I am a Nidan

It feels strange, I now wear the black of the shadows I was dreaming of facing all those years ago as low grade.

I wear the black blackbelt of someone who has been focused on their goal, and not let it be just a dream.

I wear the black gi of a warrior that faced 30 men, a long line of shadows, facing down fear to prove to myself that I am a warrior, I do belong. To overcome doubts and demons.

I always had this little niggle, that people thought I was just a brawler, or not smart enough. It’s all in my own head. Most of my life, I have let my demons take over me.

They led me to self destruction, in many different ways. Karate was different, it was the first place I belonged. No matter how much I tried for my dad, I was not the rugby type, I was an outsider an observer.

Karate was the first place that I met people like me, forged friendships through the fiery pit that sparring can be. It is where I found love, where I didn’t know I deserve it. It was the first place that I realised I could actually be good at something.

From my first lesson I knew karate, the style of Goju ryu, specifically the hard path of the DKK association that it was for me. It is the first place I faced fear, and no matter how many times I have fallen, I keep fighting, improving inch by inch.

This fear and doubt that has affected me most of my life, has been like a catalyst in my way of life that is karate. I know I have to practice more than most to get things right, so I trained harder at home. I became obsessed with its history. Hanging with mates, we would drink and feel like we have discovered new ways (well new to us, but ancient like the katas) and we would play and find our understanding evolved.

People knew from a low grade that I would get this far, I didn’t believe them. I was always scared.

I reached shodan, a grade I deserved but felt like I could of done better. Don’t get me wrong, I did my best.

When I asked for advice for attempting the 30 man kumite, people said I’m tough, withstand twenty fights, brawl the next ten or vice versa. This got to me, I knew deep down I was a better fighter than this. This was the first time I believed in myself.

I trained with two men, one small but so exceptionally technical, a counter striker. I knew if I could get a fraction as good as he is then I am on the right path to where I want to be. The next man is like a juggernaut, powerul bigger, but a really smart fighter that people underestimate. He pushed me to new levels, where I had to change my style to last thirty fights, to become the smart fighter I knew I was somewhere deep inside.

We had our fight club, I would go through highs and lows, and the boot camp people that followed were so supportive, they got behind me like a big family seeing me fight through it all. My love was one of them, she saw my spirit my laughter even in the darkest moments and saw me through my journey.

Our shihan’s lessons seemed to be focused on me (thats how we all think), and his advice though simple made the biggest difference in the darkest moments. I based a lot of the way I wanted to fight on him and his way of fighting.

We had the big tournament with our London club, I won the grappling and got tons of advice on how to improve for the next three months. Simple advice, but ones I took to heart, their approach helped me to evolve into the calm warrior I became on that sunny day.

Every fight I always have great fear, every grading I always thought I would fail. This time, I knew it was my time. I knew I trained like a professional, I knew I dedicated my life to this one moment. I didn’t drink alcohol for nine months, no snacks except for ice cream on a Sunday. I trained twice a day, I didn’t do as much cardio as others, my cardio was based on fighting and sparring fitness and toughness.

I think the difference between some is that they jusy want to survive the nidan grading, for others it was a test. For me it was my chance to prove I was the best. Not out of ego, there will always be a better fighter. It was to prove I was the best, the best fighter I could become, to slay my demons and prove I am a black gi, I do belong.

My future girlfriend dragged her family to see my fight, she was meant to be at a family reunion. She didn’t want to let me down.

My dad was 88 years old, I was 29. I wanted to prove to him, and show although I couldn’t become a professional rugby player like he wanted, I would for at least this moment become a professional fighter. Proved to him and myself that I can earn something beyond what I thought I could. I wanted to make proud.

Apparently mine was one of the best performances that many had ever seen. I am still struggling to digesting this, me how can I do this? Was it really me. 

10 months later I am only just starting to accept this, I did achieve the impossible. But it will mean nothing, if I don’t keep training, if I don’t keep pushing my boundaries. I know I can be better than I was.

This is my way of life, I am a blackbelt, I wear the black gi of those who have faced the black dragon. I am part of this brotherhood, this cult.

It is in my blood, I can the scars of my marital journey like a proud warrior.

Karate has shown me that a man can reach his dreams, if you stay humble and have iron will then anything is possible.

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Riding the tides of life

The last few weeks,

Of pain and torment,

Everything is in confusion,

Life is like one big contusion,

Where do I stand,

The tides are againts me,

I am drowning,

Madness the world doesn’t know how to be quite,

I can solve this,

But I can’t,

Trying to is driving me insane,

Tearing me apart,

It is out of my hands,

What am I to do,

I see a wave,

But instead of dread,

The fear of life overcoming me,

Not my own pain,

But someone I care deeply about,

I don’t fight the waves,

I jump up on the board, and ride with the waves,

The thrill and excitement,

Peace slowly spreads into me,

The joy of life,

A release of all my tension,

As I have tried so hard to be everything,

Whether its my work face,

Training face,

Goofy face,

Lovers face,

Home face,

Its jusy my face,

Myself,

I am who I am,

Sometimes I’m wild and loud,

Other times I am quiet snd thoughtful,

I’m free to be me,

With each wave I ride,

Helps me to realise that this pain is in my head,

To problems I can’t solve,

I just have to except them,

And hope it goes my way,

And realise it may not but thats okay,

Some waves I fall,

But I pick myself up and go up that wall,

Realising failing isnt the end,

You learn each time,

So when you do catch that next wave,

You grow more confident each time,

I feel relaxed and calm,

My two sides are in sync,

I have accepted life,

And just go with the flow,

I still won’t give up,

I won’t let life take me down,

But I will ride the waves,

Life is like one big rave,

Searching for that perfect wave,

That perfect moment.

