In 1999, I went to my first karate training. Last week, some fellow karateka and me celebrated my trainer`s 40th anniversary of doing karate in Hungary. We were sitting around the table listening to old stories about competitions, karate camps and about the role of karate in our lives in general. It made me reflect on the way it helps me in my everyday life. Here are three things karate taught me:
1. There is always something to improve.
There are a lot of different things you have to keep in mind when performing karate movements: breathing, speed, focus, power, distance, stability and a lot more. When you start out, all these aspects are on their own and it takes considerable amount of time until you learn to coordinate them at once. But even after years of training, it is guaranteed that you will not get everything right. You will always miss something to some extent. A perfect movement exists only in theory. The only thing you can do is to be so close to this as you can. I think the same applies for other activities, such as work, writing assignments or learning languages. On the one hand, you learn how to be better next time. On the other hand, it takes the weight off your shoulders knowing that nothing can be perfect.
2. Being good at something takes long. Starting to like it takes longer.
There is a slight difference between people starting practicing karate as an adult and as a child. Training for children usually includes play time too, so that they can keep up their attention. However, both children and adults experience some kind of frustration not being able to perform as they wish. Of course, it does not necessarily mean that they are under pressure all the time but they have definitely more stress during the first few years of training. I think that the initial frustration is important because it pushes you to a point where you begin to feel more and more comfortable. And from that point on, it`s not the frustration that pushes you anymore. You push yourself because you like what you are doing and want to be better at it. I think it`s important to face the fact that learning new things often involves frustration. But what is even more important is that you are aware of where you can get after passing this initial phase.
3. You can be a team player even if not playing in teams.
Except of some rare occasions at competitions, karate is an individual sport. You train for your own health and concentrate on improving your own skills. Usually, you do not form teams and there is no need to earn points. Due to different age groups and physical limitations, each of us train towards their individual goals. However, you get constant feedback not only from your trainer but everybody else around you. You start to feel responsible for other members` success when approaching a karate test for a new belt or an important competition. This kind of mutual attention helps people moving forward. Sustaining such a relationship among colleagues working on different projects and students attending different courses is beneficiary for everybody. Of course, competition among members can be beneficial too. However, too much of it holds back (or even destroys) potential improvement.
I am sure that a lot of people can relate to some of these points, even if their experience originates from other backgrounds. As for me, it just happened to be karate.