Over twenty-six years in the martial arts. Why have I stuck around so long? I first started because I loved the skill I had seen in my youth. I always wanted to do something extra ordinary in my life. The martial arts gave me that opportunity. I was lucky that I found a great school that trained excellent Black Belts. I was longing for a sense of accomplishment. I had decided to drop out of college after receiving a two year Associates Degree. I had left my prior career plans unfinished and jumped right into the work world. I felt incomplete and inadequate.
On the outside my reasons for wanting to train were physical fitness and self defense. Deep down, even if I wasn’t conscience of it at the time, I wanted to accomplish something special. Soon I found myself very satisfied with learning katas, kicks, punches, and self defense techniques. I was amazed that I could really do all the things I had seen and been awed by in the past. Each belt promotion gave me a new feeling of achievement and motivated me to keep going. I also had great instructors that emphasized a positive attitude and goal setting. I was not a natural, each movement I learned took hours of practice, but I kept it up because I wanted my skills to be just like the Black Belt and Brown Belt instructors teaching me. Every time it was possible, when the school did a demo or tournament I was there. I watched the upper belts carefully and tried to copy their movements. During class I paid close attention to the instructors. I would not always get the moves right away, but I kept at it until I got it right.
It was hard work but the reward of the accomplishment kept me going. I also found belonging to the school comforting. It was a family like atmosphere. When you where learning something new everyone would help. The higher ranked students would always point you in the right direction. I struck up friendships with other students and my instructors. We would gather socially creating relationships many of which are still active today. The friendships, family atmosphere, and the satisfaction of reaching challenging goals kept me returning to class.
As I kept going I also kept growing. I was learning discipline which had been missing in my life before karate. I was learning how to persevere through the difficulties of achieving a challenging goal. I was now able to set goals and map out a path to that final destination. My life outlook had changed. Prior to training I had no direction. We were taught about the wheel of life. The wheel of life needed balance. Each section of the wheel, career, spirituality, family, finance, martial arts/physical fitness needed even attention otherwise life became out of balance. When one part of your wheel was out of balance life goals became more difficult to achieve. I was learning these lessons and started to become a better person in all parts of my life. I pursued betterment in my career. I went back to college and with my new found discipline achieved a 4.0 grade point average. When I was laid off from my long time job I had the discipline to turn job hunting into my job. The martial arts had taught me to climb life’s mountains and break through barriers. What had started out as just a way to make me feel better about who I was had actually redefined my entire outlook on living. Instead of a wandering soul I had become a focused driven individual.
Now when people ask me about the benefits of training in the martial arts I have a very affirmative answer. I have my own example to hold up as proof of the value the martial arts can add to your life. The martial arts provide lessons on mapping out and achieving goals that bring focus and direction to your life. Instead being a ship with no rudder you become a person who will navigate through life’s challenges. Martial arts will give a person direction, motivation, indomitable spirit, perseverance, integrity. These are the attributes of a Black Belt in the martial arts and in life.