Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I Train

Everyone should answer this simple question: "Why do I train?"

The answer might be as simple as "To get into shape.", or "To gain self-confidence.", or maybe "To spend time with my kids doing something we all enjoy.".  I like that one.  That's the reason I started training again just over two years ago.

These answers explain why you started, but fail to address why you still attend class. What keeps you coming back to the dojo after all this time? For me, there are four reasons why I train.

The workout

I could work out on my own, in the comfort of my own home, but I lack the self-discipline to pull that off four times a week. Working out in a group (or leading the workout) gives me more incentive to keep going and give just one more push-up or hold the plank for just 10 more seconds.

Another aspect of the workout is that there are some exercises that some people just can not do, and this forces those who lead the warm-up to think outside the box and come up with exercises that will benefit everyone.

In our Hampton Dojo, we have a 2nd kyu with two prosthetic legs.

Yes. You read that correctly.

This student is a huge inspiration to me and others in the class. I (and others who lead the work-outs) take this students needs and limitations into consideration when warming up and doing strength training, but we can't limit what we do because all of the other students will not benefit as much from the exercises. Everyone is different, and we are forced to think outside the box.

“Think outside the box, collapse the box, and take a fucking sharp knife to it.”
- Banksy

The Ah-Ha Moments

I remember working with one particular Sensei in Rothesay, reviewing some bunkai. I had a question about a technique regarding which leg to use for a kick. I had what I believed to be valid reasons for using each leg. Sensei told me to perform the technique and had me stop and then perform the kick with each leg, and then had me look at everything and tell him what I saw. There it was, just as plain as day. That moment cleared up not just that one question, but other questions for techniques that I didn't even realize I had.

Working with someone who can give you the answer is one thing, but working with someone who helps you discover the answer on your own is something entirely different. Everyone who has a sensei who cares enough to do this is lucky.

“Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”
- Chinese Proverb

The People

Not everyone who starts classes will stay forever. Some won't even finish out the first year. A lot make it to 3rd kyu and hit a plateau, and that's where they unfortunately stop. Others push through that and continue on with their training.

Every single person who joins has some things in common: they want to learn. They want to get better.  They want to try something new. No matter the experience or skill level of the practitioner, everyone who enters the dojo is eager to learn new things, or help others learn, and this makes the classes so much more enjoyable. Practicing with people who are so dedicated to their martial arts training is a huge benefit for everyone involved, and makes people want to be at class.

On top of local practitioners, there are several million people around the world that share the same passion and dedication to the martial arts, and want nothing more than to share their knowledge with others, and learn new things to expand on what they know. We all share an immediate connection that makes us all part of something bigger and brings us closer together.

The Journey

I know why I joined, and I know what I continue to train. It is not to attain a specific belt. It is not to learn how to kick someones ass. It is the three reasons mentioned above that keep me coming back to the dojo, as well as the moments of discovery; discoveries about the art, about the people around me, about myself. The best method for me to make those discoveries is to push my boundaries, and teach and encourage others to push their own. I might sometimes be a teacher in the dojo, but I will always be a student, because if you think you've learned everything, you're missing the point.

“Karate-Do is a lifetime study.”
- Kenwa Mabuni

My journey has taken me to the point where I am no longer learning "how to do", but rather "how to use". I am so happy to be at this point, and I am looking forward to continuing the journey surrounded by great friends.

Me and Griffin, immediately after the grading.The smiles say it all.

“From white belt to black belt you shape the tool, at black belt you start to learn how to use it.”
- Unknown


  1. I wish I would have seen this earlier. I checked your blog a lot, but stopped when I thought you had quit updating it. Very elegantly put Terry - glad to see you are leaps and bounds ahead of others who may be the same "rank", but aren't at the same point in their journey.

    Congrats again on passing your test.

  2. I stumbled on your blog today and read a few posts. I must agree with this blog. I do not know how many people "try out" Karate and then leave, or people that may make it to an advanced rank and burn out. Karate rank is not the goal. It is a journey not a destination . . . especially when you get older!