TomSheaPUSH YOURSELF: Karate in Daily Life
by Tom Shea

“Make kiai!!!!!…..Show spirit!!!!….”

It echoes through the night…

“Again!!!! …..Last ten!!!!!……. Come on, push yourself!!!!! …….Harder, no stop!!!!……”

I have heard Master Kazumi Tabata shout such commands for the last 24 years, spurring me on….

“One more time… OK, again, one more time….”

OK, one more… I can do it…. sometimes it turns into more of a question… but I do one more… then another… and another… “This must be halfway at least,” I think, abandoning my efforts to keep an empty mind…

What’s the drill this time? Front kicks? Punches in horse stance? Kata? No, tonight the exercise is a biochemical analysis of brain samples in a study on Alzheimer’s disease. I’m not in my gi, I’m wearing a lab coat. And I’m not in the dojo, I’m in my research laboratory. It’s 11pm, and I’m the last one in the building, as usual. Even though I’m the director, and my students want to impress me, they have all gone home some time ago. Shouldn’t I pack it in for the night?

“Almost finished!!!!!… Push harder!!!”

I run one more biochemical assay…

When I had first started Karate training, I read somewhere how a student recounted that if his Master shouted “One more time!” just once more, he thought he would pass out. I know the feeling…. but somehow I never passed out. Because of my own endurance? A little, maybe…. mostly it was and is my Master’s ability to make myself and all of his students par-boil for an hour or two, never letting up but never pushing us into failure. Always sending us right to the limit of our endurance and holding us there longer than we ever dreamed possible. Showing us, making us show ourselves, that our biggest enemy was really ourselves…that we could overcome this enemy … that we could achieve anything we set out to accomplish.

“Again!!!! Last ten times!!!!”

Countless weekend trainings, where after 4-6 hours of what was supposed to be a 2 hour training, Sensei would shout the likes of “OK, 10 minute break, then only 2 more hours!!!!!!!”

“Harder!! Make shout!!!!!”

My students ask me every so often whether or not I have ever used my Karate to defend myself. I have once… at my doctoral thesis defense. Questions came firing at me left and right from multiple “attackers” (or so they seemed to be at the time…they were just the Faculty members doing their best to probe my confidence, the depth of my knowledge, and my ability to think on my feet). I’ll never know how I would have handled it had I never studied Karate, but at the time I remember breathing slowly and deeply (and, of course, not letting them detect the timing of my breathing), pulling my fear inside and projecting my ki outside, handling each question (attack) calmly…listening for its true meaning (watching what strike was coming rather than flinching), and providing the best answer that I could (making the appropriate block), and occasionally upstaging the question (countering the strike). The Faculty told me afterwards that I stood my ground well.

I hardly ever train with my Master anymore, but I hear his voice non-stop. So many times I’ve just repeated the echoing to my students. So many times I’ve repeated it to myself, in order to write one more page of a proposal for laboratory funding, to finish one more publication, to carry out one more experiment. Half of my late nights are mixed in a fog thick with flashbacks to early days in the dojo that resemble those of Quai-Chang about his days in the Shaolin temple in the “Kung Fu” TV show.

Once, in the middle of my doctoral training, Sensei Nagao asked me how things were going. I lamented that I studied, trained, ate a little, then went to sleep, and started it all over again the next day. He chuckled and said “That’s all you need!”

I can no longer separate my life of 57 years from my 37 years of Karate training. Even if I never put on my gi again, I would never be able to separate them. Those of you who have trained for over a decade will understand what I’m talking about. Those of you who are fairly new at training and find yourselves questioning why you have to do this or that, why so many pointless repetitions, etc., Just train. Find a good Sensei and train. Train, train, train, then train some more. As long as you have a good Sensei, every punch, every block, will ultimately enrich your abilities in many aspects of your life. Your abilities to perform at your job, to deal with life’s upsets, to interact with others, will all be enhanced. You will learn to “see through” much of what comes at you, whatever the challenge.

midnight….. eyes blurry, hands weak….

time to crawl home… time to just lay down right here on the floor and sleep until whenever…

He has to call a break soon…

It echoes again: “PUSH YOURSELF!!!!!”

Wait, for a minute, I thought I was in the dojo… I’m in my lab…

Is there really any difference?

I run one more biochemical assay…

Tom Shea is the author of “Paper Wraps Rock”
Karate Master and University Professor Tom Shea shares his experience with how earnest yet peaceful martial arts training can enrich one¹s entire life and bring out the winner inside everyone. Not everyone can be a tournament champion or a great fighter, but the confidence that can be gained from training as it was originally intended… training which uses one¹s mind and not just one’s fist provides skills for health, peace of mind, school, career advancement, and personal relationships.

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