While we have all probably heard the saying “Karate is a way of life” we have also heard the same about other things such as health and fitness, yoga or CrossFit. So what is meant by that? What makes karate my “way of life” or “lifestyle”?
Do I walk around in my gi all day quoting karateisms? (New word?) Or maybe it is a deep philosophical way of going through my day and interacting with others. I believe it all starts with WHY you are training in karate in the first place. Why you are training will dictate what you love about karate and why it is important to you. This will vary from person to person.
While each individual will have their own specific reason for training, here are some of the main ones;
Some train as a form of exercise to get into or stay in shape. They are bored or uncomfortable with the regular gym, lifting weights, and prefer want something different. While a fitness lifestyle may be important to them, karate is only a part of their day, a tool to get fit, like running or cycling. This alone is not enough to make karate your way of life. It may develop into it down the road, but most times it doesn’t and the individuals quit training, moving on to something else.
While this usually applies to kids and teens, I have also seen it with adults, especially since the UFC became popular. Many of the students see the martial arts in a movie like Jason Bourne or even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and are motivated by the action scenes. They think it would be cool to learn and be able to do what they see on the screen.
They do not realize the work and dedication training takes. Many of these students drop out quickly when they realize just how much work is involved, the dedication and repetition of techniques and kata until they become committed to memory.
This is one of the biggest reasons people begin karate. They have either been bullied, the victim of an attack or have a fear of becoming one. While this is a solid reason to begin study, many will move on to other arts, seeking to become “more rounded”. They often seek the “best” martial art for self defense and there are plenty of instructors out there to tell them that theirs is the one!
Some may enjoy a traditional atmosphere and curriculum once they experience it and stay in a traditional karate dojo, while others do not want to train kata or basics, but just seek straight self-defense. While some in this group may make karate their lifestyle, many won’t, in search of quick techniques they can use and apply immediately.
Those who seek individual competition may begin training in karate to compete in fighting or even kata and prove themselves in the arena, winning medals and trophies. While the students will be in a school for a long period of time, and it may be their lifestyle, it is the competition that they are making their lifestyle.
They train for their next opponent or tournament, not the art of karate. There is a difference, because many of these students are not really interested in the art’s history, lineage, bunkai, etc. They train with winning in mind and train within the rules of competition. True karate has no rules.
Those who love the artistic side of the arts and the Asian cultures often will study karate and make it their lifestyle. They train seriously, immersing themselves in the history, beliefs, dojo kun and the traditional training. They study for the beauty of the art, the kata and see it more as an art form than a form of personal combat.
They may allow the tenants of the art and the strategies shape how they act in their daily lives and not just in the dojo. They try to keep everything as the founder or teacher taught, without changing a thing.
Self-defense is a side benefit to them and often their training falls short of handling a serious street confrontation, giving them a false sense of security. They see themselves as karateka, and martial artists, but they do not see themselves as warriors, nor do they train like one.
The individual who takes the time to check out other martial arts and chooses karate because they fell in love with the technique, it’s beauty and its effectiveness are on the right track. They do not just want to learn the next technique, but the history, lineage, kata and their real applications. They want to learn all they can about every aspect of the art and seek to apply it in their daily lives.
While they may compete, their focus is on improving themselves and being effective on the street. Medals and trophies are secondary, with competition being a place to test their skill, win or lose. They train hard and understand that repetition is the mother of skill.
They seek the development of skill and not the color of the belt they wear. They develop a warrior spirit while remaining humble, not announcing to everyone that they practice karate or show off their skills in public. Most importantly, they understand that karate is a lifelong journey, not a destination. They learn their art and realize it needs to be adapted to themselves as they progress. They make it “their” karate and their way of life.
The answers to these questions and knowing why you are training will determine if karate is or will be a way of life for you. There is no right or wrong answer! If you decide it’s not a way of life for you and you just train as a form of exercise, great! If you love the beauty of the forms and train as an art form, wonderful! There is no wrong reason to study karate or any martial art, it is based on what you are looking to get out of it.
Whether or not karate is a way of life for you is a question only you can answer. For me it has been a wonderful journey that never ceases to keep me learning and seeking. After 32 years I am still studying the lineage, history and techniques of Tang Soo Do and the karate masters who contributed to its development!
Whatever your reason for training, I wish you a great experience, a wonderful journey and hope you get a lot out of your efforts. There are many reasons people begin in karate or any martial art. But knowing why is the first step!
Train Hard and God Bless!
Hello, I have been a student of the martial arts since 1985 and have studied various styles, always focusing on the self defense aspects of the arts. I have taught in the military, privately and publicly and have been a certified personal trainer. I believe that everyone should know how to defend themselves and that this can be learned from home through videos and written material. I am dedicated to you, the reader, in helping you learn self defense so that you are able to handle an attack on the street.