Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

Technique of the Week (May 18th, 2009)

From Matt Kaplan, Shihan

Ueshiro Okinawan Karate Family Club

State College, PA

Clues from Karate for Dealing with the Good Things in Life

Some previous Thought for the Week posts have explored the issue of what our karate training can offer during times of hardship, challenge, and loss. I found these insights and the ensuing discussion to be quite inspiring and helpful in my own life.

I also think it’s worth considering the question of what karate has to offer us in terms of how to deal with the good things that happen in life, such as receiving honors, awards, degrees, and job promotions. On one hand, this almost appears to be a non-issue. Conventional wisdom says that when completing a challenging task or accomplishing something that society deems worthwhile, a person deserves time to relax and celebrate.

However, there’s more to it, as I found out during a conversation I had with Hanshi in 1990, shortly after I received the good news that my dissertation was approved and I would be able to complete my doctoral studies at CUNY (after 10 long and often bleak years in grad school!!). After I told him my good news, he smiled, said congratulations, and with a straight face said something to the effect of “Now what?”

To be honest, his comment caught me totally off guard. I was expecting that he would say something similar to what I was hearing from family and friends, such as: “You made it.” “I bet you’re glad that’s behind you.” “So, are you gonna take it easy for a while?” “How do you plan to celebrate?”

No, not Hanshi. Instead, he immediately zeroed in on the issue of how I might use this credential to do higher level things in life. There was no sense that I was entitled to anything including the opportunity to wallow in a sense of relief or to engage in a round of self-congratulatory praise and paralysis.

Hanshi’s two words – Now what? – convey a lot of meaning. They remind us to continue to move forward in life in spite of reaching a goal or receiving some good fortune along the way. The “way of the warrior” involves continuing to strive to become more alert, capable, proficient, proactive, righteous, committed, and effective in what we choose to do in life. With this kind of thinking, the post-good news celebration has more zest and long-term meaning.

Matt Kaplan, Shihan

Ueshiro Okinawan Karate Family Club

State College, PA