What Karate Means to Me Part 2: Connie Litorco
“What Karate Means to Me” is an on-going vlog/blog series created by Litorco Martial Arts. In this series, we speak with Zen Karate practitioners to find out their martial arts background and talk about how practicing martial arts has impacted their lives. In this installment, we find out the life-changing impact karate has made on Connie, the Office Manager for Litorco Martial Arts.
What Karate Means to Me Part 1: Sensei Bryan Litorco
My name is Connie Litorco and I am the Office Manager and co-owner of Litorco Martial Arts. I’m writing my interview for the “What Karate Means to Me” series for a couple of reasons:
I’m very camera shy and my anxiety makes me speak in a loud monotone
This topic triggers some strong emotions
So, without further delay, here we go!
When did you start karate?
I started taking Zen Karate classes in September of 2015 at Capicio Zen Karate in SE Calgary.
Why did you start taking karate classes?
My husband, Sensei Bryan, and Sensei Alex Capicio (Head Instructor of Capicio Zen Karate) were teammates at Cheney Karate Studios in Red Deer, AB. Bryan had retired from karate years before, but when Sensei Alex opened up his dojo, I insisted he go.
Our daughter Celeste was 6 years old at the time. She was enrolled in dance classes but wasn’t very interested in them. She asked to quit dance and join karate after her year end recital and I promised to start karate classes with her.
How did classes impact your life when you started?
This is where things start getting emotional… I started taking classes at a time when I was facing a serious physical and mental health crisis. I was morbidly obese, pre-diabetic, riddled with anxiety, I had lost significant muscle mass and was in constant pain. The combination of all these factors left me feeling extremely, and at times suicidally, depressed. I didn’t have any goals beyond getting through each day and I felt like I was a terrible role model for my daughter because of my sedentary lifestyle and lack of ambition.
I had always been fascinated with martial arts but I assumed that I was too unhealthy, too uncoordinated and too clumsy to actually do it. When Celeste said she wanted to take karate instead of dance, I decided to do everything I could to begin classes when she did.
Practicing karate and being part of that community motivated me to push myself out of my comfort zone and to set high goals for myself in terms of lifestyle changes and fitness. I took pride in my accomplishments and felt encouraged and accepted by my classmates. My perspective on life and my own potential completely changed. I became much happier, more engaged and I felt able to make long-term plans and look forward to the future for the first time in years.
Would your life be very different if you hadn’t started karate?
I would not have the lifestyle I have now if I gave into my fear and self-doubt. I wouldn’t have started exercising, I wouldn’t have any pain management strategies, we wouldn’t have our dojo. I mean, I’m not even sure I would be here now if it wasn’t for karate. Quite literally, with no exaggeration, I believe martial arts saved my life.
What would you say to someone who has always wanted to take martial arts but never tried?
I would tell them to just try. Sign up for one month, rearrange your schedule, figure out your commute, make all the plans necessary to give yourself the biggest chance of success. Then, throw all your expectations, doubts and fears out the window and just show up to class. During the short meditation at bow in, forget everything except the dojo and what you want to accomplish in that one hour.
You won’t regret trying to achieve a goal. At best, you’ll decide to continue and at worst you’ll cross one more item off your bucket list knowing you gave it your best effort.