5 push-ups

Some karate instructors coach world champion competitive athletes. Some produce tournament fighting champions. I am in awe of those teachers and their superbly talented students. What I do is somewhat different.

This is Susan, who began karate in January. She’s in Vermont; I’m 4000 km away in Alberta. We train together weekly via Zoom. On Friday, she did five push-ups. Not exactly a world record—but this was the very first time in her life that she's been able to do even one. Many women lack upper-body strength; there’s a reason lots of them do push-ups off their knees. But the ones that Susan did were complete ones, from her toes.

I am full of admiration for her. At the age of 65—the same as me—as she was finishing a long and distinguished career of university teaching, she began a completely new and dauntingly difficult pursuit, one that makes a great many demands on the body, mind, and spirit. Through her own effort, even over a few months she has materially changed herself. Imagine being the strongest you've ever been, at least by one measure, at 65. That's a real accomplishment. Many people bemoan the frailties and weaknesses that often accompany aging, but she's instead forging power and fluency in her movement. Last week, she remarked how some everyday tasks had become noticeably easier. It’s in this way that karate pervades life.

I feel genuinely privileged to share Seibukan karate-dō with her, and I look forward to doing so for many more years, as both of us strive to get better as we get older.