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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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New Year’s Resolutions

Emma Robins


Every year, usually around this time I sit and make my New Year’s Resolutions, you know the usual, eat less chocolate, drink less wine, and it got me thinking about what I want out of the next 12 months. I want my body to do what I tell it to, instead of it’s own version of Heian Yondan. I want to be able to publish the website without noticing a typo as soon as it’s up. I want to go an entire training session without having some part of my body niggle at me. And I want to feel as passionately about training when next Christmas rolls around, as I do today.


Most of you know I’ve had an off year, as far as training goes, after having my appendix out at the end of July. It means that my rebellious body now has an excuse to do it’s own thing. For example, now five months on I can complete a good few sit-ups with no pain, but my scar does not like press ups. At all.


Having almost 4 months off regular training was a real struggle for me. I couldn’t wait to get back to the dojo, and was eager to train hard. When the doctor gave me the all clear to train, I was thrilled and that night went down to the club. Then something surprising happened. I really struggled with that session. I couldn’t keep up, my technique felt like it was the worst it had ever been, and I was – for the first time ever – embarrassed to wear a black belt. I hated partner work, because I just felt like I was holding my partner back. This in turn made me mess everything up, by trying to rush it all. That session knocked me for six, and I was stuck. I found myself thinking that maybe, I needed more time off, and found myself wanting to avoid the dojo.


I’ll be honest, I used to speak to people who’d had time off, and they would always say, “The hardest thing I’ve ever done is start back to training.” I used to think, that’s mad! I would never find it difficult to come back! Now I felt like karma had well and truly bitten me on the bum.


I have never not wanted to do karate before. I’ve been training a long time, and it’s become a major part of who I am, but after this first session back I wasn’t sure if I wanted it anymore. Actually, I wasn’t sure if it wanted me anymore.


After that session, I spoke to Shaun, and he said exactly what most of you are thinking, that I’ve had a long time off, that I should be patient, and that actually, I didn’t look that bad. I’ll be honest, it went in one ear and out the other. I was so disappointed.


Shaun, as hard as he tried over the next two months of my return to training, couldn’t help me get my confidence back. I was slow, clumsy and confused most of the time. I just wasn’t getting it. Then I spoke to an old friend of mine, not a karate-ka, about how hard it was, and how I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to train well again. And she said, “Well, why don’t you quit?”. Just like that. As if it was an actual option to just say, that’s it, I’m done. I couldn’t answer her but the question ran around in my head until my next training session. Even as I was putting on my Gi, I was asking myself that question. If it was that hard, why not just leave it? And as I was training, the answer was clear. Because I don’t want to. As hard as it was, and much as my pride was dented everytime I publically couldn’t do what Shaun was asking for, as clumsy as my technique was, I couldn’t walk away. Even on the days where I thought ‘this is too hard’ I still put my Gi on and trained. Even when I thought karate had abandoned me, I still trained. Because I love it. Isaka Sensei has twice asked me ‘Why do you train?’ and twice I’ve been so unprepared for the question that I couldn’t answer it. Even now, sat at the computer writing this, I can’t answer it. I can think of all the usual answers, but really, deep down, I have no idea how to answer that question. Just like I could never say why I’ll never quit karate. I just know I won’t. I train because I love it. It’s that simple.


Now, my technique is a little better, my oi-tsuki a little more controllable. Now my kata is slightly more co-ordinated, and the time off is becoming less and less noticeable (I hope!). I look back over the last three months and think, ‘Coming back to training is the hardest thing I’ve ever done’. But it’s also the best thing I have ever done. Struggling to put on my Gi before a session taught me that no matter how hard it gets, I’ll always do it. That struggle taught me more about my relationship with karate than the other decade and a half of training did. It made me question my relationship with karate, and made me see it clearly for the first time in a long while. And I see now that if I can train through that time, through that struggle, then I’ll always train through anything. That struggle has made me feel more passionately about my training now that I ever have before. I can’t wait for the Christmas break to be over already.


So now, as I sit and write my New Year’s Resolutions, I know what number 1 will be. Keep training. Through snow, and sunny days, and through stressful weeks, through difficult days and easy days, through my body’s version of Heain Yondan, and through struggles, keep training.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Emma Robins