Dojo:   Amityville   Yin yang dojo b   Mt. Kisco

Balancing Body, Mind & Spirit

by Stephanie Targett

As long as I can remember I had a strong desire to practice the art of karate.

As a child my father had refused me lessons, afraid that I would injure myself. As I got older the fascination was still there, but my need for exercise and a release was being met by skiing, jogging, aerobics, biking, and yoga. But a few years later, the old desire to join a martial arts school returned. Still, because of life''s busy schedule, I continued to put it off. As my 30th birthday approached, however, I told my husband Martin that I would like for us both to sign up for karate lessons. Unfortunately, he had no interest in karate, so I put it off again. A few months later, Martin mentioned my interest in martial arts to a mutual friend, who told us that the Takahashi Karate Dojo was the best around. With that recommendation and the close proximity of the dojo, I now felt close to pursuing my dream. Since I had already done some reading about how to choose a school, I was delighted at the professionalism and helpfulness of the teachers when I finally got to observe a class. I also noticed the students'' willingness to learn and their overwhelming spirit. I knew this dojo was for me.

After I joined, time passed quickly, and I found my involvement exceeded my original expectations. Not only was the learning fun and exciting, but the other students—some who has been training with Sensei for as long twenty years—were all as enthusiastic as I was.

At first I felt a bit intimidated, but soon I felt at home in the dojo and enjoyed every aspect of karate. I especially enjoyed the kumite, and like most things, practice makes perfect. Kumite is the art of karate put to work. The interaction with fellow students during kumite, regardless of their level of accomplishment, is always a learning experience.

When I first joined, I believed that my main reason was to "get in shape." But to my surprise this was only half of the benefit that I was to get from karate. The other half was psychological awareness and mental growth. I found that with each class I attended I would get an excitement comparable to reading a good book that thrills and surprises you at each chapter and keeps you eager with anticipation for the next chapter. I also realized that just like in life, there is always room for improvement; both the lower ranks and the brown and black belts were critiqued. After I memorized a kata I would practice it in an attempt to attain perfection. This concentration, discipline, and focus are so intense that it made me realize how the physical side of karate is only half of what this art is all about.

After studying karate for a while, I reached another major milestone in my life: motherhood. I had been practicing karate for 3 to 5 days per week and felt at a lifetime peak of physical fitness and mental attunement with my body. Then I discovered that I was six weeks pregnant! After consulting the doctor, my husband, and Sensei, I decided to continue with classes for as long as possible. I also continued with other physical activities, but karate was most important to maintaining my mental and physical fitness. Each month into my pregnancy I did an evaluation of myself so that I would not harm my unborn child, and I got the blessing of the doctor, my husband, and Sensei. I was very happy to be able to continue with karate up until my eight month. Nonetheless, I almost cried on my last day at the dojo, and I vowed to resume as soon as I got my strength back after the birth of my child.

David Andrew soon arrived, and I was back practicing two months later. Nothing had changed, except that I had just a little bit of fear and a little less stamina, but that was soon overcome following a few classes. There were at least three reasons for my strong desire to return to training:

Physical exercise. Because of the aggressiveness of the training, karate keeps my body toned and my mind clear.

Focus. Since the birth of my son, David, I''ve had to concentrate hard on staying focused. This has been quite a challenge.

The Art of Karate. I am an artist, and perfecting my karate is, for me, the same as perfecting myself.

David is now two years old, and I am pregnant with my second child. I stopped training a little sooner this time, because-of the hot summer weather. I''m sure that when the second child arrives, my life will be even more hectic, and return to practice will not be easy. But we all need balance in our lives, and karate is what gives me my balance. It is the perfect balance of body, mind, and spirit.

O O S !