What Karate Means To Me

My initial interest in ‘doing’ Karate took on a purely physical fitness perspective; however, as you read this article you may see that as I progressed through early kyu grades, my initial interest in physical activity shifted towards the spiritual aspects of karate, in particular, learning ‘how to search for my inner spirit’ and charging my spirit to overcome adversity and hurdles: from running the hill at Maribyrnong to personal and health crisis to which I succumbed during the past 2 years.

I consider myself to be a very placid, gentle and non-aggressive person. In fact my senseis always tell me that I need to be faster, more aggressive, and hostile. I have always struggled with this concept. I think I have been offered guidance on becoming faster and aggressive more than anything else. Until recently I considered aggression in a Karate context as a form of physical antagonism and a tool to harm others. I now realise that I was wrong, rather it is a tool for self defence and a tool for exerting my inner spirit. I look to be faster and aggressive by searching for my inner spirit. When my body stops, I feel as though my spirit takes over. Sensei always tells me that the dojo is the place to polish one’s spirit. In charging and exerting my spirit I have learnt to better polish my spirit.

Karate taught me to become humble in victory as well as in defeat. Win, lose or draw the bout ends with a bow. I look to extend this to all aspects of my life. I always look to congratulate winners and commiserate opponents, thanking them for the battle and offer advice to others upon my success.

Karate further allowed me to suppress my ego. In doing so, allowed me to be more studious. Karate showed me that regardless of the extent of my knowledge in a subject matter, there are always improvements to be made. Whether it may be in reference to a kata, bunkai or a subject at school. In diminishing my ego, I was also better able to accept critical assessment of my self by others. For example, performing kata in front of Sensei and other senior students and receiving critical guidance. This concept has assisted me in succeeding in other aspects of my life including academically, professionally and socially.

Karate showed me the importance of hard work and the path to taking care of my responsibilities. My Sensei’s regularly use the expression "Chop wood, carry water". I have taken this expression to be ‘do what needs to be done’. Whenever I am overwhelmed with responsibilities whether it may be school related, work related or paying bills, I call this expression to my mind.

Practising Karate taught me that my destiny is in my own hands and showed the importance of self evaluation. I have learned through Karate that my output is very much dependant on what I put in. Sensei regularly uses the expression ‘do what you always do, get what you always got’. Upon each unsatisfactory outcome I look to the reasons for it, and upon each satisfactory outcome I look to ways which it can be improved in the future. This concept further added a layer of confidence for me to seek new challenges.

Each improvement is usually attached with a lengthy gradual process, and therein lies another important lesson learnt through karate: ‘persistence’. I am not a gifted athlete, and each new Karate concept or application usually takes me longer to grasp than most. However, I have learnt through persistence that ‘anything’ is possible if I am willing to put in my spirit and persist.

In a purely physical perspective, Karate improved my fitness remarkably. Karate provided me with proper breathing skills to go longer. Proper breathing techniques allows me to run further, study longer, and work harder. Improved fitness now allows me to sleep and rest less and to live more.

A born Buddhist, who stopped practising Dharma upon arriving to Australia in 1991, Karate helped me to re-visit teachings which I learned during my childhood. Teachings such as; amongst others, self respect, respecting others, sacrificing for your family and friends and humilty in victory as well as in defeat to reach the ultimate state of self enlightenment. In fact, practising Karate has changed the way I perceive my existence. What ever my life becomes, I see my legacy as what I do rather than what I do not, and what I give rather than to what I receive.

Having utmost respect to the black belt and sensei’s belief in me, I consider achieving the black belt not as a significant triumph, but rather a point in time of the journey to self enlightenment.

Spirit of Karate has helped me to become a better son, better partner, better nephew, a better brother, and a better friend. In fact a better person! I do not consider Karate to be something that I ‘do’ anymore, but rather a limb of my character! Losing Karate would be to lose my arm!

By Asanka Silva, 26 September, 2007.

Asanka Silva began training at karatedo on 30th October, 2002, at age 23 years. He was graded to Shodan on 2nd December, 2007, at age 28 years. He was awarded Nidan on 5th October 2013.