Nearly six years ago, as a father of four in his early 50s, I was looking for a sporting activity for my youngest son who, at the time, exhibited a remarkable ability to convert food into body mass. A wise friend recommended the East Wind dojo, and along we went. My son took to it instantly, and soon persuaded his sister to give it a try as well. This left me sitting alone in the parents’ gallery, watching them train. Silently I recognized how badly I needed to re-gain some of the rather limited flexibility that I once had. But I was embarrassed, and had concerns over the whole idea of learning about how to punch and kick other people. On the other hand, I could not imagine myself sweating into the plastic seat of an exercise cycle pedalling up imaginary electronic hills in front of a blaring t.v. in an exercise gym. Perhaps my boredom with being a spectator tipped the balance; Sensei Laura calmly assuaged my concerns about the fighting aspect (I still think she mainly wanted me to free up that seat in the waiting area), and I took the plunge. Shortly afterwards, seeing the pleasure on our faces as we returned from the dojo, my wife agreed that she would risk life and limb and give it a try. So for five years we have been family members at East Wind. I have no natural ability for karate and, unlike the kids, take an inordinate time to learn the kata and the Japanese terms. But the great thing is that this does not matter: there are never any negative words, only encouragement. Even better, every visit to the dojo is different; I cannot recall a time when I have not learned something new and interesting. It really does combine training for body and mind, and it is a wonderful setting in which the whole family can pursue an activity on an equal footing. Well, actually, not really equal: the kids are WAY better than the parents — but learning from each other makes us all feel good.

Ian McDowell
University Professor