I did it!  I achieved the rank of Shodan—1st degree black belt—in Meibukan Goju-Ryu karate. I tested just over one month ago, on Saturday, March 27th, and I received my certificate and new belt last week, on Tuesday, April 27th. I’m feeling so incredibly satisfied and ecstatic and humbled right now.

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I started karate during a very stressful time in my life. 5 years ago—one year before starting karate—my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She has multiple myeloma, a rare, incurable cancer of the blood, which presents in the bone marrow.

That first year after her diagnosis was very difficult. I was caught in a grief cycle, often angry and overwhelmed, incredibly tense and unhappy. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t have an appetite. I couldn’t calm down. I needed to exhaust myself through excessive, intense exercise in order to get even a small amount of sleep every night. I was a mess.

Then I discovered the website for my dojo. I immediately saw the potential: here was a possible “solution,” an outlet for my grief. My kids were also experiencing difficulties at the time, with bullying and social anxiety, and this seemed like a potential “therapy” for all three of us. And my hunch was right. Karate became an outlet for all three of us, a way to work through our stress, and rediscover hope and strength.

Karate speaks to me like nothing ever has in my life. I’ve never felt that click with anything else like I do with karate. Martial arts changed my life, and saved me.

Karate teaches you to do the tough work even when you don’t feel like it. And what I learned through my mom’s diagnosis and through practising karate is that being strong doesn’t mean that you don’t feel weak at times, and having courage doesn’t mean you never feel terrified.

The interesting thing with martial arts, is that as a martial artist you are inviting pain into your life. You are welcoming it, and giving space for it, and room for it. Instead of trying to hide from pain or pushing it away, you are opening yourself up to it and embracing it. And as a martial artist you learn to trust yourself to have the strength to handle it.

I am so grateful for martial arts. I am so grateful for karate. I am so grateful for my sport.

I am so grateful for all of the amazing people I have met along the way. For all of the amazing martial artists with whom I have trained, and against whom I have competed. For my Sensei, Dan Nicholson, who has been a wonderful teacher and mentor to me.

And last but not least, I am grateful for my beautiful mother, who navigates pain and suffering with an incredible amount of elegance and grace, and courage, resilience, and strength.

She is the warrior that I strive to be. I love you, Mom. 💗

Thank you for reading! 😊

Is there an achievement that has touched your life similarly, in karate or otherwise? I’d love to hear your story. Feel free to comment below.

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You’re reading Achieving Black Belt in Karate by Sabrina Bliem, originally posted on The Karate Shrimp. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow The Karate Shrimp on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!