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Karate in the Coffee Shop

Do concepts in Karate show up in your daily life? Should they?

I don’t mean being able to turn techniques form your Kata into useful street fighting tactics – I mean concepts such as intention, respect, focus, precision and determination.

I hear parents say they want kids in Karate to help them focus, and I hear participants say that Karate gives them a regiment around physical activity. Occasionally I hear participants say that Karate is a means to better self-control and a steady mind.

No matter the purpose, I believe Karate concepts can – and should – bleed into your regular day. Carrying Dojo etiquette with us outside the dojo is a good start.

In a true Budo-minded Dojo no one is raising their voices at one another in anger; sarcasm and cynicism aren’t tolerated; there is no discrimination; Karateka support one another; visible and audible signs of respect for partners are obvious; and your undivided attention is given to the matter at hand – no tech distractions.

Simply put, you wouldn’t shout at a dojo-mate for any reason, so why break that notion to shout at the car ahead of you in a drive-thru? Rather hypocritical in a sense, I believe.

This seems trite and obvious, but in today’s society, cooler heads don’t always prevail, and encouraging our youth to carry Karate precepts with them into their daily lives is a piece of the social justice of Karate that Funakoshi speaks about so often.

Taken further, what about our actual Karate practice. I am currently working on the Sentei Kata (Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Jion and Empi) and some concepts run through all of these: proper breathing, precision, strength/fluidity balance, intention, zero dead time, and focus.

No matter what you do in your daily life, you’d be hard pressed not to find some or all of these relevant to your typical day outside the dojo.

Whether a carpenter or a chemist, focus and precision are required, but how much you employ them are up to you.

Karate can’t make you a good person, or perfect your character, but I believe training shows us the elements of good character. It’s up to us if we adopt those elements.

Teaching kids to respect higher ranks and Senpai and Sensei may just spill over into respecting their parents a little more, or their teachers a little more. The concept of appreciating what others are doing for you – or trying to do for you – is universal, and, like the teachings of Karate, we hope these things get pass on.

For many, maybe Karate will never affect how they live outside the Dojo, but for others, perhaps it will.

Sensei Toru Shimoji was one asked what is record was for altercations on the street. He promptly replied 0-0, and he smiled as he added “and I hope to keep it that way.” Sensei’s mannerisms in the Dojo are no different than that are in the coffee shop: he is peaceful, interested in people, and treats everyone as equals.

Another aspect of the Dojo life that is directly relatable to in everyday life is the ability to react and recover.

If you watch either of the Power Sensei you’ll see their ability to go from 25 to 100 in a heartbeat and then back to a calm and cool 25. Notice I didn’t say zero to 100? A good dojo teaches never to be at zero, or dead on your feet. You’re always a little above zero: always ready.

“If you’re ready, you won’t need to get ready when the time comes!” Hank Voight, Chicago PD.

Karate teaches situational and social awareness, both of which are advantageous on the street. It teaches us that if you take a knock, you get right back up and keep moving. It uses breathing and mental clarity to teach us to recover our calm as quickly as we can after an altercation or defeat.

There’s no doubt Karate is a teacher for life. The question is how seriously we take it.

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