When I was 18 years old, just starting my journey in the martial arts, I wondered why my uncle would always tell me this. Did he feel women couldn't fight? Did he think they were weak in general? Or did he just want to rile me up and motivate me, so we could take the first place trophy at tournaments.
I was a 'girly' girl, actually a very shy girl. I dreaded public speaking, hated any musical recitals, and feared demonstrations. Being in front of people just was not my forte. So when my Uncle asked me to join his karate group, I was shocked. How could I be a yelling karate girl who competed in tournaments and performed at public demos of the martial arts? First I thought it was crazy, but i then thought, being in college, i should 'step out of my shy shell.'
We trained in his garage. He had enrolled about 30 people . My younger sister and I, a little girl named Caroline, and twenty-seven guys, which included some of his friends and family and some of the neighborhood kids. The majority was Male. We were the minority. We constantly fought the guys and he would yell at the top of his lungs to get us to improve. At first I had a hard time with his criticism, his verbal ways to get me to be tougher and not so sensitive . It felt like the military, it felt like the draft. Was I ready for this? Was this my goal? Was practicing the martial arts just a hobby? A Fad? Something to do for now?
Sometimes after our workouts I would feel so disappointed in myself if my Uncle was not satisfied with my progress. If I couldn't get a combination or technique, he would take it out on the other students with push ups or a strenuous exercise.
"We'll keep doing this until Gina gets it right."
The pressure of it all. There were many times I just wanted to quit. Was it worth it? What did I have to prove? Why was it so important for me to do a good job for my Uncle? I thought to myself, "I have six subject classes, twenty-five hours at a part time job, one hour a week teaching CCD at my local church - and maybe too busy to practice the martial arts ."
But somehow, deep down inside I wanted to prove to my Uncle that I was tough, that I wasn't 'prissy' like he described me. I was just a girl, just his niece. I had to do it for myself, for my Uncle, for my team. I decided one day this was the thing to do. So I started to train harder. To fight my way to being the best martial artist. It was going to be worth it all. So when my Uncle would enter us into all these tournaments, to fight for Grand Champion, to fight at Internationals, we would practice so hard to take 1st place. If we took 2nd place, my Uncle would say we Lost. It just didnt count.
His lesson plans were subject around a lot of sparring, point sparring, kumite. The strategy, the speed, the power. Drop kicks, groin kicks, the Reverse punch. We were preparing for Long Beach international . I was so nervous, couldnt sleep, couldnt eat. There were 30 women in my division all black belts. I was the only brown belt . My uncle looked me at me at said 'fight like a man, remember all our training , and beat all these girls." And he was at my side line the whole time . Yelling, coaching, cheering me on . My equipment became faulty. Actually as the girls were getting eliminated, three different girls lent me their gloves. So it was a group effort. I fought four times to finally get 1st place. And my uncle ran and gave me a HUGE hug. He was proud, I was exhausted . It was worth it .
It took me seven years to get my Black belt. He tested me but soon after that he had to relocate due to his job. I continued on, to take what he gave me and for me to share it with others. Twenty-eight years later he came to visit my school in Foster City, and the look of pride in his eyes made me happy .
I overheard him talking to one of the guys , "Out of all the guys I trained through all these years, the GIRL did it, I'm so proud of her".