It was 1972. I was 11 years old. I locked my purple Schwinn Stingray to the bike rack outside Thrifty’s Drug Store, went inside for a 5 cent scoop of chocolate ice cream, and then headed over to the karate studio a few doors down to watch the boys take their lesson. This had become a Saturday afternoon ritual for me. I really wanted to take lessons myself but like so many times before that, I was told girls weren’t allowed.
It didn’t help that I was hooked on the TV show Kung Fu. It was spiritual. I felt at peace watching it. I wanted to be just like Caine.
Twelve years later The Karate Kid was released, and it reignited my martial arts passion. I signed up, but didn’t like it when my teacher bragged about training South American mercenaries. Who was this buffoon? Where was Mr. Miyagi? I quit shortly after that. But as the years passed, every time I’d drive by a dojo I’d wish I was a part of it.
A little over seven years ago, a neighbor began appearing everywhere I went. I’d walk my dog, he’d drive by and let out a cat call. I’d go to the library to return a book, and so would he. I’d run over to the grocery store, and there he was. I had to do something – immediately.
I found a dojo that fit my hours and jumped right in. I didn’t care about the style they taught, or their philosophy. My only requirement was getting some sort of self-defense training – NOW.
It turned out to be a perfect match for me. They taught traditional Shaolin Kempo with a lot of real world techniques thrown in. I fell in love with it. I also signed up for a model mugging class around the same time, and became very acquainted with women’s self-defense issues.
I drastically changed my daily routine, and noticed that my creepy neighbor just faded away. Maybe he followed me to the karate studio one day and it scared him off. Who knows. But I’m actually grateful for his appearance in my life, because without him, I might never have started the journey.
I’m currently 7 years into my martial arts training, and rank at 1st degree black belt. Training has become a lifestyle for me. I love it.