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Never too old to learn new tricks

Gold comfort: receiving my medal from official John O’Doherty

This weekend, I won a gold medal.

Yes, you read that right, a GOLD medal in the Bermuda Open Karate Championships. The astonishment and delight here is that the only other sporting award I’ve ever won was an ‘I Participated’ ribbon for a 5K fun run — in which I came second to last.

A minor detail I should probably admit is that, for my category in Sunday’s tournament, Novice Women Over 40, I was the only person in it ...!

So, perhaps this is just the equivalent of a shinier ‘I Participated’ honour, but actually that is enough for me to be proud of.

A little background as to how all this started: I’ve been learning karate for about 18 months now, a fact I still find rather amusing. I signed up for some joint lessons to get my son into it, thinking it would be good for him. He didn’t really like it, but I found I did — channelling my inner Ralph Macchio and Jackie Chan!

It turns out that all the things I was wanting my son to work on, co-ordination, balance and strength-building, I need too — especially as my body is getting older and I want to prepare, if I can, for my Third Age. Sensei Skipper Ingham is my teacher, at his Bermuda Karate Institute. At more than twice my age, he is a total inspiration of what we are capable of when we try.

And so, I do. I sometimes feel a little silly. Like at a dojo event when the majority of participants came up to my knees; mini-pugilists, all with their advancing belts, and me still flapping about with my beginners’ white. But then I advanced to my green belt this spring and was pleased as punch.

This weekend was my first karate competition. I was nervous as anything going up there. I even considered chickening out, except my son was watching and I didn’t want him to see his mum quit. So I did it, and tried my best.

Who knows how I would have done if I’d actually had competition. Next year, I hope to find out. What I’m most proud of is that I wasn’t beaten before I started. Because there are some unseen forces that can whoop our butts if we let them:

• Fear

Of putting ourself ‘out there’, afraid of what others might think — especially if we’re just learning or not good. Fear of stretching our comfort zone.

• Apathy

The lure of how easy it is to kick back and rest on our laurels, to log into ‘vicarious living’ via media in all it’s forms and check out of actually participating. The struggle to find the time and energy in our busy schedules to do something good for us, that we enjoy, or to try something new.

• Buying our own bull

Giving in to the labels we put on ourselves about things like age or ability or what we ‘should’ be doing. It can very confining stuck in a pigeonhole so we need to watch out for anyone, ourselves included, putting us in one. As JR Tolkein wrote, “The mould of your life is in your hands to break.”

We never know how much we might love something or learn until we give it a go. And we never know what rewards it might bring … even gold! Participating is the biggest success. As the British Lotto slogan says, ‘You gotta be in it, to win it’!

•Julia Pitt is a trained success coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com.