The year was 1986. Ferris Beuller was having a day off, Karate Kid II made us wonder how Daniel ever won a single tournament match in the first place, and Koko B-Ware with Frankie the bird was riding high at the top of the WWF.
It was also the year I signed up at my local YMCA and started karate. A sport known for making a hero of the little guy and for a time it was a truly awesome fifteen year ride when I met many great people. But all things eventually come to a close as you go through life. So why did I quit so many moons later? Why should you? Glad you didn’t ask…
#5. Karate is not great for long term health
You’ve heard it a hundred times and you’re going to hear it again. Martial Arts is non-stop bad news for your long term health. Allow me to explain.
Seeing as a high percentage of amateur martial arts practitioners name drop MMA fighters in the hopes of validating their past-time, let’s bring them into the topic shall we? Those poor bastards are going to be sporting some of the most debilitating injuries into their senior years. Getting cold-cocked in the head on a regular basis hasn’t been shown to be a healthy lifestyle choice for professional athletes such as boxers or hockey players. Hockey players at least get helmets. These guys get TKO-level concussions by the bakers dozen and remember kids, brain damage is permanent.
But lets assume you’re at least smart enough to protect your melon. Every dojo knows of a hard-core guy who uses a makiwara. Makiwaras are boards sticking out of the ground you punch in order to perfect punch technique ( not $20 pads sold by cheap martial arts stores ). They are the equivalent of smashing your head against a brick wall in the hopes of improving your concentration. Advocates of these devices must be avoided at all costs as they are undeniable morons who think arthritis is an admirable long term goal.
While the makiwara is certainly not alone, it demonstrates a false assumption by many karate practitioners: that long-term repeated abuse with stupid gadgets in the name of tradition has no negative consequences on your body joints. That thinking prevails even though every last one of those makiwara guys is sporting calluses on their hands that should insure that by the time they’re 60, handling simple things like a knife and fork will be challenging.
#4. Recreation turns to Religion
In all fairness, this doesn’t truly happen until you hit senior belt levels. I was able to have a great old time in karate until I hit brown belt. Then it got progressively more difficult to balance life as preparing for black belt testing can be in technical terms, a real bitch.
But the test is not the problem. The problem is when you pass. At that point welcome to the world of politics. Welcome to the world of greasing palms and kissing babies in the hopes of moving higher up the totem pole past a Shodan. That belt that was once your big goal now becomes your noose.
I’ve seen instances where a senior belt is bucked down to brown belt because he took some time off. After all, we wouldn’t want to disgrace the integrity of the dojo by having some hack return and only know 90% of the katas would we? What if the Chen Zen Kung-Fu club kicked down the door and demanded a fight for the honor of our masters? See what I mean? Chaos.
But it gets crazier. Every dojo has a Messiah-Complex for someone in the organization. There’s always some story about the superhuman exploits of their founder or current Grand Poobah. And man, have I heard them all and then some. Got news for you all: Nakayama, Yuguchi, Tanaka and whatever other name you want to drop all put their pants on one leg at a time just like you and me. They neither had superpowers nor had vigilante careers on the side and were certainly no more spiritually enlightened than anyone else. They payed taxes, drove to work and in pure un-Zen like form gave someone who cut them off the finger. They went home, played with the kids and had normal, non-karate style sex with their wives.
So perhaps consider that whenever you hear another story about the time your Sensei killed a gang of muggers and karate chopped their remains into dust over the ominous sound of pan-flutes. Just sayin’.
Watching kids in karate is great as it’s good to see youngsters doing something besides growing roots in front of a cursed Xbox. Even better for teens as idle hands are the devils tool-shed. Or something like that. For these age groups, I concede that karate rocks and rocks hard.
However, the usefulness of karate diminishes exponentially past the age of 25. Well, unless you still live at home with your parents, in which case they appreciate any chance to get your failed man-child ass out of the house. For the rest of you adults who decided to man-up and get a job, a house and a mini-van…good luck balancing that and maintaining your position of integrity in the club. There’s a good reason karate club members see a decline as the members age. It’s not because their karate sucks or their Sensei’s are bad. It’s called having priorities.
However, the death blow to your karate career will be…
Karate is great if you’re young, have no job and your parents double as chauffeur. It sucks if you’ve developed a taste for the finer things in life. Like family.
Few things will beat the ever loving selfishness out of you with the force of a Dojo armed with aluminum bats like having kids. Assuming you’re parenting to an acceptable level, you will realize that leaving your family four times a week for several hours after work to train in karate is...if you’ll pardon my opinion…complete lunacy.
#1. Home Fitness
This is the one that finally put a bullet in my pursuit of the martial arts. The irony is that I found out about P90X during my short lived run with TaeKwonDo…which technically is less a martial art and more free-form leg swinging in tacky, badge covered pajamas. It occurred to me that for one months worth of fees I could buy P90X and save thousands of dollars by being fit at home without the politics, obscene cash drain, time away from my family and change rooms full of angst teenage boys hosing themselves down with so much Axe Body Spray you’d swear they were trying to attract a female moose.
P90X is everything martial arts claims to be and everything it fails at. Plyometrics, weight/circuit/core training, yoga, cardio…by golly Bruce Lee would have loved it! And I even went beyond P90X to P90X2, Asylum, Insanity, RushFit…because I controlled my fitness journey, not some paid Sensei. The results? Better speed, mobility, and most importantly, better balance with other things in life without political games and inflexible schedules. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Look, I’m not saying buying a DVD package is everyone’s flavor. You may like going to a dojo and if you do that’s great. But don’t think for a second you couldn’t do better elsewhere.