Be the best you can be: What if i told you?

This is dedicated to somebody very close to me for when they say “i can’t do that.” I’ve heard for almost 10 years this person talking about my karate to me saying “i wish i could do that”, “i want to try”, “i want to do it.” Truth be told nothing would make me happier. I talk about karate in conversation as though it is my only lifeline in a bleak world, as though it is the oxygen that helps me breathe and takes my mind off everything that squeezes me tight in the stressful situations that come from life. The problem arises every time i get closing to getting this person to their first lesson, they back down at the last minute. To be honest i find it frustrating. The reason given is that people will laugh, they think they will be no good, they are too self conscious. I personally see it as a fear of them stepping in to the unknown, a fear of failure, a fear of worrying about what everybody else thinks of them.

I’d like to introduce you to two more people; They are completely unrelated to the person above.

What if i told you i have two friends from very different backgrounds. For the purpose of this post i shall call them A and B.

What if i told you A was born to a broken home, she was unplanned by her parents and life from the start was, shall we say difficult to say the very least. Her mother a drug user, her father in and out of prison. Whilst totally dependent upon her mother; A good day would be classified as not going to sleep hungry.

What if i told you friend B was born in to a life of luxury. Never needed, nor had to ask for anything. Two loving parents with good jobs and not a need to worry about finances. This friend was private school educated, the latest designer clothes, gadgets and anything else you could think of at the click of a finger.

What if i told you A was taken away at age 10 after her mother left her in the house for 2 days. Social services were called with her mother being put in prison, a final straw after a long string of offences. With no family to take care of her she ended up being put in to state care. The following years of her life saw her being expelled from two special measure schools and not having a GCSE qualification to her name, let alone being able to read or write. She had brushes with the law for shoplifting and later it progressed to dealing in drugs. She was subsequently caught and at age 17 she was put in to a young offenders institution.

What if i told you B went on to get top grades at GCSE and 5 top grade A-Levels earning him a place at one of the most prestigious universities to study Maths. He went on to graduate with a 1st and now works in one of the highest ranked schools according to OFSTED in the country. He is happy, he is content and he has recently bought his own house with the hard earned money that he has saved.

What if i told you that A spent a lot of time battling her inner demons during her sentence and decided that things need to change. She spent a long time learning to trust, but eventually found a confident in a support worker. During her 5 years with this team she learned to read, write and got a foundation GCSE in English Language and foundation Maths. She’s managed to get a part time job as a waitress in a restaurant and is also gaining an on the job qualification within the kitchen.

Now, what if i ASKED you who is more successful? I personally cannot say. I don’t have the answer. Success to me is based on individual experiences, their lives and history. Success to one person is not tangible to another. We all have different strengths and weaknesses; We are all individuals and this is what makes us human. If we were all the same then the world would be a boring place and that is what makes it so special.

As Gichin Funakoshi once said:

“The ultimate aim of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”

So i say to you my dear friend; Do not worry what others think, do not get embarrassed, work your hardest and be the best that you can be. If you’re true to yourself then you cannot ask anything more than that. I’ll support you next week at your first lesson.

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.

A journey starts with a single step

When I sit here trying to think of an interesting way to start a blog for this site it is very difficult.  The fact of the matter is that the personal blog aspects that WordPress utilize for people to show their creativity were in fact, not the purpose of what this WordPress set out to achieve.

Putting together this site (albeit it very new and a working project) was for me to try and create a complete reference guide for Shotokan karate, a complete reference utilising every part of what it had to offer using personal pictures and sourced videos and texts from across the entire web.  I wanted something that anybody from beginner to black belt could look up on the site and go right! I understand now and it makes sense.

The fact of the matter is trying to source information and the ability to film your own can be tricky.  If it’s sourced then are their copyright implications?  Are these offset with disclaimers and credits to the correct people? I don’t know.  When recording my own material with the equipment i have to hand ,does it make for good enough demonstration to be of benefit to you the viewer compared with other “multi camera” sequences that can be found?

These questions have delayed somewhat the construction of this site.  For if it isn’t fit for purpose then what is the point of it at all?

One thing I can offer whilst I ponder that question are my experiences and how the main sport I took up has helped me grow as a person over the years.  I do not claim to be an expert, I do not claim to be the best, but what I can try to offer are a few words that may mean something to you, something that you might relate to.  If I end up offering comfort in a few words on a webpage to one person then this will make it all the worthwhile.

I started karate when I was 7 and what seems like an eternity.  Funny, how the 22 years have passed since my very first lesson, but nowadays every year seems to fly by faster than I can catch my breath.  My interest came about after hearing of another boy doing it in my class when I was 6 years old.  At the time he was the fastest runner and the most popular boy in the infant school.  I wanted to be like him and so I asked my parents if I could start too.  At that time we were in a transitional period of moving house, so I was promised that once we had moved they would take me.

It’s amazing to think back at the things I can remember so vividly when I was so small and now I struggle to tell you what happened last week.  Back all those years ago I do remember that this popular lad used to pick on me, bully me if you like; something that would go on through my whole school years up to the age of 16.  He set the standard for what I was to endure for the next 10 years of adolescence.  I often used to think back years later about my resentment to that boy for how he treated me, smashing up my Mechano car that I’d spent so long making, the hurt and pain it caused.  Silly things really when you think about it, but at the time at that young age it seemed so much more.  In contrast though, its amusing now I think about it writing this that the person in question probably did the best thing he ever could for me.  Asking my parents to take me to karate and follow the “cool kid’s” lead would majorly shape my life to what it is today.