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  • Writer's pictureShihan Kendall

A Year Stronger, Part 3

Updated: Apr 18, 2021


"How can you know what you're capable of if you don't embrace the unknown?" -Esmerelda Santiago

The morning after Easter 2020, just a few hours before The Dojo began its first Zoom classes, I found myself telling a friend something I rarely confess to myself:

I was terrified.

The source of my fear was not the rapidly-worsening pandemic and the climbing death rate, which I was constantly reminded of thanks to the urgent updates sent to my phone by the Boston Globe. I had learned as much as I could about this new virus and how it's transmitted and felt confident in the exposure training that came from years as a firefighter and EMT. I wasn't even that worried about how The Dojo was going to weather the storm; our team had already shown itself ready and capable to do whatever we had to do to deliver instruction to our students, and the community itself had responded with gusto.

No, the source of that gnawing fear was going on the Internet and attempting to engage and educate a bunch of children over a screen. Given a choice, I think I would rather be going into a fire. At least I had expert instruction and years of experience putting out fires. This was something outside my experience. Yes, we had put our entire curriculum onto a video library. But that was done from various angles and with lots and lots of reshoots. This was going to be alive, and our first audiences -- the little ones -- were going to be tough. The knowledge and wisdom hard-won by more than 15 years of teaching Karate suddenly seemed insufficient to this new medium.

That's my story, but it's also yours. It's the story of every person who found themselves doing the old things in wildly new ways when circumstances drove us into isolation. They are stories with their fill of $#!+shows, for sure--we all had steep learning curves to climb. But they are experiences that I believe left us all the wiser and enriched.

I probably worried way too much, those first days of streaming classes. People were just so happy to see each other, and to be engaged simultaneously in a single activity that they loved. In other words, everyone was pretty forgiving those times that we stumbled. And eventually, we found our footing. Can't say I'm a fan of doing Karate together over a computer, but I've seen some pretty amazing things on my screen these last 12 months. And I have a better understanding than ever before of my craft. And I owe it all to a jump -- or maybe a push -- into a scary unknown.

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