This question seems easy to answer. But the truth is that it is not an easy question to answer at all, because it must be answered on so many different levels.
“What is karate really all about?”
Is it about learning some punches, kicks and blocks? Is it about memorizing endless routines? Is it about self-defense? Is it about health and fitness? How about making friends and socializing? And what about all of those buzzwords such as self-discipline, self-confidence, self-control, self-esteem and all of those other ‘self’ prefixes that cater to our egos?
I have been training and studying the Martial Arts for over 40 years and have done plenty of research on this topic to find out what karate is all about and have found many different but complimentary answers. Conventional martial arts wisdom tells us that karate is about perfecting our character, being truthful and honest, never giving up, building strong spirit, trying our best at all times, adhering to strict discipline and etiquette, following “the path” or “the Way”, and reaching our potential in life. (“The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.” ~ Gichin Funakoshi)
I can pretty much guarantee that if I put this question to a room full of martial arts students, all of the above answers will be easily volunteered. The point of the introduction to this article is that karate IS about all of the above and none of the above. It all depends on who you are talking to. The problem I have seen over the years is that the difference between most people’s words and actions can be significant.
For example, saying that karate is about focus and discipline and then demonstrating weak technique and bad manners while being easily distracted tells me that someone isn’t really being honest. Saying that karate is about health and fitness and then driving straight to McDonalds after class for a Big Mac with extra large fries might be equally questionable in terms of an honest practice.
So “what is karate really all about?” I’d say it’s all about YOU and it’s all about what YOU make of it. You can make it a fun and challenging hobby and family activity by participating with other family members. You can make it a really worthwhile physical activity by training hard and improving your health and fitness. You can also make it an incredibly tedious and frustrating pursuit that can harm both your self-confidence and your character by not trying to do your very best, and feeling like you are “no good” compared to everyone else in your class.
Or, as I have done, you can make it a lifelong goal to try to capitalize on the strengths that you were born with and gradually improve your weaknesses through the honest and fully committed practice of karate.
Perfection of character doesn’t mean that you never make a mistake. Trying to be truthful and honest doesn't mean that you never catch yourself being hypocritical at times. Nor does trying to give it your best mean that you’re never tired.
What is most important from all of this is your self-awareness. Through the study and practice of karate we should be able to constantly polish your skills, so that you can clearly see your own reflection in all its beauty and even all of its unattractiveness.
Gradually through consistent effort, practice and knowledge of ourselves that we develop through our consistent training, we can tip the balance of our life’s scale to positive nourishment and self-improvement. This inevitably leads toward helping others and finding our own place in this world. Karate, although not complete in and of itself, holds many keys that lead us towards this goal.
The Academy of Martial Arts in Port Credit is the Best Professional Martial Arts School serving Mississauga for 31 years teaching kids, teens, and adults all ages in Karate, Tai Chi, and Fitness Cardio Kickboxing.
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