Let me tell you a very short story about me and Karate – and how it changed my life.
Karate is in my blood and was first adopted by my Jamaican family in the 1970s to defend themselves against the bigotry and hatred of the era.
My Dad achieved his black belt in Kyokushin before I was born, fighting in tournaments with Dolph Lundgren, and the skills he picked up during that time shaped the kind of person he is to this day; patient, disciplined, hard-working, balanced and strong.
I think it’s fair to say that he would have loved us to follow in his footsteps as children, but other interests got in the way, and he (and my Mum) were absolutely right not to push us into something we didn’t want to do. My Dad did try to teach me a few basic moves, but I only wanted to kick my football around in the garden or hit cricket balls into the neighbours’ back yard. I was a talented all-round sportsman and that kept me busy and active as a kid.
It wasn’t until university that I finally decided to give Karate (another form other than Kyokushin) a try, but that really didn’t work out for me and I found the atmosphere cold and intimidating after being called out three times for putting my feet in the wrong place. It was my first – and last – class after all.
Needless to say, that by now I had decided I wasn’t going to follow in my father’s footsteps and take up Karate. Other adventures beckoned.
Fast forward fifteen years, or so, and I am now earning my living as a Communications Director at a large company in the City of London, having previously spent more than a decade as a journalist on Fleet Street, working for newspapers including The Daily Telegraph and London Evening Standard.
Although successful in work, and in a happy and stable marriage, it’s fair to say that the lifestyle associated with these jobs had started to take its toll and I needed to make some changes.
That’s when EMAR and Sensei Simeon came into my life.
After a particularly stressful and gruelling year, I decided that it was time to give Karate another try and was surprised to find that a Dojo existed around the corner from my home in Kew.
After a few friendly email exchanges, I ventured down one January evening and was instantly welcomed into the team with a warm smile, clapped at the end of my first session and told by everyone that they hoped to see me again.
Don’t get me wrong though, Karate is very, very, very hard work and there are times that you sit in the car park hoping that the class will be cancelled. Other times you feel like you are hitting a brick wall and making no progress as the sweat drips off your forehead and the bruises begin to mount.
But joining EMAR is beyond doubt one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. The team is like family to me now and I feel fitter and sharper than ever before. Sensei Simeon is an absolute mentor and friend and the kind of person that anybody would find easy to like – even though he is the hardest human being I’ve ever met.
The benefits extend far beyond the Dojo though and my family and friends would all agree that I’m a happier, more motivated person. I’ve definitely found more balance in my life and I’m writing this while waiting for a glass of Malbec and steak on a work trip. Up at 7am though for a gym session, resistance and cardio training … how times have changed.
Ultimately, Karate is about becoming the best version of yourself. It is not a hobby, it’s a way of life.
You will love it – just choose the right Dojo and Sensei. I know I did.