For Who, and Why?

As I discussed in “One Reason Why I Train,” even though I have lived in Japan for quite a long time, I have continued to choose for my teacher a man who lives in the US. Because of this, I have no karate dojo that I belong to here in Japan. I simply train on my own (on the riverbank) most of the time.

After I left my home dojo in the States, I did no karate teaching whatsoever, until quite recently. Despite my teacher encouraging me to teach others here in Japan, I always (somewhat selfishly, I admit) felt that I would rather spend any time that I had on my own training.

Recently, however, a young man of 15 or so approached me and asked me to teach him. He was someone that I knew fairly well, and it was clear to me that he might not be a very good candidate for karate training. He is rather timid, not particularly athletic, and pretty easily frightened. “Would it really be wise to invest my limited time in a young man like this?” I wondered. “Will he be able to stick with it? Will he become skilled at all?” One other consideration that I also thought about was that his parents told me that he was having trouble dealing with the stresses of his (very competitive) junior high school.

In the end, I decided to accept the young man as my first student ever in Japan. Why? Well, first of all, I generally like this boy; he is a good kid. Secondly, not having any kids of my own, I thought it would be nice to have regular contact with him. But what really made up my mind for me was that I kept thinking, “This is the kind of person that karate can help most. Strong, athletic, fearless kids don’t need karate; this kid does. If karate isn’t for the weaker members of society, then who is it for?”

I have been teaching my student now for about a month or so. He is very enthusiastic about his training, and is making pretty good progress.  As I’ve taught this young man, I’ve been reminded of something that I first realized more than a decade ago, when I, myself, was struggling with some problems in life. I’m not sure that I can express it very clearly, but I have been reminded of my sense that karate training gives me (and others, I believe) hope. Hope that I can become a stronger person; not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. Hope that, with work, I can learn more about — and improve — myself. Hope that I can become more in control of my own destiny. In short, hope that, with work, I can improve my life.

Now, I certainly don’t think my new student is thinking about all this intellectual gobbledygook. But I do believe that his karate training has begun to give him a little bit of extra hope about his future.

Mark Tankosich

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