by Allen Yuen, Sensei
To all those thinking of quitting. Karate has never been a natural thing for me. I am not one of those people who is naturally flexible, a great fighter or excellent stylist. I have to work at it, and practice, practice, practice.
I have found that most people who lack the natural abilities for any activity eventually succumb to the frustration of trying to over come their lack of talent and will quit. However, I have also even seen people with incredible athleticism also quit… so do not feel bad.
Over the years since I started martial arts training, I too had many reasons to stop. In 1982 I hurt my back really bad, and underwent physio-therapy and chiropractic therapy. One of the questions I was asked following a lengthy treatment, was in comparison to where I was, how do feel now? I told them honestly I never felt back to 100%, and even almost three decades later, I never feel 100% back to where I was before the injury.
The pain I experience sometimes is quite extreme yet I endure it and I don’t quit. So why do I continue? I once told my students that Karate training is an exercise for the body, mind and spirit. Even on days when my back pain flares up, and I almost dread having to teach Karate in pain. Once I get to class, there is a mental change that happens for me.
I once told my students that sometimes, when I have had a tough day at work or my back pain is aggravated, just by putting on my Karate uniform and belt I feel like I am putting on a Superman uniform! I feel re-energized, re-focused, re-vitalized. I become focused on my students and their improvement. As I lead them through the warm-ups and then the basics, kata and kumite and self defense. I am aware of their improvement from the previous class, and my spirit rises with pride in their newfound abilities.
Everyone sometimes feels not motivated to come to class. You feel you’re not making progress, you can’t see when that black belt will ever come, you don’t feel you can compete with your fellow dojo-mates, and maybe there are external pressures on you that are suddenly much more forceful than you remember.
Before you quit, think about a few things. First is that the challenges of the dojo parallel those in the ‘real’ world. Whether it is your health, job, schoolwork or family life, there will always be some ongoing struggle and you will wonder if things will ever get better or easier. The ones who succeed are the ones that work through the problem and keep going, striving and surviving. They eventually push through that plateau and like in the song,”break on through to the other side”. They ignore those negative thoughts and feelings and keep pushing forwards. They re-focus. They strategize and deliberately adjust strategies to balance priorities and maximize their success. You might not be able to get everything you were aiming for, but by quitting you will definitely get nothing.
Sometimes there is just too many pressures and of course, quitting might be the correct thing to do. Just be honest and tell your Sensei, and you can always return when the time is right. I have had students returning after over ten years. Life has changed for them … new family, new work, new whatever… and now they are genuinely happy to be back practicing Karate again.
Maybe they too have come to the understanding that Karate is not just a martial art or physical activity … but a way of life. Karate can be a special gratifying path of fitness, discipline, respect and camraderie and sense of well-being.
So don’t quit.