Two lessons from Karate

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The other day, we attended a Karate belt ceremony for my youngest son Zachary. I don’t put a high priority on my children playing sports but I sort of like Karate. It might come in useful some day and I like a lot of the philosophy behind Karate or at least the philosophy of the Karate school he goes to. There is a lot of emphasis on character development there.

I was wondering through the school and noticed this sign which made an impression on me.


Of course, the philosophy behind this sign is not just true for Karate. It applies to music and any other discipline too. The truth is that talent is highly overrated. What matters far more is the discipline to practice day by day without quitting.

Think about the successful people in your life. Now ask yourself how many of them are ultra talented or ultra intelligent. Very likely, you will conclude that it is not intelligence and talent that makes them different. If anything, their common trait is just being ordinary people who work hard and don’t quit easily.

Ordinary people do great things when they are disciplined and determined. It is as simple as that. Yes, I know that God can use anyone but the truth is that He has a preference for rewarding those that are faithful and diligent. That is a truth scattered throughout the Bible from Proverbs to the gospels.

There is another big theme to Karate and you see it most when the children are breaking boards. Now I know that it does not take a lot of power to break those boards but children do not really know that. To them, it is a very big deal and you can see the conflict going on in their brains when it is their turn.

Here is the curious thing: while there is a bit of drama, the results are absolutely 100% predictable: those that believe they can break the board do; those that don’t believe they can break the board don’t.

I know some people get weird with this concept and I am not advocating a Star Wars theology. The mind does not project some kind of force that breaks the board. But there is no doubt whatsoever that the mindset affects the force with which the board is struck. Children that are confident strike harder than those that aren’t. Confidence is the only differentiating factor.

So there we have the two traits that Karate emphasizes that are uber important in every area of life: discipline and confidence. That is a great and sobering lesson to those of us that are parents in how we prepare our children.

And it is a great lesson for all of us in our music and other areas of life too.