In this blog, Emily reflects on her passion for Karate and how it’s helped her to regulate her emotions and find a family after her Dad passed away. You may also be interested in reading Emily’s other blog ‘A different kind of grief‘.

Life turned upside down

On Wednesday 7th March 2012, my life was turned upside down when my Dad passed away after a long battle with cancer. At the time, I was 17, and I was studying for my A Levels, hoping to go to University. Finding out that my Dad had died was difficult, and I always found that I was either completely numb and apathetic, or over-emotional and crying at absolutely everything.

Life at home was no longer as it used to be, and I no longer had my Dad to talk to. I could talk to my Dad about anything and everything – the good stuff and the bad stuff. When he died, it was like all of that went too.

Regaining a sense of normality

One of the things that helped me after my Dad died to regain a sense of normality was going to Karate and staying focussed on my training. It always felt like that during the lesson in the dojo (the training hall), nothing else mattered, except Karate and spending time with fellow students and instructors, who were so sympathetic towards the “situation” that my brother and I were in.

My Dad always adored coming to watch me do Karate, especially at the bigger assessment events, so continuing to pursue and persevere with my Karate training absolutely felt like the correct thing to do. There were also people there who I could talk to, not in the same way that I could talk to my Dad of course, but they were people who I could trust and open up to and be honest about how I was feeling.

Having something to focus on

Reflecting on that time, I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have Karate in my life to focus on and help give me a sense of normality. One of the many benefits of Karate – and any martial art in fact – is that it helps you to keep your emotions under control, as well as keep you physically and mentally healthy.

That’s not to say that my mental health hasn’t been affected by my Dad’s death. I have struggled with depression and anxiety ever since. However, it has helped to get advice and support from others who have been through similar experiences to mine. Especially as now, the Karate club I train in is called Kazoku Karate-Do (Kazoku actually means family in Japanese) – and I genuinely feel as though it is a big, second family with unconditional love and support.

Sometimes, I do feel sad that my Dad will never see me progress all the way through to my black belt (hopefully – one day) in my Karate journey, but I have gained a second family through my Karate journey and that means more to me than anything.

Even now, more than eight years since my Dad passed away, going to Karate still helps me to maintain that focus and I also hope that my Dad would be proud of me for persevering with my training

Emily Maybanks

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