Karate Is Hard . . . That Is Why It Is So Good
On Saturday we conducted our Fall Black Belt Camp and Belt Promotion Ceremony. Congratulations to the ten students who earned their first junior black belts and the eight who earned their second, third or fourth level junior black belts. Many of the candidates started karate when they were 4 or 5 years old.
The Black Belt Camp started at 9:00am with a two mile run. Then for the next nine hours we put our candidates through physical, mentally and emotional hardship and stress. Patterned after the culminating exercise at the end of Marine Corps officer boot camp called "The Crucible", it is designed to test their physical, mental and emotional limits. Why? Because stress and struggle makes you stronger! Coal or metals under heat and pressure become diamonds and alloys.
At the 6:00pm ceremony that evening the candidates were exhausted but still running on the adrenaline and excitement of the day. I told all the relatives and friends attending the event of a saying I fondly remember from my Sensei. This saying kept ringing in my head the entire day for a reason. He told me - "Karate is hard . . . that is why it is so good!"
The longer I teach children (and adults) karate I more I realize the value and truth in this simple statement. In today's world we, and even more our children, need to do harder things more often and truly get tested. They need to know the feeling of failing and getting knocked down. I feel so fortunate we can do this here at our dojo. If you have not figured it out by now, our classes are not designed for fun (okay, maybe a little bit of fun at the beginner levels). Fun is not what children need and not what our parents want. We design our karate classes and the entire dojo experience to be hard, scary and boring. Then they are challenged with increasing more difficult material to learn and increasingly more demanding obstacles and testing.
At the end of the ceremony we handed out the new belts but before doing so I told the audience - "Behind every single junior black belt at our dojo are 'black belt parents'!"
I said it takes STRONG parents to raise STRONG kids. Parenting is hard. Parents here have to have the strength to be tough and make the tough decisions. They have to make their children do hard things and things they do not want to do. Their children may not "like" them at times but they have to respect and more importantly, trust them. They are not their child's friend and this is not a popularity contest. You cannot be a friend and a parent at the same time. They have to resist protecting and shielding them from fear, hardship and stress. They have to be strong enough to let them make their own mistakes and decision. They have to be strong enough to give them the tough unconditional love and undivided attention they need.
So right before I handed the new black belts to a candidate I called their parents up first and gave them a black belt keychain. It is just symbolic, but I said to each of them from my heart - "You have earn this black belt every bit as much or maybe even more than your child."
I mean it because I feel we cannot just make black belt children here . . . we also have to make black belt parents.
Keep up the hard work. and know all the work and effort will be worth it.
Yours for strong kids (and parents),