I could constantly complain about just about everything in Karate. I could even make a case for quitting altogether. I’ve been subjected to the tender mercies of Sempai Drill Sergeant – and that was just warming up. I’ve been clonked on the nose, dumped on the floor, and grabbed (not inappropriately, but still). Aching muscles and bruises have been a constant part of my life for about a year now. I’ve been hit so hard I’ve had the wind knocked out of me. And let’s face it, I’m not exactly a spring chicken anymore. I don’t heal in ten minutes like I did when I was a kid – more like ten days! None of this is fun.
Assuming a good dojo the reality of Karate is training is far more gentle than a street thug or two would be. We’re learning how to defend ourselves and that’s going to involve some hard knocks. Could I train without all the unpleasantness mentioned above? There’s plenty of room for opinions on this but what it all boils down to is any effective, legitimate training method is better than winding up in a shallow, hastily dug grave somewhere in the forest. I’ve made my decision about where to train and it is the right one for me. Otherwise I’d have long since walked out the door or never started.
Do I see the hard things about the system as opportunities for personal growth, or do I walk away to live the second half of my life sour, cynical, and maybe even fat? How can learn to overcome adversity if there is no adversity to overcome? I could say I’m too old for Karate or I could take the bull by the horns and learn some really awesome skills. I could be more vulnerable to criminals or I could increase my odds of survival by training as hard as I’m expected to train, taking the lumps, and falling down seven times, standing up eight. Yes this is tough talk.
Some of these things are what I say to myself during meditation at the end of a class if I’ve taken some lumps and am hurting physically and/or emotionally. Then I recall the happy times. I recall what it’s like to perform kata well. I remember “the fierce joy” that comes on me from time to time. I remember Gasshuku, the Christmas party and getting to watch Shodan testing right after being promoted myself. I remember the clanking sound of medals on my chest. I have hundreds more precious memories in my treasure box. Yes, there are memories of hard lessons learned in that treasure box too. After my self-talks I find I can continue, I can overcome, I can be the best that I can be. To do otherwise would be to turn my back on a whole lot of potential that is waiting inside me.
I have a feeling the testing of my mind, body, and spirit is going to get harder as I continue in my training. I know I have absolutely no clue about just how hard it’s going to be because, obviously, I’ve never “been there.”
Bring it. Because the cold, hard reality is that a fight for my life could come at any time – maybe even in the parking lot after class when I’m already bruised and exhausted. Some day I will break down and cry in the dojo, but I will put the pieces together again and come back – as many times as necessary. I have too many happy memories not to do so. I am determined to bloom where I’m planted and gather many more wonderful memories.