|Sensi Rob Nielsen instructs the students on appropriate karate technique.|
Generally, Shiais start at eight in the morning, right after breakfast. We officially enter the Dojo by lining up on the black line from highest rank to lowest rank and bowing in. One of our main goals in karate is to let go of our troubles, even for just a short period of time and just center ourselves. This is what bowing in is for. Close your eyes and breathe. As you inhale, breathe in soothing and focusing energies; as you exhale let out all the stress you carry. Ideally, this continues for one minute and then we bow and pay our respects to the sensei and Dojo. After this we spend time warming up and loosening our muscles. As soon as we’re finished, a strenuous workout follows.
|These students are focusing on their breathing as they bow in to start the class|
We start with side stance punches, front stance reverse punches, front snap kicks, and a variation of small combinations. By this time we’re generally all red faced and sweaty, with tired cores and legs. Even so, we keep going with rhythm tapes, katas, partner work, group work, and even more other cardio training. At least for me, by the end of the day my hair should be drenched, and my t-shirt soaked through. It may sound a little overwhelming reading all this and hearing that it goes on for eight hours, but that isn’t how the kids take it. Yes, we’re practically dead on our feet, but we feel awesome. We just spent the whole day working as hard as we can, we all learned at least one new thing, and got better at our individual karate skills. On top of that our body released all those good mood chemicals in our brain from working out, so naturally we’re a little more upbeat than usual.
|Students practice their side stance punches|
The week after the Shiai, everybody gets a red stripe put on their belt. The red stripe is for our participation, showing that we took part in the rigorous work out and maximized our effort. If we get three of these stripes we go up a level in our belts. This is the most rewarding part of the whole thing other than the actual training, because we know that it means we accomplished and achieved something through all of our hard work. Like me, most of the kids would say they’d do it again. It has its moments where you’re really not sure if you can go on, but in the end it’s worth it. You feel proud, and you know that you did your best to finish with Zanshin.
|A student receives his new belt and certificate of achievement after completing the requirements for one of the higher belts in the Dojo|
--Written by K.V.