When I was 9 years old my father had enrolled me in judo. In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing, but as I grew through my teen years I began winning tournaments and represented our zone in my weight division for the 1980 BC Winter Games. While I progressed to a respectable blue belt level, I never achieved my black belt. I wanted to continue training through university as my older brother had done, but the program I was studying demanded too much of my time for anything left over to go to judo. That’s when my judo career ended. Through my 20s and 30s, my focus became career, marriage, and kids. I was still interested in judo, and martial arts in general, but life just took over and my priorities changed, so I relegated myself to being a sideline spectator and not really being involved myself. Yes, I could have gone back to judo but I just didn’t want it that much, and besides, there were other martial arts to learn. It was a case of “Been there, done that”.
I started training in Krav Maga in my late 40s and, while I wish I could have started earlier, I know that it just would not have been possible. Vancouver did not have, in my opinion, a school with qualified instructors until Urban Tactics came along. When they mentioned that they were thinking of starting a kids class and asked whether or not my then-11-year old daughter Christine would be interested, I immediately signed her up. Much to my pleasant surprise, Christine really enjoys the classes and, just as importantly, she’s good at it. She’s now been taking it for two years and she can execute one hell of a groin kick! One day she asked me, “I know we’re never supposed to go to the ground, but if I do I still want to know what to do, so can I also take judo?”. I said of course she could, but I made it clear that I wasn’t asking her to, and I didn’t want her to take it just because I did when I was younger. She signed up at the end of March 2014 and she has done amazingly well in just one year. She has already competed in several tournaments, won fights in mere seconds, and has placed first more than once. She received her orange belt in January, and while I don’t remember how long it took me to get my orange belt in judo, I do know that it was longer than 9 months. I’m fully involved and have a vested interest in seeing her do well, so I watch all her classes and take her to as many tournaments as she wants. I support her, but I don’t push her, and she does have other interests as well like piano, baking, and reading. However, judo seems to have gotten into her blood.
Then something strange happened. A funny thing about life is that it’s unpredictable and things creep up on you without you even realizing it. When we went to the tournaments I met people whom I first met 35 years ago when I was taking judo as a teenager, and they were either still competing themselves, or their children were. I re-connected with my old instructors, and I began to know who today’s top judokas are. So while I thought I was being a good father by encouraging Christine to do well in judo and getting her integrated into the judo community, it turned out that in turn she had inadvertently re-ignited my interest in judo which I thought had long been extinguished. It dawned on me that by supporting Christine to take judo and wanting to inspire her to do well, the opposite was also happening. I realized that I was receiving inspiration from her to start re-training in judo and continue progressing. The question then formed in my head of whether or not I could train again and eventually earn my black belt. At first the idea seemed ridiculous because I’m now 51 years old. However, after discussions with Christine’s instructors and being told that it’s very possible for me to pick up where I left off 30 years ago, the more the idea has become feasible and not just a pipe dream. When I discussed the possibility with Christine, she wisely said “This window won’t be open forever. Take advantage of it while you can.”.
I thought about it and became excited by the idea, so I bought a new gi, dusted off my old blue belt, and will join the adult class which follows Christine’s class. If all goes well, in one year I hope to receive my brown belt, and then I will begin the journey towards my black belt. It will not be easy and at this time I don’t even know if I can manage the logistics of juggling my full-time job along with time spent with the family, in addition to the hours of time it will require me to dedicate to the training, and continue to take Krav Maga. No doubt there will be challenges. However, I do know that if I start to feel like I’m too old for this and begin to get discouraged, just as I support Christine in her judo path, I know she will support and continue to inspire me to reach my goal.
Inspiration can take many forms. People can be inspired by watching others do impossible feats, and it spurs them to also do their best in their challenges, whether it’s losing weight, playing an instrument, getting better at a sport, or just becoming a better person. I believe that most people do not push themselves enough to reach their potential, and all it takes is the right combination of opportunity and inspiration to motivate someone to achieve their goal. In my case, the opportunity has presented itself and the inspiration was always in front of me in the form of Christine. I just didn’t see it until recently.
Written by: Warren Chow