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What Karate Means To Me

From a very young age, I have been practicing Goju Karate and partaking in many seminars, gradings, and tournaments. Throughout all of these experiences piece by piece, I've been able to put together that Karate is much more than a martial art; it is a lifestyle that few can properly execute. To me, this lifestyle is one of dedication, control, and determination. From my personal experience going up the ranks can be a very grueling process and not for the faint of heart. It requires the attendance of many classes and most importantly correcting the many mistakes that my senseis have pointed out in my Karate and have been correcting for me ever since I was a little boy. These mistakes that are so prevalent may sometimes make you feel like quitting but without them, I would be no better than my white belt self. The dedication and the ability to endure countless fights and katas are so crucial to what Karate means to me. An example of this dedication and endurance that has been on my mind ever since I experienced it was the day of my shodan ho grading in December of 2019. After a sleepless night, I got up the morning of the grading and was in a complete panic flying through all of my Kata and Bunkai faster than ever before. Stressed out of my mind I didn't know what to do till I took a moment to think about all those years of work every single one of the classes I attended. All of that dedication and the countless hours that were put in led up to now. I knew after recalling that information that I was doing this for a reason and I wasn't going to let my nerves get the best of me that day. When the time came for Kumite that day I survived no matter what happened and tried to endure the many fights I knew I had coming my way. Without dedication and endurance, I would be nowhere near where I am today in Karate or even outside of Karate in my day-to-day life. Karate itself is a teacher of sorts and it encourages me to keep enduring and pushes so many positive behaviors into my life. I believe that to me Karate is a collection of many different characteristics all refined into a martial art. Diving into the meaning of Goju, the name itself is a collection of characteristics defining certain movements. “Go” refers to hard being represented by a fist and “Ju” being soft and represented by an open hand. A second example could be Sanchin and Tensho each being katas that represent the hard and soft of Goju in how they are performed.

Practicing with partners and learning from others is a very important part of Karate and its rich history which is why I believe that being a person with control is crucial to being successful in martial arts. One of the first things you are taught in Karate is control of your body and control of your techniques, most importantly that being dirty doesn't mean you're good but being a controlled fighter does because of the skill it takes. You must be a selfless person who is able to care about others and their safety before you can properly begin to learn. Point Sparring and freestyle sparring are perfect examples of control and how well someone can demonstrate their own control. The elimination of direct head contact creates a very large skill gap for students where those who can strike their desired area with precision are rewarded with a point and those that lack control and perform head contact will be staying after class doing 50 pushups in front of their sensei because they lacked such control. As I listed before, control is very prevalent in freestyle sparring because the difference in a match could be that one person kept themselves controlled and waited for the right time to strike and that one technique could very easily make the difference in a fight. Control is one of the most important things a person can use when practicing Karate whether it's control over their techniques or the self-control they have over themselves to dedicate enough time to perfectly practice their technique and Kata.

To sum up, what Karate means to me in words alone feels practically impossible. Even though I'm still very young, the amount of time I've been practicing Karate has felt like a very large period of time in my life, and the countless experiences and people I've met and learned from our life-changing experiences. I cannot express how thankful I am. I would say around 6 years ago was the first time I saw the whole grading board together at a black belt grading and I was in shock when I was told their ranks. I couldn't believe how someone could ever become so good at karate. Looking back on my younger self I am able to reflect and understand that getting to such a level is a long process that involves so many components but the one that sticks out the most to me is the determination each sensei has to continue overcoming the obstacles that try to hinder their progression. One of my personal favorite lines from all of my Karate journey comes from sensei mike who I have been training under for my whole life. He uses an example that if you were to put the engine of a sports car into the body of a honda civic it wouldn't be able to function because there's too much power and the car isn't strong enough to properly handle it all and vice versa if that engine of the civic were to be placed into that of a sports car its full power couldn't be properly assessed. I enjoy that example for the grading board because what my younger self saw that day was multiple people who through years of hard work and determination are able to handle the power of that engine. That concept baffled my younger self and it still baffles me today and is why I believe that Karate and determination mean so much to me when put together.

Ultimately to try and condense anything in life into a small sentence or statement is a very difficult task. If I were to try and consider all of my experiences with Karate and really think about how to put it in words I would say that to me Karate means more than just a martial art or a way of self-defense to me Karate is a life-changing experience that will help you throughout your life not just physically but mentally as well. You make so many mistakes that help you become a better student and ultimately it teaches you the fundamentals of being a much better person in life. It is a lifestyle that encourages dedication, control, and determination and is a martial art that is rich in history and has helped thousands of people. That is what Karate means to me.

James Shillington

Shodan candidate, Elora Karate Dojo

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