August 8th, 2007


Back to school?

I don't talk about it much, but I was, at one time, very into martial arts. I studied at an academy that taught four different styles (Kenpo, Jun Fan, Kali/Eskrima, Muay Thai). I made my way up the ranks to ni-kyu brown belt- two away from black- and I was on the demonstration team, and performed at various events. At my heyday, I was at the karate academy three or four days a week. I was a despised geek with few friends in middle- and high school, but at the academy, I was a somebody. I held a high rank, had tons of friends, and was well-liked by the instructors.

My interest started falling off after earning ni-kyu brown belt. I knew that if I gunned for the next rank up- ik-kyu brown- that the instructors would start goading me into black belt training. Some karate schools make it pathetically easy to earn a black belt. Not so mine. At mine, you had to do ten reps of every punch, kick, throw, self-defense technique, etc. you ever learned, and after that, you had to fight nine rounds (three freestyle sparring, three kickboxing, three grappling) against the instructors who had been watching you the whole time. That always scared the hell out of me. Testing for san-kyu brown belt- the first of the brown belts- had been awful enough. That test had been composed of brown belt material, a review of orange belt and purple belt material, then six rounds of fighting against my peers (two of each kind). It lasted four hours. By the end, I was hyperventilating, and I'd done so poorly on grappling that I was required to take six remedial grappling classes. (It wasn't totally my fault. I had to grapple this kid that had at least fifty pounds on me, and he choked the shit out of me- not 100% kosher. That, and this entire lovely adventure took place on the second day of my monthly visitor.)

So, I'd been afraid to advance. That, and I was a senior in high school, and had believed that in all likelihood, I'd be going to Virginia for university. So, I quit karate. I wound up going to university in Pittsburgh after all, and could have stayed on- but again, little point in doing so, since black belt intimidated me so much.

Fast forward seven years. I'm out of school and back in Pittsburgh. My karate academy, as far as I know, still exists. I'm a tiny bit tempted to go back, but...

* I live about forty minutes from the school, and don't get out of work until 6:00. Going to classes would completely eat two weeknights a week.

* I'm almost sure I wouldn't be allowed to remain at ni-kyu brown. I have no idea if they'd make me start over at beginner (no belt). If so, this would admittedly be a huge blow to my ego.

* It's not cheap- about $1000 a year when I was going, probably a lot more now. I can afford it, but, I could also put that money into my interest-bearing savings account.

* Most of the coolest things I learned (like sai and bo katas) were as a member of Demo Team, which was mostly geared toward younger students. There were some adults on the team, but not many. I doubt they'd put me back on the team any time soon anyway- if I wanted to be on it, that is, and I'm not even sure about that.

* I'd eventually have to fight again- it was mandated in higher ranks- and I hated the fighting. Since I was in the adult class, I had to face off against other adults- meaning 5'5"/125lb me was often paired against 7'0"/300lb men. Guess who'd get her ass handed to her? And now I weigh more like 115 pounds, so yeah...

Still... I'm the teensiest bit curious to call them and see if the same instructors are still teaching there, and whether they remember me at all...