I was discussing the idea of "repetition beats intensity" with a new and older student. That is to say, a student, new to karate, but well acquainted with the world. He was concerned about his speed of learning. When you first start kata, it can seem overwhelming, as well it is. The first katas are simple, kinesthetically speaking, but they represent a different psychological approach than most people are used to. Intentional simplicity? Very confusing.
But this post is not about kata, but about where one goes with one's karate. This student was intimidated by the learning curve. Yet the learning curve is not what karate is about. Sure, everyone is climbing that curve, but where you are on it, and how fast you climb, it is irrelevant, as long as you don't stop. It's hard to see that when you begin, hard to look at others and gauge the progression one will follow oneself.
I said "You'll be surprised at what you can do five years from now," and he laughed, unsure if he'd be here five years from now, let alone punching and kicking. That's irrelevant. At every point in life's path, one came make an argument about age.
- I've heard kids (!) who look at another kid, and wish they'd started younger.
- I know teens who feel like they missed their opportunity, since the large number of new students are in that 6-10 age range.
- College students have told me they are out of shape who want to get into shape, but they can't get past the mental obstacle of what they seen on TV.
- I know working adults in their who wish they'd started in college, when they had more free time.
- I know athletes who are past their peak of physical shape who feel that sticking to a physical lifestyle is pointless, that the only direction to go is downhill.
- Many a middle aged parent pushes their child into karate, living vicariously a little bit, but shaking their heads vigorously at the idea of joining an adults' class. They actually say, "Let me start exercising a bit, then I'll join"!
- Retirees with free time tell me that there isn't enough time left for them to become experts.
The point of all this is, the time to start is now. The time to quit is never. What others do is not important. I think older students have a more accurate perspective here. When you realize your mortality, you realize it's now or never. We frequently forget that life has a finite duration and put things off indefinitely. If one must consider time, ask how much was wasted, not how much is left. Ideally, don't ask that question at all, just live in the moment, learn in the moment, and continue down the path of the karateka. You will progress. You will be more than you once were.