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Beyond the dojo

As I have learned it, karate is an art form. Its practice is multi-dimensional and therefore appeals to a variety of practitioners. Interpretations of sport, fitness and self-defence inspire growth in different individuals. Balance is an important aspect of successful training. Practicing in different situations develops awareness and confidence. Training outside the dojo is essential for understanding our relationship with the world. By itself, karate is a way of life.

The dojo is where karate begins. Formal classes introduce beginners to basics. Training partners help us to develop practical technique. Feedback provided by other students forges our dreams into principles. Through years of trial and error these principles organize into concepts. With the guidance of a sensei, we find our kata.

Kata is meant to be practiced independently. In the dojo, kata is taught in groups and broken down by the count. This approach allows the sensei to efficiently teach multiple students. However, to fully understand kata it must be taken home. Only thousands of repetitions will reveal its essence. Kata is not simply a form, knowledge or exercise; it is a practice. The result of consistent repetition is a deeper understanding of self.

Karate should be shared with the world. Practicing outside the dojo develops perspective and confidence. In the reflection of others, the truth will be revealed. Participation in seminars, camps and tournaments provide real world challenges. Training with different people builds character that relates to everyday life. We may be most comfortable in familiar environments, but success is not achieved through comfort. Students should use their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Winning is rewarded in a competitive world. Karate is not about winning, it is about learning how not to lose.

The way of karate takes many paths. Through the dojo we learn tradition and technique. Practicing at home allows us to deeply contemplate our kata. Worldly experience builds character and confidence. The only constant, is change itself. To understand the potential of karate, you must take it beyond the dojo.

Kyoshi Mike Robertson practicing in a group class at Elmira Karate Dojo
Kyoshi Mike Robertson

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