I’ve found it best to be a difficult person to categorize. As long as I can remember I urged myself to be the exception to the rule. As a young man I associated myself with many social groups, never attaching too deeply into any one circle of friends. I tried to stay as diverse as possible. Over the years I have dwelled in variety, feeling at times like a chameleon. Though I look like I belong to others, really I am camouflaged into established patterns. I have walked the path of many paths; sampling but never fully devoting my identity. In the past few months however, I have found power and strength that comes with standing out from the pattern with intention. Let me tell you how I found it.
In June I was honored by my Sensei, Mr. James McLain. He took me and three of my karate brothers to the USKK International Tournament in Peoria IL. Present at the tournament were several different styles of karate; goju ryu, shorin ryu, shuri ryu and other shorin ryu divisions. Our school is rather small, at most we have 5 or 6 full time students but we are very close. On the first night there was a seminar being held as a sort of meet and greet for the start of the weekend. The seminar was taught by a head of a style of karate, rather obscure. I noticed that the other more advanced students treated it like a buffet line, sampling this and that, trying to eat a little bit of everything. I tried to use the techniques presented and figure out what my Sensei would have me do. I did karate the way my Sensei has taught me. He teaches shuri ryu or shorei ryu, similar but distinctly different from that of the seminar’s leader. I found strength in the distinction and confidence in my chosen style. I was sure I wouldn’t blend in, and that is just fine. I could with honesty of heart declare who I am and what I am doing. The rest of the tournament (another story) served to deepen and reinforce the lesson from the first night. Even now I find difficulty expressing that lesson fully.
I stopped going through the buffet line and started eating one dish. In my past I would have been intimidated by the diversity. I would doubt and not trust in myself. I found the power behind the decisive declaration of place and person and purpose. The strength in person that comes with decision and intention.
It helped that my Sensei is the man in elevated karate circles, one of the venerable founders of American karate and a great teacher.
Since the tournament I have found a sense of strength with being confident with your identity. I am not sure it has much to do with self esteem, it seems simpler that that. It is more a feeling of comfort and confidence that the way you are and the way you do is just fine and just right.
At some point each of us must walk the path of many paths. Important time must be spent sampling teachers, styles, habits, ceremonies, religions and philosophies. And one’s fear and doubt will always be present listening to the voices saying “you are not enough”, or “my way is so much better than yours”. But a solid foundation yields a strong pillar. Incredible power and strength can be found by strongly, confidently declaring a path, a school, a way. And not to the exclusion of other knowledge. This is not a nod for ignorance or arrogance. Really we are all on paths leading mostly the same place. Knowing which path you are on gives your ego somewhere to land. I feels right to say, “this is the path I am on” and it feels great to know this is the right one (for me) and I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s. In short I suppose follow your heart and believe in yourself. more