When I began Karate training it was much more brutal than it is these days. Every class was a beating for the most part and it seemed never to end. There were days I just dreaded getting my gi and heading to the dojo. I was only a kid and there weren’t many kids in Karate back then, most of the adults in the dojo were also guys whose only interest was in fighting and being tough.
Over the years I received many bumps, bruises, sprains, jammed fingers and toes, bloody noses and lips and some cracked ribs. I can still remember the first time I got a bloody nose during sparring. I had never been hit hard in the face like that, never had a bloody nose and, well, quite honestly I was scared to ever spar again. That being said my Sensei made me do it. I couldn’t run from it, I couldn’t hide from it and I had to learn one of the most valuable lessons that has helped me many times in my adult life from that bloody nose.
The lesson was to face my fears. Allowing fear to control you leads to only one path…FAILURE. To this day I can still close my eyes and see that first sparring match after the bloody nose. I was shaking. I was sick to my stomach. I was afraid and every time my partner would make a move I would flinch, backup and wouldn’t engage them. It was just another beating I got in that first match after my nose injury but it was also a lesson that happened afterwards. When the match ended I was in tears, I was still scared and my Sensei turned me and said “See. You survived. You are alright. Face you fear, use it and grow from it. Now get back in there.”. To this day those words have permeated in my mind every time I felt scared of something I was facing in life.
Sometimes our students see us as this almost superhuman type of person. They often are amazed at what we can take and how we aren’t afraid to get in the mix no matter what. What they forget is that we are only human. We make mistakes. We get scared. We are facing the same challenges they are…and have many times in our Karate training lives. It is important that students learn to accept the fact they will get hit. That they will gain bumps, bruises, sprains and some pain in their training. When those situations occur we, the Sensei, must not allow them to quit…EVER. We must encourage them, help them and be right there to push them through dealing with that fear. By doing so we are actually giving them a tool that will help them their entire life. That is what being a Sensei is all about.
My Sensei gave me many tools through the training in the dojo. He taught me to persevere through every type of negative that existed in life. When I would be afraid he would make me face the fear…he encouraged me…he picked me up when I got knocked down and said get back in there and do your best. I learned about how to overcome failure through this as well as the fact that it is perfectly OK to FAIL…that is how we grow successful.
Quite often when I am teaching Karate a younger student will get cracked in class and the parents want to coddle them or they want to allow them to just give up. In my dojo I don’t permit any parent interaction with the students when I am teaching. They are welcome to watch but there are no soccer moms in my dojo. The Sensei is in charge of the training and for a good reason…because we know what their child will go through and how to help them face the challenges and OVERCOME them. When a parent allows a student to quit classes, for any reason, they are defeating the entire purpose of helping their child through Karate. I am so grateful that my parents never allowed me to quit (and yes I wanted to many times when I was younger). Anytime I said I didn’t want to go to class the answer was always “get your Gi and let’s go”.
The first rule of being successful at anything in life is discipline. In Karate you will learn that discipline means showing up for class even when you don’t want to. If you, or your child does this, they will work through the good times and the bad times. You, or your child, will learn one of the most valuable lessons in life there is…how to be successful. Keep this mind and no matter what fears or things you are facing in, and out of the dojo, you need to get class and work through them. Stay the path and in the end you will be so thankful you did when you are successful in life and watch what happens to those other people who always quit things and never saw them through. As always train hard, do your best and when you fail…WORK HARDER. That is the Black Belt way and a great way to learn about life.
Steven Franz, Shihan
Rokudan Shorin Ryu Shorinkan