Karate is definitely a skill that is only honed over time. You may be a natural athlete but the elements of Karate can only come to those willing to dedicate the time and be open to the process. The time I can handle the process often gets the better of me.
At my dogo the youngest kids – Little Dragons – have class right before me on Saturday mornings. I look at these kids and I see how they soak up the lessons. They have every trait of typical three year olds but they are learning this centuries old skill layered in elements of play and they are taking to it like little sponges.
Did you know that the US Navy caps enlistment at 34 years old, the Army at 35, and the Marines at 28? I remember asking my Marine Dad why they set an age limit. He said, “After a while they can’t break you. They need people who will bond together, form a cohesive unit, and follow commands. Much easier at 18 than at 38.”
This is the lesson I’m learning in Karate. The Little Dragons are being molded. I’m being broken… in a good way. I’m forced to set my internal dialogue aside and just DO. I need to come to terms with the fact that I will not do this perfectly or immediately and that will have to be ok.
Me: (in a babbling series of confused questions) How is my foot supposed to land on the bag? How will I know if I’m too close? When do I shift my weight? HOW WILL I KNOW IF ITS RIGHT?
Sensei: Stop analyzing and kick the bag.
Me: That’s like asking me not to breathe.
Sensei: Or asking water not to be wet. But I’m telling you to just kick the bag.
Here I was again standing directly in my own way. Not trusting the process yet trying to micromanage results. I like to do things right. The first time. I like to know and understand things.
I’m learning that I can like whatever I want but if I want to be successful at this I have to step aside and yield to this process that is very different from me, from the way I learn, and from the way I operate. I also know that when I do this – when I break free from my own expectations – I will be a better person because of it. And eventually a Black Belt.