WEEK 23: Once Upon A Dojo

WEEK 23: Once Upon A Dojo


I’ve had a recurring bad back with a dash of sciatica since attempting a silly tennis shot a few weeks ago and just when I think these ailments are on the mend, I aggravate them and I’m back to square one. I pulled my back again while resistance training at karate last week and I was thinking: is this going to be a recurring situation? Karate; pain; karate; pain; ad nauseum.

If it was I’d probably accept it anyway. I need the exercise. Y’see, we’re on “press week” at the magazine where I work. You’re more or less chained to the desk, racing to get everything finished for deadline day – and you don’t move. It’s tiring, stressful and seems to be never-ending while it’s happening. You feel like your eyes are two poached eggs by the end of a shift.

There were two new faces in the back room of the church hall, aka the dojo, two small kids, maybe 12 years old, probably both thinking, “There’s no way I’ll be able to match what this lot have learnt.” But they will – if the 90 minutes training doesn’t scare them off. You’ve got to want to do this to keep going. It isn’t casual – you’re either in or you’re not.

Press-ups and lying on the floor with your legs up at 45 degrees and then 15 degrees tested my back and it twinged. I thought: “Eueuhh ’eck, not again – I’ll have to cry off.” After making a noise which indicated “discomfort”, I realised most other people were expelling similar sounds so I kept calm and, y’know, carried on.

Newcomers meant a return to the basics. This should have been simple but, again, I lag behind my fellow red belts and took a while to find a rhythm. But why?! Again it was pointed out that my stance was more Shakin’ Stevens than Shotokan and doubt has crept into my mind – probably not helped by a tough day gazing into a computer screen without a break from 9am-6pm.

Kicking a pad is a rollicking way to break a sweat and my football past means that anything to do with booting gets the thumbs up (or should that be big toes up?) from me. I can get some real power into a foot swing – but hitting head-level high? Oof! Apparently striking a noggin with a foot is three points in competition. Maybe remove a point for the ensuing hernia.

I thought the idea of a second day a week training might have drifted – cos I really need it if I’m going to progress. Once a week is not sufficient for me. Wonderfully, Sensei Amrit in hushed tones mentioned the possibility of a few joining an additional session on a Monday or Tuesday – from next week. But will my 51-year-old, increasingly sciatica-riddled, lumbar-banjaxed, old-dog/no-new-tricks body be capable of extra punishment? I suppose we’ll find out.

Today my grandad would have been 100 if he’d not died in 1980 age 57. I remember him well, which sounds bizarre but my memory from childhood is crystal clear. No idea why; Mrs Gale thinks it’s peculiar. Grandad was great and due to this, I’ve got a photo of him on my living room shelf. It’s taken in Blackpool in a musty boarding house in 1977 or ’78. I’m not in the picture, but I’m sat next to him eating a breakfast before another adventure trawling toy shops and travelling on trams. In that photo he’d have been 55 or thereabouts – and looks like a grandad. That’s just four years away for me. I can’t imagine Grandad working his way round a dojo kicking and punching, spinning and blocking. But I reckon that’s precisely what I’ll be doing when I’m that age.

Sensei Amrit’s giving me the number of a local back specialist. Glen from Enfield. He might be key to this blog continuing. Be seeing you!