A woman does not practice karate
So that she can fight like a man
She does so in order to be free
to be a woman.
One day our mailbox contained a notice that karate was going to be offered in the old school a mile down the road. I was interested. My motivation was a neighbor who was a "peeping tom" among other things. The police had received many complaints but could not catch him. One day, as he drove by he slowed down and eye-balled me as I was hanging out the clothes. The karate notice came a week later. I needed to learn to protect myself and my children if the police could not.
The first night thirty-two young teenage boys showed up and forty-seven year old, me. Although I was in decent physical shape from jogging, the first night's work out rattled my confidence and left me sore. Later over tea, I told my husband I'd try it one more night. The bruising continued. By the end of the first month, I counted heads -- now twelve young guys and me.
Our dojo (exercise room) was in the basement of the school. As fall turned into winter, one of the windows was cracked. Continuing to bring bruises home and running through the snow in bare feet, I needed to make the decision. Was karate really for me? Regardless of the "peeping tom"?
One night the Sensei, being a new black belt himself and inexperienced, put me in a sparring match with a young man half a foot taller and about fifty pounds heavier. We were both white belts and had no technique or skill. The guys seemed to want to prove their physical prowess. My goal was to survive their efforts. The Sensei signaled the match to begin. Immediately, I took a couple of hard punches. His technique seemed to be inspired by fights on television, mine amounted to backing up and keeping out of reach.
There are two rules in the ring: we were not allowed to hit the others' head (in theory), nor could we step out side the ring more than twice. If we did the match was awarded to the opponent.
With a bit of male ego assuming a win, his peers cheering him, I needed help. Several more shots of pain. Suddenly, I felt a strength and anger enter me with the instant knowledge that my survival depended on not backing up but hugging him -- keeping my self as close in as I could. "Kia", I yelled immediately, inches before his face startling me as much as him.
I am of light weight and slight build. I knew from other experiences this gave me an agility of movement. With this important fact, along with the "kias" I began ducking and crowding him, forcing him backward. It was a good feeling. He lost his balance twice. His foot was out over the line. Frustrated, he came back charging, absent of strategy. I stepped to the side, shot off a zuki and pulled it inches from his face -- just lucky, maybe. Jumping back he stumbled. The third time his foot slipped out. The dojo went silent. I went silent. I had won.
I could not wait to get home for tea and tell my good news -- I belonged in karate. And that night the threat of the "peeping tom" shrank significantly. Think of what I could do with a little skill.
I left her cottage thinking, "Hmmm, that applies to everything."
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