One of the big things that makes karate so particular, is the fact that you don’t have to be big and strong in order to study and practice it. I still remember asking Sensei’s son, back in the late 1980’s about what it takes to be successful in karate. The conversation went a little something like this:
ME: “What do you need to be in karate? Do you have to be strong?”
ME: “Do you need good speed?”
ME: “So, what do you need?”
HIM: “Just concentration.”
ME: “That’s it???”
HIM: “Yup, everything else comes later…”
It would take a year or two before I would realize that he was right; despite the fact I was a scrawny little punk with no constitution and no bodily strength, I started to gain mass, speed and precision, all of which started increasing exponentially based on how hard I focused my attentions on my training and concentrated. Who knew he’d be right? I guess it was bound to happen once, right? (Just kidding, Guillaume! Please don’t track me down and kill me…)
Size and strength goes a long way. After all, if two people square off and one is 6-foot-5 and 230lbs and the other 5-foot-7 and 185lbs, there’s a VERY strong likelihood that the bigger guy’s strikes will have more of an effect than the little guy’s. But the eventual development of speed and accuracy is what closes the gap. It’s like basic, high school physics teaches us; if two objects of different mass are accelerating at the same rate of acceleration, the one with the heavier mass will have the greater force on impact. Or similarly, if an object with half the mass accelerates at twice the rate, it will have the same force on impact as the larger one.
I don’t want to muddy the waters with a bunch of physics (I’ve done enough of that in other posts). My point is that the smaller and less imposing opponent can still pose as much of a challenge to defeat as the larger, more muscular one. That ability comes from consistent commitment, concentration and focus on your art and skills. I have to say that a great demonstration of that concept comes from the most unlikely source: Star Wars. In Empire Strikes Back, Yoda makes a point of telling Luke Skywalker, “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not.”
That was in 1980. Imagine my surprise and the collective gasps and surprise everyone had, 22 years later during Episode II: Attack of the Clones, where Yoda fought against Count Dooku and suddenly emerged from the diminutive, walking cane-carrying little green character to an absolute whirlwind of flips, acrobatics and lightsaber techniques. Given his limited screen exposure during the original trilogy, it came as a pleasant surprise to see him using his Jedi skills in all their glory during the prequel trilogy. This was reflected further during Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, where he fights against the Emperor.
The lesson here is that despite his small size, Yoda turned out to be amongst the most skilled and capable of his peers. The same concept applies to karate. When I look back at the weak, tiny and physically unimposing stature I had when I first started karate as compared to how I am now, I recognize that concept within myself. Granted, some of my mass and stature can now be attributed to my dad bod. But I digress… This is one of the things I enjoy about Cobrai Kai, as well. Some of the main characters were presented as having been what some consider to be skinny nerds, only to eventually turn out to become champions.
It shows that you should never allow what you perceive as your limitations to hold you back. Where you go and how your progress is entirely up to you. Karate has a place for anyone who choose to commit to it. Although different styles will suit different people, once you’ve decided on karate, you can go a long way towards building yourself up and achieving your goals. All you need is focus and concentration. Food for thought… Hey, look at that! I wrote a post that combines my martial arts and my nerdy, geeky side! Go, me! ☯️