Last summer I was asked to write an article for a magazine on how martial arts helped my self-esteem. More specifically I focused on what karate did for me when I first began practicing in 1999. After a year of practicing martial arts, I was able to walk without the use of a walker. As you can see achieving a milestone such as this can be a big boost to a person’s self-esteem. However, that is one story on how practicing martial arts has impacted my life.
In life, you evolve. In martial arts, you evolve as a practitioner. There are ups and downs in life – even in martial arts. From the very beginning, I was told that I will hit plateaus in my training. As I have learned at one time or another you will hit that plateau where you do not feel like you are learning anything. Every day will feel exactly the same. When that happens, confidence/self-esteem will begin to fade.
Earlier in my martial arts training, if I was going through a rough patch in life I knew going to karate class and practicing would help me out. The moments before and after class we would sit and meditate – focus on martial arts and nothing else. Usually by the end of class or shortly afterward I had a solution to whatever issue I was facing earlier in the day. However, it was around 2009 when I hit a plateau. My family and I had a series of ups and down all year. Going to karate class to meditate and workout did not help me find solutions.
In fact, I was faced with a few more aggravations once I stepped through the doors of the dojo. Some of the aggravation was internal and some were external. Internally – my self-esteem was fading. I no longer felt comfortable about myself. I was gaining weight and having issues breathing. You may remember me mentioning that in previous posts Way of the Gun. Being overweight had slowed me down considerably and I was not as mobile. Externally – I didn’t feel as welcomed in the class as I had hoped. Then again it could have been my self-esteem and my clouded perception at the time was the reasons why I felt that way. Class would start and I take my place in the front of the room where black belts and brown belts stood. We went through PT1 and PT2 exercises. We even did kata. The instructors would go to all of the other students and work with them and discuss what they needed to correct. I guess my technique was perfect. None of the instructors ever offered any type of criticism or told me what I needed to correct. None of the instructors ever walked up to me. – Was I invisible?
During class, we would break up into groups to work on kata, kumite, or other techniques. My best friend (fellow brown belt at the time) realized what was going on. He simply walked away from his group and we made our own group. We worked kata. He knew I was having issues. My technique was getting sloppy. He did his best to explain to me what I needed to work on. To bad, it took 3 more years to realize what he was saying. Better late than never.
I continued to stick with karate for a few more months. However, in the spring of 2010, an unforeseen incident with one of the instructors that resulted in the class being closed down indefinitely. The dojo closed two weeks before I would test for my black belt. I contemplated joining other classes in the area. A dojo opened up a few months after my dojo closed. I considered going there even though it was not my style of karate. I enjoyed focusing on the traditional art whereas they focused on competition. Competition is a little harder for me to participate in due to the rules about not hitting below the belt in sparring matches. Plus there are no other dwarves in the area I can spar. After talking to the instructors I did not agree with their requirements for earning and maintaining their belts.
I went a few years without attending a martial arts class. Occasionally I would check out some Tai Chi videos online and try to follow along but that was about it. Early in 2013, a good friend of mine had heard about a jujitsu class that was 20 minutes up the road from our home. He came over to my house and asked if I knew anything about the class. I told him I knew the people who ran the class. He said he was going to check it out. I decided I would tag along with him.
I sat there as a spectator during class and watched the students roll around on the ground and throw each other across the room. The instructor had told me that night that Judo was an element he focused on in class. I sat there and watched two guys 6-foot tall throw each other around. I thought to myself, there is a lot of things going on here I don’t think I can do. As much fun as the class looked I didn’t think it would be for me.
My friend and I left the class that evening. I went home and told my wife about it. She encouraged me to go back the next week and try the class even though there were techniques I didn’t think I could do. My buddy came back over to the house the next week and said he was going to the class this time to work out. He asked if I wanted to go. I reluctantly said yes.
As I have said in one of my previous posts; the hardest part is walking through the door. During the first 10 minutes of class, the instructor told me he would teach me some judo techniques. I remembered what I had seen the week before. I was about to protest but before I could he said he was going to modify the technique. That night I learned how to throw people who were 6 foot tall. I now have a better understanding of the phrase; “the taller they are, the harder they fall.”
I am so glad I went to the class that night. It was one of the best decisions I had made in a long time (as it relates to martial arts). I loved every second of it. From the very beginning of class, the instructor started modifying all of the techniques. Even though it was my first day, he made me feel like a part of the class. Something I hadn’t felt in the karate class a few years before.
Learning new techniques and sparring in ju-jitsu class every week revived my love for martial arts altogether. My perception on karate changed dramatically. The kata’s I had practiced for several years took on a whole new meaning. I would learn techniques in jujitsu class then I would go home and practice my Shorin-Ryu kata’s and pick out where the judo and jujitsu moves would fit in.
The jujitsu class was a big boost in my self-esteem. When I was in karate I was unsure of myself. As I continued to practice jujitsu I felt like I had a better chance of winning a fight if one was to ever occur. All of the issues I had when it came to sparring in karate during my early days; I had found an answer for in the ju-jitsu class. Each week I would come home and I would look at my wife and say “woah! I know jujitsu” kind of the same way Neo from the Matrix did when he learned Kung-Fu.
I still faced everyday problems in life. I was able to go, class, meditate, workout, throw some people around for a while, get thrown around myself, and by the end of it, I had a solution to my problems. I stayed in the class for almost 2 years. I even earned a purple belt. Unfortunately, life happens and I had to step away from the dojo for a while to take care of financial related matters and deal with health issues. Last summer I was about to make my return to the class then disaster struck the local area. The dojo was flooded along with the entire town.
Even though I am no longer in the class, I am still as confident as I was in class. I continue to practice on my own and with immediate family members. Karate helped me figure out how to use my body but I didn’t feel equal among my peers. In jujitsu; I figured out how to make myself equal to everyone else. That was the biggest boost in confidence.
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