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Sensei's Story

This blog has covered so many topics. From where our school got its name, to teaching, to history lessons. The one thing this blog has yet to do is get a little personal with it's

Karate is a highly individual sport, as are most martial arts. Because of this, everyones journey is like a finger print. Not a single one is the same, no matter how hard you try and compare.

My journey started when I was just 3 years old. My aunt had a cousin who owned a branch of a franchise you may have heard of...United Family Martial Arts (UFMA). So my parents figured "what the heck" and threw me in there. Because I was so young, I started of in the kinder program (similar to our Cubs here at LH). THis program was geared to those students aged 3-6 and focused mainly on motor skills and character skills like focus and listening. I only got to my kinder yellow belt before I was moved up into the Kids program where I continued my journey to black belt.

I don't remember if I took an immediate liking to the sport of if I was one of those kids that was too shy to get on the floor week after week. According to my parents I fell kind of in the middle of those two options. I do, however, have one vivid memory of me with my little yellow belt, sitting on the table top with my parents putting my shoes on. I was crying because I didnlt want to be in class (class hadn't ended yet) and they were telling me that if I kept this up, they would just pull me from karate altogether. Apparently that wasn't my first melt down about being in class but boy am I ever thankful that they never pulled me out!

As a kinder yellow belt and being part of what we can call a "chain school", we did a lot of events. Demos at festivals, special events at public venues, demos at high schools. There were so many things going on all the time and I was lucky enough to be a small part of them. I don't really remember too much about them but I have picture proof so that counts right?

Eventually my Sensei and his partner bought out that branch of UFMA and re-branded the school with thier own name, Family Martial Arts (FMA). This is where most of my memories lie since I was a little bit older, but I'll be honest with you, they are still pretty fuzzy. At some point before I got old enough to be an advanced belt, the partnered ownership ended and one of my Sensei left the school (this is an important note for later).

In the next 9 years of my training I had gotten really close with a lot of my classmates. Some of them I already knew through school, some I had met through karate, but either way, there was a select group of us that had basically become family. We would spend our Saturdays at the dojo when we were old enough to be there most of the day alone. Our parents would drop us off and leave for a few hours becasue there were so many classes that we could to. We would bring lunch and homework for the classes in between ours that we couldn't do or the wones that we were going to skip that week. This is probably one of my FAVOURITE memories from my karate journey.

Lets skip forward to the age of 12 where I am at the stage of being ready to go for my Jr. black belt. The reason it is Jr. is because I was under the age of 16 at the time. Everyone from my close group of friends were a rank or two behind me so I was the only one ourof that group training for black that year. Don't get me wrong, I had freinds that I had grown up training with but it wasn't anyone that I had gotten close with so it really wasn't the same.

The way training for your black belt went at our dojo was like this. Once every 3 months starring in March (so March, June, September, December) we had a 2 hour test. At the beggining of each of these tests, we had a timed run. Let me tell you, running was NOT my forte and if you didn't meet your time, your test was over right there and you had to wait until the next year to try again. Luckily, I had a great support system that helped my prep for these tests.

Each black belt eligable student picked a mentor at the beginning of the year, some of us picked the same mentor which means we worked in groups. My group was a group of 10 and by the end of the year, we had become a solid team. I chose my mentor based on a lot of things but mainly because Mr. Whitehouse was a HUGE part of why I stayed in karate all these years. Our group would meet twice a week. Once on Saturdays after classes and once on Sundays for a run. Saturdays meeting was about an hour long and it was where we focused souly on black belt training. Picking things apart, cardio, sparring, kata...everything right down to the bare basics of karate.

Than came test time. Each test had a different theme. March was basics, June was Kata, September was sparring and December, which was 4 hours long, was a mix of it all, including self-defence. After everything was said and done, were were black belts. Now, I don;t remember a lot from my first degree. Maybe its because I was young, maybe because I was so focused on just getting through it, maybe a combo of both. Either way, there are 2 memories that stick out to me from that year.

Memory #1: The freaking pushups! So, out Sensei at the beginning of my very first test, asked for a simple 50 pushups as part of our warm-up. Now, at the time, 50 pushups was considered nothing. Easy. So long as we did them properly. Well, the student that he had count them out, wasn't doing them properly and every time he was caught not doing them right, we had to start back from 0. By the time we were done, we had done over 200. Oh, and we never even got to 50. Sensei got fed up with how much time it was waisting. Needless to say, the rst of the test was....interesting.

Memory #2 is a little happier. I just remember sitting there after that last 4 hour test. We were all sitting in a circle. Chatting. We were all exhausted. Gross. Sweaty. And I leadned back on my arms because I just couldn't hold myself up anymore, and my arms started to shake. To the point where it was visible. That was when I thought to myself "wow you earned this". My mentor was sitting a few poeple over from me. He had tested for his 3rd degree that year. I looked over at hime and that was when I made the decision to myself that I wanted to follow directly in his footsteps.

