadelphia where we had played. Three of the opposing players asked me to play with them luring me to a remote part of the grounds. They started to throw rocks at me and then came at me with their fists. A street fight broke out. It ended as a two on one street fight. Although, I was able to defend myself somewhat and land some punches, it was not what I had expected would happen. I was left with the worst black eye that I had ever seen. I realized then that the controlled environment of the dojo versus street fighting in NE Philadelphia, are two very different things. My “Karate Journey” was obviously going to be longer than I thought. Remembering this incident left me with more determination. It is a lesson to me not to just go through the motions each time I am practicing Karate.
Two months later my karate experience took an upswing. This past July my family and I traveled to Germany. I contacted a local dojo and asked if I could attend. It was suggested that I attend a class for 14 to 18 year olds. They welcomed me to attend their Karate training in great friendship. I was very nervous. But very curious how this type of karate taught in Germany would compare to that taught in America. I was told that the style is Shodokan.
A young girl who speaks English became my partner and translator. The sensei, Sensei Peter, asked me if I would understand all the commands, since he assumed that they were given in Japanese in America too. They are not and I had to learn the Japanese commands quickly. The session was a very intensive 90 minutes. At one point Sensei Peter asked me sit and watch his class perform a Kata. Then he asked me to demonstrate a Kata that I had learned. We alternated 3 times, when the German class did a Kata and then I did a Kata from Amerikick. I hope that I represented Amerikick well. The Katas I performed were Amerikick 7. Amerikick 6, and Amerikick Short 2 .
A week later I returned and after the class Sensei Peter gave me some advice and asked me to come back next year. I plan to do so and bring my Amerikick gi with me.
I learned that as in life my Karate journey has ups and downs. There are good days and bad days. Karate has given me transferable skills in life to deal with these valleys and hills.
So…my “Karate Journey” continues ……