By Medha Patel ‘22
I started karate when I was in first grade. When I began I thought that after my first couple of years I would become amazing and that I would be able to beat up anyone I wanted to. Now that I’m eight years older (and a second degree black belt), I realized that martial arts is a lot more than just slapping boards and punching the crap out of someone.
The most common misconception of martial arts is that all you do is beat people up and punch boards. While this may have a little bit of truth to it, it’s not the whole picture. For starters, you usually don’t spar (fight) for the first six to nine months of training. It is really hard to be able to control your kicks and not hurt someone.
This brings me to my next point; karate students don’t try to hurt other people during sparring sessions. Accidents happen a lot but they are never on purpose. A good kick just lightly taps the target area. It actually requires more skill than going all out and trying to harm the person you’re sparring. The point of sparring is to practice kicking and punching placement in a more real life setting and to develop better defensive skills.
The first thing that I realized was that it would take a lot of time to be able to look as good as your instructor or superheroes on TV. Martial arts includes forcing your body into awkward positions. This means that when starting out, most people look uncomfortable performing certain kicks and stances. A lot of kicks require you to be in a position where it’s really hard to balance, so you end up falling more times than actually kicking your target.
Martial arts can look so graceful but it takes a lot of time to reach that point. I’ve grown up in a martial arts family. My sister is also a second degree black, and my dad is a black belt as well. It’s easier to start at a young age; they are the most flexible and can have more control over their bodies. Also if you start young it makes it easier to devote more time to karate. Karate takes a lot of time and a whole lot more devotion. Earning my black belt took 5 years and my second degree took me another 3. If you really want to get good it’ll take a couple years.
Another thing that comes with learning this sport is being able to keep going even when fatigue sets in. I’m not sure how other dojos work, but at mine, Red Dragon Martial Arts, testing is really tiring. It’s a couple of hours worth of kicking, punching, and screaming. You are not allowed to drink water during this time either, so it becomes difficult to keep going.
The best part about testing though is breaking. Some people don’t like breaking boards, but I really enjoy it. Breaking at tournaments was really fun. There were some people that would break 6 boards with a stepping side kick or a hammer fist on 5 boards. I did a hammerfist on 5 boards at a tournament once, and it hurt a lot. I ended up breaking my wrist. As a result, I can’t break 5 boards with a hammerfist anymore.
Even though I have hurt myself many times when breaking, I still love it. It’s a little scary seeing that board in front of you, but I really believe that karate is more mental than anything. To break a board you can’t hit the board, you have to go through the board. If you’re scared about a break because it’ll hurt (which it probably always will), you won’t break the board.
Martial arts is more about how you feel mentally rather than physically. This is why I love it. Flailing your arms and legs isn’t hard but to place a kick right under someone’s chin after an hour of kicking shows more mental power than physical. That’s what really makes a good black belt, someone with perseverance. After all, isn’t a black belt just a white belt that never quit?