There are many reasons that people first get started in the martial arts. Usually the reasons are for self-defense, health and fitness, discipline, confidence, self-control and spiritual growth among others. Most of us have heard about these benefits of the martial arts, yet despite knowing the potential rewards of karate, it is not always clear why we should stay on the path for the long term.
I would like to let you know what I believe the number one reason is for you to continue with your karate practice. Before I do that let me give you a very quick rundown of my own personal karate experience. I have been practicing karate for more than 25 years. Initially my reason for enrolling in my first karate class was to learn self-defense. After about 6 or 7 years of training my reason for practicing karate was physical strength and fitness. Then after about 10 years of training (around the time that I was entering the adult world) I began to appreciate the more philosophical and deeper insights of the martial arts. Later on in my training during my three years in Japan, karate was about perfecting my technique and improving my overall knowledge, and now as an instructor karate is about giving the gift of what I have learned to others.
As you can see my primary reasons for studying karate have changed with time and with my own personal development as a martial artist. However if I were to condense all of my knowledge into one key point or reason for training then it would be this:
The number one reason you should stick with your karate training is “Self Discovery”.
Everything that I have learned about punching, kicking and blocking, everything I have learned about kata or kumite, pale in comparison to what I have learned about myself in the past 25 years plus of karate training. During my training I have experienced the full emotional roller coaster of passed and failed gradings, successful and unsuccessful tournaments, great health and fitness as well as some cuts, bruises, pulled muscles, the odd broken bone and several doses of hurt pride. I’ve come to realize that just because I know the moves to a kata that I don’t necessarily know the kata. The movements are just the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more to be discovered beneath the surface. Just because I can throw out my hand in front of me doesn’t mean I have a good punch and just because I have a black belt around my waist doesn’t make me a better person than anybody else. Karate constantly teaches me humility and constantly challenges me to be better. Karate teaches me self discovery. It helps me to learn about who I am, how I react under pressure and what it is that gets my fire burning.
Over 2000 years ago a Chinese General called Sun Tzu compiled a military strategy that is still read and studied to this day. His strategy is called The Art of War, and in it he writes:
“So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and you lose one; if you do not know others and you do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Translated by Thomas Cleary, p.82
It would seem that the importance of self discovery is timeless and the martial arts are one such path for discovering your own strengths and weaknesses on your journey to self improvement.