Many years ago I began my journey into Karate. It was scary walking into the dojo the first time. Being a young kid and walking into a room full of people yelling, training, sweating and seeing all the kicks and punches can be daunting to anyone. Over the years I trained it often seemed I was failing at my training. It took me over three years to earn my first trophy and then it would be another 10 before I would win on a regular basis.
These days I often see kids and adults come into the dojo who have no idea how to apply their skills for greatness…but it does rest inside of them all. My goal, as their Sensei, is to push them out of their comfort zone and help them build true strength, character and then learn how to apply it outside of the dojo. This is definitely not easy in today’s society where mediocrity is rewarded on a daily basis. It seems everyone is concerned with making sure that all “feel good” instead of understanding how to be great. A perfect example would be giving awards to everyone instead of only the best. They call these participation trophies and they are one prime example of raising people up to fail.
Sure kids love to get awards but giving every child an award is teaching them how to fail in life. A long time ago my Sensei told me that it was ok to get frustrated, to fail and to feel those feelings of losing. He also said it is an important lesson, not just in my Karate, but in life so that I understand how to become great…not just adequate. That message has sat with my heart everyday and through every trouble I encounter.
No one wants to lose but doing so doesn’t make you a loser. It means you have room to grow and get better. Going home empty handed from a competition doesn’t mean you are not adequate as a person…it just means you need to work harder, train harder and get better. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You just need to dig deeper and learn what it takes to become great…at anything you want to do.
All over the internet you can find famous people who failed A LOT but they never gave up. They used it as fuel to fire them up and help them become great. This same greatness lives inside every single person out there but most will never find it because they would rather quit when it gets tough than fight back and improve. Well, that is not how life is. In life you will fail. It is ok to fail. It is alright to mess up, to screw up to forget and to fall on your face….but it is never alright to allow that to become to an excuse to quit something.
I always tell my students that one of them could be the person who finds a cure to cancer in the future. In their time trying to find the cure they will fail, falter, get frustrated, upset, cry and feel demoralized but if they quit and give up them the cure may never be found. I don’t believe in quitting when you feel like you’re worthless. I believe that is the time to stare down your challenge and say “Bring it on because I am a warrior and you will lose, not me”.
In the many years I have been teaching people martial arts I have received phone calls, emails, letters and more about how the training helped them get through divorces, loss of jobs, death of a loved one, failing grades and the facing uncertainty. When I go back through all of these letters and things one thing remains clear…I pushed them to be their best, to never give up and to become the greatness that lies inside of them. I didn’t do this because they paid me to teach them Karate. I did it because that, in its essence, is what Karate training is truly about…to become your best version of YOU.
I remember one young teen student I had who was very talented in Karate. This student would almost always place in weapons kata and empty hand kata at events but faltered in Kumite every time. I would watch them, observe their fights and it was clear they were full of fear. It could’ve been fear of getting hurt or fear of losing because they “didn’t think they were good enough”. Regardless we were at a major tournament and I said “Today you will place in Kumite or I will never test you for black belt”. As you can imagine the parents were mad at me but I was completely serious. I also told this student “Your Karate is as good, if not better than all those other brown belts. You train just as hard, are just as good as those champions and you should never accept losing to them because of this very reason”. That day, that student, earned 1st in Kumite. The rest was history and since then the student has gone on to become very successful in college, their marriage and career…but they never did earn a black belt. Not because they quit but because their family had to move away from our dojo.
I also remember this shy, bullied kid that came into the dojo. They didn’t want to train and through a fit whenever the parents would drag them to class. Over the five years I trained this child (into their teens) I was hard on them but fair. It was clear he was going to be his own unique self from the day I began training him and I supported that. Five years of hair color changes, various things they were into and more but one thing never changed…they would train and I would not accept any excuses from them for missing classes or throwing a fit when the parents brought him to class. He was a good kid but had not spine, not backbone and was very timid. Two years into his training that changed and he became more confident. Grades improved, attitude improved and this little kid that never smiled would have the biggest smile when he walked into the dojo because he knew he was becoming better and great. He trained hard and earned his junior black belt. After he graduated from high school he moved away to college. Years went by and one night I got a call from him. It was great to hear his voice, about his college and career. He went from being shy, introverted and failing at everything to achieving great things.
The point I am trying to make to anyone reading my blog is that you have GREATNESS inside of you. It takes a good guide to help you achieve that though. In Karate we are fair but strict, tough but compassionate and your Sensei believes in you or they wouldn’t be this way. Our goal, as your Sensei, goes beyond making you great at Karate and into making you find your greatness and learn how to tap it, build it and grow it. This will never be easy because changing one’s character requires breaking it first. Anyone who says different is a politically correct idiot that just wants you to be happy.
It is alright to not be happy. We have all been there and many of us will be again. It is ok to feel inadequate but do something about it instead of just accepting it. It is alright to fail but don’t see it a failure…rather see it for what it truly is…a stepping stone to success. You can fall down over and over again. This part of life. Everyone will go through it. We all get depressed…but you don’t have that let that control you. You are in control. You have a greatness inside of you that can propel you beyond your wildest dreams but to reach them requires hard work, sacrifice and the understanding it will not happen overnight.
When you walk into the dojo KNOW that your Sensei believes in you. We believe that you can become greater than you ever imagined. We will train you, watch you, guide you and help you but it won’t always be easy…just like in life. Bow, get on the mat, listen, learn, watch, train, fail, struggle, feel inadequate and understand that is part of the growing process to reach greatness. There are no shortcuts in the dojo nor in life…you will achieve greatness. The only question that you have to ask yourself is how hard are you willing to work for it?