The Big Picture

As I type this, I’m sitting in a quiet office in a Karate school. How I got to this moment is a very long story. I’m not going to get in to it, but I will say that my journey started over 22 years ago. I know a lot of Martial Artists that have been training for much longer than me, but I think 22 years is a long time by most everyone’s standards. Looking back on it really helps me see the big picture, but what is the big picture?

The big picture is what you want your training to mean. Why did you join, or perhaps are thinking about joining, karate? A common answer is to learn self-defense. Other responses I’ve gotten are: wanting to get physically fit, using it to help relieve stress, and the most common one from parents (for their kids) is to learn respect and discipline. The big picture has nothing to do with belt rank. Your belt color is a reward. It’s like and actor winning an Academy Award for a film they made. It’s something they are all honored to receive, but winning an award is not the reason they became actors in the first place.

It’s important to keep the big picture in mind (whatever that is for you) because it’s easy to become blinded by the reward. For example, I had a student who was getting close to fulfilling all of the requirements in order to promote to his next belt. After class one day, I started talking to him about what he needed to do in order to graduate by the end of the week. He looked at me and said that he didn’t feel ready, and wanted to wait until he was better at his techniques. He chose to wait because he was thinking about the big picture. He didn’t let the temptation of getting a new belt distract him from remembering why he joined karate in the first place. He didn’t just want to be a Black Belt. He wanted to be the most skilled Black Belt he could be, even if that meant taking more time to get there.

The truth is we, as Americans, are impatient. The multi colored belt system was basically invented in America, so that we can be rewarded for our efforts more often. But, take it from me (and my 22 years of training), it’s not about the short term. I don’t look back at myself and think about how good I was between Purple and Blue Belt, or how quickly I got my first stripe as a Red Belt, because in the big picture, it doesn’t matter. Stay focused on why you joined in the first place. Train for those reasons, and not the short term rewards

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