I asked our own Karate Nana to tell us about her journey… This is what she answered with.

You are about to read an incredible story written by our own Karate Nana about her journey with martial arts…

Sit back, relax, and be ready for excitement!

We Are The Product Of Our Environment

As human creatures, we tend to be a product of our environment. People, places, circumstances, events, and things of all kinds influence us in one way or another.

I was born into a family that eventually consisted of six children. Three girls and three boys.

Of this, I was the middle child. Over time, I learned an important lesson – it was better to be seen and not heard – AND if you could help it, neither seen nor heard.

I grew up feeling invisible.

Just The Usual

My childhood was not spectacular. It was neither remarkable nor tragic.

There are a few events I remember that were mildly unpleasant, maybe borderline tragic, but lets not make it sound worse than it was.

I once burned my toe on an open charcoal pit. There was the time I received a concussion when I wrecked my bicycle and crashed in the street. Another time I was laughed at when I joined the choir in church by the other kids. I moved every 18-24 months and never stayed in one place long enough to make friends.

My father was murdered when I was 12. I suppose that would be considered tragic.

I was in a building next door to the OKC bombing when the bomb went off. That was terrifying.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful childhood. Especially compared to others I know that were subjected to unthinkable horrors and abuses.

I Built A Bubble, & Popped It…

I built myself a bubble to live in with books to cushion me from any emotional pain I might have felt. Stories have a way of making you feel grand and part of something bigger. It seems strange that my journey has become a bit of a story around Peaceful Warriors in its own right.

One Saturday afternoon, I stepped way out of my comfort zone… Like, WAY out.

I participated in a free ladies active protection workshop at the dojang.

This changed my life – not so much the class itself – but the people and what happened after that…

I Got An Invite

They invited me to come in for a sparring class the following Friday. I don’t know why, but I showed up.

I’ve been showing up ever since.

There is something liberating about being around people you would not ordinarily have met. Something free about doing something you never dreamed of doing. Especially if it is something no one else dreamed you would do either.

To be able to – pardon my expression here – find myself.

The chance for me to be someone other than someone’s child, someone’s sister, wife, mother, employee – to just be me.

I Made A Decision

After that first class, I decided I would join Peaceful Warriors for at least 3 months.

Three months because at the time they were running a special for three months. If you signed up and paid for three months, you could get a free set of sparring gear.

More than five years later, I still have and use that gear.

Something I Never Expected

After the first two months of classes, it was time…

Time to test for my orange belt. I had been enjoying the workouts.  Around this time I began coming six days a week, but I never had any intention of advancing.

After a while, I decided I would probably only try for this one rank advancement. This was a bigger step than I imagined. I was very hesitant and did not like the idea of getting up in front of everyone to demonstrate forms, sparring, or active protection.

This in itself was so far out of my comfort zone it felt like a dream.

Something Happened

I’m not really sure what. If you don’t know by now you should, there is something addictive about working out with people that become not just friends, but family too.

There is something comforting about being around people that have no expectations other than trying to be the best they can be and wanting the same for you.

From orange to yellow, yellow to advanced yellow, the journey kept going.

I began playing with the Tigers class while watching my granddaughter in Tigers. As they put it, I was ‘helping’ to run the games. From that, I was encouraged to join the leadership team.

This, I discovered, I enjoyed as much, if not more, than being in class myself.

Kaizen – Constant Improvement

Over the years my general health improved. Getting healthier and working out has meant losing weight and gaining confidence.

Getting healthier and stronger has meant better balance, gaining the ability to crabwalk across the mats – which by the way was a major achievement for me!

One victory after another, some just mere nuggets, others are both molehills and mountains.

I gained the ability to run two miles without stopping when there was a time the effort to run a quarter of a mile was impossible. There is the joy of running with my #Teammates after class.

The ability to see the change in others as they join in on the mats. From watching the smallest of Tigers, the youngest and oldest of the fresh beginners, and even the most advanced ranks, set goals and do amazing things. This, I think, has been the most satisfying of all.

I Didn’t Mean To

I really never intended to get any rank, much less be a black belt. The idea of being a 2nd degree black belt was way beyond anything I could imagine. Now I am working on my third.

Unlike some people that join martial arts for the belts or titles, this was not a goal I had in mind.

I didn’t intend to make it to assistant instructor either, much less brown collar lead instructor, but here I am…

It has been and is still a journey. The most important part of this journey is how I feel.

At peace with myself and my actions. Knowing that those actions have molded me into being the best I can be, and that this in turn has helped to mold others to be the best they can be.

How I got here is a mystery – why I stay is not. I stay because it is who I am.

This #Teammate article was written by: Our own Karate Nana! Mrs. Shirley Stapleton