Funny Karate Winter Training Story

Yesterday I was reminded of a funny situation I found myself in a few years ago. But first, here is a little background to help put the story in perspective. We have an annual tradition where I do my karate training. Every first full week in January, our JKA school in Trenton/Hamilton meets each morning at 5am for some invigorating training. This year marks the 45th annual training of the school.

I’ve been participating in this week of “Karate Winter Special Training” since I was about 11 years old. I have missed a few years here and there, but I’m currently on a perfect attendance streak of 12 years. I look forward to the training each year, along with its “interesting” rituals. The special classes consist of kihon, kata and kumite (basics, forms and sparring), but there are other traditions we maintain. One of those traditions is an outdoor run, barefoot and shirtless, regardless of the weather. So if it’s snowing or if there is hail coming down, or if the ground is covered in ice, we still run outside barefoot sans gi top. It might sound crazy to some, but it’s simply a custom we do to build spirit and character, and maybe a few blisters on our toes. I must admit, we also do it because we are told to.

These classes are only an hour long so the run is not that far, otherwise it would consume too much of the hour. After all, it’s a karate class, not a running class. We typically run about one mile. If the temperature is closer to zero, we might only do a half-mile. But on some days, Sensei Kisaka keeps us inside for other special activities.

A few years ago during one of our winter trainings I suspected we wouldn’t run during class, for reasons I won’t get into here. However, I wanted to keep the barefoot running tradition (I enjoy running). So each day I arrived extra early and went out to do my barefoot, shirtless run alone. If we ended up running during class too, I just conceded the point that I would run twice. On Thursday that week, it was about 4:30am, snow was falling, and there was already a nice coating on the ground, a couple of inches of cushion — you know the kind where the road actually feels soft to run on and you can hear the snow crunch when your foot lands?

I was running in the street headed south on Olden Ave. Of course there are almost no cars on the road at that time of day. Sometimes just a few vehicles pass by, delivery trucks or sanitation vehicles starting their run, or even a salting truck or snow plow.

There happened to be a Hamilton Police Officer sitting in his cruiser parked alongside the road. It was easy to spot from a distance because the parking lights were on, and I could see the car was running by the stream of fumes escaping from the tailpipe. As I approached, the Officer opened his window and called me over.

When I jogged up to his door, I remember noticing the warm air coming out the window. It was cold and windy. He very bluntly asked: “Are you all right sir?” I didn’t hesitate to respond, blurting out “Yes” in my hardened, macho, cold state of mind.

Then the image of what I was doing suddenly flashed through my mind from the Officer’s perspective. He must have though I’d lost my mind, running barefoot and bare-chested in the snow in what looked like my “pajamas” (white gi-bottom pants). Maybe he suspected I had escaped from a mental institution.

He didn’t look convinced with my one word answer so I repeated, betraying a slight smile, and explained, “Yes, really, I am okay… Doing special karate winter training at the school down the street. We do it every year.”

With a slight smirk on his face he responded “Okay. Carry on,” and rolled the window back up in his warm cruiser.

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