2023 Karate Goals and Many Reminders of Why I Train

2023 Karate Goals and Many Reminders of Why I Train
Photographed August 2022 (11 years of training) after my second degree black belt test in Shotokan.

This year's top three karate goals are:

  1. Flexibility: To improve my athleticism, but also to reduce injury (specifically in my lower back which has been an ongoing problem for years). I've been making a concerted effort to improve my flexibility since July of 2022.

    A work colleague of mine (same age and recently competed in an Iron Man competition) recommended that I try an app called Pliability (used to be called ROMWOD). This conversation occurred after I had injured myself on that very work retreat (while practicing katas after our meetings). As my late friend, Ronald Acosta, D.C. often said, "pain is good motivator."

    Since I started the program,  I've been utilizing the stretching program an average of five to six times per week. It has unquestionably cut down on my lower back problems, as well as helped my kicks to be higher, and my shoulder to be more flexible. It's a slow and methodical process that is quite boring. Regardless, I can't argue with the results. The total time spend is about two to two and a half hours per week.
  2. More Workouts: Add at least one or two more workouts per week.

    Consistently, I've been doing the following on a weekly basis: Two cardio kickboxing classes, two regular karate classes, one black belt karate class, and an average of one and a half hours a week of practicing. All of this occurs Tuesday through Friday. During the weekends, I don't have a dedicated workout routine.

    In the summer (on weekends), we're usually off hiking, biking, or walking as a family. However, in the winter, I become quite sedentary and have noticed that I'm falling behind of where I would like to be.

    Adding a couple of weekend workouts doesn't need to be much. After all,  I have an elliptical machine, a pull-up/dip bar, dumbbells, and a nice mat. I've already started these weekend workouts since Thanksgiving, and I will continue in 2023.
  3. Focus on Weaknesses: Practice sparring, throws / sweeps, and self defense more. These are my least favorite aspects of karate and also my weak points. At least one weekly practice of the month should focus on these deficiencies.

Many Reminders of Why I Train

I've haven't practiced karate at all these past two week. As I write this, we're finishing our vacation in San Diego. It's been quite relaxing and nice to not be achy or sore on a daily basis. I'm actually feeling quite refreshed. However, there's been more than a few instances this vacation that have acted as a reminder of why I must continue to train.

From a health and general fitness standpoint, there's two that come to mind:

  1. This last week we walked and hiked at least twenty five miles, and it's been no trouble at all. I feel great and have lots of energy.
  2. One hike involved getting my knee and foot very high to be able to step up on a ladder up quite a ways away from the ground. Thanks to the stretching and chambering of our kicks, I was able to do this without (too much) of an issue.

Of course, the most important reason for learning karate is self defense which includes protecting my family. On a personal note, I'm not a very large or strong man. I can't lift a whole heck of a lot, nor am I very tall. I've also never been in a real fight. I can't wrestle worth a darn, but I'm trying to make up for those shortcomings. Since 2011, I've been training in Shotokan Karate, and recently earned my second degree black belt. Hopefully, if push ever comes to shove, I'll be able to hold my own and come out on top in a real world situation.

From a self defense standpoint, there were more than a few occurrences during this vacation that reminded me of why staying in good karate shape is so important:

  1. As we were walking on the main boardwalk of Mission Beach (parallel to the ocean), a man that was standing on an intersecting street weirdly and very closely turned abruptly and started following my wife and two girls. They were a few steps in front of me so I could keep an eye on everyone. I immediately closed the gap, put myself between them and the man following, made eye contact, slowed down and let him know that I was aware of his presence. He thankfully backed off, but we all were all too aware of his suspicious behavior.
  2. There's a crowded amusement park in Mission Beach, with a lot of unsavory characters there. The entire neighborhood often smells from marijuana, thugs take over the boardwalk with their loud music, skateboards, and travel in packs. Nothing specific here, but you definitely need to be alert, and it takes away from the enjoyment of the ocean view.
  3. Strange men walking by and leering at our girls while approaching them. This has happened at least twice on our trip. There was one weirdo today that was walking towards us on the sidewalk. He walked uncomfortably close to us, eyeing our girls, and even turned around to get another view as he walked past. I made sure to make eye contact with him and let him know that I was watching.
  4. Druggies, bums,  mentally ill, deranged degenerates, unsavory characters, and homeless hang out in the most crowded areas down here. Quite often, they are erratic in their behavior and movements, and I had to be quite aware of any upcoming dangers in our path, make sure the family steered clear, and place myself as a first line of defense to protect my family.
  5. At the AirBnB we're staying at, on two different nights, we had people open the gate, come up to the door,  knock and ring the bell. Unfortunately, there's no peephole, and no way of us looking out the door at them. Regardless, there's no way in hell we were going to open that door. Now, if someone really wanted to get in, they could have, and I would be the one to protect our family. No way 911 would be there in any amount of reasonable time to protect us.
  6. Downtown, in the heart of the city, on New Years Eve, we had a fantastic dinner with friends. We ate outside, and I faced the street and large crowd in order to keep an eye on things. We had a great time, finished our dinner, and decided to walk down the sidewalk. The people were literally elbow to elbow and bumping in to one another. My friend was in front of us - he's quite tall and visible. Then behind him, our two wives, both shorter than I am, with me in the rear to keep an eye on them. Most of the people there were all taller and larger than me, and there was no room to move around, throw a punch, or a kick. Had something happened, it would have been awful. Luckily nothing did, but again I had to be on guard.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have any delusions of martial art grandeur, but I wasn't completely afraid to go out and enjoy San Diego. I have some comfort in my training, and that I could reasonable protect my loved ones and myself if needed.

That being said:

"Karate is like boiling water, if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool."
Gichin Funakoshi - founder of Shotokan Karate

In conclusion, now that it's been two weeks without practicing, I feel less powerful than I did when we first got here. Tomorrow we head back, and this week both our girls and I will resume training. We've all been reminded about the importance of Karate and the need to keep improving.