by Cliff Lau

 About a month ago my Dad asked me if I had time for lunch on a Saturday.  I told him I had training at 2 and probably couldn’t make it.  I knew that he knew I had training, but he asked me anyway.   It was his lead in to his next question, “Why do you train so much?”   I answered quickly, “Keeps me alive.  If I didn’t train I’d be over 200 lbs and had two heart attacks”.    That conversation ended as I knew it would.  I wasn’t in the mood for a debate about priorities and other things he thought I could be doing.   Amazingly, I’m on my way to the big 6 ‘O’ and he’s still tries to tell me what to do.   My Dad and I have had many debates over the years, starting from when I was about 10 years old.   Religion, politics, and how long I could grow my hair were hot topics when I was growing up.   Although my answer to him was accurate and concise, it was incomplete.     So why do I train so much?  The answer to this question has changed since I started over 18 years ago.

     Why do I Train – The beginning.   My son and wife started training while I was consumed with work.    I was asked to join them, but said no.  I had no time.  My work hours were long and unpredictable.   Besides, why would I want to learn karate anyway?   About a year later, with our second child on the way, there was no one to take my son to classes.  I was recruited. Instead of dropping him off and picking him up, I stayed and watched.   I watched everything and listened to the instructors carefully.  It was very interesting, nothing like the movies.  I knew exactly what my son was doing right and what he was doing wrong.  I had a bad case of first child syndrome. This went on for two years.  I distinctly remember Senpai Eloise saying to me,  “You should train too, you’re already here”.   I said no, I couldn’t make the commitment.  Months later a new class was starting and my 5 year old nephew wanted someone to start with him.   The three month beginners program -- I could handle that!  In the beginning, I trained to keep my nephew company.

     Why do I train – Yellow through purple belt.  Within a year my nephew stopped training but I was still there.  Training was getting progressively harder.  Mentally and physically it required a full hour of focus and effort.  Sensei and the senpais saw every little mistake, and they were sure to let you know about it too.  The push-ups were killing me.   So exhausted at times, I could barely say the dojo kun at the end of class.  I trained because every class was a challenge.   It was a challenge to learn so many new things and to have the stamina to last.   I trained because each step was like climbing a mountain, small increments, yet so gratifying.  I didn’t know the mountain I was climbing had no top.  Staying focused an entire hour was also refreshing.  All my worries and stress outside the dojo were gone for that hour.  At green belt, I started training four days a week.

     Why do I train – Brown belt.  Things were extreme at this point.  Practicing with the black belts was so hard.  Why was I so slow?  Why was I getting punched and kicked all the time?  Why couldn’t I see what was happening.  The higher level  katas were complex and difficult too.  And just when you think you sort of got training under control, you’re asked to help with teaching.  One hour on the floor turned into three.  Teaching a 5 year old is hard.   Teaching anyone is hard.  Knowing how to do a technique and teaching it are two completely different things.  Trying to talk, observe, correct, motivate, and adjust instruction all at once is very difficult to do.  Going blank and teaching something wrong was common.  But I loved it.  I watched Sensei and the other senpais, studying their teaching techniques intently.   By this time I was about 35 lbs lighter and my blood pressure was good.   Physically I was in the best shape since high school football.   Things at work were as crazy as ever but I still felt good.   My training schedule went to five days a week, two of those days were just for teaching.  I trained because I was feeling healthy and it improved the quality of my life.  Teaching and helping with other HSK duties added another dimension to training.

     Why  do I train -  Black belt.  It’s a whole new world.   After being a black belt for over 13 years and being involved with so many aspects of HSK I train for several reasons.   I train to stay physically and mentally healthy.   I train because I have a passion for teaching.  I train because of the people.  All our students and supportive parents make HSK strong.  The senpais are a fantastic group to be with in and out of the dojo.  And Sensei --  he pushed and challenged me way beyond my expectations and has helped me in so many other ways.  He is the solid foundation HSK is built upon.   But most of all I train because I believe in what HSK is doing for the community.  Karate has had a positive influence on all regardless of age or ability.  Everyone gains something from training at HSK.  I am proud, honored and grateful to be a member of such an outstanding organization. 


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