I believe there are two moments in my life that have drastically changed who I am as a person: the day I got my drum set for Christmas almost four years ago and the day my dad signed me up for karate because I was being bullied at school. A lot of people seem to think that the most significant lesson to learn from training karate is how to defend yourself in case you end up in a dangerous situation, or some consider it to be about improving your fitness level. While these are certainly benefits of training, the most important thing I have learned through my training is the mental lessons of karate, specifically perseverance, confidence and self-respect. I recognize that I still need to improve in these categories but I know that I would be more anti-social and reserved than I already am if I had never started training karate. I would like to focus on why these three lessons of karate are most important to me and how improving these traits has contributed to my success and how it will hopefully continue to benefit my life in the future. Through learning perseverance, I have been able to improve some of my marks in school that were lower than I expected for myself. From learning confidence, I met a couple of my best friends by approaching them and stepping out of my comfort zone by initiating conversation or suggesting to hang out. Learning self-respect helped me to change my attitude during a difficult time in my life and begin to think positively in situations where it’s easier to think negatively. I am proud to say that because of my time with karate, I have done multiple things that I did not think I would do because of insufficient confidence or because I thought I would never be able to be in that position. Karate means much more to me than just an activity that I’m involved in. Karate ideology has become the foundation for my beliefs, attitude and decision-making.
The goal of this essay is to outline the benefits and improvements that have come as a result of karate training. I have clearly demonstrated perseverance by having come to this point. Considering that only about 1% of AMA students have earned their black belts and many students I trained with in beginner and intermediate classes have quit, I recognize that few people reach this point in their training. However, I’d like to focus more on how I’ve showed perseverance outside of the dojo. Specifically, my perseverance has been demonstrated by improving my math marks in grade eleven after it drastically dropped in grade ten. I did fairly well in math up until that point. I finished grade nine with an 84%, I struggled in grade ten and I waited too long to ask for help, which I realize was my biggest mistake. After finishing grade ten with a 62%, I made sure that I reviewed my work with my parents every night during this year. I raised my final mark to a 70% for grade eleven, but still feel that I can do better and am prepared to raise it even more next year. As for demonstrating an improved confidence level, I am able to call Jonathon Unger one of my best friends because I asked him about forming a band with me. We were joking about, just playing together at some point, but then a person at my school was looking for a band to join, so I told them that I knew a guy who could play guitar (Jonathon) and we could start a band. Ever since then, we have been very close. Unfortunately, that band didn’t work out with that person, but Jonathon and I have agreed to try and form a new band and we want to be in a successful band together. I am incredibly thankful for having karate as the reason that I met one of my best friends, and really the only person I know that shares the same passion and desperation to play music. If I had not been pushed by those at karate to step out of my comfort zone, I never would have approached Jonathon and I would most likely be too afraid to try starting a band. I wouldn’t realize my dream of becoming a musician. Finally, gaining self-respect helped me to feel good about myself again during the roughest period of my life so far and it’s part of what continues to makes me feel good about myself. Even though I’m my hardest critic, having self-respect prevents me from being extremely hard on myself when I make mistakes. There is a certain point where I realize I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and give myself more credit. I believe that training in a positive environment where students have the freedom to make mistakes without ridicule contributed to this positive thinking. Positively reassuring myself continues to keep my attitude positive, no matter what is happening at that point.
Simply put, I can’t imagine where or who I would be without karate. I have been training for almost as long as I can remember. The only thing I remember about myself before my training is that I was a scared little kid bullied at school and was too afraid to look anyone in the eyes. Almost instantaneously, the bullying stopped after I started karate. It wasn’t because a teacher talked to those kids, it was because I quickly became more confident. I started to make eye contact with people, felt less scared to talk to my classmates and then the kids just left me alone. I know that there are a lot of people who experience worse bullying than I did, but, at the time, it was really scary for me and I’m appreciative of the lessons I learned and am still learning because I’m a much improved person because of them. This is why if I had to say what karate means to me in a couple words, I’d say constant improvement. Even within the karate system, improvement is always and there is never a point where you stop learning, as shown with the black belt, which means Master of the Basics. Shihan has said during classes that it is more likely that your mental skills are challenged by an obstacle rather than your physical skills with an altercation and that your mental attitude is more important in a situation than the physical self-defense. Well, with almost eleven years of training under my belt, I feel confident and prepared to face those obstacles. For this, I am grateful for all that I’ve learned and what I’ll learn in the future because karate, to me, is all about constant improvement.