Updated: Oct 1
Over 20 years, that’s how long I’ve been doing karate. In the beginning it was about a slightly overweight 35 year old Mom having an opportunity to do something physical on a regular basis that wasn’t cleaning the dishes, laundry, pooper-scooping the back yard, standing in front of the TV trying to concentrate on a fitness video when (if) I was able to take my mind off the household duties and out of the kitchen; where all the lunch time and afterschool snacks were waiting to be eaten. When I was young I was an active person, basically fit from simply being young and active. I grew up water skiing, snow skiing, horseback riding, playing racquet ball, and like many youth I walking here and there, along with holding down school activities and a part time job. As a young mom, not many of us can afford those types of activities; something I am continuously grateful of from my parents. When I started karate I didn’t expect to love it and I didn’t have an ends goal in mind. I just kept going to class.
I have been a student, practitioner and instructor at a few schools. I started at a school whose focus was primarily self-defense and the base structure was Isshin-Ryu, where we also practiced a bit of judo and jujitsu. I went to another school that was similar but this one incorporated some aikido. The most recent school I attended and taught at was solely focused on Isshin Ryu. Today, I own an Isshin-Ryu Karate School. If someone would have told me 16 years ago that I’d own my own Isshin Ryu karate school one day, I would have laughed! Not that owning a business was far off from my “dreams”. In my twenties and early thirties, I had hopes of opening a floral shop and if I REALLY got lucky and my biggest dream of dreams would come true I’d own land, build a stable for my own horse and help others care for their horses as well. Entrepreneurship was never far from my thoughts. When I went to college (at 40 years old, while working full time and teaching karate) I was helping teach at a newly opened school. When my business law professor gave the assignment to write a business plan I decided that something that I hadn’t dreamed up and I didn’t know much about; and I could use my recent resources to help with some of the details. I wrote up a partnership for a Karate school named, One Strike School of Isshin-Ryu. That was in 2009, and fate would have it that in late 2016, I opened my karate school One Strike Buffalo Isshin Ryu Karate and Kobudo, LLC, S-Corp.
The lessons I’ve learned, and that I continue to learn as a karate practitioner and student, along with being a Mom helps in my decision making and considerations for what my students (and their families) need most. But the biggest influence on my direction and where I draw my energy from is my heart, the care and the responsibility I feel guides me and keeps me focused on what and why I love doing what I do. My most valued ideal of teaching karate is the character building and empowerment it can provide students if they are in it for any length of time.
1. Someone may not know this, but a traditional karate school helps a person be well rounded; they aren’t just learning to fight. Traditional schools actually help build leaders who are comfortable watching and being a part of building up others. They are leaders who won’t feel like less of a person, and whose egos won’t feel threatened when someone else takes the lead. The discipline and structure of a true traditional school teaches students how to win and fail while using both situations to help them grow and learn how to use those lessons to help others grow also. At various levels of instruction and length of time in imparts to the karate student’s that the ego isn’t a factor in success.
2. It may be an obvious observation that a person learns to defend themselves, and possibly others, but what isn’t so obvious is that a person learns that fighting isn’t really the most important part of good self-defense. A student learns to hit correctly, kick effectively, block hard and fast; they learn in sparring matches how to time an opponent, focus on getting their allowed targets. But also, in all this fighting, they learn how to decide when, where and why a correctly formed punch, an effective kick and a fast hard block is appropriate and how to avoid the need of using those well-honed techniques.
3. A family focused traditional school will build up the “team”, every single member of the team, be it a parent, sibling, student or instructor, everyone is part of the team. Adults and kids alike learn to work together to keep the team spirit and activities encouraging. Everyone has something to offer and all are welcome and accepted. If one struggles, others help get them through. It’s a safe fun place of belonging where hard work is just expected and they learn to be a dependable, supportive person for friends and family.
4. Grit. Yes I said grit… It’s something that true traditional karate schools can help develop in their students. Not everyone wins, not everything is easy, in fact the most satisfaction, inspiration and fulfillment comes from having long term and meaningful goals that a person must persevere through difficulties and challenges. Grit bring home success despite natural talent, it takes those who are willing to persevere to be truly successful.
5. If a student is fortunate enough to have instructors who care enough about them to discipline them correctly while building trust and a bond, those students will learn the discipline to respect authority. They will be willing to give a person who is in a leadership position the benefit of the doubt and show them support and be truly dependable. Parents will typically recognize and appreciate the process of discipline that builds a caring and trusting relationship. The students won’t simply be given advancement or told how great they are simply to make the parents and students feel good; rather everyone will recognize honest recognition of hard work and true personal accomplishments. Feeling “good” and a false sense of security doesn’t teach good decision making and effective self-defense.
6. Empowerment of the individual. There are some who see karate as a hobby and a sport; if you look at the definitions of a hobby and a sport I can see how some may believe that. Perhaps it starts out as such, but when a student just keeps going to class, and perseveres through the ups and downs, something much more happens.
True empowerment comes with the knowledge that they can fight to defend themselves, with their calm and assured ability to make healthy choices, a real capacity to recognize their own ability and desire to help others. A true development of integrity. What can be more empowering that that?
You can see that the reason’s I’ve given that Karate ROCKS is more about the character that it may help bring out for an individual. If the student, family and instructors keep their mind, heart and purpose free of ego, greed, hostility and an unhealthy need to win every competition; a true realization of success and accomplishment will be had by all.