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30 Years Training

I am often reminded of a saying my friend and senior Sensei Pat Nakata is fond of: "There is a difference between practicing Karate for 30 years, and practicing Karate for 1 year 30 times.

Now, I have practiced Karate for over 30 years -- about 35 or 36 years. So it is easy for me to say that "I have practiced Karate for 35 years!" But have I really practiced Karate for 35 years, or have I practiced Karate for 1 year 35 times? Hmmmm?

The truth is probably somewhere in between. Each of my first few years were probably separate years, but I am sure that there were many years when I was stuck and doing the same things over and over again with little or no results. In that sense, these were "1 year over and over" years. I was stuck for a long time.

Then, in 2002, I was lucky enough to get unstuck, thanks to the help of many people and fine Sensei. Every year since then has definitely been a separate year -- no repeats.

So some of my 35 years have been separate years and some have been repeats. And I think that it is a natural thing. We all go through periods when we are learning and improving. We also go through periods when we reach a plateau and feel stuck. Sometimes we might even feel like we are moving backward.

During these difficult and frustrating times, the main thing is to keep practicing and not give up. If we give up, then it is all over. But if we keep working at it, we have the chance to reach the point where we can move forward.

In my case, I reached a point where my frustration was so great that I was figuratively dying for a solution. And when I had the opportunity to learn and move forward, my pent up frustration was turned into determination to practice hard, study what I had learned, and keep moving forward.

If things had always been easy for me, I don't think I would have had such determination. I probably would have taken things for granted.

It is not good to practice for 1 year 30 times. But it is pretty rare to be able to practice for 30 years straight with constant progress. Sometimes we reach plateaus and that is the time to work even harder and to examine what it is that is holding us back. Sometimes the mountain cannot be reached until you have crossed the plateau. Maybe crossing the plateu makes your legs strong enough to climb the mountain.

One of my sons was talking to me about Karate. He told me that he admired me for something. This was a little surprising to me because my sons and I generally tease each other and they are all stronger, faster, and in many ways better at Karate than me.

My son told me that he admired that I never gave up. As a result, I learned a new way to move (new to me) and so did my sons. If I had given up, my sons would not have learned how to move either, nor would our students.


Charles C. Goodin