May has been a strange month for me. A month of endings, I have finished the 3 courses I have been doing and two major things have happened, leading me in a new, may be better direction.
The Roman poet Ovid says that the month of May is named for the maiores, Latin for “elders,” and that the following month (June) is named for the iuniores, or “young people”. My sensei and my chief sensei have not been getting along for some time now. In the end my sensei the one who helped me so much in getting to my first black belt, has decided to leave the Association and create his own. I don’t want to go into details here but as far as I could see there is some fault on both sides. So you might be asking what the big deal is here to me. I wasn’t involved really and it should have just been between them. Well, the chief sensei decided as part of my sensei leaving, that there would be no cross-training or (added later) no cross-teaching. Never been an issue before and some of the other students already cross-train and teach. I have been teaching with my sensei since 2011 and we are a very good team and he is not just my sensei, but a friend as well. This is not an insult to my sensei, even though he can still teach me a lot, there are some things he cannot, that the chief sensei was and would have been teaching my sensei too.
Now, I’m a big believer in not breaking the rules, at least not until you understand why they are there. I was really hoping that my chief sensei would make an exception for me. The decision only really affected two of us in the association. I considered myself of value to the main association, teaching and training there twice a week and as one of only two adult female black belts (the other lady was rarely there), a huge role model to young girls and other women (of which there are still way too few). He was adamant there would be no exceptions. So I tried to understand chief sensei’s decision and reasons, but I found that I could not agree with them and I still wanted to support and teach with my sensei. In fact I felt that all his reasoning for making the decision in the first place was unnecessary, and in some ways a bit vindictive. He told me I had to make a decision, choose between them. I couldn’t in good conscience do that, and stop supporting my sensei as he went in a different direction. Besides I had already given my word that I would support him whether he stayed or left. In the end, it has meant that I cannot go back to my association/training, all the time I am helping my sensei with his new club. It’s interesting that this decision happened the weekend before the Ides of May (May 15), when the roman god Mercury received a sacrifice. So I sacrificed my training for my morals. I don’t regret the decision, but I do, as a friend put it, feel bereft.
Leaving a dojo is like leaving a family, you work so closely with people, that bonds are just as strong. Those friendships are for life. I’m glad that I have managed to leave with everyone’s respect and I can go back anytime (providing that one condition is met!).
I don’t think I will though. It’s not who I am. Some may not understand why I put friendship and support above my personal training, my chief sensei certainly did not seem to and seems to think this will be the end of my training. I’m sorry but there is a whole world out there. I’m sure I can find something that works for me.
It is something that has been coming for a long time, my leaving. I have had times where I was just going to leave and never go back, because of something the chief sensei did or said to me or to someone else. I kept rationalising that maybe his reasons were right, maybe he was testing them, maybe it’s because of my communication issues with him, we’ve always had a personality conflict – it’s hard for us to understand each other. Kept reminding myself that he is only human and is allowed to make mistakes too. But this, this last incident had me feeling like I needed to make a stand, for myself, my beliefs. I felt pressured to stay, to abandon my friend. He could it on his own, but why should he. The kids wanted me to stay too. What do you say to a kid who asks “you’re not leaving us are you?” I know these kids better than the association kids, as I’ve been with them from their beginning.
Maybe I am just kidding myself and I’ve made a huge mistake as the chief sensei suggested. I don’t think so though, I’ve felt too much relief, now it is done. As I said to him
“It’s my mistake to make, and if it is a mistake, then I will learn from it.”
I have since found out that cross-training is frowned upon by many clubs, which I can understand if you haven’t reached a black belt, but not if you already have some idea of what you are looking at and for. Besides I’ve always been told how Japanese masters sent their students to other clubs and learnt loads from visiting Chinese. I’ve never been a fan of withholding knowledge. Isn’t there a quote that says Those who seek to control knowledge, seek to control power. Obviously there are times you have to wait until someone is ready or responsible enough to understand and use the knowledge.
I did panic after and contacted a sensei of a similar level for a private lesson. Karate is so much a part of who I am and not being able to progress or train fully, worried me. My sensei said to me
“Why? You are a second dan now, you have enough knowledge to train yourself”.
The sensei that offered me a private lesson, reminded me that
“karate is within you not the dojo so keep enjoying.”
Which I will.
Finally a Diagnosis
Still this was not the only big thing that happened this month. May was named for the Greek Goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. Bona Dea is sometimes known as the Women’s goddess. I’m not particularly religious but may be this is relevant. I do believe that everything is connected and everything happens for a reason. A few days after this decision was made I got a phone call from the hospital, one I have been waiting for since September last year. We want to do your diagnostic laparoscopy operation next week. My stomach did a back flip.
It wasn’t something I could turn down, I was in desperate need of answers. It did mean I felt I had to postpone my private lesson, which I could possibly have fitted in, but I had already committed to attending my sensei’s first grading as his own association. Besides there was no way I could focus on my future when my past and my present needed dealing with.
The operation was to determine if I had Endometriosis. It was suspected because my periods were so painful. For those who don’t know Endometriosis is very difficult to diagnose and can really only be confirmed with this operation. Suffers usually wait an average of 7 to 10 years for a diagnosis.
In some ways I feel lucky even though I first went to the docs about painful periods in 2011. They told me it was just normal cramps and to take painkillers and to look at counselling. I didn’t really believe it but did what I was told for the next few years. After all they are the experts. Got some CBT counselling. It seemed to work although the pain and the depression didn’t really get any better. It was actually getting worse. But me being me I just carried on, taking each day at a time and avoiding the doctors. Not that I could get an appointment for a month anyway and you have to do the stupid ring at 8.30am until you get through, usually around 10.30am. If you are lucky they’ll have some appointments left. But it came to a point when the ibuprofen stopped working and in 2014 I went to the doctors again, they sent me for a scan, at my insistence. They didn’t find anything but put me on stronger pills and to come back in six months. After seeing 3 different doctors about it, because you rarely see the same one twice, I saw the practice nurse in 2017. My mum’s recommendation, she really got things sorted for me. Three more scans later, I have a diagnosis of a downwards pointing uterus, a small fibroid and a cyst and a referral to the gynaecologist. The gynaecologist suspected endometriosis for the pain rather than the fibroid or the cyst.
He was right, unfortunately the endometriosis was so severe and had attached my uterus to my bowel and he didn’t want to touch it, in case it damaged my bowel. He has referred me to a specialist. I am so relieved, right up until they put me under, I was thinking, may be I’m overreacting, maybe the pain isn’t that bad, I am sensitive after all. People have told me that my whole life, may be I’m not actually over-sensitive at all. May be I should be more heard! One thing I do know absolutely is that we all need to communicate better, it’s not just a problem I have.
Lucky is a perspective
I mentioned that I feel lucky in some ways about this. I felt lucky in that, I got the drugs and the scans when I asked for them, I didn’t have to fight too hard for those. The practice nurse was brilliant and was someone who really listened and cared, as was the gynaecologist and all the hospital staff. My knowledge of sanchin and using the breathing helped me a lot. When I eventually came round (which was apparently longer than normal) from the anaesthetic, I was still doing it and my awareness was there straight away. I wasn’t confused or disorientated. My partner has been brilliant and is currently working at home so he can walk Mollie our manic mutt. I am recovering quickly from the op and have already practiced some kata, very carefully tai chi speed, with no power. Also learning to use our new laser cutter/engraver, which is very exciting. I made this brooch for my partner’s mother – it’s her birth flower, Lily of the Valley – the flower for May.
May be this decision had to be, so that I can get my health sorted. May be there is something better on the horizon for my Karate, for my life in general.