“How has karate-do helped you”
By Brendan Musselman
The positive merits of learning karate-do are quite comprehensive, in a way no other sport or physical activity can match. It contains within it not only strengthening of the body, but a sharpening of the mind, and a fortification of the spirit. It is really less of a sport, as most might categorize it, and more of a medium for reflection, and self-improvement. Growing up, I never cared much for strenuous physical activities, and especially not for anything that forced me to engage in any level of introspection. As I've gotten older, and had a child of my own, the necessity for good health and good habits has led to me to seek out activities that I can share with my son, so that he can make better choices than I did.
The most obvious improvement from participating in Karate is the aspect of physical strengthening. The building of muscle for power, the increase of stamina for endurance, and the flexibility that have all been gained do not go unnoticed. In only a few short years, I have recognized a vast improvement in these attributes. I am certainly the healthiest I’ve ever been, and this allows me to maintain an active lifestyle with my son. When he wants to ride his bike, I can ride with him, and if he wants to practice a sport, like soccer, I am able to keep up with him. Given the current state of health and obesity problems around the world these days, I find this to be an extremely important standard.
Foundational elements of karate also serve to galvanize mental connections with things like memory, focus, response time, and pure psychological fortitude. Memorizing the movements of a Kata, while also being sure that every inch of your body is where it should be and every aspect of your form is correct, is definitely easier said than done. The difference between a win and a defeat in a sparring match can come down to your ability to quickly read your opponent, and make split-second decisions. Holding a squatting horse stance, or the crouching leg of a cat stance, or even just a plank position following a set of pushups, while your arms and legs wobble and you drip with sweat, builds a significant level of inner discipline. Learning to hold strong throughout discomfort and hardship is an incredibly important skill for any number of life experiences.
Something I truly admire about our Dojo and Saito Soke’s teaching style is the belief that karate-do is not just about the self. There is a substantial focus on community building and inter-social relationships. Community events are frequently held such as potluck dinners, charity donations, all-hands dojo cleanups, self-defense demonstrations for students and women, and even various contests between students, like fishing challenges or weight loss goals. During class we are expected to encourage others to push their limits, and cultivate the knowledge that we are all in the struggle together.
With each passing rank, you will hear a certain teaching from your Sensei, “Now that you are a higher rank, you have an obligation to be a better example for the ranks below you.” From the first step forward, karate instills in its students an ever-increasing degree of leadership and responsibility. Even the youngest among us must learn to monitor their peers, be positive mentors and guides to lower ranked students, and help to drive them towards better choices. Each individual is similarly pushed to be the best version of themselves they can be, and to not settle for mediocrity.
Given the current employment shortages due to the Covid pandemic, my workplace has had its share of hardships and struggles recently. But these lessons have assisted me through our difficulties, and driven me to provide the leadership necessary to keep us all afloat. As a senior employee in my department, our managers look to me frequently to continue to provide direction to newer workers, excellent service to our customers, and boost morale among coworkers.
Overall, choosing to enroll in karate-do from Saito-Soke has been an extremely positive influence on my well-being. I have even extolled the benefits of learning this art to family, and to friends, especially those with children, so that they may also be lucky enough to experience them. I am excited to continue my journey up through the ranks, and earn the black belt that currently sits on the wall, waiting for me.
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