Ask anyone to describe a karate instructor and people will come up with many differing images, I’m not a little old guy from Okinawa or Japan, I’m not a big and brash larger than life type in a multi coloured karate suit adorned with badges, I’m not a muscular lean mean fighting machine, I am or was quite the opposite. I’m only five foot four & half inches and yes the half is very important, but as the years took their toll, then the middle age spread started to grow, the beer belly was well and truly formed, but I could still move, my technique was still good, I still had a passion for teaching.
As my life at home started to deteriorate, the work dried up, money became sparse and my drinking got worse, the only constant, the only place I could feel normal, the only place I could forget my problems if only for a few hours was at karate.
I never drank before teaching, I made sure of that, teaching was the only thing that took me away from it all, I’ve been doing karate for thirty two years now and teaching for the last twenty three of those, I wasn’t about to throw away the only good thing I believed I had left to hold on to.
In life I was a wreck, in karate I still commanded respect, I was still successful and the club was going well, very well. I guess I became two completely different personalities, at home I was weak, hardly capable of normal functioning, but when I picked up my bag, walked to the Leisure Centre and put on my karate suit, it was like Clark Kent entering the revolving doors and coming out as superman. My suit became my superhero costume, with the suit and the black belt on I was a completely different person, I could forget all my problems for those few hours and lead people, inspire people, but then the suit came off and the darkness took over again. I would walk over to the pub after class and the madness would start all over again.
On a Tuesday or Thursday night, I would finish at 10pm, then down four pints in the pub and go home to find any alcohol I had left in the house and continue drinking until I fell asleep, often waking in the earlier hours to finish the can or bottle that was still held tightly in my hand. At the weekends, both Saturday and Sunday, I would finish at 5.30pm, go to the pub, drink four pints, then go to the shop, buy two bottles of wine and drink them when I got home, as well as finishing anything I had left over from the night before.
I am naturally a shy person, I find it hard to mix with people when out of my comfort zone, but when I put a karate suit on it’s all very different, I can approach anyone, give advice to people I don’t know, start conversations with anybody, but take it off and I was back to being comfortable only in my own surroundings, but even that little bubble was beginning to burst.
Now I’ve stopped drinking I am trying desperately to bring my two alter egos closer together, to become one person again, it’s not easy as
my karate persona is far more developed than my natural self, but I’m trying and Church is definitely helping in that respect, I’ve still a long, long way to go, there is still a lot of hard work to go, but the two aspects of my life are slowing coming back together and I feel like I am gradually beginning to be somebody again.
When I can only see the floor
You made my window a door
So when they say they don’t believe
I hope that they see you in me
(Be Somebody by Thousand Foot Krutch)
Everything is out in the open now, I’m not hiding my drinking or the suicide episodes from anyone any more, there’s no need, I not proud of what I was, but I am proud of what I am becoming, I am proud of the way I’ve turned things around, I am proud of the strength I’ve shown since I put down the bottles and the blades and sorted my life out.