“Karate is a Way of Life”
Ever heard this?
The sentiment that Karate is a lifestyle is frequently expressed by masters, grandmasters and champions all over the world.
It’s an honorable ideal, for sure.
I often wonder something.
If your Karate is supposed to be a “Way of Life” – why does it look so lifeless?
Because, let’s be honest here…
Most of the Karate you see today isn’t alive.
- It’s not alive, fresh and exciting.
- It’s stale, stiff and outdated.
Call me crazy, but I believe anything that claims to be a “Way of Life” should share the same attributes as life itself. That’s just logical.
Yet, most of the Karate I see is the exact opposite.
It’s a “Way of Death”.
(More in common with death than life.)
This is an unfortunate development in the Karate world, but it’s nothing new or surprising. People have been doing zombie-Karate for ages.
It’s almost expected.
Because in our fallable human need for security and belonging, we are drawn to mass imitation. We desperately want to to follow a tribe (style, dojo, discipline, sensei, system) instead of exploring the unbound freedom found in our own human potential.
But here’s the thing:
A system that is blindly followed – no matter how intelligently designed – can never mimic the dynamic totality of life.
The only thing certain in life is change.
And all styles, systems or programs are based on the very opposite of change:
Prearranged sets of mechanical movements, techniques, series, forms, rituals, language, patterns, habits and dogma.
Life, on the other hand, is neither predefined nor certain.
You know this.
It’s ever-changing, flowing and unpredictable.
Just like combat.
Despite this, we love to follow a cemented set of teachings laid out by an ancient individual – hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of years ago – without really knowing why. This individual may (or may not) have stumbled upon a set of combative principles which were subsequently codified, made into a “style” and handed down through generations to you.
That transmission is pretty amazing.
But don’t get it twisted:
None of this happened with YOU in mind.
The things you’re practicing in the dojo today were NOT made for YOUR unique physical characteristics, social setting, cultural context, historical backdrop, likes and dislikes, mentality, strengths and weaknesses etc.
You’re not a product of your style.
You’re a by-product.
Nonetheless, in our never-ending quest for social belonging and acceptance, we slavishly force ourselves to fit into a mold. It feels so comfortable. Indeed, there are some people who spend their whole lives playing this “fitting in” game (not just with Karate).
But my hope is that one day you’ll realize this:
Right here and now, you’re the incredible result of a 3.6 billion years unbroken chain of successful genetic transfer of life.
Think about it.
You’re a B-O-S-S.
And you came loooong before any ritualized teachings.
So why are you letting something, or someone, restrict your destiny to fully express, develop and cultivate the essence of your very own humanity?
After all, you are alive – aren’t you?
Don’t die before you’re dead.
Death will certainly come one day anyway, and your life shouldn’t be spent imitating it – neither inside nor outside the dojo.
Using the very same punches and kicks that once entangled you, free yourself from your own self-limiting beliefs, smash through your weaknesses and break down your insecurities.
Then, and only then, can Karate become what it was truly meant to be.
A Way of Life.