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Slow and steady does it.

It never came easy.

Someone once asked me why I still practice karate after all of these years. Not wanting to give them a spur of the moment answer, I thought about their question for a moment. Then I replied, "because karate does not come naturally to me". 

Looking back I can remember my very first class, as the saying goes, like it was yesterday. I came out of that class aching in places I never knew I had. My mind was a whirl of Japanese terms, karate techniques, and the sound of "lower your stance" constantly ringing in my ears. Yet in spite of how stiff, and sore I felt, I clearly remember one thing, being absolutely determined to go back as soon as possible to do it all over again.

More than forty-three years have now passed since I first entered a dojo. In all that time I can not recall a single class where I did not have to work to improve something that I thought I already knew. I suppose it is my desire to be better at karate today than I was yesterday that has kept me going to the dojo all of these years. Quite frankly I think if I had found karate easy I might have quit a long, long time ago.

Don't ask me why, but for some reason students who are athletically gifted never seem to stay very long in the dojo. You know the ones I mean. They quickly develop good stances, and solid techniques. They have no problem thrusting out a side kick with either leg, while the those of us who are not so gifted, or as flexible, can only shake our head. We know that for us it will be a long struggle before we ever find that same kick. Then one day it happens, with no notice, or explanation, they simply just stop coming to class. Perhaps for them karate was not enough of a challenge. Sad really, because there is so much more that just learning the basics.

You see the true depth of all that karate has to offer lies elsewhere. And it is only revealed after a great many years dropping sweat on the dojo floor. Like many things in life, karate is not a destination. Instead it is meant to be a lifelong journey. A journey that tens of thousands of new students around the world embark upon each year. Yet it is a road that few will ever walk down long enough, or far enough, to get even a glimpse of what lies in the distance.

As with all physical activities there will be those rare few who travel the karate road far enough to be called, Masters. We look up to them with gratitude, and appreciation for all the time, effort, and energy, that they gave to the development of karate-do. They inspire us. They set an example for all of us to follow. We may never get to meet them. Or to train with them. But they can still be known to us through their books, and the global reach of the internet.

My true inspiration, however, can be found much closer to home. It is the student who is training beside me during class. Their gender, experience, or their rank, does not matter. What does matter to me is the fact that we are both sweating together on the same floor. We are putting forth our best effort. We are both striving to make our karate better today than it was the day before. It is these students that have kept coming back to the dojo, day after day, year after year,

I for one will never be a Master, and that is ok.

I am just glad that when it came to karate, I was never a natural.

 Remember: "The truth of your effort is always visible in the outcome."