Unfortunately for me, I had foreseen the start of what would eventually be sure to come, and as it so happens, last week I was finally forced to send out this particular e-mail to my Gordon’s Bay Funakoshi Karate International South Africa sensei, Birgitt Smit:
Hi Sensei Birgitt and Gert
Unfortunately, as much as it pains me to do so, I need to step back from karate for the foreseeable future, as the time constraints brought about by Chantelle’s evening shift work, her Cookies and Cakes venture and of course looking after young Jessica are simply making it impossible to grab any free time whatsoever in order to attend karate classes.
Please know that I greatly enjoyed my time training and learning under the two of you (I’ve been with you guys since February 2009 – didn’t realise it had been so long already!), and will most certainly miss training with my Gordon’s Bay karate family.
Hopefully things ease up in the future, perhaps when Chantelle falls pregnant and needs to stay home again, then can I revive my karate career, but for now there just doesn’t seem to be any alternative other than going on a karate hiatus for now.
My apologies on taking so long to write this e-mail to you, but it has been a difficult decision to make – though I believe in the end, the correct one. At the end of the day, I need to make the necessary sacrifices that are in the best interest of my family.
Thank you both for the time and effort that you put in for the people who choose to train with you, and best of luck for the future.
And that is that. Once again I have fallen short in earning my black belt in any form of martial art that I have tried my hand at, meaning that it remains one of those elusive achievements which always seems to fall just short of my grasp.
Stopping karate for now is sad and unfortunate (I’m going to miss the physical exertion, the camaraderie of the karate family and of course the constant learning and challenging of oneself), but like I said in the e-mail, a man has to do what a man has to do – and in this case someone has to be at home to look after Jessie while Mommy is busy with work…
Pleasingly, despite my reduced commitment to my Karate training regime, I was allowed to grade the Saturday before last, grading for Brown Kyu 2, in other words Brown two stripes (where I was currently Brown three stripes).
The grading took place on the Saturday morning at the quaint Mondeor Eco-School in Somerset West (just next to Monkey Town on the N2), the same location where I had previously graded for my Purple belt. As per usual time estimates were a fair bit off, but I was in truth pretty thankful for the extended delay before we got to my group, as it gave me a chance to run through my syllabus a few more times, just to make 100% sure that I knew what I was doing!
This was the first grading since my very first grading to Yellow that I was actually nervous of standing and performing my karate on my own in front of Sensei Birgitt and the panel of all the black belts, not feeling confident in terms of what would be required of me – and this was all based squarely on my now rather spotty training schedule that I’m going to have to live with for the next couple of years!
Anyway, by the time my group was finally called up, I was pretty warmed up and had a firm grasp of my syllabus, meaning that the nerves were now calm and it was just a matter of getting on with it. As per usual, I gave it my all, full power and nice and vocal, and despite making a few silly mistakes of which I’m not so happy with myself for making, the grading went pretty okay, meaning that I could proudly accept my new certificate at the end of the ceremony.
So now one more level of Brown to go, before that year long slog to Funakoshi Karate Black – which is after all, my ultimate goal now isn’t it? ;)
I sit with a bit of a dilemma on my hands with regards to my karate training, and the decision is a big one – should I continue or should I stop?
It’s important to understand why this dilemma has arisen. First, you must understand that I still enjoy practicing my karate and certainly enjoy training, but simply put, the reality of family life has had a big impact on my extramural activities – and this is a cold hard fact.
Last week was a little special – due to circumstances with Chantelle’s work, I was actually able to attend both training sessions for a change, but believe me, this is a pretty rare thing to be able to do.
Chantelle and Andy share the duties as managers of Gordon’s Beach Lodge, and this of course means shift work, covering both morning, evening and weekend shifts. Previously this obviously wasn’t such a big thing because I would simply continue doing my own thing if Chantelle was on duty, but obviously with Jessie around, this has completely changed.
