Project Three

Objective: Get To The Point

Title: Portrait of a Karateka

Summer,1998. Julie had been training in Shotokan Karate for 4 years and had earned her 1st degree black belt. The news that awaited her and her Kata team that day was the best news they could ever receive. They were going to go to Warsaw Poland to compete in the World Championships of Karate. The news of the training schedule wasn’t so welcomed by Julie but she knew it would prepare her for the opportunity of a lifetime and it ended up providing a few laughs along the way.

The kata team that I was on consisted of 2 other women, Susan and Elizabeth. We were so excited about the news of going to Poland. We had been together as a team for a little over a year, but had been practicing karate together since I walked through the doors of the dojo.

Kata is a series of defensive and offensive moves done in sequence against imaginary opponents. It is a choreographed fight sequence. Team Kata also has to be synchronized so that the team looks like 1 person performing instead of 3.

This would be my first International competition. We were already training 6 days a week for a hour and a half to two hours each day. But, then our Sensei then throws in this little tidbit …. “I want you to also start running a mile.”

That statement hit me like a ton of bricks. I looked at Susan and Elizabeth when were in the locker room and I said, “I HATE running.” Susan admitted that she did too and suggested that we run together. Elizabeth said that she had already formulated her plan so she decided to run alone on her own time. Oh yeah, Elizabeth is our Sensei’s wife . . . so no wonder she already knew what was coming and formulated her plan.

The next day began our running journey. Susan and I decided that we would run our mile after our practice when we could take our time. Our dojo was situated on the corner of Arapaho Road and Plano Road in Richardson, Texas. If you are not familiar with that intersection it is a very heavily traveled area and both roads are 3 lanes going in each direction. Our dojo was just behind the NTB in a business park. Susan and I mapped out our mile around the dojo and the last portion of our mile would be the only leg that would take us out onto the sidewalk of Arapaho Road. Once we go close to the dojo we could cut across the NTB parking lot and get back to the dojo.

For the first few days of our running everything was going well. The only thing I started to notice was that the sidewalks were uneven and we needed to be careful. On several of our runs others would join us too and when we came to the NTB parking lot we had all agreed to sprint back to the dojo to see who could make it there first. It just became part of the running routine.

One particular night the running routine went out of control. It was just Susan and I and we were on the last leg of our journey when it happened. For the next 30 seconds everything slowed down, time stood still and never once did my life flash before my eyes. My foot caught on an uneven part of the sidewalk and that is when I realized I was going to fall. However, all I could see was that I was going to scrape my face onto the concrete. As my face came closer and closer to the concrete, my mind said oh no … that’s not going to happen. Somehow I managed to pull my leg up under me and take the most giant step ever,(demo the fall) but that still did not right me or break my fall. Again, the concrete was now coming towards that other side of my face and again the same thought invaded “not my face”. Once more I was able to pull out another GIANT step. And once more I was not able to right myself. The concrete was coming closer and now my only thought was “I could fall out into Arapaho Road”. So I pulled out one more GIANT step and with that last step I knew that I was not going to be able to right myself. So the next thought that came was “take a roll. It will have to be a shoulder roll.” And as I took one more step I was able to position myself in such a way that I rolled on my shoulder and was able to come to a stop in a seated position sitting in the grassy part of the sidewalk with only my foot hanging out into Arapaho Road. Luckily, at that moment no cars were coming.

After that moment time moved forward and I must say I was stunned. Susan came running up and asked if I was ok. You could tell she was desperately trying not to laugh. Then she proceeded to tell me what she was doing the whole time I was falling. Susan was behind me trying desperately to grab my belt, my uniform, my jacket … whatever she possibly could. So those same GIANT steps I was taking she was taking as well only her arms were moving with each step and she was yelling my name.

I proceeded to examine myself to make sure I wasn’t in any way hurt. The only injury that I sustained was a huge superficial scrap all the way up my shin. I looked at Susan right before she helped me up and said “And this is why I HATE running.” She laughed and said “but that roll was the most perfect roll I have ever seen.”

Needless to say we didn’t sprint to the door that night we just walked slowly across the parking lot, laughing and laughing. We did however, pick up the running routine the next week … I still didn’t like it.

Our team went on to place 8th in the World Championships and had a great time leaving our footprints in Poland. My career went on for several more years and I currently hold the rank of 2nd degree blackbelt. I won a National Championship in 2001 in an individual event and that same year went on to compete in the Pan Am games in Santiago, Chile.

Although I no longer practice karate, the lessons taught have never left me. They have left their mark upon me never to fade unlike that leg injury that eventually faded and now only resurfaces in the form of laughter.