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.
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?
You’re reading Testing for Black Belt in Karate… at Age 45 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!
I started karate a year and a half ago at age 63. I, too, come from a long line of non-athletes. My grandson had done 2 years of karate as an after school activity in the school gym. The new school principal ended the relationship with the karate school because she didn’t want “violence” in her school. (She obviously knew nothing about karate.) My grandson was 8 and had a blue belt at the time. Two years later, in August 2021, the sensei emailed me asking if my grandson would like to rejoin karate at a private dojo. He was game so we signed him up. At his first class, the sensei and my grandson “ambushed” me and said that I should join too. I was sonewhat porky but, as an avid road cyclist, was not in horrible shape. Since then, we have had two classes a week and I practice all if my katas almost every day. Last night, I received my blue belt while my grandson received his brown belt. I an now 65 and will keep going as long as I can. I figure that a brown belt within 18 months is possible. After that, we will see. Hopefully, my grandson, who has always been a bit timid, will continue karate thoughout his life and possibly take up other martial arts. This has been a great thing for both of us. Far from having been too hard for these old bones (and this old mind), I feel that karate has had a rejuvenating effect on me. You are never too old!
That’s wonderful that your grandson was able to continue his journey, and good for you for starting yours! That’s awesome to hear. I’m so glad you found something that makes you feel great. Welcome to the dojo family!