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Seek perfection of character

February 20, 2007|by LAURA BELL

What comes to mind when I say karate? Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, breaking boards with your bare hand? That's what most people think. I know people who can probably break boards. They might not be as fast as Jackie Chan but they are definitely close.

I take Shotokan karate at the Hag-erstown Shotokan Karate Club ? part of the International Shotokan Karate Federation ? through the Washington County Recreational Department.

I began karate when I was in fifth grade. I became interested after watching karate movies with my dad. I wanted to be like the stars. Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan ? they could kill a guy with one punch. They were good guys who always won.

It wasn't until after I spent years begging my parents for a class that I realized there was more to kicking and hitting people than I thought. At the dojo, I learned how to defend myself, but I also learned self-discipline, confidence and certain other values I think are very important. At the end of each class, we say, in Japanese, "Seek perfection of character, refrain from violent behavior, be faithful, endeavor, respect others." I have grown to understand these values, and I try to use them in my life.

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During the time I've taken karate, I've learned different kicks, blocks and punches. I also know several katas, which are sequences of the kicks, blocks and punches we study as we advance from belt level to belt level. Katas are designed to help students improve the skills involved in the belt level they are working on.

When I first started taking karate classes, I was told that I needed to be more assertive and have more spirit. In particular, this meant that I needed to kia (shout) more. I'm still the quiet one in the class.

Since I've been taking karate, I have had a boost in my confidence. I'm not aggressive and I'm not the most assertive in the class, but I know I'm not as quiet as I was when I first started. I have work to do before I'm even close to reaching my goal ? to be a black belt.

I'm now a brown belt, so there are many more details of karate that I need to learn and improve upon. Just like in any other sport, I have to practice as much as possible. This isn't always easy with school and other priorities. But karate has taught me to stick with something, even when it's difficult to do.

I've learned that if I want something ? to earn my next belt or achieve anything else ? I have to work as hard as I can and practice.

Since beginning karate, I have a larger appreciation for all of those Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee movies. The people in those kinds of movies have worked hard and earned their places as the best.

Practice makes perfect ? this definitely comes to mind when I think of karate. But even though I have many things to work on and improve, I appreciate where I am right now in karate. I know I will improve.

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