As the rough asphalt just outside the warehouse-sized dojo slowly burned the calluses off of my bare feet, I began to feel angry and tired. We hadn’t gotten a water break in forever, and I didn’t have any sneakers to cover my feet. Then the examiner assigned us the challenging task of completing the longest form, kata six, with our eyes closed. My stomach started to churn, and I struggled to gasp for air. I felt terrible, but at the same time I could not surrender my efforts. Determined, I clenched my fists, wiped the sweat off of my sunburned face, closed my eyes, and began.
Though I’ve practiced karate for many years I had not realized the role that it played in my life until I took my black belt exam last year. In particular, the moment during the exam when I had to complete a long technique with my eyes closed ironically opened my eyes to the way in which karate has reinforced my ability to analyze and adapt to difficult, changing circumstances or obstacles presented to me. This quality of adaptability that I have developed through karate has proven invaluable in the face of the other challenges in my life. Looking back, I cannot even count the number of times that a sudden change or difficulty inside or outside of school has blindsided me, forcing me to adapt to stay afloat. When my autistic brother ran away, for example, I had to quickly
change my plans and help my parents look for him. On a different level, each time an opponent objects to my examination in mock trial, I have to fix my mindset so as to respond to the objection and or fix my line of questioning so as to prevent further objections.
The immense value that karate has held in my life would be nonexistent if not for Master Joyner. His palpable and strong sense of expertise when it comes to everything surrounding the art of karate is without question impressive and formidable to us all. Nevertheless, one can say that perhaps Master Joyner has a dual identity. His tough and knowledgeable instructor-like exterior belies the friendly, good-natured companion that makes up much of his identity. Such a contrast becomes noticeable when he works with the younger students. I myself do not remember well the days when I first started karate; however, I have seen Master Joyner in action on the occasions that I have volunteered to help instruct during Saturday morning private lessons. One moment he proves disciplined, insisting that the children address him with a firm, loud voice and in a proper manner, and in the next he is making the kids laugh and teaching them 8-point blocking system with an ice cream scoop analogy. This unexpected combination I have always found incredible and very effective. As I graduate from high school and thus from my many childhood years learning the ways of the world in the dojo, I have Master Joyner to thank for the person that I have become today. I do not know where I would be without him.