• Karate is for everyone… or is it?

  • Karate is for everyone but not everyone can do karate. This may seem like a contradictory statement, but at its heart, it is entirely true.

    I’ve been teaching martial arts for a little over 30+ years now (full disclosure, at least four of those years was spent with a taekwon do club), and I have watched countless people come and go. They came to class for different reasons, and they all left for different reasons.

    It doesn’t matter the age of the person, I am always fascinated by the declaration of what brings the person to the dojo. For example, if you wish your child to learn discipline. Merriam Webster says discipline is “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” or “control gained by enforcing obedience or order; an orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.” So, imagine my surprise when they stop coming because it is “too hard” or they “don’t like it.” Of course not. It IS hard. But they are learning discipline. And by allowing them to quit, you are reinforcing a behaviour that is likely to cause them harm down the road.

    Or the folks that come to “try it out” and find it is not for them. I could likely have saved them a pile of time by asking them one simple question: “are you a creature of habit/ change averse?” If their answer is a reaction of indignation or surprise, it is best they maybe watch a movie or two or google “karate training” and “Youtube.” It may be better for the ego if no one sees you train. You have to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to make mistakes. You have to be willing to change and grow. If you’re not, I cannot do anything for you.

    If you are thinking about studying a martial art – any martial art – consider the following: they are a journey. In essence, they can be a journey of a lifetime. Ultimately, it is to the martial artist to determine how long that journey will last. But, like any journey, you need to break it up into goals – meaningful, achievable goals. I mean, saying you are going to drive from Vancouver to New York in one day sounds like a great idea in theory, but it’s not possible. 🙂

    For instance, perhaps if your goal is to teach your child discipline, set benchmarks for observation of actions and behaviours. Is your child more attentive, more respectful? Are they more thoughtful? Or are they resisting and finding reasons not to go to class? Do you communicate with the instructor on a regular basis? Do you support the instructor’s in-class words or actions outside of class? Do you encourage your child to do their best and work their hardest? Consider setting an achievable goal of, say, successfully testing for their yellow belt. If they reach that goal and show an interest in leaving, then look at re-evaluating where you and they are at that time.

    If you are an adult, goal-setting is as important as it is for kids. Yet, I have seen adults pack it in sometimes faster than the kids. I surmise because they came in without a goal and left before they even thought of defining one. I don’t ever counsel adults to set belt goals. I suggest they set other goals – fitness, self-confidence, flexibility, memory improvement, etc. Again, these are measurable. But they have less of a tangible feeling than belts. However, in the long run, these types of goals are more meaningful.

    I have seen an expression that holds some merit: a black belt is a white belt that never quit. There’s a lot more to obtaining a black belt than that, but the statement rings true in a very general sense. And as that white belt went along, their goals will have changed as they grew within the art.

    So, yes, karate is for everyone.

    Everyone who wants to learn. Everyone who wants to sweat. Everyone who wants to get bumps and bruises and is ok with bleeding a bit (on occasion). Everyone who wants to grow. Everyone who wants to get stronger. Everyone who wants to work hard.

    And for those that aren’t ready for those challenges or prepared to do what it takes to meet their training goals? Well, it’s also true: not everyone can do karate.