Sensei’s October Tip of the Month

October 1, 2014

Reflections and lessons in how to be the best can come anytime and anyplace. I will give you a perfect example of that in a moment. I have been telling our members that the only way to excel and really reach your full potential for mastering your martial art, is to just not quit. The fresh mind, the open mind, the thirst and the hunger for knowledge must all be there as well, but most times the person who never quits, stays because they already have those attributes. Our park class on Saturday, September 6, was attended by three people; Mr. Andy Horowitz, Mr. Tim Oven and our young friend Jimmy O’Bryan. It is well known around our school that I give Mr. Horowitz details, or minor critiques, to help his overall progress and performance. This day was no different, and a smaller class allows more of this to be done. Others observing can learn from seeing how a highly ranked person like Mr. Horowitz is helped to be a better martial artist, and in my view even more important to see how well the details are received and welcomed by someone of high rank and experience.

Also, as it is usually the case, we could only do a single step of a kata, making that step perfect. (A humorous side bar note; when we began to practice that day, I said to Mr. Horowitz, we will try to get through the kata and get past the first step. Knowing how our sessions go and knowing how we both want him to be perfect each step, he immediately said I’ll bet we won’t!) Well, guess what kata and step we were locked into reviewing for the entire class? The first step of Heian Shodan! Since Mr. Horowitz understands, as few others, that focus on just a single thing makes the whole of the martial artist improve, he spoke reflecting on that effort as the class near conclusion. He noted that many of the improvements I implemented for him are simply part of him now. He was right because I very rarely see him doing some of the things that were previously commented on. His second reflection noted that improvements never stop, but instead are a slow evolving process; some mentioned many times, new ones to contend with and many from months ago seem to disappear because the effort and practice make the corrections part of the person with time. Well, he is right in more ways than he even knows, and I have so often said that many people leave with so many more things to absorb, making them forever incomplete as a karate person, instead of continuing to master their art. How long does this take, and when do you know when to stop?

That last question I wrote was merely a trick question, because, unfortunately, way too many people ask it and way to many people think this fictitious cut off date actually exists. Is it necessary to think of karate practice as temporary? Definitely not! The truth is that you can continue Martial Arts practice for the rest of your life and never stop. The benefits and rewards continue. I have often said that the key to getting along better with and liking others starts by liking yourself. And, interestingly, karate practice helps you to do just that! The confidence and focus developed in the dojo makes you like how you are mentally and physically, while also continually improving your mental and physical condition.

Continuous mental and physical self improvement makes you able to face yourself so you can face others. This may sound silly to some people, but it is true that many, many people do not like themselves and actually cannot face themselves. This results in a negative personality and disposition and spirals downward until many people resort to heavy alcohol and or drug consumption to not have to face themselves and the problems that everyone encounters. Dojo practice definitely makes you happier with yourself and brings more peace to your soul, which then makes you happier about life in general, which makes you smile and speak in positive tones and ways, which makes you have more acceptance and likability, which then makes you even more proud of yourself, spiraling upward and positively onward. You see, each and every person is capable of and usually spirals either up or down, and each can continue in the direction initiated.

So why would one choose the negative path? Because the negative path requires much less effort expended. You can go downward in personality, mental and physical condition, and lose respect and friendship from others by simply doing nothing. What is the best way to combat this? Stay in the dojo!!

The reason for this is that the dojo atmosphere, formality, spirit, and a host of other things makes your life more enjoyable without the tremendous expenditure of effort, just show up, forget everything else, practice with us, you are better mentally and physically from each single class attended. Our friend, Black Belt, instructor and parent of children in our school, Abdul Qavi, said it best. Referencing his children’s longevity plans here, he just said karate is for life.

So simple but so profound. Let’s get back to Mr. Horowitz, he is Busy! He has a family, a home, he teaches at Binghamton University, he travels all over the world! If anyone could say they do not have time for dojo practice it is him! But, he never quits, and does not ever say I’ll be a little busy next month so I’ll be taking a break from the dojo. The break takers rarely return, and if they do, feel funny returning, and even forget things, making them more uncomfortable.

What does he do? Simple, he just never plans to quit! So, so simple. He just does all that he has to do and gets here whenever he can. As stated earlier, progress takes time, but the results are permanent, satisfying and wonderful! To master your art here and continue to do so forever, just plain show up and have your goal to have karate for life instead of thinking about how many breaks from practice are coming.!

Sensei’s Tip of the Month…!

So many people questioning the place for kata in their practice. Many either don’t understand why we do them, wonder what they are good for, feel they have to totally dissect kata and analyze every step to make the kata feel valuable and necessary, or do a combination of all those. You may notice that I always say answers to your progress and the dojo’s purpose are simple. People always feel they have to have more answers to things that are even possible to give. Here’s the most important tip about karate kata you will ever hear, just do them. The formality of the kata, the stances the concentration necessary to not mess up a kata and remember all of the steps, all of these, just plain make you better. When kata were developed they were not made to be dissected and talked about, they were just made to do! I’ve seen so many people either look terrible doing kata or just not making any progress because they feel there has to be a definitive answer and description of the purpose to each kata. They were, listen again, just made to do. Please, for your own sake for your progress, your peace of mind, and your longevity in the dojo, don’t look for reasons and analysis of everything. The word dojo means the way of the place, or the place of the way. What is the way? Practice, trust, smile, never quit, this is the way! So just show up and do kata, that is all you need!!