The Story So Far – Chapter 13 – The Return To The Mat

CHAPTER 13 – THE RETURN TO THE MAT

Come November 2012 and it was time to brush of the dust and go back into competition.  The disappointment of the Nationals back in July was behind me, but not forgotten.  This time around it was a competition organised by our association which invited the other national associations of the UK and Ireland, essentially the same competitors as the last time, but with a handful of competitors from the other nations, but for me it was time prove I still had it and I guess after the last competition the pressure was on the others and not me anymore.

By the time of the competition I had lost even more weight and was down to 10st, my lowest weight for almost twenty years.  When I got to the venue there were a number of people who didn’t actually recognise me, I had known them years, but they had to do a double take before they realised who I was, it was a response I actually enjoyed and found pretty funny.

I was actually feeling quite confident, but in a very different way to the last time.  I guess the last time I was way over confident, I felt that I couldn’t fail, the title was mine this time around, there was no way I could lose.  This time around I was confident, not just that I could do better than before, but this time I felt that I just go out there and compete without any pressure, pressure that mainly I was putting on myself, I was confident, but with that what will be will be attitude, it took the pressure off me.

I felt far more relaxed when competing this time, I always feel nervous, even after a thirty year competition career, I get nervous, before approaching the area I am nervous, very nervous, but once I walk on I switch modes, put everything around me out of my head, bow and walk on, I put all those nerves aside, the downside of that is that sometimes I become pretty tense, which can make the movements slower and a little less fluid that they need to be, also I have a tendency to rush, especially if I just lose that little bit of focus and let a little bit of what is happening around me distract me.  But this time around I was able to manage this so much better than ever before, for the first time I felt I had lost that tenseness which sometimes creeps in.

The preliminary rounds went really well, there were no little slips, no rushing, things were maybe a little tense, but not as bad I had been in the past.  In fairness the National squad competitors are generally seeded in the draw and miss each other until the latter rounds or the semi finals, as a former squad member and champion, I am afforded that privilege and get seeded along with the current squad members and previous finalists, so the early rounds were straight forward enough.  They should have been last time around, but that over confidence played its part and well, what happened, happened.

I remember feeling quite emotional when I reached the semi finals, the last eight were split into two semi finals of four, each competitor was to perform their choice of kata and the top two from each section would go through to the final later.  Although I wasn’t entirely pleased with me performance, I made it through to the final after winning my section.

After that I had to find a quiet place, I was feeling so overcome with emotion I had to go somewhere quiet, I left the hall and found a quiet corridor away from everyone, there I had a few tears.  I’ve reached so many finals over the years and won my fair share of them, but I’ve never shed a tear like this, not in this way, maybe it was just a reaction to disappointment of last time, I’m not entirely sure, but I shed a few tears and thanked God for what He had done in my life up to that point, six months before I was on the edg of life, now I was overcoming so many things, I was thankfully for every one.

The final later went well, I was once again not entirely pleased with my performance, it wasn’t my worst, but could have been better, but in hindsight now it was probably better than my performances over the last few years, but there was room for improvement.  I finished second in the final, losing to an old rival, Ken had won the National’s earlier in the year, we have been competing against each other over the last twelve years, we seemed to take it in turns to beat each other, one year I would beat him, then next he would beat me, this time around it was his turn and that was fine.

2011-2012

2011-2012

Though slightly disappointed with my kata in the final, I wasn’t actually disappointed to finish second, not after the last time, in truth I was just happy to be back competing and to still be competitive.

Over the previous years karate had been the only thing that kept me going, it was the only thing, other than alcohol, that I had an appetite for, it was the only thing I would stay sober for, it was the only place that I actually felt normal, felt alive.

When I met with Gareth I described my karate suit as my Superman suit, I was like Clark Kent, without the suit on I was weak, yet when I put the suit on I became someone else, someone who showed strength, leadership and life.  But in reality over the last couple of years that was all a lie, a big lie.  There was such a difference in my personality in and out of the suit, I couldn’t let anyone really know what was going on, especially not those who saw me as a leader and inspiration, I had an image to keep up and I did it the best I could.  Before karate I never drank, sometimes at the weekend I would have one pint with a meal, but that would be a few hours before training, seeing as just one pint would make me sleepy, then I tried to avoid it anyway.

When the suit came off, I almost ran to the pub, I would have waited all day, weeknight’s when I taught it would be gone 10pm before I hit the pub, so the quicker I got there the better.  As my drinking got worse, the opening hours went from closing time at 11pm to closing at 12pm, so instead of getting just two pints in that time, I was not able to get four in.  Eventually I wouldn’t leave the pub until about 1am, walk home and then start on whatever I had in the house, before I fell asleep.

Finally though it seems that the two sides of my personality where coming together, there was still a bit of difference in the two sides of me, I was still more comfortable in my surroundings in my karate gi, where as in real life I was far more shy and reserved, but the distance between the two was far less, not that I was diminishing in the suit, but I was becoming a stronger person without the comfort of my karate suit.

RISE ABOVE by FIREFLIGHT
Too much time we let pass by
Broken dreams and idle lives
Waiting on the way it ought to be
Pushing forward, falling back
Counting scars and losing track
Afraid to crash we never spread our wings
And with every chance we take we find a reason
To give up on the hope that we all need

Maybe today we all will rise
Maybe today we all will rise
Above the mistakes that we’ve made
Sometimes we’ve got to face the fall
Before we rise above it all

Can’t give up on second tries
Leave the pride that blinds our eyes
No one taught us how to say goodbye
Now’s the time for broken hearts
Embrace today a brand new start
Leave the past and let love lead the way
And with every chance we take we find a reason
To give up on the hope that we all need

Maybe today we all will rise
Maybe today we all will rise
Above the mistakes that we’ve made
Sometimes we’ve got to face the fall
Before we rise above it all

If we just lived like we mean it
If we loved even when we don’t feel it
We would suffer for a reason
And see there is more to who we are

Maybe today we all will rise
Maybe today we all will rise

Maybe today we all will rise
Maybe today we all will rise
Above the mistakes that we’ve made
Sometimes we’ve got to face the fall
Before we rise above it all
Rise above it all
Rise above it all

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