One of my themes suggested was martial arts, and after having done my whole primer series, I've decided to speak about my own path in martial arts as a kyokushin karate practitioner.
So, why martial arts? Why karate? Why kyokushin karate?
It all started around 2010 when I had started a new job not long after getting married. I felt out of shape, slow, bored, and generally unhappy with my physical and mental state. I wanted an outlet and something to aim for besides "get paycheck, pay bills." My wife suggested I take up a hobby that wasn't video games, since I was clearly anxious. I tried everything: learning a musical instrument, cooking, running. Nothing felt "right."
Then I decided one day that I was going to try a martial art. I started studying various forms, and decided to stick to something Japanese since my academic background was in Japan and Japanese. So, I set about to finding a good school that would "feel" right.
I visited some local places, but they all felt either not intense enough or too watered down. I wanted something with tradition, but also modern sensibility. Muay Thai was a great thought, but again, Japanese. I do sometimes wonder how it would've been if I had taken up Muay Thai instead, but for now I'm glad with my choice.
I happened across a Google listing for a dojo called "kyokushin New York." I had never heard of this form (how funny, given that I'm now a huge evangelist for it). But I noticed that the site stressed full-contact and hard training. Good first sign. I had seen way too many schools that advertised "you won't get hurt!" proudly. Hoo boy, if only I had taken up flower arrangement instead...
My first class was taught by a sempai (that's someone more senior than you, usually reserved for brown belts and black belts) from Poland. Jack Sempai. I left that class impossibly sore, and I had to literally pull myself up and down the stairs for a couple of days. But I kept at it, and within six months I was hooked. The rush of adrenaline as I sparred, and the feeling of knowing that I was pushing myself to my limits every class was (and still is) a drug.
Kyokushin has basically one rule in its tournaments (full contact, no pads other than a cup and maybe a mouth guard): no direct punching to the face. There are arguments both ways, and I'll get into that another time, but despite our bad habits, as a form it teaches incredible conditioning. Put another way, take a good kyokushin fighter and put him in the ring with gloves and give him a month or two to get used to it, and he'll do just fine. The other way around is often harder. But anyway, both have their pluses and minuses.
As of now, my start was almost 4 years ago. I'm now a 4th kyu (green belt) with tournament experience and people who look up to me as a sempai now. I'm still that scared white belt inside most of the time, but I at least look better at it ;-).
The beauty of it all, at least to me, is that in the dojo nothing matters but how hard you train and how well you fight. Rich, poor, woman, man, girl, boy, none of it matters. We're all kyokushin, and we're all in it to grow. From my Sensei to all of the sempai (I'm blessed to learn under a variety of amazing instructors, including the women's world champion in both kata and kumite (fighting) Miruyo Ito.
So, in summary, why? Because it's my mountain to climb. And it's a mountain that will never, ever end. Every day I find new paths, now valleys, new ascents, new views, new things to learn. It's not just a hobby, it's a lifestyle. It's my passion. It's the most challenging, but most fulfilling thing I've ever done. I say this after getting my master's degree, climbing literal mountains, and doing lots of other physical challenges throughout my life. Nothing compares for me.
So join me, and humor me once in a while as I talk your ears off about this very dear subject. Plus, in May everyone might get to see some photos of me getting the crap beaten out of me in Vancouver when I fight there. Depends on if I get any decent photos or not. ;-)
For a bit of TV fun, here's a show on martial arts that did a bit on KK (kyokushin karate:)