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What is karate all about? A student’s perspective


It’s almost grading time again.  While students are working on their final preparations this week, before the grading this weekend, we get to go through all of the grading application forms and theory tests.  This is always a good opportunity for us to get a bit more insight into what motivates students and see what karate means to them.

While reading everyone’s applications yesterday, I came across this one from Bec, who is doing her first grading this weekend.

The best word I can think of to describe Bec’s journey in the dojo so far is…. transformative.  Bec’s been going through a lot of personal challenges and has demonstrated a lot of personal growth since she started training.  Even in the face of all these challenges, she’s chosen to take the lessons learned in the dojo and make some positive changes in her life.  Like all of us, and I’m sure she’d be first to agree, she’s still a bit of a work in progress, but she continues to take steps forwards.

Good luck with your grading this weekend Bec.  And of course, good luck to everyone else too.

With Bec’s permission, here is a copy of her answers to the questions that we ask all beginners who are grading.  I hope you enjoy reading them and get something out of them for yourself.

Question 1:  Why do you study karate & what are the benefits of training for you?

For me I don’t think “study” is the right word, because it implies there’s a finite amount to learn, and a defined level in which you reach “mastery”.  I don’t think this is the case with karate; and so, the most accurate answer I can give is this:  I don’t study karate.  Learn a lot about myself through practising karate.

With regards to personal benefits, there is the superficial and obvious:  fitness & learning to socialise with others.  But it’s so much more.  At the moment, karate is the eye of the storm:  that one moment when the sun comes out and there’s peace.  When I train, all the chaos in my head stops and all that’s left is movement and joy and just existing.  Karate gives me hope and is teaching me to be kind, patient and forgive myself.

Question 2:  What do you think is the purpose of karate?

 Taken literally, karate is a form of martial arts, it is self defence:  it is learning how to fight and how not to fight.  Karate is a choice instead of a reflex:  it’s learning to control your fight or flight response, your emotions, your choices.  Karate is balance and acceptance:  it is understanding mistakes are as important as triumphs, bad times are as rewarding as the good; because the equilibrium is where the greatest lessons are learnt.  Karate is about respect:  live and let live.

Question 3:  What does the “Showa” mean to you?

At the moment the Showa is part of my daily mental checklist: peace (remember to breathe), perseverance (keep picking yourself up when things go wrong), and hard work (don’t ever give up on yourself).  It is an anchor that reminds me everything is transient, and this too shall pass.

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