Karate-do is many things to many people, and yet there are certain truths to one’s training that are inescapable. One of those truths happens to be the idea of conflict resolution.
On some level, be it small or large, internal or external, manufactured or organic…karate-do brings the practitioner face to face with discomforts that need to be addressed. Sensei Ed Ottis says (and I paraphrase), karate-do is not meant to be practiced in preparation for ideals. In fact, it is meant to be practiced for a time when everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong. Your karate training should prepare your mind and body for a time when, for example, you are confronted and accosted while you’re stressed, late, stuck in the rain with your two little kids complaining of hunger, and you’re struggling to hold on to heavy, finger numbing plastic bags of groceries, while nursing an injury. That’s when you need karate, not when everything is hunky-dory! How one deals with those types of conflicts, are directly related to the discomforts provided to you in the dojo.
From the beginning, karate-do training is arduous and austere, gently pushing the limits of physical, mental and psychological comfort. The student is constantly cajoled into zones of discomfort by the sensei who manufactures the conflict through (among other things) increasingly complex physical movements that stress the mind, or increased pace and repetition of movements that stress the body, or by creating an environment of relative heat or cold that stresses the psyche, etc…
These incremental stressors provide an arena for conflict resolution for the student, and the student’s success at addressing these discomforts has a direct and positive correlation with that student’s ability to properly resolve conflict in the real world.
I have seen it first hand, where a student’s insistence on making excuses and being the exception in class, has later led to a complete inability to accept responsibility and properly address organic, real conflict…be it in the dojo, or outside. Invariably the student has a melt down, blames others, or simply “packs his toys and goes home”, leaving the conflict, and growth opportunity unresolved.
To those students who feel frustrated, who feel stress, who feel like karate-do is too demanding, or too boring, or too whatever….I say keep pushing yourselves and don’t give up. Sincerely and methodically apply yourselves to the challenges ahead, put your nose to the grind and crush your ego. Your sincere effort is a step in the ultimate conflict resolution against the self. And really that’s all there is. We are simply mirrors to one another, reflecting our own flaws.
Your growth under duress is building not only physical strength, but a wisdom to properly cope with future conflicts… and isn’t that the very definition of Mekyo?