My Journey To Black Belt

Irene Gavenas
Age: 50
Rank: Recommended Black Belt

Goal setting, lots of sweat, feeling energized, feeling proud, feeling confident, feeling challenged, feeling strong - this describes how I felt as a teenager earning my black belt. Fast forward 30 years... Same feelings but add one: frustration.

A few years before reaching the milestone birthday of 50, I decided to make earning my black belt at Spicar’s Martial Arts my goal to reach by then. I’d never had issues with birthday numbers before, but that number seemed huge to me. I had a daughter in elementary school and a son enrolled in preschool so I had a few free days per week to take classes. This was my opportunity as I was very familiar with Spicar’s because both of my children are enrolled here. My daughter has earned her black belt and my little guy is on his way. I knew this was the right school for me too.

I began taking classes and enjoyed myself but found it frustrating to not be able to jump as high as I once did, and I certainly wasn’t going to attempt spinning as I jumped! Thirty years ago there were very few girls/women who took karate. I trained with men and could keep up, I was fearless and very strong. There were many days in the past few years I drove home after class feeling frustrated. Not unhappy, mad or discouraged, just frustrated. I wanted to fly in the air with a beautiful side kick with perfect, precise form. It wasn’t happening. I wanted to spar against strong teenage boys and men and feel the thrill of knowing I won the round. It wasn’t happening either.

Many, many months have gone by and I’ve always enjoyed my classes and always look forward to them. The Spicars, instructors and the other adults are always encouraging and make class fun. I like the fact there is a partnership, camaraderie and respect in class that motivates me to do better each time. But my nagging frustration was always there... until I recently let it go.

I can’t live in the past. I’m not like I was in my 20’s. That was a wonderful part of my life and has molded me into the woman I am today but it’s not who I am now. If you cling to the past, it only reminds you of who you were, you have no room for who you are now and who you are becoming. Ultimately, we choose how we'll handle change — with resistance and negativity or with grace and hope. I’ve always been a positive person, so why change now?

I have two kind, young children, a supportive husband for 25 years, I’m fit, healthy and I have so many blessings in my life. I’m not comparing myself to how I was 30 years ago or to anyone else in the class now. I’m just trying to improve with each passing week, jumping a little higher than I did before, kicking a little higher and punching a little faster. You never know, I might eventually be able to do some of the fun stunts I used to do well. But, if I don’t, that is perfectly fine with me.

My journey to black belt has been filled with many wonderful life lessons. I’m glad I was taking karate when I became a half-centurian. For many, it’s the beginning of the end. For me, it’s a very special period of life. I realize as my physical ability decreases, my spiritual environment increases. My wonderful instructors understand the reality one faces after 50. Bones decline in size and density with age, and muscles lose strength and flexibility. They understand I train with people younger, stronger and quicker than I am. They are great at matching me up with people who will work within my limitations. I plan on living years well, with my head up and feeling alive. After all, life is not about the number of years we’re here on earth, it’s how we live our years. I now have other goals I need to reach, and with their set of challenges I will have learned, through karate, to not have the feeling of frustration. I was frustrated until I realized that the only person that had a problem with me was... myself! 

 
 Mrs. Irene Gavenas has been involved in our school since December 2011 and her daughter Gisele since May 2010. Irene is incredibly talented and loves to practice forms and proper techniques. She is a fantastic person to be around so make sure to meet her!

Mrs. Irene Gavenas has been involved in our school since December 2011 and her daughter Gisele since May 2010. Irene is incredibly talented and loves to practice forms and proper techniques. She is a fantastic person to be around so make sure to meet her!


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