– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Whenever I get ready for Karate, I’m struck by how few things I have on my person. Things from my life outside the dojo get safely tucked away in a locker. I put on simple garments (gi jacket, belt and pants) and grab a tote bag containing only basic necessities – fist pads, mouth guard, band-aids, and Kleenex. I leave a lot behind. I need very little.
As I move from the locker room through the busy hallway of the rec center, there are no pretenses about who and what I am. Nothing hides my purpose in being there. I don’t know anything about where the other people are going, but once glance tells them about me.
Most of the time in class I don’t think about anything but what I’m doing. I am muscle, breath, movement… I am action and reaction. Each moment is a chance to improve on the previous moment. I live in the “now.” I forget my age, my income level, and all the chores waiting for me at home. When I’m at my best my body, mind, and soul are immersed in one thing and one thing only – learning.
I can’t hide the level of intensity I put into my Karate. I sweat. That salty, smelly liquid seeping out of every pore is difficult to fake. I kiai – a war cry that comes from the gut, the heart, and the soul. It sounds really lame if I don’t put everything I have into it. I make mistakes – a genuinely human trait.
From time to time I have to admit to not knowing something or I need to ask for help. If I don’t, my lack of knowledge will be agonizingly obvious. If I think I know something but am mistaken, that too will show. There is no faking one’s way through something. Either I can do something or it needs work.
Simplicity can mean a paucity of material things. I don’t need a lot with me in the dojo. I wear a uniform. Simplicity can mean clarity – I don’ t need to clutter up my mind by thinking about stuff that’s not related to Karate. Simplicity can mean truth – there’s physical and audible proof of my intensity. Simplicity can mean candor – admitting I don’t know everything.
Karate is so incredibly complex. Yet there are elements of simplicity as well. It is a paradox that fascinates me.