New Year, New Beginning

I’ve finally managed to find a few moments to get some much needed writing down on my blog.  I hope everybody had a great Christmas (if you celebrate it) and New year.  It’s been 6 weeks of major changes personally for myself.  Early December saw me hit the big 30 and since then everything seems to have changed.  They say life begins at 30 and if that saying was written for anybody it seems quite fitting when I look at my own life.

I only mention this as I feel it has a link to my karate (so bear with me!)

Without getting too detailed I made a big decision which in essence has cost me what I consider to be my best friend.  I had a choice to make and that was to either continue existing in a relationship that was just comfortable or dare to dream that there was something more out there waiting for me.  In short this decision would take me out of my comfort zone and lead me in to an insecurity of the unknown, some may say exciting, but nevertheless scary.  This decision was so hard to make, I wanted to have my cake and eat it.  To have somebody in my life that I loved, but in the capacity of a friend and I knew that I couldn’t have both.  Either way, I took the plunge and made myself vulnerable. Now call it coincidence, luck, fate or whatever but I now find myself in a position with so many opportunities opening up.  I feel for the first time in a long time a sense of purpose of what I want to achieve, more importantly a plan and support to achieve my goals.  I’m not looking back and continue to ask myself how is this possible?  Is it luck?  And then I realise, it’s not luck, it’s because of me.  It’s  because I made a choice to be brave and to trust my instincts. So what has this got to do with karate?   Well it has got me thinking about my karate training as a whole.  If I can reap benefits by pushing to better myself in one aspect then why am I not following this through with my karate?  Sure I’ve done it to a certain degree, but if I take a step back and ask myself honestly now if I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone with new combinations then I don’t think I can answer that with a positive yes.  I always give my all when training, pushing my fitness levels and heart rate to its’ limit, that for me has never been in question, moreover it is during times that I face up to a partner for Kumite.  Deep down I feel as though I confine myself to an (albeit large) artillery of attacks, they nevertheless remain the same.  It’s time for me to try new things and to add new tools to the shed.  Attacks I’d never have dreamed about previously, reverse ashi barai for example after let’s say a mawashi geri.  It might work, it might not, it might have potential and I’ll practise it some more.  I could fall over flat on my backside but so what? I ask myself,

“What am I going to lose, my pride?”

Not possible as my training is to develop me, not impress someone else.

“My ego?”

I can’t lose what I don’t have, even if I did have one Sensei would tell me to leave it outside the dojo anyway. If we don’t put ourselves in the vulnerable position to find out then we’ll never know.  In years to come I’ll end up regretting it and I don’t want to live a life filled with regrets and what ifs.

My karate new year’s resolution?  To try at least one audacious new combination when given the opportunity during jiyu kumite.  I’d like to hear some of your resolutions.  Knowledge is power, let’s get learning!

Is karate developing a soft persona?

Times seem to have changed plentiful since when I started Shotokan karate over 20 odd years ago.  Back then in the Karate Union of Great Britiain (KUGB), head guards were unheard of, let alone mitts.  Why then the change over the years to how karate looks to be heading?  Or is this the segregation and introduction of a karate sport that has driven wedges between traditional kareteka and “new wave”  practitioners of the martial art.

I cannot say that I definitely know the answer, but do have an opinion on the matter.  Over the years in my opinion we have adopted some negative traits from our American friends across the pond, one being a suing culture, which has spread to the UK like wildfire.  If you turn on the TV nowadays you have little or no chance of watching a programme without seeing some compensation no win no fee, injury lawyer advert, which I believe has had a negative impact on our culture.  The trouble is that I see a lot of these companies as driving out the very worst in our human nature.  A chance for a solicitor business to make money and hone in on individuals prompting them to act in a way that is very much money orientated and that makes me sad.  Call me an idealist, but trying to see the very best in people makes it difficult when temptation of money through false claims are so transparently advertised and splashed all across the media.  Now I’m not saying that all cases aren’t genuine, some are.  However if we genuinely feel that we need compensation for loss of earnings through ill health resulted in an accident that isn’t our own then I don’t believe we need to have such forceful advertising campaigns being pushed on to our telly sets.

What has this got to do with karate?! I hear you ask.  Well this very culture of suing has transformed the way karate instructors have to operate in order to cover their own backs.  This transformation in the sport of karate with regards to safety has come in to place to directly protect instructors teaching their pupils.  What is ironic about this is that the formation of a good teacher pupil relationship is based on that very thing, trust.  Unfortunately the safeguards being put in place almost seems as though that trust bond has immediately started on the wrong foot as every instructor is compelled to protect themselves from a financial claim.

For me personally all this health and safety has taken a negative impact on the way I feel.  I understand that times change and adaptations need to be put in place to progress with these changing times, but this change has been built entirely on the very worst in human nature.

Looking from the other side; Are these changes in fact a good idea?  Am I being too judgmental personally and seeing the very worst in people?  Maybe it is a case of safety implementations making karate more accessible to all.  The chance to give parents another option when choosing a martial art for their children to say “Hey! Look! We’ll make sure your child learns to defend themselves in a safe environment.”  This may very well be true and helps to lower the fear threshold of people looking to take up karate.  All I can say is that when I started I was still kept safe, techniques were and still are semi contact.  It has worked for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world up until now so why the need for change?  It’s not to say I’ve never been caught and injured slightly with a little bit too much lack of control with a side serving of my fault, however I can count the amount of times that has happened on one hand.  Incidentally, the three I can think of in 22 years has also taught me some of my most valuable lessons and has changed the way I do certain things in karate forever.

In conclusion there are various factors that have brought around this change.  When looking at it from one perspective it looks detrimental to the art, the other gives it a more accessible, karate for all outlook promoting inclusion.  To me though karate is, and always will be a fighting art.  That is was it is and one should take it up with the understanding that you may very, very occasionally get hurt.  If you don’t like it then there are many other sports out there to choose from.

I look forward to hearing everyone’s views on this.