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A Woman's Perspective on Karate

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

By: Lindsey S. Featuring: Emily Bowman

Q: How long have you been practicing karate and when did you become a Sensei?

A: I have been training in Traditional Shotokan Karate for the last 10 years. To put this into perspective, I am 21 years old.

So half of my life I have been involved in the dojo, both as a student and most recently as an instructor.

Specifically, my first day in the Chesterfield Dojo was when I was in 6th grade. I was fortunate enough to also have my mom try out my first class with me.

Ever since then, we have both been active members in the dojo and our passion for and commitment to Shotokan karate has only grown over the years.

Few people know that becoming an instructor at the dojo actually inspired me to pursue education as a career.

I am currently studying education in school, and I was fortunate enough to start my teaching career at the Chesterfield Dojo when I was in high school.

I started in the deshi program, as an assistant teacher, and eventually progressed to instructor.

This allowed me to reach a new level of understanding, as I had to find ways to communicate my skills and knowledge to many diverse students.

I also led various summer programs and taught throughout the school year at various after school programs.

I was able to spread my love for Shotokan karate to many kids throughout the entire area.

Q: What are some of your achievements in karate?

A: Personally I believe that I have countless achievements in karate, all thanks to my hard working and committed Sensei’s. I can divide all of my achievements into many different categories, but I will focus on physical achievements and emotional achievements.

Physically, I have really learned how to effectively use my body as one unit. Along with my cognitive development, I was able to develop my coordination skills as well as basic understandings of my own karate style and movements.

I also really learned how to value and prioritize my health at a young age, because of karate.

Even though I also did other sports throughout my childhood and in high school, karate was always my favorite sport.

To this day, I understand how karate can be applied to all sports, and I believe that because of karate, I was able to perform well in other sports that I was interested in at the time.

Your own body can be your best friend at times, and at other times, your worst enemy.

Sometimes you wish you could move faster, or be more coordinated. So there is definitely a journey that you go through in karate, just like in any other sport, where you learn how to accept your physical abilities and how to embrace them.

I have also truly grown emotionally throughout my karate career thus far. My very first day as a student, I didn’t acknowledge anyone and I did not enjoy the partner drills. Mainly, I avoided eye contact at all cost.

I eventually had to force myself to engage in eye contact, to show confidence. I learned to acknowledge my instructors, shake their hands, work with partners, and eventually I learned how to lead a class.

I remember my very first grading and being the first person to be called up.

To this day, I teach eye contact as one of the most important skills in karate.

Sensei Barry Power of the Missouri Karate Association
Sensei Barry Power of the Missouri Karate Association

Also as a student, I learned to be resilient. Whether this be receiving my yellow belt at my first grading, when the rest of the dojo received orange, or by getting injured in national tournaments.

I was taught to not cry and to come back stronger the next time. To redirect any negative energy into powerful and purposeful energy.

Losing and winning have become less and less important to me as a competitor.

As I progress further through the ranks, understanding the history and basics of Shotokan karate become more and more crucial to my passion.

The most important thing that I have learned as an Instructor, is how important it is to develop my own training experience as well. I am able to best teach when I have personally spent hours upon hours or even years trying to master a concept.

Whether it is a new kata, new combination, or new body dynamic, I have been able to help my students best when I have known what it feels like to be in their position.

I have received great pride in encouraging my students throughout the years, and they have also taught me invaluable skills on the importance of growing in my knowledge base.

The students became a responsibility of mine and they are the majority of the reason that I continue in my career in Shotokan karate. I enjoy meeting new students, new parents, new families, and I take pride in being able to share a commonality as well as an irreplaceable community.

Q: What would you say to a young woman who may be apprehensive about getting involved in what is commonly considered a male-dominated sport?

A: I would tell her that her hesitation is valid, but that this specific reason should be one of the main reasons that she gets involved in karate.

I originally was told that it was a “male sport” and that it was “meant for strong people,” etc. But after my years of experience in the dojo and in the karate community, I have learned that this is a common misconception.

I have never felt a separation between the males and females in the karate community. Sure, at times there are more male than female students.

But I have never been told I can’t do something because I’m a girl.

Karate actually allowed me to get more comfortable with male students, and has allowed me to feel that I can compete against them and do well.

Now, I actually prefer working with male students when we are practicing self-defense drills, because I know that these are more realistic situations. But, as I said, this has been a process for me.

