Everywhere I go people learn that I study Karate and always ask me questions about it. To many it is a fascination based on movies or TV. To others it is something they have always wanted to study but just never took the first step into a dojo to try it. For some others they simply have no idea what Karate actually is so they have built biased opinions based on several factors…some good some bad. Regardless I love talking to people about what I call “The beauty of Karate”.
Karate? Beautiful? Really? Absolutely but you have to look beyond the movies, TV, cage matches and other aspects that are popularized in mainstream media outlets. There are many real facts about what makes Karate so beautiful that it has over 100 million people worldwide studying right now as we speak. The beauty of Karate that has attracted all these people from varied backgrounds, from children to adults is not readily apparent to the untrained, uneducated populace out there.
Different type of fitness…
Karate will make your body strong but it is much different than training in gym, Yoga, Pillates, Zumba or whatever the current fitness fad is. Karate is not a fad. In fact it is something anyone can do regardless of their fitness level. Karate has been being taught publicly since the late 1800’s and before then was being taught in many families on the island of Okinawa in Japan since the 1300’s. Karate has a fitness aspect to it but many people see it as a sport and don’t bother to study it because they don’t want to compete or have no interest in the competitive side to it. In reality the beauty of Karate is that it is not a sport when taught in a good school. It is a study of how our bodies work and how we can improve them through physical, mental and even spiritual development. The goal is not to be better than the person next to you in the dojo, not to go to tournaments and win but rather to be better than you were yesterday by improving your life through the training. Many of the lessons learned in the dojo expand into normal, everyday life in positive manners that it makes life more balanced, more focused and quite simply better in every aspect…but you have to train to gain the benefits, not sit around wishing you were or had.
Physical aspects are ok but spiritual development is main core…
In Karate you will learn striking, kicking, grappling and more but the development of what we call “the inner spirit” or “indomitable spirit” is the primary focus. Many people go through life treading water like a duck in a pond. On the surface they look like they have it all together, are calm and focused but underneath the surface that the world sees they are paddling a million miles a minute to stay afloat. Karate training build the real surface that we all desire. It instill a sense of goal achievement through earning belt ranks. It builds an inner peace from building one’s confidence so they don’t really worry about the bullies, the mean people or the ones that are condescending towards them. The unbreakable spirit seen in many Karate people is often mistaken for arrogance when, in fact, it is anything but. True Karate builds humility because they know, in their heart, they have nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. The training in the dojo helps people to rid themselves of the stress from everyday life. It delivers them an outlet to release anger thus becoming their own, personal counselor helping them to feel better, grow stronger and become the person the wish to be.
The physical training is something anyone can do regardless of their age which is why many senior citizens have begun training in traditional Karate. It is also why it is a great thing for children. In Karate everyone is different and your Sensei understands this. They go out of their way to learn how to develop your abilities based on your limitations and then strengthen your weaknesses to make them become stronger. This physical training is not what you see in the movies. You won’t see real Karate people doing hundreds of pushups and sit-ups but rather training their physical abilities through the Kata and drills in the classes. Karate teaches you how to breathe and it is a fact that we, in our normal lives, use only 20-30% of our actual lung capacity. Through Karate your lungs become strong and you learn how to breathe to calm yourself, refocus in times of great stress and alleviate frustration through the various methods of breathing taught.
Self-defense is a primary focus both inside and outside of the dojo.
There is a very common misconception that traditional Karate training is not effective as a method of self-defense today. This has been made popular through the UFC and cage matches where they attempted to downgrade authentic martial arts in the name of popularizing their sport matches. In reality Karate training has been, and still is, the most adaptable martial art available in terms of modern self-defense out there. Karate training has evolved as the society has in terms of types of attacks we train against all the way to the popular methods of criminals. A good Sensei stays up on trends in everything from bullying issues (for kids and adults like) all the way to domestic violence. When not training for sport Karate is truly effective and has a beauty to the way in which it builds one’s ability to successfully defend themselves. The UFC, or MMA as many people call it today, is actually a sport with many more rules than you will find in a good martial arts school. Self-defense is not rule based but rather situational based. The beauty of Karate in terms of self-defense is apparent. You will gain the ability to do everything from grappling to joint locks, striking effectively to throwing in a good Karate dojo (school).
It is common for people to talk up Krav Maga and other methods of training out there today as being more effective than Karate but they all took the majority of their techniques out of Karate. The entire body becomes a weapon in Karate plus you learn how to use every day, household items, for self-defense thus giving you a huge repertoire of knowledge to pull from. Karate also takes self-defense training a huge step forward by teaching the people who study it when it is proper and not proper to use their skills as well as the understanding that they are held accountable for choosing to do so.
