by Sensei Peter Leitch
December, 1997

I recently had quick glance over the articles written for this newsletter during the past five or six years. I couldn't help but notice the number of articles directly and indirectly concerned with the motives for studying and practicing karate. These articles weren't just written by the various contributing senseis in our clubs. The articles were written by new members, kyu belts, and by younger and older members alike.

Everyone has their own reasons for starting karate. Many people decide to take karate simply to learn self-defence. Some wish to develop some self-confidence. Others are more interested in the sport competition side of karate and the social aspects involved in a large close-knit organisation such as ours. Some appreciate the self-enlightenment element of karate; the never-ending development of their mental and physical discipline. Still others are in it primarily for the exercise. These are just a few of the positive reasons for starting to learn karate.

On the other hand, there are those who begin karate for the wrong reasons. Some believe that they will impress their friends and gain respect from their piers by being able to physically intimidate the average person in the street. As unbelieveble as it may seem, there are even those who would enjoy causing pain and suffering to others. These are exactly the wrong reasons for attempting to learn any maritial art.

For many beginners, especially the kids, the main reason they have begun turning up to the dojo is because someone has told them to do so "for their own good". Usually without exception, parents have had only the best intentions to send, and keep sending there children to the dojo.

Your own reason for starting to work out at the dojo may fall into any of the above categories. The reason you continue to work out month after month, year after year will in all likelihhood change. In fact, your motives for continuing to train in karate will probably undergo several changes over the course of your involvement in the dojo.

Re-evaluating your motives for sticking with karate is part of your evolution as a karateka. Having doubts and second thoughts are things we have all had to deal with through our progression.

As you would expect, the first major re-think occurs very early on. Very few people who have seen a movie or possibly a demonstration will have any idea of what to expect after several work-outs. If a new student has begun to learn karate for the wrong reason, they will soon discover that karate is not for them. They usually have neither the patience nor the deterimination to learn kata or to practice the basics. It is at this time motives are changed or the study of karate is stopped.

In my own experience and through observations I have made, frustration with the learning process is often experienced at around the green belt level. The karateka is reasonably familiar with some of the basics, but can not figure out how they apply. New insights in karate seem to be few and far between, and boredom may even be a factor. This is a turning point and I believe it is at this point that another major change in motivation occurs. Here it is important to take stock of the new skills learned and to put them in some perspective. Patience is essential and a feel for the "light at the end of the tunnel" may be necessary. Remember it's okay to wait as long as you know what you're waiting for.

For me and for others I know, another turning point occurs soon after being graded to Shodan, the first rank of black belt. It is at this point that a relatively experienced karateka feels like a beginner all over again. And so, motives must again undergo major changes.

From time to time we may find ourselves questioning our motives for studying karate because of an association we feel we have made with an unscrupulous individual or a bad situation. For example, we may witness poor sportsmanship at an open circuit tournament and think "Do I really want to be part of this?". In situations like this, it is absolutely essential to reaffirm our own sound reasons for continuing to study karate. Never let another person's bad motives cloud your own positive motives.

Medical conditions and injuries will often test a person's motives for continuing to work-out. For people considering their motives under these circumstances, the consequences of regular training must be carefully weighed.

Taking the time to question, understand and accept our motives for pursuing karate is an essential part of karate itself. We must master our inner conflicts - our inner kumite, before we can pursue the whole of karate.

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