What learning Karate has taught me

If you ask many Karate students what Karate has taught them you will hear many different answers. Some of those answers are, I can defend myself, I can out spar anyone in my dojo, I have won many trophies at tournaments, I can kick above my head and many other things related to what we learn in class on the dojo floor.

I am not saying that those are bad things, instead those are all great accomplishments and things to strive for while training but what are some of the things that we outside of the dojo. Karate can be much more than kicks and punches and winning at tournaments.

Below are some of the main things that my Karate training has given me that reaches far outside the dojo.

The Karate family….

I am extremely lucky that both my and son train Karate with me. This is something that we do together that we enjoy doing as a family. Martial Arts is a common topic on our house and many of the choices that we make and things that we do are related the Martial Arts. We train, we discuss concepts and techniques and enjoy the people we train with together.

Talking about kata, how to perform techniques, training together or giving each other feedback is family time that I always cherish.

Karate friends are true friends…

I cannot even count how many friends I have made while learning Karate. Not only my fellow students, who I spend time with outside of class but my Sensei’s who are some of my closest friends.

Too many Martial Artists put their instructors up on a pedestal and never realize that they are people, just like us, with interests outside of the dojo that many of us share. Just because they teach Karate and we respect them on the highest level in the dojo doesn’t make them superhuman without emotions. They are people like us and even though many people think they can levitate and catch bullets in their teeth, they are still humans who breathe air and actually wear other clothes than a gi. They are people with some of the biggest hearts you will ever find and I know my life is better because I got to know them outside of the dojo..

Many of them have families and hobbies just like you and me so don’t think that they only train Karate and mediate 24 hours a day.

Sharing what you learn is what you should do…

This is something that I overheard my Sensei telling another student many years ago. He said, that he asked his Sensei what he could do to repay him for giving him so much over the years that he trained with him and his answer was, share our art with two students who will carry it on. Those words hit me like a front punch to the head. I was already volunteering as an assistant instructor at the time but after hearing that, it changed how I taught the students I worked with.

Instead of being the drill instructor, barking out orders, I put in extra effort to not just tell them to “bend their knee” but why they should bend their knee and how it impacts how the technique is executed. Instead of saying “1 punch, 2 punch, 3 punch” I told them how to execute the punch, targets to aim for, what impact it will have on the human body when they hit, how power is developed and many details that will help them understand better and hopefully one day, share that with lower rank students that they might be instructing one day.

One of my favorite moments was when one of my students went to her rank exam and told me afterward that every time she would kiai she thought of what I had told her the week before her test about having more spirit than everyone else.

If we do not pass on what our Sensei’s share us, it will be lost forever. There are many great instructors who have passed away with many details about our art that are now lost forever and I feel that it is my responsibility to share what has been shared with me to keep the art alive for future generations.

Win, lose or draw, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain…

When I first started competing at Karate tournaments, as an orange belt, many years ago I was concerned with beating my opponent. I went to almost every tournament after that with the only goal of winning but after entering 26 or 27 tournaments, I realized that trying to win against my opponent wasn’t the real goal. After a talk one night with my Sensei after class, he said that I should go to do my kata, not with the intention of winning against someone else but instead, winning against myself.

As long as I walk away from the tournament knowing that I did “my” kata and I learned something about myself, it doesn’t matter if I win or lose. I know that many hard core competitors, especially in the 35 years and up group, get caught up in the medals and trophies and that is fine but I know that I beat my ego and did a kata better than the last time I was on the tatami.

People wonder why I smile when I walk out of the ring after losing and the reason is because I won against myself. You can think that what I say is how someone who doesn’t win justifies the loss in their own mind but I know that just getting out on the floor and doing my kata is a win in itself.

You can make the body and mind do things you never thought it could do….

If you told me in June of 2004, when I started training, that I would one day be a black belt I would have laughed.

When I started, I couldn’t side kick higher than two inches off the floor, when I moved, I looked like mister roboto, move from the hips, NOT, and none of my stances looked anything like a Karate stance. There is a list of things that I could pick apart but almost nine years later, I can side kick a couple feet higher, move somewhat fluidly, move with the hips and get into a stance and hold it for a long time I don’t look and move like a 23 year old but for someone twice that age, the old body moves better and with more control than when I was 23.

I watched a couple of old videos of me doing kata and realized that I have gotten a lot better. The difference is night and day and many of my fellow students, who started training when I did also look much better. The difference is night and day.

Even though I always worked out and was in decent shape, I can say that I am better shape, with lower bodyfat, that I ever was in my life.

One of the biggest areas that has improved is my mind and how I have removed many limits that I used to have. When I was a white belt, I looked at high belts and thought that I would never move or have the skills that they do. I was very wrong about that one. Once I realized, if I trained hard and believed that I could improve, those limits became goals. Not only did they become goals, they became attainable goals.

I had many people tell me that my body type and my hips would not allow me to do certain moves but once I put it in my mind that I could not only do the moves but do them correctly, they started to come true.

This mindset has transferred over to other areas in my life and has not only allow me to reach goals, that I thought we unobtainable, but surpass them instead.

If you work hard and are sincere in your training, you will succeed….

All of the years that I have been training, I continue to get the same corrections and my Sensei’s never give up on me.

For nine years, my first Sensei that I started training with, has told me lower stances. It’s not that I cannot get low or that I am lazy, it is just that my mind will think I am in a low stance when I am not. My Sensei will always tell me when I am having one of those moments. I would totally understand if he didn’t tell me but I have proven that I am there to get better and that I sincerely appreciate his corrections.

Another example, with another Sensei that I have been training with for seven years, is corrections on my front snap kick. I have taken over 300 classes and 290 of classes I have gotten a correction on my front snap kicks. Just when I think that I have it fixed, I hear “knee first” or “from hip” and I never feel frustrated or discouraged because I know that my Sensei’s care and want me to improve and not hurt myself.

Take those corrections with open arms, no matter what your rank or how long you have been doing Karate because your Sensei wants you to improve. Don’t be one of those people who says “Sensei is always picking on me and I cannot do anything right” because all great Sensei’s want to see you improve and they will help you as long as you try.

Also, if you don’t get a correction in class, don’t think that you are being ignored. If your Sensei looks at you and doesn’t say anything, you must be doing something right. I hear so many people who say that they never get corrections in class. What they don’t understand is, they might just be doing the movements correctly.

Hopefully, I didn’t put you to sleep with some of the things that I have learned. After typing 1700 words it’s time for my daily kata workout so train hard, learn something new every day and pass on our art.

If you made it all the way down here, leave me comment and let me know what you have learned too.

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