Thursday, May 24, 2012


When I was considering taking up karate, one of the things I told Sensei Laurie was that I was not looking to train to compete. I did not want to be fighting with someone. I didn't want to train with the intention of hurting someone. I just wanted to be able to feel the ability to protect myself if I had to and to learn the Martial Way.

Before I started karate, training was something I did by myself. When I started out in my fitness program, I trained by working out with my Bowflex and on my treadmill. I never considered anything in the way of group training. For some reason, training was something I kept to myself and did on my own. I think I was hiding from others and to some degree, myself. At that time, weighing almost 300 pounds, I felt embarrassed to go into a fitness store to look at workout gear or equipment. I bought my Bowflex online and our first treadmill from Canadian Tire.

I confess I still don't understand why I felt the way I did back then. Maybe it was like admitting in public to the fact that I was in poor condition. I was demeaning myself by this admission. It was a tough thing for me to get over. Maybe get past is a more accurate way to put it. So I hid in my basement, working out on my Bowflex and walking more than running on my treadmill.

It has been over three years now since I started out on that treadmill and two years since starting karate at Sakura Martial Arts Academy. Training is now such an important part of my life, I just couldn't imagine going without it.

On weekdays, because of work hours, my morning starts very early. I am up at about 4:50 a.m. I head for the basement and start my day with a light 20 minute workout that consists mostly of stretches along with knee, hip and abdominal exercises. By 5:20 I am on the road on my way into work. I have considered doing a bit of running during my lunch break but instead, I have chosen to use this time to lose myself in a good book for a few minutes. A little bit of escapism you could say.

When my working day ends, I am on my way home, or running whatever little errands need to be run before heading home. As soon as I am home, I change into my running gear and I am out on the road, rain or shine. Mondays and Wednesdays are karate nights so on those night my run is a bit shorter.

On weekends, or at least normal weekends (I sometimes find myself spending my Saturday at work) I don't get up so early. Sometimes, depending on how the week has gone (and whether or not I stayed up late to watch a movie) I will sleep in to 10:00. This is followed by my long run, 15K minimum, depending on what I am training for at the time.

These days I just can't imagine not training for something even though training doesn't always go as planned. Recently I had to miss participating in a Gasshuku (a gathering of Karateka for a tournament and seminars) because of obligations at work and most recently, I was quite sure I was going to be put out of my half marathon race at the Ottawa race weekend because I re-injured my knee again, but I believe I am going to be ready anyway. I just have to accept these little challenges and setbacks and move on. Sometimes it can be very frustrating and sometimes even a bit scary, but what real choice is there? You can just stop and hide or choose the best path you can and progress as best as you can.

Participating in karate tournaments and races is not what I train for. I have done both and enjoyed the experience. When participating in a karate tournament, I know no I am not there to participate in a fight, I am there to learn. At the dojo when we practice sparring, we sometimes go at it pretty hard. But I know my opponent isn't there to knock me to the floor, he or she is there to teach me. It is safe, and under these circumstances, it is quite a bit of fun. I participated in a practice sparring bout with Senpai Julie recently. Julie is a second degree black belt. We went at it for about 3 minutes. At the end of those 3 minutes I was ready to drop to the floor. If points were being counted, I am sure it would have been something like 20 to 1 for Julie. If the match had been real, I would have been on the floor to stay in a couple of seconds. As it was, I learned and I really enjoyed the experience. I have the opportunity to train with some very skilled people who know how to train, who know how to make you work for it. It's a great experience and an incredible workout.

This type of training with my karate has shown me how much a person can learn when training with others. There is just no substitute for having someone share their knowledge and experience with you. Not to mention the camaraderie of working really hard with a group of people who are doing the same thing. When I finish a karate class, I always go away feeling like I have accomplished something, feeling like I just shared part of myself with a group of like-minded people who are interested. It keeps me coming back for more as often as I can.

When I am in a race, I am not there to beat the guy next to me, I'm not there to walk away with a big trophy (not that this will happen). I'm there for the experience. At the Army Run last year there were over 10,000 people lined up at the starting line. People of all different levels of ability. People in specially designed wheel chairs. People of all different ages. The feeling of standing there among this throng of humanity and surging across the starting line was a real rush. Running through the streets of Ottawa, past the Parliament Buildings, down the Parkway with all of these people around you. WOW!

As I work on this post, I am one week away from the Ottawa race weekend. I am nervous, a bit apprehensive but also looking forward to the challenge. I have trained hard for this. I have had to do quite a few of my training runs at night after getting home from a long day at work. I have completely missed a few training runs along with a few karate classes because of other commitments. I have had to deal with injury again and again. But I have learned from it. Sometimes not right away. Sometimes it takes going through the emotional reaction before I can see the lesson to be learned, but once I can calm myself down, I can usually see the lesson.

At this point my main focus is to be healthy and ready for this next big race. If I can cross the finish line in reasonable condition - as in not in pain - I will start upping my training and target a full marathon for this year. Right now I am looking at the Prince Edward County marathon in October. Of course there is the Iaido seminar in June I hope to attend and I am working hard at my kata practice for my karate.

So it never ends. Training has become a way of life for me. I may be very late coming to it, but nevertheless, here I am. All I need is a little more time (there's that word again) to get it all in and to spend some quiet nights looking through my telescope at worlds far away in time and distance. I wonder how they deal with training issues?

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