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HIGH FIVES, November 2008, by Jenifer Merifield
For this issue, I met up with ‘Sensei’ Carl Stedmond of the Harmony Center in Pickering, Ontario, and one of his brown belt students: 12 year old Mariah.
Brief History: Martial arts is a form of self defense without weapons. ‘Karate’, meaning ‘empty hand’, and ‘do’, meaning ‘the way’ (karate-do) is a form of martial arts. While it is believed that the beginnings of martial arts started in India hundreds of years ago, it is known to have been highly developed in China, Japan and Korea thereafter. Although karate and martial arts are forms of fighting and self defense, Sensei Carl says that it is meant for self empowerment. “People don’t have to feel like a victim, karate will teach them how to fight if they have no alternative, but I teach my students to avoid it and try to talk it out.” He teaches that the best form of self defense is not being in that type of situation to begin with!
Commitment Level: At least twice a week is recommended for an hour each class. Students are encouraged to practice in front of a mirror at home.
Starting age: 4 and up to any age!
Physical Requirements: Skipping and running are recommended in between lessons once you start. Sensei Carl’s past instructor even taught people in wheel chairs! He told me that “being fit certainly helps, but even if you are missing limbs you can do anything. Karate will get you fit if you’re not.” Once in a wheelchair himself, Sensei Carl knows there are no limits to what people can accomplish.
Equipment: Nothing is absolutely necessary, but optionally you can get a ‘gi’ (uniform) and if you spar, there is specific gear (gloves, foot guards, a mouth guard and shin guards).
Average Cost: This depends on the Dojo, but the average seems to be about $20-$30 per week for lessons, and the equipment would be about $200 for all of it.
Slang/Jargon: Sensei (teacher), gi (uniform), dojo (training hall), kiai (shout during kata), kata (pattern of movements), sempai (teacher’s helper), yoi (ready), hajime (begin), yame (stop), rei (bow).
‘She’ros in this sport: This is where Mariah comes in. At the age of 12, as Sensei Carl describes it, “she was invited into our elite class because of her excellent focus and self discipline. She always tries her best and has done very well.” When I met Mariah myself, she was a sweet, enthusiastic girl with a great personality. “The hard work is worth it,” she told me. “When you find something you think is cool and you like it, it’s easy to stick with it.” I asked her about her belt, “Brown is two away from black” she said proudly, “and there were 6 before it”. According to Sensei Carl, there are many forms of Karate (his is Shotokan) and their belt systems vary.
What do parents think of Karate?: According to Sensei Carl and Mariah, parents love it. Karate helps with focus and concentration, and their school work often improves. Parents are happy to know that practicing on others outside of the Dojo is highly discouraged!
Why others should consider Karate: Mariah says, “It’s fun and rewarding and you meet lots of friends!” It’s another great sport choice to help you get in shape and have fun.