Karate Can Kick Hopelessness

by Maison de la Gare
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Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness

Project Report | Oct 22, 2018
Grading Day for the Karateka of Maison de la Gare

By Sonia LeRoy | International Volunteer and Partner

Passage candidates waiting to be tested
Passage candidates waiting to be tested

 "Passage" 

Every four months or so there is an opportunity for the karate kids of Maison de la Gare to test for higher belts. At my dojo in Canada, such an opportunity is known as Grading Day. At Maison de la Gare, it is known, simply, as "Passage".

Passage is a time of excitement and anxiety for the karateka of Maison de la Gare. The tests they are required to attempt for Passage are rigourous. Instructions are usually called out in Japanese. And, the pass rate is about 50%. But, very little can compare to the feeling of being awarded a new karate belt rank when one tests successfully, evidence of so much hard work, commitment, and personal growth. One step closer to black. So, the boys relish their opportunities for Passage.

My son, Robbie Hughes (the founder of the Maison de la Gare karate program) and I have had the opportunity to witness several Passages. The Passage candidates are invited to enter the dojo one at a time, while the others wait outside, unable to observe what transpires in the dojo. For yellow belt candidates testing for the first time, unaware of what to expect when their turn comes, the anxiety of waiting is evident in their expressions.

When his turn comes, the candidate enters the dojo, closes the door behind him and presents his testing fee. Maison de la Gare provides this fee for their karateka, thanks to generous donors. Sensei, sitting, faces the candidate. The candidate bows, yoi, then waits in hachiji dashi. Sensei calls out a series of instructions, in Japanese: soto-uki, oi-zuki. Three times forward, three times back, ichi, ni, san. Bow. Hachiji. Then, gedan-barai, maegeri, gyaku-zuki. Three times forward, three times back. Bow. Hachiji. It is so easy to misunderstand the instructions, or to mix them up in one's state of anxiety. Or, to forget to bow, when one is sweating and shaking, listening intently for the next instruction. Sensei gives the candidate a few chances. But, if the same mistake is repeated Passage comes to an end as Sensei points to the door. If Sensei is satisfied with the drills, he then calls out a kata. Here, Sensei allows for one error, maybe two, no more. Certainly do not forget to kiai. Bow. Then, another kata. Bow. Next, if kata was satisfactory, another candidate is invited in for kumite. Then the two perform kumite drills according to Sensei's instructions. Bow. The first candidate leaves, the kumite partner remains, to complete his test.

As the first candidate leaves the dojo, his fellows, waiting outside, gather round, lending support, offering condolences, or congratulations, depending on the demeanour of the candidate and how long the grading lasted. If a candidate had made it all the way through drills, kata and kumite with fewer than a few errors, his chances are good.

One week later, Sensei gathers the candidates together to let them know who was successful, with a superior performance, who failed, and who was average. Sensei often will allow the average candidates to have another try at Passage the following month, as they were close to satisfying the requirements and four months is a long time to wait for another shot.

Robbie and I have also participated in a triumphant grading ceremony at Maison de la Gare. Here all the successful candidates are presented with their new belts, and are honoured with an official certificate of achievement, as all the staff, volunteers, and children of Maison de la Gare gather round in admiration. For the karate kids of Maison de la Gare, this is usually the first time they have been in the spotlight for a positive reason, and certainly the first time they have been presented with a certificate engraved with their own name. It can be a heady moment.

This week, Sensei has informed me that twelve of Maison de la Gare's karate kids have achieved Passage with a superior result. Five students have earned yellow belts, six orange, and one green! Robbie and I have been training with many of these kids since they began karate in Robbie’s classes offered at Maison de la Gare. We could not be more proud of their perseverance in the face of unimaginable challenges and of their achievements. And, Maison de la Gare's lead instructor at the centre has earned his black belt! Boirot has been a very accomplished brown belt since I have known him, over three years. becoming a blackbelt in Senegal is a rigorous process, and has a financial cost which many cannot afford. Last year Boirot, who although older, is still tied to his marabout and daara, was welcomed under the umbrella of the Maison de la Gare karate program, that now covers his fees, generously funded by donors. Boirot has been a devoted leader of the Maison de la Gare karate kids for years, and has recently been hired as the on-site lead karate instructor at the Maison de la Gare Centre. There will be a Passage ceremony and karate demonstration at Maison de la Gare next month to celebrate these momentous achievements.

More great news, Sensei will offer another Passage opportunity in two months, during my next visit to volunteer with Maison de la Gare, for these candidates who earned an average test result, as well as a few others who he deemed were not quite ready for Passage this month, but were close. I look forward with great optimism to this Passage, and to celebrating our mutual love of karate as well as the indomitable spirit of Maison de la Gare's karate kids, together again.

Sensei with successful candidates at the ceremony
Sensei with successful candidates at the ceremony
Robbie Hughes helps candidates prepare for Passage
Robbie Hughes helps candidates prepare for Passage
Karatekas practicing kumite drills
Karatekas practicing kumite drills
Souleymane on day one, he is now a green belt
Souleymane on day one, he is now a green belt

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Jul 25, 2018
How to Change the World Doing What you Love

By Robbie Hughes | Canadian high school student and MDG volunteer

Apr 25, 2018
Karate is Here for Good

By Sonia LeRoy | International Volunteer and Partner

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Organization Information

Maison de la Gare

Location: Saint Louis - Senegal
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Maison de la Gare
Saint Louis , Saint Louis Senegal
$3,700 raised of $6,000 goal
 
62 donations
$2,300 to go
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