Some eight years ago now I nervously entered a local dojo to try out karate. I’d always harboured a desire to do a martial art properly but life, as it often does , got in the way.
I remember my first lesson well and the look on my wife’s face when I got home saturated in sweat. I hadn’t worked so hard for years.
I started karate when I was 48 and now I’m a very proud black belt. But you can ask any karateka if that black belt is the most important thing and I guarantee they’ll all say no.
I’ve practised many sports in my life , most of them to a level of ineptitude in keeping with my ability and all those sports have given me is some memories of games I’ve played and several friends.
Karate is different. Karate impacts on every aspect of your life.
The most obvious is fitness. My level of cardio-vascular fitness is probably better now than when I played rugby at university some 30 years ago. The warm up and basic training , not to mention sparring and fitness drills take it out of you like nothing I’ve ever done before.
Muscle toning. The repeated kicking and punching, warm up and cardio exercises linked to karate have a huge impact on muscle toning and the extra training for conditioning can have a positive effect on bone density and stave of effects of arthritis.
Self confidence has soared. This comes from the knowledge that if something did happen , I could probably look after myself. I don’t mean I walk around with a ‘don’t mess with me ‘ look on my face. I haven’t got the face for that. But what it is I think is a sort of inner confidence that you give off by the way you walk and act around others.
Respect is key in all martial arts. If you are concerned, as I was , that you’d be walking into a dojo a nervous wreck and people will laugh if you get it wrong. Don’t. Martial arts are rooted in respect and if the sensei runs classes properly then there will be a series of bows and thanks at the beginning and end of each lesson. These rituals are followed everywhere that karate is practised and are fundamental to the art.
Breathing. What ? Yes, breathing. We generally don’t breathe properly because we breathe into our lungs which is too shallow for us to get the real health benefits. Karate trains you to breathe deeply into the diaphragm and the benefits are too numerous to mention here. Look it up somewhere. I promise you it’s pretty amazing.
Flexibility. Ok I started when I was 48, I’m never going to be able to flick a kick at anyone’s earlobe but I know something , I’m a LOT more flexible than when I started training. Stretching and flexing are part of the general warm up and warm down in classes and you will see the impact very quickly.
So if you want to try something that will impact on EVERY area of your life , that will benefit your health and mental well being and that has NO upper age limit then give karate a try.
Just think , they practise karate in Okinawa and that island has the highest number of centenarians on the planet. Coincidence ??