If karate was easy no one would be doing it.

Someone asked me the other day why I still practice karate after so many years. Not wanting to give them a flip, spur of the moment answer, I thought about their question for a moment and then I replied, "because karate is so very difficult for me to do". The person then asked me what I meant by that.

I went on to explain that karate has never come easily to me, I am not a "natural" at it. For me karate has always been, and remains to this very day, a lot of bloody hard work.

Looking back I can remember my very first class, as the saying goes, "like it was yesterday". I came out of that class aching in places I never knew I had. My mind was a whirl of Japanese terms and karate techniques and the sound of "lower your stance" constantly rang in my ears. Yet in spite of how stiff and sore I felt I clearly remember one thing, being absolutely determined to go back as soon as possible and do it all over again.

More than twenty-nine years have now passed since I first entered a dojo and in all that time I do not think I can recall a single class where I did not have to work hard to improve some aspect of my karate. I suppose it is my desire to be better at karate today than I was yesterday that has kept me going to the dojo all of these years.

Quite frankly I think if I had been a "natural" at karate I would probably have quit a long, long time ago. Don't ask me why, but for some reason students who on the surface appear to be gifted never seem to last for very long. You know the ones I mean, they can lift up either leg and thrust out a side kick at head height, all the while seeming to hold it there with little or no effort, and this is in their very first class!!

For them the physical aspects of karate come easily, they quickly develop good stances, solid looking techniques and more often than not they are the envy of almost every student in class. Then one day you turn around and they are gone. No notice. No explanation. They simply stop coming.

Perhaps for them karate was not challenging enough. Sad really, because karate is so much more that just physical movements. The true depth of all that karate has to offer lies elsewhere and this is often only revealed, if ever, after a great many years on the dojo floor. Like many things in life karate in and of itself is not a destination, but instead it is more of a journey. A journey that literally tens of thousands of students around the world embark upon each year, yet few ever finish.

Those rare few who do make the entire journey they become the masters, the teachers of other teachers. We look up to them with gratitude and true appreciation for all the time, the effort, and the energy that they have given to the development of karate-do. They are the leaders that set example for all of us to follow.

But my true inspiration can be found much closer to home. For me it is the student who is training beside me during class. Their belt rank does not matter. What does matter is the fact that we are both sweating on the same floor, putting forth our best effort, and spending our energy, striving to make our karate better today than it was the day before. It is these students that have kept me coming back to the dojo day after day. It is these students who help me on my journey and who make all of the bloody hard work that karate demands seem just a little bit easier.

I for one will never be a master, or perhaps even a good sensei, but one thing is for certain, I will always be a student who is very grateful for the fact that when it came to karate, I was not a "natural".



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