My world

Baby I love you,

More than you can know,

Even when it snows,

I know times are tough,

And life is feeling rough,

But with you and me,

Together we are meant to be,

Sailing along the river,

Enjoying a romantic dinner,

We make each other laugh,

As we are each others half,

When it is feeling cold,

Or when we get rather old,

We will always have each other,

You’ll always be my lover,

In the day I love to cuddle,

And at night we get to snuggle,

Keeping each other warm,

Loving you is my norm,

As we go on our big adventure,

For the rest of our lives.

A moment of reflection

Last year I became a caveman to karate, I decided to train for the 30 man kumite. I trained with an obsession like no other, it was my chance to train at least in my mind like a professional fighter, diet lifestyle everything was focused on that one goal.

Not only did I achieve an impossible dream, apparently mine was one of the best performances they had ever seen. Which is something I’m still coming to terms with.

Next week I turn 30, and I often wonder what have I achieved in life. I tend to be negative about myself. There have been some dark moments, I failed university and that period nearly destroyed me.

But through that dark period, I have in my own mind gone through my hell and become a stronger person. I refocused on karate, worked in an abattoir (literally like hell), and managed to chase a dream and train kung fu in China (my heaven).

After China I had to go through another period of darkness in unemployment where I felt worthless, karate was the only thing keeping me going.

I learnt I had a talent teaching kids, specifically in swimming which gave me a new lease on life. I love helping others, making people laugh and making a difference in someone else’s life.

I achieved a blackbelt which was impossible to me before. I was a wreck, nerves and fear ruined me. I met a girl who gave me confidence, but tried to change me and mentally scarred me by saying no woman would ever want to be with me long term.

She tried to take me away from my dad and karate, which are really important to my foundations.

I trained like a caveman (with a caveman beard), achieving my nidan and the coverted black gi.

Along the way I fell in love to the woman that gives me happiness, who excepts me for me and who trains in karate as well. She is also a badass. (What an awesome bonus!)

Life isn’t always easy, its the hard roads that have taken me to where I am. It led me to swim teaching, achieving nidan level and being with the love of my life.

My twenties don’t look so bad now in hindsight, and I look forward to my thirties with my foundations of karate and my beautiful girlfriend by my side to keep me strong and on the right path.

The yang to my yin

When the skies are blue,

And not even a single cloud in the sky,

When the sun is high,

Shinny brightly over the world,

When a gentle breeze passes on a summers day,

And all is calm,

And there is nothing but laughter,

This is how you make me feel,

When times are tough,

Fighting through the eye of a storm,

You are what anchors me to the ground,

You are what gives me light,

Even in the darkest moments,

You are what gives me peace,

That I have never known before,

Even when the world is at war,

You give me the strength to be me.

A journey through shadows

Circled by darkness,
The birds of shadow are hunting,
Waiting for my fall,
Scavengers of life,
Waiting to take me piece by piece,
The darkness spreads,
I no longer know what light is,
Despair pain and madness are all the same,
A vicious cycle that never seems to end,
I’m looking for someone to save me,
Why will no one save me,
Lost alone,
Bewildered,
I reach the abyss waiting for the shadows,
No one is there to save me,
I am alone,
I realise as I fall,
Wind rushing against my face,
Only one person can save me,
That is me the shadows,
I am the one circling,
Hunting myself down,
It is not weakness,
But fear of nothingness,
Of never being more than I am,
Embracing the darkness,
I no longer run away from its pull,
But neither do I let it drag me down,
Of the deep waters of the lagoon,
I embrace who I truly am,
And fight,
Fight against the current,
My arms spread,
Growing longer and wider,
Wings are forming,
Sheer will is my power,
Pulling against despair,
Shoulders burn with intensity,
As I fight to fly high above the sky,
The shadows pounce on my flesh,
I growl,
A beast is released from within my chest,
I fight to be amongst the skies,
To the one I truly I am,
To earn the white feathers,
With the black stripe around my waist,
Then you show up,
Showing me who I could be,
The shadows have gone,
I no longer fight,
I am happy for a time,
I learn to be more than fight over fear,
Laughter is in my heart,
But then you change,
Still beautiful but with a colder edge,
You want me to be something else,
Someone else,
You make me choose between those I love,
And you,
I am nearly torn in two,
Who am I,
I no longer know,
I never felt pain as much,
Since the fall of Man,
My soul has grown,
I love me for me now,
First time since forever,
How dare anyone try to turn me into a shell of the being I am,
I am proud of who I am,
Despite my flaws,
I remember the shadows,
Darkness,
Pain the beast from within,
I shall not fall,
But embrace who I am,
And battle the eternal battle,
Of life versus fear,
I will confront my  fear,
Amongst the line of shadows facing me,
Their faces cold with no emotions,
Ready to destroy me,
I am my strength,
My will, will be strong,
But I won’t forget the light that you showed me,
I now live instead of hiding from the shadows.

A magical journey

Down the magical river,
on a boat hiding from the evil fairies,
Popping from tavern to tavern,
meeting all kinds of strange and wonderful folk,
Magic is fresh and alive,
Reborn after years of its century of turmoil,
The boat is being invaded by pixie pirates,
The drummer scares them off with his portable drums,
But it only slows them down,
The singer finds a magic carpet,
And embracing the bold,
They jump,
Tumbling,
Tumbling down about to fall into the water,
The magic carpet comes to life,
His name is Henry bonbash
The carpet flys them to the castle in the sky,
Dodging birds the size of planes,
And enter into the palace of palpatine