Senpai Mel’s Anecdote

          “This is the hardest thing you will do”…all of you have heard this from Sensei in the first week you started karate.  Some believed it, some didn’t and some were just plain skeptical.  Honestly, I was skeptical having done marathons, long distance sailing races (a week or two at sea) and major wilderness hikes for over a week.  All of these take a certain amount of cerebral and physical stamina, so karate didn’t seem like a big deal…well…not until you really get into it.


          In the beginning it seems like skepticism was indeed warranted.  But what is really revealing is that there is a very subtle ramp up of a combination of complexity and exertion.  You start off with elementary punches/blocks/kicks and a first kata called saisho, which appears to be simple as you are guided through all of this with lots of coaching attention by Sensei and the Senpais.  By the time you are a green belt things have reached a new level of accelerated learning and Heian Yondan’s complexity begins to get a bit harder.  A bit?  Exertion?  Everyone is sweating with wet gi’s after practice at this stage.  By the time you reach the first jump in a kata, Heian Godan you are now beginning to be impressed.  Godan  is relatively simple compared to the 270 jump in Empi.  Just when you think you have that sort of figured out Dan candidates have Unsu…a 360 jump with two kicks, with very few that have the ability to actually execute without modification.  Yep, this keeps on coming at you relentlessly.  You gotta love it!


          So why is it the hardest thing you will do?  I think it is a very unique combination of mental and physical concentration.  As I said, there is new stuff that comes at you all the time.  Some of it may appear to be easy but you can bet it will not be, especially if you do all the moves at full speed with snap, kime and that mythical intensity.  Did I mention “intensity”?  Merely punching hard and fast is not enough.  Punching through the opponent or through a bag explosively with a focus of energy is.  Timing in a kata with a series of “explosions” is.  Oh yes timing…combining the finesse slow moves with explosive strikes, blocks and kicks all at the right time are truly the “art” of martial arts.


          Well “Grasshopper”, this is a part of why this is one of the hardest things you will do.  If you are a good listener and concentrate and focus you will find great satisfaction in karate.  For me I am still trying to get out of my cocoon so I can spread my wings!


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