|Lifetime karateka Nakazato Shugoro (left) and Nakazato Minoru (right)|
Serious martial artists, who dedicate their lives to developing their skills and knowledge, have a tendency to criticize those who train as a hobby, or just for fun. I will admit that I have actually done this, myself! We are so passionate about our training, and our beliefs about that training, that I think we sometimes we get a little overzealous. As difficult as it may be, it’s important for us to remember that it’s perfectly acceptable to be a hobbyist martial artist, and everyone has different reasons for training.
When I started training in karate, I did it primarily for the cultural experience–I was a bit of a Japanophile–and the added bonus of it looking like fun. I had actually wanted to try kendo, but the nearest kendo dojo was in Bloomington, IL (about 45 minutes away), and I found out that kendo would be very, very expensive. Karate was the next best thing, as far as I knew, and the dojo I joined also taught kobudo (Okinawan weapons) and kenjutsu (Japanese sword), so that was good enough for me at the time.
Once I started training in karate, my assumption that it would be fun turned out to be correct, which kept me coming to the dojo. The longer I trained, and the more I studied, the more value I found in karate. It was like a whole new world had been opened to me! I saw all kinds of benefits to training, and started to help teach the little kids’ classes, and mentoring my kohai (younger/less-experienced students). Over time, I eventually found my primary focus in training; self defense. Not because I needed to defend myself, necessarily, but because that was the aspect that I enjoyed the most, and thought was the most important. Once I found that focus, though, everything else started to blur like the words in the image, above. It can sometimes be hard for me to go back to that time when the karate world first opened up to me, and everything seemed equally valuable, but that’s what we all have to do when we help others in the dojo. Karate is a very personal journey, but those of us who teach have to be able to guide students down any of the paths karate makes available to them.
|There are many paths up the mountain|
Just as we try to help the dedicated martial artists who are devoted to their focus (kata, competition, self defense, etc.), we must also try to help those who just enjoy the experience of the dojo. They are just as worthy of our attention as the people who will train for the rest of their lives. Maybe, someday, they will find their passion in training, as we have, and make the transition to “lifetime karateka,” just like I did. Maybe they will just be better people for their experience in the dojo. Either way, we will have made a positive impact on them.