Kata…the misunderstood aspect that is vital to real martial arts training…and it is beautiful!
Kata is an arranged sequence of techniques done in a pattern. When a Kata is masterfully executed it becomes alive…a moving testament to the true beauty and deadliness of the art. The power, precision and execution of Kata comes from many hours of building the techniques into second nature….where the brain executes them with little or no thought. This creates one’s ability to defend in an instant and when they need it. It also build an awareness that the elite levels of military services (DELTA, SEALS and others) have sought to create. This awareness teaches you to trust your gut instinct and react accordingly. This is completely developed through proper training of the Kata and other aspects found in a good Karate dojo. One of the most unique aspects of Kata training is the physical control of the body along with a balancing of the mind that must take place to truly execute the techniques effectively with little or no actual effort involved.
Kata is a beautiful. All you have to do is watch Youtube today to see some of the most beautiful executions of Karate techniques ever…or go to a tournament. The speed, focus, discipline of the mind, body and spirit along with the development of what appears like superhuman feats comes from the dedication to perfecting one’s art. Many people like to downgrade Kata as useless but that is simply an excuse to not have the self-discipline or dedication to truly study it. It has been said that all you need to know to become an unbeatable fighter is found in the Kata. This is very true and highly proper because every movement, turning of the hips, placement of the feet has purpose and builds incredible understanding of Kinetics and application of physics to generate mass quantities of power. This power can take a small person and make them hit as hard as a heavyweight.
A truly unique blend of martial art aspects makes Karate the most beautiful and deadly art in the world.
Traditional Karate has everything in it one could want to learn. There are hand strikes, kicks, knees, elbows, throws, joint locks, vital point striking, grappling, chokes and more found in Karate. Sadly many people stop training before they get to this part of the study. They fail to realize that you have to build a strong foundation in all those hours of repeated strikes, kicks, stance drills and more before you can apply them effectively. If you have never learned how to make a proper Karate fist you will break your hand the first time you need to strike someone to escape. The formulation of building the fist into a powerful striking element requires hours of study, practice and development before you can even begin to grasp the way to use it. One cannot skip to the end result by ignoring the beginning phases of setting the foundation for success. It just doesn’t work that way at all and never has, ever.
Karate was not developed as an idea on Okinawa. It was created from experiences the islanders had in their trade with China, Japan, Thailand, Philippines and other countries, all of which shared their martial arts with the Okinawans. It was a single art form but rather developed from many art forms thus leaving us with a beautifully designed and highly effective method of defense. Add into that the cultural aspects from the warrior class (Budo) and you build what is known as “Noble” character through the study of Karate.
Noble character simply teaches those who study Karate that nothing comes easy in life and to truly achieve anything you have to work hard for it. The culture of the society in which Karate was developed is why it is one of the most widely practiced martial arts in the world. There is emphasis placed on building integrity, honor, respect and self-discipline through the study. It is no wonder why Karate is heavily sought after by professional people. From doctors to lawyers Karate builds the ability to understand the tools that will make your life successful. It is not an overnight success story but rather one that comes through years of diligent study and practice. We all know our world could use more people that keep their promises or speak with integrity.
Karate is not an overnight success story…nor should it be.
In Karate there is a inherent beauty that builds over time. Not everyone will be successful Karate but anyone and everyone can try. Sadly many people quit before they get all the true benefits that Karate training claims to instill. I have been training for 36 years non-stop as of this year. In that time I have learned that those who quit after a couple years of training love to brag about their skills but in reality they had only touched the surface of what they could have been. They don’t understand Karate and many, who trained as kids and quit, can’t understand why so many adults love the training and being in the dojo. The beauty is that Karate is part of what is known as the “natural selection” process. This isn’t the Darwin theory of “survival of the fittest” that I am talking about but rather that Karate will choose those who are the best to become the teachers that pass the lessons onto their students. If you are dedicated and focus on training you will become the leader of the class. Those who are hit and miss in the Karate dojo in terms of training can complain all the want but it was their own failures that led to their inability to succeed at the training. Always remember that good Sensei is not a baby sitter. They are someone who simply points the way but it is up to you, the student, to train and improve.
Karate is a beautiful martial art that is for everyone. Children to adults flock to schools across the country in hopes of learning the art form. Our society has yet to embrace Karate training as a popular part of the public education system but those that did know for a fact the Karate training builds stronger athletes and better academics than any other form of physical education known on the planet. It is something that, no matter what you think, you can be great at. Karate is a skill building process that will make your life better. Get off your couch, quit making excuses and go sign up at a good, traditional Karate dojo today. Your life will thank you many times over for the lessons you will learn in the dojo.