Friday, July 29, 2011

List It - Karate - What it means to me.

When I started Karate 3 years ago, I took it up purely as a sport and martial art. To advance to the next belt was my only aim.

Then about a year ago it dawned on me that for me it was more than a sport and martial art and earning the next belt was no longer important or the focus for me.

I believe that we progress just enough to get what we require from an event or experience and I think I reached that with Karate a year ago.

Karate for me took on a different meaning. So what does Karate mean to me?

o  Keeps me in Balance
    Practicing kata (detailed patterns of movement) engage both the right and left side of your brain and
    body. It keeps me balanced

o  Takes me to a State of Zen
    When I am stressed or feel out of sorts, performing kata and the basic karate movements helps
    to relieve stress. The kiai (short exhalation during a strike) is particularly helpful at
    relieving stress as when done correctly, it channels the energy within into a destructive force. It
    requires timing and focus and hence a clear mind. Relieving stress takes me back to a state of Zen.

o  Sharpens the mind
    Karate demands focus as movements need to be undertaken with precision and right technique.
    In a class it also means keeping up in synchronized harmony with the rest of the karatekas.
    The mind must be engaged at every second. The same applies during kumite (sparring) as even a
    momentary lapse in concentration can lose the match for you.

o  Keeps me Fit
    Karate is very demanding on the body. My fitness levels absolutely soared after I first started.
    And I also lost a lot of weight.  It's a great fitness regime.

o  It's a Meditation
    Kata is meditative as it is a coordinated pattern of movements. As in the kiai, it requires timing,
    focus and clear thinking. After a while, it becomes quite hypnotic if you are in "the zone".

o  My Spiritual Practice
    Karate requires the synchronized engagement of body, mind and soul. Karate demonstrates the
    concept of "Be here now" perfectly which is the essence of a spiritual practice.
    Dan Millman illustrates this concept perfectly in his book "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior".
          Where are you Dan?  Here
          What time is it?  Now
          What are you?  This moment.
    To be in "the karate zone" you need to be here, now, in this moment.

o Teaches me to use circumstances to my advantage
    During kumite you always study and understand your opponent. Then you quickly learn 3 things -
        -  exploit your opponents weak points to make a strike
        -  use your opponents strengths to your advantage (eg defend instead of attack)
        -  take them by surprise - change the pattern
    You can apply the same to everyday circumstances. For example, at work,
        -  when in difficult situations use the strengths of a coworker to help you or
        -  if something isn't working and you've tried over and over again, change the pattern,
           try something different.
    In all honesty I do not enjoy kumite, I am not even good at it, but that's not important.
    What's important is that it has taught me skills that help me everyday particularly at work.

I love karate. I no longer strive for belts, I don't need to. Karate is now more a way of life for me.

Thank you Sensei Scott for introducing karate to me. You are an inspiration.



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