When all is said and done, you’ll really only get as much out of life as you put into it. Want to lose weight? Eat right and exercise. It won’t happen on its own if you’re sitting on the couch scarfing potato chips and doing fuck all. Wanna learn a new skill? Buckle up and settle in to study, train and develop yourself. Wanna learn karate? It ain’t a knitting circle so you need to be prepared for the blood, sweat and tears that will ensue over the next decade or more to become proficient. Notice that I say “proficient” and not “master,” as karate is a lifelong journey that you’re never really done studying.
An important lesson I’ve learned recently is just how little I actually know. I’ve been studying Uechi Ryu for over three decades at this point, with one third of that time being on my own by virtue of living 3,400 kilometres away from my Sensei. The passage of time and lack of travel ability has brought me to my current state where I made the decision to transition to a new style. Still karate, of course. But I recently joined a Shotokan school and it’s already been quite the ride…
Besides the fact that I’ve become older, slower and thicker (not in the complimentary way), the challenge is significantly different for me, this time around. Add to that the fact that I’m an old dog, teaching me new tricks is not without challenge. My hat’s off to the team of instructors in my new dojo that has to deal with the skilled, unknown black belt gracing their dojo yet doing everything just a LITTLE bit different than how they do.
And this is where the relevance of the title comes in… The past couple of weeks have certainly taken me out of my comfort zone. I’ve started learning different stances, different ways of doing the techniques that ARE familiar, as well as being exposed to a plethora of new forms and katas. I’m definitely enjoying learning new things but it’s been a humbling experience to acknowledge that even though I’ve grown proficient in my style, I’ve also grown comfortable and complacent, which is a horrible state to be in. Complacency leads to loss of proficiency in a terrible “chicken or the egg’ scenario, when it comes to one’s training.
I’m glad that I’ve been able to hammer on and start learning again. Despite how long I’ve at this and the realization that I don’t quite have the same amount of piss and vinegar that I used to, it’s humbling to recognize that there’s still a lot to learn, still a long road to travel and still some exciting surprises for me in the world of karate. I attended my second class of the week last night and my legs are definitely feeling it, with the last class of the week scheduled for tonight. Between work and other obligations, I’m hoping I can keep the circulation going and hammer through tonight’s class efficiently.
Find something you’re passionate about. I think that’s my main message. It’s important to have goals to achieve, but it shouldn’t be torturous and you shouldn’t come out of it feeling as though it was a chore. It’s okay to acknowledge that it was hard; anything worth your time will be. But hard and torturous are two entirely different things. Karate started out as a way to save my life. That’s why I started training. But it’s become a part of me and something I love. I’m blessed to have found a new path on this journey and would encourage all of you to find the path that’s right for you. ☯️