I’ve always been somewhat interested in martial arts, but have not always had the opportunity to pursue it as an interest.
When I was in middle school, I signed up to do wrestling, but I went to a few practices and then got an ear infection. Because of the ear infection, I missed several practices; it was known that if you missed more than three practices you would not be allowed to wrestle at meets. Looking back as an adult, I think this rule was probably set in place to ensure that kids would not simply skip practices, and they may have made an exception for me, but at the time I just figured that meant I wouldn’t be able to compete and just gave up on continuing. I had other things to worry about in middle school anyways… although learning some form of combat I suppose may have helped with some of those things.
After highschool I took some classes at a local community college, and saw that they had Karate as a P.E. elective there. Obviously… as my financial aid would cover it, and I had the opportunity I signed up for the class.
The Sensei (teacher) was a short Japanese man named Teuro Chinen. Turns out that the guy who taught the class was a local legend… actually he was a global legend. People came from all over the world to study at his dojo in Spokane. I guess he taught the local police force, and many of the other local Karate instructors had been taught by him. So I had pretty good fortune to have basically stumbled upon a grand master in Karate who lived humbly in Spokane and taught at community colleges. (Actually, it’s been interesting that the Lord seems to have helped me stumble upon some really terrific teachers in other fields as well, ussually I didn’t initially realize the value until after
I should, of course, note that I only studied there temporarily; at the end of the quarter he invited the class to his dojo and I earned a stripe for my white belt.
One of the things Sensei said that will stick with me forever… he said: “Practicing katas [that is the name for karate ‘forms’ for those who don’t know] is like eating jerky. At first in your mouth it tastes like wood, but as you chew it the flavor comes out.”
Actually when I heard this proverb he made about katas, I applied it to the study of scripture. In the same way, as we study God’s word, it often seems dry and tasteless to us, but as we begin to meditatae on it, the Holy Spirit begins to bring it to life in us, and the flavor comes out.
Of course I intended to coninue practicing katas and resume studying karate, and did for a time afterward. I went to work at s summercamp, which ended up becoming my springboard into… well, the rest of my liffe. For a while I was known as the karate guy around the camp – which made me feel a bit self-conscious because I was just a white belt. I didn’t want to show off, I was just tryng to keep practicing. Still, people with no experience in martial arts were impressed.
Anyhow, eventually I slowed and ended the habit of eaating Sensei’s jerky. After I got married, my wife and I moved back to the area, and I knew I wantedd to go back and study. I had only beeen to the dojo once (as I haad taken karate as a class at the school), but our test to get our stripe was by invite to the dojo. This was now 3-4 years later. and not only had I stopped practicing katas, but I’d gotten rather out of shape. I knew that were I to go back to study with Sensei Chinen and I was out of shape AND unpracticed I would be in trouble. My exact exact words to my wife were: “In need to get in shape before I go backc, or Sensei will kill me.”
So I did a lot of cardio, and got my lungs broke in.
It didn’t help.
Sensei still killed me.
I had been going to the dojo for aa few weeks when we did a night of sparring. my legs were so tired thaat I kept putting my heel down on mat. He corrected me verbially twice, then every time my heel dropped, he made me do bunny-hops around the dojo. I have no idea how many bunny-hops I did that night but every time he made me do them I had to do them until he could see that I wa falling down because I physiically could do no more. Then he called me back to the mat to spar… with my heels up, and if they dropped again… and they did, I did more bunny-hops.
When that practice was over, my thighs had never been in so much pain in my life. I took ibuprofen, I took a hot bath (HA!). Finally I just had to go to sleep, which I wasn’t sure I could manage because of how my thighs felt. But, I was exhausted enough I got to sleep though I was dreading the soreness I’d feel the next day.
But… to my surprise when I woke up he next morning, there was no pain. None at all. I actually sat in bed a momment thinking how odd that was. I rolled out of bed to walk to the bathroom and immediately fell on the floor… and then I had to climb up. The pain wasn’t gone, my legs were just numb. It took two days for the pain to come BACK, then it took two weeks for the pain to leave (seriously).
I’d be a liar if I said that was my favorite part of studying karate… in fact if I never did another bunny-hop in my life I’d be ok with it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I got my life’s allotment of them in that night.
Anyhow, I continued to study there for a little while, long enough to earn a second stripe on my white belt, but it got so that continuing to train at the dogo wasn’t going to continue to be feasable for either schedule of financial reasons so I stopped going (I put my wife through an intensive cosmetology school… also my brother died that year… but I think that was after I stopped going to the dojo). That ws 12-13 years ago now.
Eventually I thought I may go back, but life happens, and now Sensei Chinen is no longer with us.
In the interim, I managed to get out of shape again, and pretty badly so; I’ve written a little about getting back into shape, annd I’ve been exercising daily for about two years now. I went from 210 lbs to about 175. I started doing some home study (you know, youtube videos), which has helped me develop a better understanding of arts that appeal to me (Silat, Moauy Thai, Brazillian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) to name a few).
So… I’ve wanted to study martial arts, and one of the reasons (besides personal interest) is to become trained to black belt level and be able to teach, using it as a ministry.
I am now a 36 year old white-belt, and am looking at studying BJJ at a local school (the curriculum also has Kempo, and they’re zupposed to be getting a Mouy Thai instructor next month). Is it even worth trying, since it ussually takes 10-12 years to attain a black belt… and I’m already 36? I think so. I hear some people get it done in 5 years… I don’t know if that’ll be me, but the journey itself, and the continued exercise ought to be good for me… certainly better than never even trying.
I’m not tottaly sure how I’ll manage it, training in martial arts schools is kind of expensive, plus at the momment I work full time and have four kids. How will I find time? I’m not sure, but I am sure that if I don’t try it will never happen. Just like writing… honestly, my whole life I thought I’d be a preacher (even before I gave my life to the Lord). I’ve wannted to write and misister full time fofr years. But, far from that I am working full time in a field I never anticipated to keep my kids housed and fed. So what do you do? Give up on your dreams and let life flow by?
Billy Graham pointed out in a sermon that time will make your decision for you. You by a plane ticket, but you’re not sure iif you’ll go oon the trip, you keep waiting and waiting to decide if you will use that ticket, or get a refund for it. And if you keep waiting, eventually time will decide for you whether you get on that plane or not. Of course Graham was talking about giving your life to Jesus. ‘Will I do it? Maybe I will, but I have all the time in the world.’ You can wait your way out of heaven, Graham pointed out. Wow! Anointed message.
But there’s beyond that, also. A lot of church groups fixate on ‘destiny’ these days. Your destiny: what has God called you to? I’ve come to the realization that I can wait my way out of my destiny. What aM I going to do for Jesus today? I’m 36 years old, and don’t have a blackbelt yet? Not in full time ministry yet?
God will help me, and He will help you also if you act in faith.
Jeez! See how I turned this post about Karate into a sermon? Ha! But maybe if I put my faith shoes on in front of you, it will help others to do the same.
Stay tuned for more content, and if you’d like to help support the ministry (or just help me pay for BJJ lessons) feel free to stop by my ‘About’ page and leave a donation, or chek out either of my books which are also linked there. Also it helps if you like and share my content; and if you want to see what happens, follow my blog.
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be hou cast into the sea; and shall hot doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whataoever he saith. Mark 11:23
But without faith, it is impossible to please him, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that dilegently seek him. Hebrews 11:6