My 12-year old daughter and I began studying Isshinryu karate in January, 2010.
I first studied karate (Wadoryu) when I lived in Japan, from 1987 to 1997, but due to work and other things, wasn't able to stick with it for very long. The instructor never explained anything. It was very traditional, in the sense that the instructor would demonstrate and everyone would follow. I appreciated the discipline and tradition of it, but I can also see the negative side of it, too. There were no belts. The instructor was a black-belt, and there was an intermediate green-belt, but 95% of the class remained white-belts.
I am determined to stick with Isshinryu. My instructor is a 5th dan black-belt, and is also a certified instructor in Close Quarter Unarmed Combat with the Hoccheim Group. For all that, he's very down to earth, very approachable, encourages questions, explains the philosophy behind various techniques, and is very encouraging, patient, and firm, at the same time. I feel fortunate to have found this caliber of instructor, and my daughter enjoys learning from him, as well.
We are testing for yellow-belt on the 1st of April, and we are training hard for that. While the goal of receiving a new belt is very motivating, I am discovering that training is its own reward. The belts are nice, but are almost incidental.
For me, it's about the path, the discipline, and embodying the warrior spirit. At the age of 40, my body is not as flexible as it once was. It creaks and groans and complains, and the day after each class, my back, shoulders, and elbows ache. I'm keeping a sense of humor about it though, and tell my body, "Complain all you like, but quitting is not an option."
I took the opportunity to videotape myself running through the Seisan Kata, the other night. It makes me cringe a little... When I practice, I feel like I'm doing everything right, but upon viewing the video, I can see several mistakes. It's very humbling...
I love this. This is the bunkai (application) of the Seisan Kata: