It’s my turn. The undisputed rookie of the group. I’ve only been studying karate for about three months now, so my point of view will be vastly different from Melinda’s and Kathy’s. So, if you’re looking to create a character that is just stepping on the mat for the first time, I can definitely help you out there.
For me learning karate is about self defense and physical fitness. That’s not the case for everyone and it may not be the case for your character. So what is your character’s motivation for taking up a martial art, joining a gym, heck signing up for pottery lessons?
Let me start by telling you a little about my first class.
The first time I went to a class it felt a bit like jumping into the deep end of the pool without any water wings. Sure, I was excited. I’d wanted to take karate for ages, so I was stoked to finally be doing it instead of just contemplating it. I was the only white belt amongst a rainbow of other colors. Suffice it to say, I was a might bit nervous. I kept hoping that Melinda would walk through the door and there would be at least one familiar face in the room, but no such luck.
Class started with your usual warm up and stretching, of course seeing as how it had been a while since I’d done anything this high impact, let’s just say things weren’t as flexible as they used to be. Then on to bag work. One by one the students approached the bag and with confident ease executed kicks and punches with a power that moved the standing bag across the floor. Of course when my turn came, the impact barely made a sound or an indent in the foam, forget about moving the bag. About half way through this exercise my arms started to feel like rubber bands, but I pushed ahead, determined to make it through. Oh, and did I neglect to mention that interspersed with the standing bag work were series of sit ups and push ups? What had I gotten myself into?
Next we moved into the curriculum part of class. This is the fun part for me. Don’t get me wrong, the bag work can be fun and really cathartic. I remember receiving a rejection letter just before I had to head to class. After beating on the bag for a while, I felt decidedly better. But, I digress. During this period, we go through the various combination and katas or forms that you need to have learned in order to qualify to test for the next belt. This is fun because you’re finally putting those kicks, punches, etc. together in a cohesive combination of movements. It makes you feel like you actually could defend yourself if you should ever need to instead of flailing wildly at an attacker. Plus, being the lone low man on the totem pole can have it’s advantages, because you get to learn some of the more advanced stuff a little sooner. I’m currently a yellow belt, soon to be testing for orange, and I’ve already started learning the purple belt techniques.
At any rate, I tell you all of this with a duel purpose. First, I want to demonstrate to the non-martial artists who read this blog that stepping on to the mat isn’t as scary as it initially seems. So, if you’ve ever thought about taking up a martial art, stop thinking about it and do it.
Second, I wanted to offer some food for thought when creating characters that are entering new territory whether it be martial arts or anything else. When you have years of experience your outlook is going to be vastly different from someone just starting out. You may not remember the determination that pushed you to walk into that studio, nerves that filled you, or the soreness in muscles you didn’t know you had after the fact. You need to keep all of this in mind as you write so that your reader can experience all of those emotions along side of your character.