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If You Want to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life....

At least once a day, I am reminded of how fortunate I am. Whether it is while being shoved into a claustrophobic L train during a rare rush hour commute, or while lounging on a sunny playground bench in the middle of a weekday; my days are full of opportunities for appreciation. I do not have a normal life. 

I am not sure who decided what this "normal life" should be. But I do know that I should be spending more time at a desk and less time in the park. I am supposed to see my child only at bedtime and on Sundays when we go to brunch. I should vacation more.  I do not go to Starbucks enough. Or Indian food buffet. I am supposed to wear heels more. There should be less gis hanging in my bathroom. And so on.

Running a karate school for a living is not always easy, but there is nothing else I would rather be doing.

Now, this may come as a shock to you, but my husband was not the first man I ever dated. (Shhh, don't tell him!) In addition to a couple of other karate guys, I actually went out with a few non martial artists. My high school boyfriend was a drummer. There was "sensitive poet guy". And then there was that dude who used to sell fireworks out of his buddy's basement. But we do not have to talk about him. 

The main point of all this is that most of these prior relationships were in high school and college; therefore, meaningless. By the time I was an adult, living on my own, with adult responsibilities, I was dating a karate guy. 

Matthew and I have been together for like, forever. So it is easy to take for granted things that are just normal for us. Like that on 6 out of the 7 days in a week, at least one of us is either teaching or taking a class somewhere. Sometimes it is at noon. But on other days it is right in the middle of dinnertime. For example, here was yesterday: I took Maya to my BJJ class at 11am, where she happily sat on the side of the mats and made rubber band bracelets for an hour. Then we went to the playground, had lunch, went to the pool and then back to the playground for an hour before finally returning home for dinner and bedtime. I watched some TV and fell asleep. Around 11:00, Matthew came home from the dojo. 

That's Mondays. On Tuesdays and Fridays we are both at the dojo until after 9pm while Maya hangs out with my parents. Wednesday and Thursday afternoons I go to jiu-jitsu. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, Matthew goes to jiu-jitsu. And Wednesday evenings. Occasionally he does an extra evening class, and only then is there a conversation; who makes dinner, who puts Maya to bed. This is our "normal."

When you run a business and raise a child with someone, you see an awful lot of each other. Matthew and I do not have to make time to talk, we are constantly talking. We do not have to schedule family time, half of our week is family time. Which is why it is easy to forget that our relationship is not "normal". It is easy to forget that in this area of my life, I am also extremely lucky.

Recently Matthew contacted a student of his who has not been in class for awhile. This happens a lot in training; you get busy with work, family, etc. and you can't make it to class for a week. Then that week turns into two, which turns into a month, which turns into two months and then, without intending to, you have quit the dojo. This student who Matthew emailed had indeed been busy with work, but the main thing he was struggling with was where to fit his training in with his new marriage. He wants to train 4 times a week. His wife, who does not do karate, is not thrilled with him being at the dojo until 8pm every night, leaving her all alone. 

This is not the first time we have seen this. Another former student of ours was in constant 
negotiation with his wife regarding Friday night sparring, versus dinner and drinks with her. And, lest you think I am being sexist, it is not always the wives who have a problem. About 6 years ago, a female student of ours quit the dojo when her boyfriend could not handle the amount of time she spent "training with all those guys."

And can you blame them? All of our adult classes are at dinnertime. So, after working hard all day, a loving spouse arrives home just in time to hear, "Bye honey, see you in a few hours. Oh, and I will be sweaty and stinky and I may have injured something so be prepared to hear me whine about it all night."

I guess most couples who have gym memberships work out together. Some people take morning runs while their spouse is still asleep. Pure Yoga is open all day. Even my BJJ school has 7am class for the really motivated. 

OK, in truth, I am full of it. I have no idea how you normal folks do it. I have been a martial artist married to a martial artist forever. I have no clue how hard it is to fit your training into your relationship. I don't know when you have dinner together, or what normal people are supposed to do on Saturdays. Matthew and I both hate to travel. Our daughter has been sitting on the side of a class since she was a newborn. There are three gis currently hanging in my bathroom! No one takes showers here.

Like I said, my life is not normal.

 All I know is that I am lucky to have a husband who not only doesn't mind that I roll around on mats with other men, he sometimes even washes my stinky gi for me.

If that isn't true love, I don't know what is.

What do you think? How do you train seriously and still maintain a relationship? 

Or does everyone have to marry a black belt.
(Which I highly recommend, by the way. It is pretty awesome!) 


  1. Excellent article, Kyoshi Jennifer Fremon. The part about non-martial artist spouses resenting their mates' dojo time is especially spot-on. Add having a young child at home to that and it's er, um — a difficult negotiation.

    My wife and I certainly experienced that. Once our son could stay home by himself (at about 11 yrs old), that tension pretty much disappeared, as we could both pursue physical and other arts that we had a passion for or interest in, without the one fuming at home, while the other got to play.

    Nicely written, and yes, you are blessed (my word, not yours). Osu!

  2. Osu, Kyoshi:

    I've been lucky in that both my ex-girlfriend, with whom I was living when I started training 10 years ago, and my fiancee (Wrenn, whom you've met and whose brownies you've devoured) have been supportive. My ex saw how much happier and healthier I was after I started training in 2004, and so never had an issue with me going off to the dojo several times a week. But she never embraced that part of my life at all, leaving it entirely to me. My fellow karateka never even met her, and she never attended any dojo functions that friends and family were invited to.

    Wrenn, on the other hand, is a great "dojo wife," as it were. She comes to the functions, most of my dojo-mates know and like her (and ask after her all the time). And she also is understanding of my need to go off and train (or, now, teach). Luckily, we tend to eat dinner late anyhow, so sitting down to eat the evening meal at 9.30 or 10 isn't a hardship.......

    ---Senpai Keith


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