A physical and emotional process, as I learned how my female body operates and I have learned how to cope with working with male students.

One of my favorite parts about working with male students is their surprised responses.

They always say “wow, you punch hard,” or “I wasn’t expecting you to punch that hard,” etc.

This always makes me laugh, as there is no better feeling than overriding any stereotypes or misconceptions that sometimes people subconsciously have.

Now, competing in the adult division, I do not mind that there is a separation of male and female competitors.

I actually enjoy this, because I am able to watch my instructors compete after I am done competing.

As all karate students know, watching and observing karate can be just as valuable as participating in karate.

I personally believe that my opinion on this topic stems from the Dojo from which I belong. My instructors have always encouraged females to work with males, and this has never been taught as “wrong” or “unfair.”

This has also allowed me to build relationships with the entire dojo, instead of just the females.

Often times, I have been surprised that I have enjoyed working with a male more than a female.

Being exposed to different situations has allowed me to appreciate every individual student in my entire Dojo community, and has allowed me to expand my skills greatly because of being exposed to so many different perspectives.

If anything, this stereotype has forced me to try harder. To work harder to get noticed as a “strong female.” From participating and training in Traditional Shotokan Karate, you feel strong and you feel empowered, whether you are a female or male.

Q: How has karate impacted your scholastic and personal life?

A: As stated earlier, karate has primarily given me confidence. This has allowed me to be comfortable in the class, but also to be able to work with partners, make friends, as well as build relationships with parents.

Confidence has also allowed me to compete, to make mistakes in front of crowds, and to also celebrate when I have reached a new goal.

Because of the confidence that karate has given me, I have been able to place myself in situations that I used to find uncomfortable or intimidating, and this has also allowed me to model confidence for my students as well as instill this quality in them.

I would also say that karate has affected me outside of the extra-curricular setting.

I have always been very dedicated to school, and I wrote and continue to write countless essays as well as applications that elaborate on my various karate experiences.

Not only has karate been the most consistent element in my life, but it has also been the place where I have developed the most personally and as a dojo community.

I have really learned how to work hard, how to work towards goals such as gradings and national competitions, how to make mistakes and how to improve.

I have referenced karate in every single job interview that I have had thus far.

Every time, people have been very impressed by this unique dedication and are often times very intrigued by the community base that I describe to them.

As stated earlier, I am pursuing a degree in Education because of karate and my pedagogical experiences in the dojo.

Q: There are many styles of karate; why did you choose Shotokan?

A: I remember telling my mom when I was looking for a dojo, that I wanted to do karate. I wanted to learn a karate style that I could actually use, and that would set me apart from all of my peers.

My mom was the one who found the Power brothers dojo and who encouraged me to try Shotokan karate because of the emphasis on self-defense. My mom wanted me to know how to defend myself if ever in a dangerous situation.

I remember describing to my mom that I wanted to learn a style that would “work” in the real world. Lastly, I chose Shotokan because of the history and tradition.

I was fascinated by the thought of people practicing Shotokan for centuries, and that many of the moves were derived from a historical time where people truly used it for self-defense.

This gives all Shotokan students much pride in knowing that we are continuing the tradition and that we are responsible for keeping the tradition and lifestyle alive.

Q: What do you like best about training under and teaching for the Missouri Karate Association?

A: The Missouri Karate Association is the only dojo that I know, and by far the best dojo. Stability and growth stems from the Power brothers, and is fostered by the student and parent base.

I have watched the Power brothers train and teach over the years, and have watched them inspire countless students.

They have been perfect examples of hard work and dedication, and they have never failed to provide countless opportunities for student success.

They go above and beyond by teaching students the history and practices of traditional Shotokan karate, but also recognize the responsibilities they have to their students. They teach basic life skills such as respect, integrity, persistence, honesty, etc.

Students are taught to be well-rounded as well as hard working.

Students are taught to be active learners who accept positive and negative outcomes as well as noting personal and collective growth.

They emphasize a sense of community, while also giving adequate attention to each student, making everyone feel important. The parents as well as the students are very involved, and the Power brothers have always encouraged everyone to play a role in the dojo community.

This is the strongest feature of our dojo; the very loyal community.

Personally, the Power brothers have been crucial to my personal growth and they have supported me throughout my years as a student as well as a teacher.

They have done the same for every student as they have done for me, and there is no other dojo quite like the Missouri Karate Association.

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