After training alone in my home dojo this week, I recognized that without consistent practice in kata, I would probably go crazy. It is a wonderful gift passed down from generation and generation: intricate movements worth mastering that provide self-defense and self-expression. The focus and discipline honed by performing kata and the catharsis enabled by hard physical and mental training has made me who I am today. It seems that not many athletes or fighters from other disciplines understand this.
I wrote this poem in honor of my teachers who have given me the skills to protect not only my body, but also my mind and spirit. I hope to pass along the invaluable lessons I have learned.
Remember that even though we sometimes practice fighting invisible opponents, it doesn’t mean they’re imaginary . . .
Some people think the fighting’s real.
Others laugh while I dance in my pajamas.
But no one sees what I see
–what you will see–
when training in karate.
There are demons all around me–
fights I’ve lost, fights I thought I won,
foes circling, grinning, bearing teeth.
Sometimes, without this ritual, I am weak.
I turn away. Cry out and cover my face.
I am devoured by their past and present adversity.
When I tie my obe and cinch my gi,
it’s a different story.
Without any real arms, I fight.
Battling to keep them at bay,
to destroy some completely.
The struggle never ends,
but it’s what keeps me alive and free.
And that’s what you can’t see.