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Chrissy Hayes

The recent New Year health drive has inspired me to try a new sport this winter, something indoors for when the weather is chilly and the days are short. Leaving my comfort zone behind, I decide Martial Arts might be the answer to keeping fit.

A quick glance at the internet reveals a number of Martial Arts clubs in the local area. There is also plenty of information at the local library. Most clubs have a free class on offer, and are keen to gain new members. The Olympic Games seem to have inspired a lot of people to try and I am not the only “newbie” on the night I have a trial.

I am trying Karate, which is Japanese for “empty hand”. Not only does this sport use very little equipment, as the name would suggest, but it is possible to simply wear a T-shirt and track suit bottoms for the trial class. Feet are bare, so no worries about special shoes. If I decide to join a club, the only outlay is the white suit and my first belt. Some clubs even include this in the monthly fee. As a beginner I will wear my initial belt until my first grading, which if I pass, will move me on to a different colour. Gradings are held regularly, and it is possible to gain a new belt a few times a year.

We begin with a warm up which includes basic techniques. Then we start pattern work. Patterns need to be learned to progress through the belts, so the class divides into sections as some people are working on more advanced patterns. It is very easy to see where to stand just by glancing at the colour of the different belts.

The last section of the class is sparring, something which I am not so keen on. I give it a go but really want to crack on with the pattern work. Karate is a “hard” Martial Art and can be focused on direct strikes. Some Martial Arts such as Tai Chi are classed as “soft” and concentrate more on gentle movement. It might be worth looking at alternatives if you are not so keen on sparring. It is also worth finding out if the club you like has a busy social side if that is important to you.

In the meantime, I am sticking with Karate and am looking forward (in time) to my first grading. It seems a fairly inexpensive and fun sport which by all accounts leads to greater flexibility and fitness as well as increased confidence. Wish me luck!

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