I’ve been invited to test for my black belt in karate in two months. (COVID-19 pandemic permitting.)

This is kind of a big deal.

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I Was Never an Athlete

I’m 45. I’m no spring chicken.

I was never athletic in my youth. I wasn’t exactly inactive; my family did do a lot of outdoor activities—hiking, skiing and the like. But I was never into sports. Never into physical competition. Never comfortable in that environment. Least favourite subject in school? PE. Most favourite subject in school? Anything but PE.

And now here I am, 45-years-old, and I’ve become an athlete. Soon to be testing for that coveted black belt.

I Felt “Too Old” for Karate at 41

Starting karate almost 4 years ago, at age 41, was a nerve-wracking experience. Can I do this? Am I fit enough? Am I tough enough? Aren’t I too old for this?

I signed up anyway.

And a week after I first started, I signed up for my first tournament. Two months after that, I competed in that—my first ever—tournament. Performing by myself, in a physical activity, in front of an audience, for the very first time in my life.

Despite my terror. Despite a childhood of often painful shyness. Despite a keen discomfort with being the center of attention.

I stepped into the ring for my first division, and I loved it. I was hooked.

Turns Out I’d Found “My Thing”

Six months after starting karate, I signed up for my club’s tournament team. That same week, I started training at my dojo in two other martial arts: kobudo and Japanese jujitsu.

I trained 5 nights a week at my dojo. Sweated it out at monthly team practices. Signed up for every possible tournament with my team. Trained at home daily. Cross-trained regularly. Ate, breathed, and sometimes even slept karate.

I Became an Athlete in my 40s

In my 40s, and I had somehow become an athlete. Despite fears of not being young enough. Of not being tough enough. Of not being good enough.

My goal right from the beginning was simple: to keep getting better. Continuous improvement.

To keep pushing myself, to keep facing my fears, and to keep growing.

I Will Never Stop Striving

I will make this my best test yet, and I will feel so f*cking proud of myself. And, if I pass, when I receive my belt and certificate one month later, I will most definitely cry.

And one day, I’ll get my black belts in kobudo and jujitsu, and I’ll probably cry then too.

And I won’t stop there. I’ll keep going. For second-degree. Third.

I am a Martial Artist at Heart

I will never stop. No matter how it shifts or changes over the years, I will always practise in some capacity. I am a martial artist and an athlete. It’s in my heart.

And one day in the future, I will hold all three black belts in my hands, and say: “Look, Sabrina. Look.”

You are tough enough. You are good enough. And you were and will never be too old for this.

Does any of this resonate for you? Do you have a personal martial arts (or other) origin story you’d like to share?