When I was younger, my father always spoke of the importance of having your ‘Thing’. A ‘Thing’ that can teach you about self-worth, what it feels like to achieve something or just a hobby that allows you to shape your future self. Over the years I always thought that your ‘Thing’ is simply an emotional outlet or something that comes naturally to you, however as I’ve grown up I’ve realised it’s not what comes easiest to you but the ‘Thing’ that you work hardest for.
I started off attempting to find my ‘Thing’ through all the usual outlets a 9-year-old girl would; First there was art – which I possessed no talent in no matter how many YouTube videos I watched. Second there was hair & make up – which ended abruptly when I realised my barbie’s hair couldn’t grow back. Then finally there was dancing – which was brought to an abrupt end because I didn’t fit the usual body type and attitude. When all hope was lost, my father pushed his uncommitted and uncoordinated daughter out of her comfort zone and into the world of martial arts.
I walked into my first class with a big smile on my face and an idea that it would be easy, how hard could it be?! I’d watched my dad train for years and it’s just kicking and punching right – Oh boy was I wrong. Every movement we did, stance we took or pad we punched there was always something to improve on. Karate didn’t feel natural at all, I struggled and only continued attending classes to spend quality time my with my father. I was on the verge of quitting when my father reminded me of the importance of finding my ‘Thing’, he brought my attention to a Calvin Coolidge quote that we hung on our study’s wall for as long as I can remember.
After my father took the time to explain the meanings of the more challenging vocabulary, it was then my younger self found a reason to push through those awkward years of terrible technique, unconvincing kata’s & few successes. My time with the Japan Karate Association started to blur into years of mediocracy, years of feeling I wasn’t living up to my surname and years of feeling like my body couldn’t do what I wanted it to. It was during these mediocre times I started embracing all aspects of my ‘thing’, living and breathing the dojo kun, the ethos that we as karateka should not only train by, but embody;
This simple collection of words began to influence not only how I approached my art, but how I approached myself. With my father by my side and whole lot of expectations, I entered into the JKA competitive circuit with the same awkwardness I started with. It was only when I began the constant rollercoaster of multinational training camps, state championships and national championships, that I discovered my passion and drive to aim high. My body started to respond to my hard work, my muscles started to remember the movements and I began to develop the physical and mental strength to push through the barriers that had previously halted me. My experiences, my sensei’s and my newly gained coordination provided me with all the tools to become a 1st dan black belt at the age of 15. I’d finally found my ‘Thing’.
After I passed my 1st dan grading, I embraced the competitive side of karate. Travelling throughout the southern hemisphere gave me the opportunity to come face to face with different opponents of all shapes, sizes and cultures. After a few broken bones and calloused knuckles, I had managed to achieve national recognition and a collection of trophies ranging from a state levels, to the Jeff Green Cup for most improved junior at a bi-national level.
Following a win at the national championships, a long-time family friend and head of JKA Australia & New Zealand invited me to stay and train with him in Tokyo, Japan. With the national team selection around the corner I jumped at the opportunity and made the same plane journey that my father once took himself, following in his footsteps to stay and train at JKA headquarters.
My time in Tokyo was spent honing my inner karateka, training 2-3 times a day for 3 hours at a time. Focusing on just training & embracing the Japanese lifestyle, I was trying to cram in as many karaoke bars, gyozas, sumo fights and bullet trains as possible. Yet every time we stepped into the dojo we were to endeavour through the pain, to train as unit and seek perfection of not only our technique, but our fighting spirit. The nine-year-old girl had transformed into a sixteen-year-old Karate Kid with a hunger not only to win, but to achieve what the mind & body says in unachievable. I had grown up into the karateka worthy of being a national team member and upon my return was selected to compete at the JKA Funakoshi Gichin World Cup.
Following my 8-year competitive stint and multiple titles won, I hung up my mouth guard and breastplate at the age of 20 and continued to just train. I discovered I’d achieved what I wanted most from just doing my ‘Thing’. My ‘Thing’ had led to a gain in self-confidence and control as a person, as a daughter, as a student and as a karateka. Although I am yet to perfect anyone of these titles, I have learnt the key to my success; No matter what challenges I face, it’s the perseverance and determination that can lead to my greatness. The ability to press on when it’s not easy, to be honest with yourself and to acknowledge your imperfections. To simply realise that you cannot be perfect but seeking it and the willingness to try in the face of potential failure is simply enough.
Thanks for reading, Brogan x