I’ve been training karate for close to eleven years now and karate has, does and will always mean a lot to me. When I began at the age of four, it was just a way to use my energy so I wasn’t as hyper and it taught me discipline and gave me other qualities such as commitment and respect. Slowly growing older, karate wasn’t only a place to be physically active, but it also helped me to relax and release stress. Karate also showed me that the things learned in the dojo can be used in day to day life, such as full awareness, zanshin. As well, karate introduced me to some of the best friends I’ll ever have. Karate is often put into three different categories which all mean something different to me: body, mind and spirit.
The first of these is the first that I discovered was body. I enjoy being active in karate and even though fitness is not my strong suit, I enjoy it nonetheless. Karate helps me express myself physically; other people play sports like soccer or basketball, which only focuses on one specific skill per position. Karate helps physically in every way through flexibility, strength, muscle endurance and cardio. Karate, to me, is physical improvement. It helped me become more physically fit. Karate also helped program my body with natural reactions to specific situations such as self- defense. From repeating the same sequences and grabs over and over for years, I can perform specific escapes without thinking. In a real situation, Shihan always says that all thinking goes out the window, and whatever you have practiced shows. To me, this means that the harder you train, the more you train and training correct will help you become better in a real situation. Shihan says repetition is the mother of skill, which in my opinion, is what karate is about. The fitness test is the newest way of testing how you are using your body in karate. To me, this is a good indicator of where I am with my fitness and a sign if I am improving. Through my body, karate means physical fitness and preparation if someone were to attack me.
The second of the three is the mind. The mind is used everyday all the time, to do the simplest jobs to the most complex tasks. To me, the mind, in karate, is used for two main things: focus and technique. Focus is keeping on track, even when distractions are around you. That doesn’t mean don’t pay attention to what is around you, the mind helps you focus, also your zanshin, which is your total awareness of what is around. The mind aids me in developing my skills as a martial artist, ability to focus on small details for an extended period of time without giving up. The dictionary defines focus as ‘A central point, as of attraction, attention or activity’ and to me, my mind creates that central point. My other function of the mind is technique. Of course there is muscle memory, but I used my mind to create that muscle memory. Without my mind, I would have no technique and no way to learn anything. Karate has helped me open and expand my mind to use it in other ways other than just sitting at a desk from assisting problems to developing power and staying on task. Therefore, my mind is important, as it gives me karate through focus and technique.
The third and final one is spirit. Spirit is not something that you start off with like the mind and body and slowly make better. Spirit is something that I found deep within myself that gives me the will to move forward. My spirit helped me to do things I thought I could never do, such as making it this far in karate, and being the person I am today. Spirit means two things to me: emotion and friendship. They say that kata is motion + emotion and, to me, all of karate is motion + emotion because I try to put intensity into everything I do. My emotion is put into school, karate and home life because I think that emotion is who you are and everyone’s emotions are different. Not everyone can have the same emotions to things, everyone reacts in their own special way and I try to harness the power that comes with that and use it in my karate. The second meaning of spirit is friendship. Friends at karate mean more than the world to me. I love my friends and it’s all because I started karate. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, even with my martial arts training. We are all so close and the only thing I have to thank is the dojo because it has brought us together and given us a common interest and I know that whatever I must go through, now or ever, they will be with me and, because of them, I will never have anything to fear. Therefore. The main meanings of spirit, to me, are emotion and friendship.
To me, the meaning of karate can be put into three subcategories: body, mind and spirit. The body means improvement of physical fitness and ability to defend myself in a real situation. The mind means focus and technique, which keeps me on track. The spirit means emotion and friendship, which helps me through tough times, in and out of the dojo. All of these things would not have been possible without the dojo and karate. Karate means the world to me and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.