In this “Where are they now” feature, Clay Blum reflects on his martial arts experiences. Blum started training in karate in 2006 and was dedicated throughout his junior and senior year in high school. He also placed second in forms at the 2007 US Open World Karate Championships, one of the biggest martial arts tournaments in the world.
At first, my martial arts training began a mild fascination that quickly grew into an insatiable appetite for everything martial arts-related.
In a matter of weeks, I went from a fairly lazy, inactive, average student to a very active one whose grades were improving markedly.
In a few years, I went from a novice white belt to a more educated, more disciplined brown belt with a greater understanding of what martial arts is really about.
I trained for about three years and eventually my life of work and school made it too difficult to attend regularly. I wish I could still attend, but I have taken away from my experience several trophies, and most importantly, life skills that I will never forget. I am thankful I was able to be a part of that group and that my instructor was so influential and really cared about his students.
While I have been inactive for quite for some time now there is not a single day that goes by that I do not think about everything I have learned from my instructors, Joe Chianakas and David Hawkey. My skills have certainly diminished to a degree, though I still practice what I remember when I can.
However, I will never forget the ultimate characteristics I learned from them: discipline and self-confidence. It is these two attributes that have gotten me to where I am today.
Even after several years of training my instructors would still have us practice a form (kata) we learned as a yellow belt, which was very early on in training. I thought it was of little benefit at first until I realized that, even after three years of practicing it, the form was far from perfect. The idea behind it all was to hammer the idea that nothing we do is ever perfect, and thinking that it is perfect will breed laziness.
The discipline I learned in karate was my favorite part of karate every day I went to class. I never wanted to sit cross-legged on the floor during our “lectures” on karate history. I always hoped that we would have to sit zazen, a traditional posture that was usually uncomfortable. I enjoyed pushing myself to sit for as long as I could like that.
Eventually, that aspect carried over to my daily life. I began to actually do my homework and study. It was the same idea – push myself to do something I really don’t want to do because it is good for me.
That discipline has gotten me to where I am today. I am currently employed at Caterpillar in a part-time office job in a division where my hard work will eventually help propel me further in the company. Of greater importance to me, I am attending Bradley University as a Communications major (another influence from my instructor) and have scholarships due to my high GPA.
I could not have hoped for that if I had never become fascinated by karate, and ultimately moved from just loving the physical hard work it required, but loving the discipline it instilled in me. Studying karate has made me a better person and has changed my life for the better.
Even if I can’t attend classes, the lessons I learned will always stick with me.