By Alan Reynolds

Growing up I never had the opportunity to participate in martial arts even though it was all around. What I saw around me was not what training is about, especially training with the HSK mind set. Movies with gallant samurai willing to die rather than be dishonored, and kung fu movies with incredible battles, although entertaining are nothing like what happens in the dojo.

          My daughter started training with HSK about 11 years ago and after watching her, my wife and I decided to join in for the “exercise”. Little did we know what that exercise would become. The word exercise doesn’t come close and karate is nothing like the movies either. Like everyone else we started with baby steps. We were in better condition and we felt better about ourselves. Baby steps grew into bigger steps and we were learning and improving techniques we never thought we could do. Before we knew it HSK was not just a part of our routine, it was part of our life and doing it together made it even better.

          This HSK journey has developed me in ways you would never imagine when you think about a martial art. The physical fitness aspects are certainly there and the health benefits are undeniable. But the true benefit of all this diligence, focus, determination and effort are mental. Realizing that you can do things you once thought impossible is liberating. It changes your psyche. You approach life differently. You know that you can overcome obstacles because you’ve proven it to yourself. And that knowledge translates to any difficult situation you may face. You can do it. Talk about building your confidence!

          Each time you do something uncomfortable like performing a kata in front of a crowd or you kumite with an opponent, three things happen. You start with anxiety and your natural reaction is to avoid it all the way up until you hear the word “hajime”.  As you go through the activity it almost becomes an out of body experience. Adrenaline kicks in, your mind races, sometimes it’s a blur. Suddenly it’s all over and relief sets in. Performing is a humbling experience but regardless of the outcome you somehow got through it. You’ve just overcome another obstacle, so pat yourself on the back! Those mental self-pats start adding up and your self-awareness and confidence grow.

          You also begin to realize that you are often your own biggest obstacle. Facing your fears makes them less frightening and the obstacles you put in front of yourself aren’t as big as they seemed. Is there a point where being uncomfortable is nothing but a memory? I don’t think so. Look around you at the members, the senpai, and Sensei. We all face it. We learn to embrace it.

           In my experience this group of people is unique. What sets this club apart is that, together, we face these individual challenges. Together, we each learn to overcome them. Together, we grow. And today, together, we can celebrate.

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