The mind is a powerful thing: Karate helps to hone it

I wanted to write today and talk about general life struggles and overcoming them and how karate has helped to develop a mindset to overcome problems   I face in everyday life.  Everybody has personal struggles whether it be relationships, addictions and losses to name a few and everybody deals with them in different ways.  That’s the beauty of being an individual.  If we were all the same then the world would be a very boring place!

I won’t go on about my personal problems, but will say that when I read something in the news about a death of a child or when I see somebody in a wheelchair whilst walking through the town centre for example I realise that the problems I have in retrospect aren’t really that big of an issue at all.  As I think about what I’m writing it almost sounds selfish; The fact that “I’m glad I’m not in their shoes” and “rather them than me.” A self centred “as long as I’m alright then it doesn’t matter” kind of comment.  The truth of the matter is quite the opposite infact.  What these situations serve to me are a gentle reminder that it could be worse and to appreciate what I do have and not to dwell on what I don’t.  Take life by the scruff of the neck and run with it.

Sometimes I can get complacent with life, when it’s all going well then it is easy to take it for granted.  For this reason challenges are good and help you to achieve your potential.  Growing up doing karate for so many years I felt like I was going through the motions.  I first took my black belt aged 12 and failed.  I retook it again 6 months later and once more, I failed.  Another 12 months went by and the same thing happened again.  I’d began to see other students catch me up and overtake me in the race to get that coveted black belt and it put me down.  A feeling of worthlessness that is hard to shrug off.  I felt like quitting for many years between the ages of 12 and 15 as I thought that I couldn’t deal with the failures associated.  The only thing stopping me from quitting really was my Dad.  “He’d say you can’t quit now, you’re so close”  I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but so grateful to him for the encouragement to keep going.

In life you come to cross roads, these challenges bring up fight or flight moments if we’re to put it into psychological terms.  I chose to fight.  I trained 7 days a week for 6 months at the age of 16.  My instructor didn’t fail me, I think he made it his personal mission to see me succeed.  During this 6 month period he’d even take me to the house of one of his private lesson students.  He’d make out it was for him, but really he was doing me a big favour for the extra training and i’ll never forget that.  I’ll talk about my instructor another time, but for now all i’ll say is that this intense period of training saw me improve more in those few months than what I had done in years and I could feel it.  When you see and feel the positive effects within yourself it makes it much easier to work even harder.

I went back to face the late Sensei Enoeda and Sensei Sherry for the 5th time.  All that hard work and perseverance for 30 minutes in front of two of the most established Shotokan kareteka instructors arguably in the world.  This time, there were no mistakes.

When I look back and reminisce about all those failings I feel glad that they occurred.  I look at it as though something was made hard for me, a challenge was set and I had to dig in to overcome them.  It’s great to be naturally good at something, but if everything is easy to accomplish then you will never be able to test your character and build from it.

Nowadays when training, I constantly push myself so I feel like I can give no more and when that point comes I have to dig deeper.  Nobody should be scared of failure.   What counts is when you can look in the mirror and say I gave it my all.  Nobody including yourself can ask anymore than that.

If I had to give any advice it would be don’t fear failure,  but fear the regret of not trying in the first place.

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