In 1996 I moved to Israel, first to an absorption center in Mevesseret Zion and six months later to Tekoa. I contacted Sensei Pantanovitz and told him that I wanted to compete in the upcoming Maccabea Games – but this time for the Israeli team. It was my dream to win a medal for Israel.
I tried out for the team and was on the way to being accepted when I realized that I was pregnant with my fourth child. The next few years I was busy with her and with #5 who followed not long after.
I trained while I was pregnant and was teaching also but I never made it to Netanya to the IOGKF headquarters to train. It was so far away; I didn’t have a car; I was breast-feeding and couldn’t leave my baby. Etc.
In July of 2003 I called Sensei Pantanovitz and told him I was having a crisis. I was too old to compete. Perhaps I should become a judge? Sensei Chinen lived in Spokane, Washington and I hadn’t seen him for in eight years. Eight years without a karate lesson! Maybe I was making all sorts of mistakes and didn’t know it? I went on and on.
I spoke for twenty minutes without taking a breath and Sensei Pantanovitz just listened. When I was done talking he spoke. “The answer is in the training,” he said. That’s all he said. He invited me to Netanya and I agreed to go, but due to summer plans on my part and his we agreed to meet in September.
The first Wednesday in September I drove to Netanya. I had never been there before and driving on the coastal highway in rush hour traffic was traumatic. I arrived in time for the 7pm black belt class.
The people weren’t particularly friendly. But the class was heaven. I was astounded by Sensei’s teaching skills. I realized I was in the presence of a master – and I do not use the word lightly. By the end of the class I was energized and excited. “I’ll come back,” I thought, “but I won’t change the way I do my kata. I’ll keep doing it the way I was taught by Sensei Chinen.”
I decided I would train there once a month. When I tried to pay for the class Sensei Pantanovitz wouldn’t hear of it. “If it becomes a regular thing you can pay me,” he said. I’ll show him, I thought! I’ll make him take my money!
The following Wednesday I sat at home and wondered, “What are they learning now?” It drove me crazy. I decided I would go every other week, and the next week I went back.
However, the following week I went nuts sitting at home and I decided to travel to Netanya every week. By November the guys had started saying hello to me when I walked in and in the beginning of December Sensei said, “You can pay now if you want.” I was in!