In terms of my training, I am guaranteed at least one late shift a week that falls either on the Monday or Wednesday, meaning that I can now only attend one karate training session a week – which is only a hour long and thus computes to a measly 4 hours of karate a month! (Not to mention all the events I find myself having to withdraw from!)
Needless to say this is not nearly enough in order for me to keep up with the rest of the group, and subsequently I am well behind in my syllabus necessary for the upcoming grading come early December.
And this simply isn’t fair on Sensei Birgitt or the rest of the class as far as I’m concerned.
So now I sit with the question as to whether or not I continue to limp along as I have for the last couple of months, or throw in the towel for now, until Jessica is old enough for me to cart along to the venue, and pick it up later again?
Sigh, I guess I can’t really complain about this though. One knows that there will be a lot of sacrifices which need to be made if you want to bring a child into this world and more importantly, raise them properly! Decisions, decisions, decisions…
Friday 11 February saw the perfect way to de-stress after a long week of work, with a Bikini Beach training session to kick off the weekend.
As it turned out, the wind that had plagued Gordon’s Bay during the week had dissipated, leaving only glorious sunshine and white sand to greet the eager karateka as they hit the beach. Under sensei Birgitt everyone was soon going through their paces, mixing sweat and sand under the watchful eyes of parents and passers-by who had stopped to take in the spectacle of white dogi-clad kids and adults taking over Gordon’s Bay’s premier stretch of beach.
Of course, for the adults it was more a case of keeping a watchful eye on the kids and making sure they all more or less stuck to the plan, but in the end it was a lot of fun for everyone involved, and as a bonus the dojo got some pretty nice pictures to use for its website.
To view the full set of photos coming out of the day, hit the gallery here: http://www.funakoshikarate.co.za/bikini-beach-training.
Gordon’s Bay is the home of Funakoshi Karate International South Africa, and what good is living by the sea if you don’t use it? After all, it makes for a great training ground!
Most of you will know that the Funakoshi karate discipline or style was created by a South African in the late 1960’s, a man by the name of Edwin Ward. Soke Dai Hanshi (Founder and head of the style) Ward left our shores in the 1970’s to begin a new life in Canada, though not before he had left sufficiently trained students to continue growing the style in South Africa.
Unfortunately, human memory is not perfect and as the years went by, certain nuances were changed or completely forgotten as responsibility transferred from teacher to student, meaning that many of the forms and kata as well as the basic understanding of certain aspects altered from the original style, meaning that what was left in South Africa was more of a watered down version of the original vision of Dai Hanshi Ward’s Funakoshi karate system.
Last Friday has come and gone and apart from the joyous occasion of seeing my child blob in its full black and white ultrasound glory, the other highlight to come out of the day was my successful grading for blue belt under the Funakoshi style.
Lack of a hired venue meant that come Friday evening, I stepped onto the dojo floor (albeit a dojo lined with chairs along either side and headed off by a judging table), dressed in my dogi, a little stiff and sore from a week’s worth of weights training, but absolutely ready for what was about to come.
The new increased length of grading sessions thanks to the increased syllabus items required to be preformed in order to gain a pass meant that the day had to be staggered and when the first batch of seniors’ chance finally arrived, I found myself standing next to buddies Ian (green belt) and Gerhard (blue belt), ready to address Sensei Birgitt and the rest of the Black Belt judging panel and hopefully advance to the next level in our martial arts journey.
As luck would have it, there was nowhere to hide as I was called up first, and unfortunately for me, I didn’t exactly get off to the greatest of starts, completely unable to hold my balance during my four-way kicking demonstration. Thankfully though I could recover my composure and went on to give a pretty okay Grading Form 4A and Grading Form 4B (Ren-geri) performance, before going on to deliver a pretty good (apart from one small annoying misstep when I lost concentration for a split second) Kata 4.
At this stage my stamina was already beginning to give a little and I was breathing like a runaway ox, but I transitioned well into the Kamae Katas and moving basics, performing all three movement sets to great effect.
