What Karate Means To Me

I feel as if karate came into my life when I needed it the most. I wasn’t participating in any sport at the time. I was always tired from a chronic illness. I had developed a lot of anxiety from some personal issues. All of which had affected my self-confidence. At the time, it was important to me to start something which would be positive for me both physically and mentally, something to give me that little ‘push’ when I didn’t have much motivation or energy.

I recently met a friend for breakfast and I was telling her about how upset Shihan was with me when he found out I was going on a holiday to Europe a few months ago. She responded with, “oh my gosh, it’s like a family!” It made me smile because yes my karate club is like a family. I started karate for myself and to be honest never really cared about the colour of my belt. But as I’m about to achieve my black belt, I realize this achievement isn’t just my achievement.

I felt a bit of a shift internally, particularly when I got my brown belt and took a more active role helping new starters at the club. I admit I find teaching karate really frustrating and realize how much patience you need. It made me appreciate even more the black belts before me who gave up their training time to help me improve as well as others who gave up time on the weekend or lunchtime to train with me. Not just their time but their patience. It made me appreciate the support and belief I had from my karate teachers together with the environment they had created within their dojo.

I can be quite hard on myself and for every time I said “I can’t do this” in the dojo, I remember Vicki in my ear adding one word…”yet”. “I can’t do this…yet” became my new mantra. I kept trying and I kept coming to karate. For whatever self-doubt or setbacks I’ve had, I’ve never actually considered giving up karate. Like Sensei mentioned recently, it’s important that I keep coming. Not just for myself but for the young girls coming through. I’m also a lot kinder to myself these days…

I remember being really nervous before a particular grading and I mentioned to Shihan that I didn’t want to do the grading. And in true Shihan style, he sent me a clear message through a story he told to the whole group about a previous student. This student was told in no uncertain terms that he owed it to his teacher to do the grading. I got the message and it gave me that ‘push’ to get over myself and keep going. It’s those little talks that make me love karate even more. Karate really is character building.

Sensei spoke to the group following a grading a couple of years ago. He discussed how grading night is stressful. You are going to feel nervous and sweat and have self-doubt. But if you can push yourself and overcome those emotions in a safe place like the dojo around supportive peers then it will give you the confidence and strength to get through difficult times outside of the dojo. As it states in the Dojo Kun displayed in the home dojo, “Do not think Karate training is only in the dojo”.

I’m really proud of how far I’ve come not just in the dojo but in my personal life. I’m proud of the person I’ve become. I owe a lot to karate…it really is hands down one of the best things I’ve ever started.

Sophie Karavaras began training at karatedo on 24th October, 2012, at age 28 years. She was graded to Shodan on 7th October 2017.