All Summer One Sport: Karate

Karate Kid

When I first think of martial arts, karate is the first discipline that comes to mind. Growing up, so many of my favourite shows contained aspects of karate. The actors made it look so easy, making quick work of the would-be villains, or chopping wooden boards in half like butter. In an attempt to not look like a complete fool during my trial, I watched and practiced some basic karate skills at home in front of the TV (unfortunately, they did not help me).

When my fellow Sport Calgary summer student Harrison and I first arrived at the Haysboro Community Centre, where Kanto Sho Karate’s Club’s dojo is located, we were not sure where to go once we were inside. We heard the faint sound of a meditation track playing. Then we set out, like the kids in Polar Express, following the music that would eventually lead us to the dojo. There were the tell-tale signs of a martial arts studio, with scrolls on the walls.

While we were looking around a man came up to us which we would soon learn was Sensei Glen Smith, Owner and Operator of the dojo. We sat down for a few minutes to learn more about the dojo and what led him to opening the space. The conversation focused less on himself and more on the importance of being a well-rounded student. One point that stuck a chord with me was when I asked about how this dojo is different than the others. Sensei Glen stressed the importance of continual learning which is the reasoning behind letting students teach once they have earned their green belt, furthering their knowledge of the sport.

After a few minutes warming up with the class, we split off to begin our transitions into teachers. We noted there was a high ratio of teachers to students, which allows students to learn at their own pace and skill level. We quickly found a spot in front of the mirrors, as newcomers, in the dojo to practice. While it felt a little awkward punching/kicking the air, that was nothing compared to executing a kiai (short shout). As our Sensei explained to us, the kiai accompanies an attacking technique. This shout, which was very awkward at first, provided a touch of confidence to an otherwise very unconfident karateka (someone who practices karate).

I had always viewed karate as a combat sport, so I was surprised to learn many defense techniques. One of these was the front thrust kick. When our instructor first demonstrated this technique, it looked fairly simple. Just extend your leg, then thrust your foot out, toes back, when your leg is extended, all while remaining balanced and alert.

The thrust at the end of the kicking motion proved to be difficult to master. So, whenever I tried to do this move I went through this checklist:

1.      Stable stance

2.      Extend leg

3.      Pull toes back towards my face

4.      Thrust foot forward hitting with the ball of the foot

5.      Return gracefully back to the ready position

Harrison demonstrating the technique

Step five, which in theory should be the easiest, caused me the most grief. Something about exerting such force while remaining still, rendered my balance obsolete. I overcame this by putting all my weight in my opposite leg. My arms would provide further balance as they were raised in fists protecting my chest.

Once our very patient Sensei was satisfied with our thrustkicks, we worked on incorporating them into a punch/kick combination. When our instructor showed us this, I was doubtful that I could make this look as graceful as he could. It took me around ten minutes to learn the punch and kick combination, then I was ready to perform (to Harrison at least).

I will be the first one to tell you my combination didn’t look amazing. However, I was on cloud nine after. Sure, I wasn’t going to become a black belt overnight. But it was amazing to experience the feeling of executing a technique for the first time. I hadn’t felt this way since I was doing flips at flying trapeze! I walked into the dojo with only Kung Fu Panda as a base of knowledge, and left with a greater appreciation of karateka’s worldwide.

Check out some of my other recent All Summer One Sport adventures:

1) Sledge Hockey (Para Ice Hockey)

2) Pickleball

3) Flying Trapeze

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