I find that I often have to deal with the misconception among the parents in the dojo that Karate is just another seasonal sport that you just put you kids to “round them out,” or worse yet, “to help them get rid of some of that access energy.” While my intent is not to chastise parents who have that perspective, because Karate doe do those things, I do think that it is important that I try to help promote understanding about the real reasons that you want to have your kids in martial arts program, and why keeping them there, consistently is paramount.
So first, the notion of karate as a sport. Bottom line, Karate is not a sport! Now do we have sport aspects of karate, yes! In fact in modern, specifically western, karate practice adding sport to karate has become a very effective means to keep students motivated and help them to learn to push past their fears and inhibitions. However, while this aspect is embraced by many instructors, myself included, it by no means supplants the fundamental focus of traditional karate practice.
‘Okay Renshi, you use the words traditional karate practice a lot. What do you mean, and why is it relevant? ‘
Great question. When I speak of traditional karate, or martial arts practice, I am speaking of the engagement in training that 1) stems from and focuses on fundamental concepts of self preservation 2) puts and keen and unwavering focus on holistic development of the student’s mind, body, and spirit, and 3) utilizes physical, martial training as a means to develop a person towards the goal of continuous self-betterment. These 3 attributes sit at the core of traditional martial practice and are the very essence of why karate, is not, and cannot be just a seasonal sport.
In karate we speak of -Do (pronounced “dough”) meaning “(the) Way.” This is a recognition of the fact that karate-do is intended to provide a guide for not only how we defend ourselves, but how we carry and represent ourselves on a day to day basis. The ‘way of karate’ is a way of living a life of self-discipline, and humility, that is born from the recognition of one’s own strength. When I compare this to many conventional sports, I find a critical and unique value that is often lacking outside of the dojo. Just think, how many times have you been to a soccer match, basketball or football game, and seen the athletes, or worst yet the parents parading around with boastful talk and gesture towards their competitors. I am not saying that other sports are bad, or that they do not teach sportsman like conduct. Most do, and there are more coaches than not that pride themselves on these concepts, but it is not a mandatory part of their practice. It is not an immovable part of their culture, their way.
In these days, I think the notion that character and consideration are inseparable from strength, is often lost. Society teaches our kid to be infatuated with things and meaningless distractions, and the notion of seeing value in stillness is lost.