Karate Is More Than Punching and Kicking

Karate instructors all over the world have often said “Karate is not about punching and kicking.”  While I agree with this statement, I think its intention gets lost at times.  I think a better statement is “Karate is MORE than punching and kicking.”  When making this statement, instructors are trying to inform people that in modern times we use the technical aspects of karate as a vehicle to improve students’ confidence, character, and overall health.  I feel it is important to understand the fact that we still need to effectively punch, kick, spar, and effectively defend ourselves in addition to improving confidence, character, and overall health.  If done properly, all of these things go hand in hand.

The theme of this article is not on the dissection of the above statement though.  I know that all good intentioned instructors attempt to instill confidence, character, and health to their students.  There is no debate there.  In fact, I am not even going to write about how instructors accomplish these goals.  I am actually going to flip the script and tell a story about how a student has taught me recently that karate is more than kicking and punching.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 8 months, you know that the world has been battling the COVID19 pandemic.  If you’ve been living in a cave, I am actually quite jealous since at times it sounds like a 5-star resort compared to everyday life as a small business owner during a global pandemic, presidential election, racial tensions, etc.  But I digress.

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I am not going to go into detail or complain about the effects of the pandemic on my family, business, or overall well-being.  We have all been significantly impacted, me included.  My karate studio, which is my family’s primary source of income, was shut down for 5 months.  We reopened and face restrictions on how many students we can teach as well as what we can do.  We have students attend class online, but they also have restrictions since it is impossible to teach certain things online.

Needless to say, there are many times that I do not look forward to teaching classes.  The uncomfortable mask wearing, trying to figure out how do certain things while maintaining social distancing, worrying about if I or a student is in danger of being infected, and the constant cleaning takes its toll daily.

Recently, there has been a silver lining.  While there are still many things I enjoy and look forward to when I teach classes, the above negatives routinely outweigh the positives.  Two to three times a week there is a student who reminds me that karate is more than kicking and punching.  He unknowingly helps me forget about outside distractions and get back to having fun in class, things I have always tried to do for students. 

This student’s name is Liam and he is an advanced blue belt, one rank away from black belt.  Liam has been training with me for many, many years.  He started training when he was a little kid and is now 12 years old.  During the shutdown, Liam continued to train online at home.  Once the studio reopened, he decided, like many others, to continue training online.

Liam has a training area in his home that he uses when he attends classes online.  In this training area is a blue, free standing punching bag which he uses for some of the drills.  Several weeks ago, he logged on for class and I noticed there was a picture printed out and taped to the front of the punching bag.  I asked him to zoom in so I could see it and to my surprise, it was my face!  So, when Liam punches and kicks the bag, he is simulating hitting me!  I know he meant this as a joke and was not seriously using my face as his motivation to hit something harder (at least I hope).

The next class, there was a picture of Darth Vader on the punching bag, then Commodus from Gladiator the next day, then the Agent Smith from The Matrix, and each class a different bad guy.

At first, I was just eager to see what the next character would be.  Then it started to become a bit of a challenge and Liam would try to stump me.  There are many things I enjoy in life and useless movie trivia is near the top of the list.  I also tend to be a bit competitive.  Ok, maybe a little more than a bit.  What made this even better is that Liam’s movie choices were right in line with some of my favorite movies.

There have been many villains on Liam’s punching bag over the weeks and I can’t remember them all but here are some I remember that have not yet been mentioned:

  • Warden Norton from Shawshank Redemption
  • Biff from Back to the Future
  • Principal Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men
  • Snape from Harry Potter

I have to say my record is pretty good, but Liam does stump me from time to time.  Most notably he posted Kevin Spacey’s character from the movie Seven.  I was a bit disturbed until he told me his dad gave him that one.  Whew!

So, I’d just like to say, thank you Liam for brightening up these dark times and helping put things back into perspective, reminding me why I am an instructor.  I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.

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