Into the new year, after eveyrhting had settled, I decided I wanted to join the leadership team. It was something I wanted to do earlier in my journey but with black belt training, I thought it would have been too much so I held off until it was over. Joining the leadership team turned out to be one of the best dicisions I could have ever made. It gave me a lot of the skills I have today, it has helped my in serching for jobs as a teen, and without it, I wouldn't have dicovered my love of teaching and I wouln't be where I am today.

Now, we are going to fast forward a year or so and I've done my training and my classes and my waiting and I am qualified to start training for my Jr. Second degree. And the process is the exact same EXCPET, I do not have to participate in the final 4 hour test, just the other three. I have a different mentor this year and it is just me and one other fellow student. I got through the first 2 tests of the year and I was 2 weeks out from the last test. I had pulled a hamstring pretty bad while I was playing soccer and there were a few things I couldn't do in class until my injury healed. Now this is where my karate journey almost came to an end. There was a lack of communication and understanding about my injury and, well to keeo it short, my Sensei was not happy about certain things and it got very messy. I had left class crying, sent my mother in for my gear bag and I had never set foot back in that dojo again.

Everyone tried to convince me to just finish my test, get my second degree and than make a decision but I was too stubborn. I spent the next 4 years, so all of high school, focusing on just school and soccer. I had figured my karate days were over. Unfortunatley my choice to quit also caused my brother and sister to quit thier journey too. For me, that was even more heart breaking than quitting my own.

Than came a day where my mom ran into my mentor, Mr. Whitehouse, at Walmart of oddly enough. Our families had always been close. I grew up with him as a Sensei so it wasn't "just some teacher". I guess they had chatted and my mom found out that he had left FMA as well and he was teaching and training in the next town over. Now, remember earlier how I had said the partners split? Well this dojo in the next town was that of said partner! So in other words, my older Sensei that I was too young to remember had opened his own school after he left and my once mentor/Sensei/family friend was now there with him.

After finding all of this out, my mom had come home to tell me about it and asked if me and my sister wanted to go check it out. By this time I was 17/18 years old. I had been telling my mom for the last year or so that I wanted to get back into karate but I didn't want to go back to the place I had left. When this opprotunity came up, I couldn't pass it over and apparently neither could my sister. So, we popped by on a Saturday and right then and there we signed up and we started classes the next week.

We had joined just in time of that years black belt training cycle. After the first week or so I had made a few friends. Two of which were training that year. One of them for thier second degree. I went out on a lib after a few weeks and asked my Sensei if it was too late to join the black belt group this year. He knew I had a lot of work to do, new things to learn, and old things to catch up on but he had total fait in me and so it began, My journey to second degree.

This time around, things were a little different. We started training in May with 1 test in September, October, November, and December. They followed the same themes but this time, I was exempt from the first 3 test and honly had to worry about the final 4 hour test. And the runs were longer in distance this time around as well. Students didnt' pick individual mentors, we were all in a mandatory class under a team of mentors and thankfully Mr. Whitehouse was one of them. I got through the year with a lot of worry and struggle. I was new, there were new things, new ways of doing things, and I had just taken 4 years off of training. There were a lot of times where I doubted that I would pass this year. But thankfully I had the best friends and family for support. By the end of 2015 I had me second degree.

In that past year I had jumped onto the leadership team in hopes of working towards lead Sensei status. After getting my second degree, with a little more time on the leadership team, my Sensei had granted me exactly that. This is where I really fell in love with teaching. Being able to choose what I wanted to teach to each class, being souly responsible for the quality of learning in each class that I was a different feeling of being able to help students learn and grow.

I spent the next two years training and teaching and playing soccer and working and getting through collage. I went to South Africa at one point (see "Lion's Heart FMA...A History"). I started doing more research and watching videos and understand more about the theory and history behind karate so that I could better myself and my teaching abilities for the students. Than came the time that I was eligable for my third degree. I had made a TON of friendships in the last 3 or 4 years of being at Bishops and it just so happened that the friends that I had made while being there were all training for black belt this time. It was supposed to be an epic year for the group of us..but when does life ever go the way tou planned it?

There were a total of 6 of us in our little group. Some younger but it was like us older ones had taken them under our wing. But about halfway through the process we lost 2 people. One being my best friend to this very day, due to injury, and the other because they weren't quite ready. They both ended up quitting karate all together which took a toll on the group that was left. In fact, one of our group members was my little sister. She was going for her Jr. black belt while I was going for my third degree. With everyone quitting, she was worried she wouldn't have it in her to finsh either. But karate was something we grew up doing together. It bonded us together in a way. With some time and conversation, I managed to convince her that she would be just fine. So her, myself, and 2 others put out heads down, trained hard and got through the year. I remember once the last test was over, there was this massive group hug and everyone was all teary and sweaty and exhuasted but I could have been prouder of my sister and our friends.

And here we are. I still traing at my dojo with my friends, I teach there once or twice a week. I am still learning, growing, and working towards my 4th degree. My Sensei had given me his blessing to open up my school and that's exactly what I did. A years and a half later we are a growing school but we are dedicated to being there for our students the way my Sensei and mentors had all me there for me.

And that is my story.

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