With the final pre-set parts of my grading behind me, I was beckoned to step off the stage and then sat down to watch Ian tackle his routine, before being called back up again where I squared off against Ian and we put together a great example of moving, choreographed kumite set.
As we stepped off, Gerhard stepped up, and worked his way through his slightly longer grading sequence, before I was again called up to partner up with him for his kumite set.
And that was that. The judges broke into a huddle to confer, we stepped forward, and with applause from all, received our passing certificates – plus that all important new stamp in our Funakoshi Karate International record book!
So now I’m a blue – and proud of it! Osu! :)
A weekend right at the start of January this year saw me scurrying back home late Friday afternoon from work in order to quickly throw together all the necessary items and then take to the coastal road in a fair rush in order to reach Betty’s Bay, Mooihawens campsite by 19:30. Why? Well this was to be the weekend of “Camp Edwin”, Funakoshi Karate International South Africa’s first ever karate camp since having broken away from Funakoshi South Africa literally a month or three ago!
Although not a hard-working karate gashuku that most people are quite familar with already, the camp was still designed with karate in mind and had thus been set up to maximise lessons surrounding the concepts behind karate but lessons not necessarily delivered through karate sessions alone. Indeed, each of the current senior black belt students were tasked with coming up with a particular bit of knowledge and then a particular way to demonstrate and pass on this nugget of information, leading to quite a few rather surprising sessions indeed! :)
From your standard karate kata and basics sessions you found us over the course of the weekend taking part in classes that included things like reflexology, origami, Japanese karate terminology bingo, communication, broken telephone in mime mode, knife and gun disarmament training and of course the infamous beach training which of course is always tougher than what you can imagine thanks to the giving sand (and the fact we first needed to clear a huge swathe of beach from all the seaweed and muck before we could actually train there!)
Apart from the copious amount of aggressive volleyball games played, one of the methods of injecting some fun and trying to open up communication between all the attendees was to assign everyone a brightly painted red egg at the start of the weekend, each tasked with naming the egg and protecting it from harm, meaning that this poor raw egg was to accompany you EVERYWHERE, lest someone spirit it away and replace it with a rock when you weren’t looking. Of course, the other requirement was that you were to learn the names and personalities of every other egg spending the weekend there with you, meaning an additional task in memory and communication – which surprisingly one lady actually managed to win by correctly identifying each and every attendee’s egg’s name come the end of the weekend! Needless to say, most of us couldn’t get past 5 or 6!
Oh and as and added incentive to look after your egg, if you lost it and you got caught out, it was the “bum dance” for you, which basically had you humiliate yourself by bending over and writing your name by wiggling your bum in front of the rest of the group. Needless to say, my egg was in fact kidnapped during the course of the weekend and as such I did a bum dance – though that said my egg was promptly returned and I never needed to do another one again. Not exactly sure what that says about my ass in the air then! :P
I must admit, this sort of more informal karate camp was something I have yet to experience and one of the factors that surprised me the most of the whole event was the quality of food that we received. Now normally these kind of things serve up dry hotdogs and some cold cereal for breakfast but this particular camp saw us literally eating like kings, with proper full on braais in the evenings, pancakes and what not for breakfast and even cold meats like chicken for lunch! Heck, we even had french toast if I remember correctly! :)
Because such a large number of the people making up the Gordon’s Bay dojo are in family units, i.e. mom, dad and kids all doing karate, a lot of the families hired out some of the chalets that were in offer while the rest of us found ourselves bedding down in dormitory style rooms, complete with creaky bunk beds and everything that comes with sleeping in dorms – particularly for the kids if you know what I mean – don’t think they got a stitch of sleep during night one!
Blessed with fantastic, sun-drenched weather and a fantastic vibe, we all got through the training and classes with a lot of good humour and smiles all around, and while sharing a beer around the fire late at night, Camp Edwin proved an absolute success in strengthening Funakoshi International South Africa’s core and more importantly fostering that all important sense of family that is so critical for a small dojo like ours to keep functioning smoothly and ensure that together we take our art even further than what we might ourselves imagine impossible.