I started learning karate 40 years ago this year – I love so much about it, the physical exercise, the mental concentration, the discipline and respect. In a world that’s changing so much, it’s reassuring to practice old techniques, to repeat patterns that have roots long ago. I would love to travel to Japan one day and train in a dojo on Okinawa island where it began.
There are so many short-cuts available to us these days – auto-correct, auto-translate, we don’t even have to remember facts as we can just Google – I find it rewarding to practise a movement over and over, sometimes hundreds of times, striving to get it right.
There are lots of different aspects to focus on – speed and power are obvious ones, but breathing, balance, body tension and relaxation are important too. Then there are terms that don’t have an English equivalent: kime – a word that means focus, power, a decisive mindset, hikite – the extra power to a punch gained from pulling the other hand back, kiai – the famous karate yell which generates more power and absorbs impact.
Altering your focus can highlight new things to improve upon, however slight. Sometimes there is so much to think about, it is overwhelming. But breaking it down and trying again with a different focus can help achieve the goal.
I started learning Japanese this year to build on the vocabulary I’ve picked up over the years – well, if anything feels overwhelming, it’s trying to learn a new language with 3 different alphabets! But by working through it step by step, practising the pronunciation, lettering and grammar, it’s slowly starting to make sense.
And hopefully armed with some basic language skills, one day I’ll make that trip to Japan.