June 22 marked the 10th anniversary of the day that I started training in Shotokan Karate. Over the past 10 years I have learned many things, not only about Karate but also about life and I want to share some of those things with you today.
It’s more than just punches and kicks
I started this post with the intention of telling my story about the Karate techniques that I learned but after some hard thinking, I realized that I have learned so much than just punches and kicks. The greatest thing that I have learned, over the last 10 years, is how much learning Karate can make positive changes in other peoples lives.
Karate has changed my life in many different ways, not only physically but in many other areas outside of Karate. Not only am I more than 30 pounds lighter since I started training, the other areas that it has had the most impact is my self confidence, the ability to not give up no matter how many times I fail and most importantly, the ability to share my time doing something that helps others with no payment other than seeing someone else succeed both inside and outside the dojo.
It’s all about the students that you help
I have been a volunteer assistant instructor in my Karate club since 2006 and even though I may have started doing so with other intentions at the time, I learned quickly that the real reward is seeing the students I work with succeed.
Not only am I extremely proud of what these students do on the dojo floor, many of them are also excellent people who do great things outside the dojo. One of the students that I have worked with went on to become a nurse and another student is going to school to learn to be a teacher for children with special needs. Many other students have grown up to be extremely hard working young adults who don’t believe in limiting on how far they can go in life.
My reward is their success
I have worked with students that had extreme self confidence issues, that wouldn’t look anywhere but down at the floor, who now walk with their head up and look others in the eyes when they talk. Seeing a scared and shy little child turn into a confident and outgoing young adult is a reward that no money could ever buy.
Many of the younger students that I have worked with started with attention spans a little higher than zero but now they can not only remember all the moves from one kata, they remember the moves from at least a dozen katas. Some students who started, looking for their parents or just looking all over the place during class now have laser like focus for the entire class. I always tell the students that I work with, if the building falls down while you are doing your kata, you shouldn’t notice it until your kata is finished and I feel that there are many students who could now do it.
One the physical side, I have worked with students who couldn’t do one correct push up but can now do 25 perfect pushups in a row. Other students who couldn’t run 50 feet can now run laps around the dojo. I have seen many overweight or underweight students not only get into better than average shape, many of them have bodies that would rival many athletes from almost any other sport. Kids and even adults who couldn’t balance on one leg for more than three seconds can stand on one leg while doing multiple kicks with no wobbling. The physical transformations that have taken place, before my eyes over the years, is truly incredible and a it certainly proves that Karate training can create strong and healthy bodies.
I cannot take all the credit for these students successes because there are other influences such as good parents, good upbringing and the full time Karate instructors, my mentors, who teach them but there a few moments that I will remember for a long time.
It’s really worth my time
I have two particular memories that really make me understand why I volunteer the hours I do each week helping out.
One student, who recently was awarded her Shodan, came up to my after she received her exam results and thanked me for helping her reach her goal of becoming a black belt. That’s a tremendous feeling knowing that you are a part, even if it is a little part, of such a huge accomplishment in a Karate students life.
The second memory is a from a few years back. It was just before this students exam and I explained to her and the other students how important is was to have spirit. I told them that they need to kiai louder than anyone else at the test. The day of her exam I was walking into the building and I heard this extremely loud kiai. Now this is a young student, maybe 13 or 14 years old at the time, who was very quiet and somewhat shy, in a huge room with a group of 17 other students testing at the same time. It was her kiai that I heard over of all these other students but the best part was, after her test was over, she came up to me, bowed and said “every time I kiai’ed I thought of what you said to me.” This is one of those moments, if you are an instructor, where stand up straight, puff up your chest and say “my student!”
Punches, kicks and belt rank is overrated
It’s doesn’t matter how hard I can punch, how high I can kick or what my rank is, what matters most to me is the positive impact I can have on a students Karate career with the hopes that this will transfer to their life outside the dojo.
And that’s what I have learned after 10 years of Karate training.