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I’ve been thinking a lot about Ariel recently, and about how grateful I am to have had her as my partner and teammate at Northampton Karate for all those years. It seems kind of funny to call her my “teammate” (not really a term used at a dojo!) but I really felt like that was what she was to me during those training years. I’m so grateful to have had someone who started right at the same time as me. In those early months I remember constantly whipping my head around to watch what she was doing during class as she was always lined up right next to me in ranking order. One of my favorite memories was learning the Pinan Godan moves along with Ariel in a little clearing in the woods behind Smith one summer. We were both completely lost, and I bumped into a tree. I loved that summer we spent training in the mornings and going for runs. Ariel was much, much faster than me (which I was a bit jealous of) and I always used to groan a bit when we’d eventually get paired up for that exercise where you basically smack your arms into your partners’ repeatedly – I swear my arms got tougher working with her than all the black belts combined. I really struggled at the dojo in those earlier years, feeling quite alone. It was this impossibly lonely and intimidating situation feeling like one of the only young women in our youth classes, especially after many left. I remember walking into classes and being afraid of being alone – either literally the only student or alone among the older male students who seemed to love acting like the strongest in the room. And I so vividly remember, class after class, feeling so much relief when Ariel walked into the dojo. I felt so grateful to have someone who was figuring it all out along with me, someone who I never felt was trying to intimidate me with their punches, and someone who I knew was rooting for me, and would crack up with me when we both inevitably forgot which way we were supposed to turn. We didn’t do much talking at the dojo, and I think both of us ended our training in a slow, anticlimactic way in fits and bursts. But I think of training with her so fondly, and I am just so happy to have gone through that process with her.

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