One day last year, on a cold Saturday morning, I woke up earlier than normal for some reason. Stepping into the bathroom in order to take a shower, I stopped in front of the full sized mirror that my wife had me install the weekend before. As I was looking at myself, I really became disgusted. I decided to step on the scale, a common household item that I avoided like the plague. 283 it read. I just shook my head. I weighed 226 when I met my future wife, and I had really let myself go. It was at that moment, I decided that I had to make changes in my day to day life.
I had already lost weight once. I lost over 50 lbs in my early 20's, so losing weight wasn't any mystifying process. Something was different on this attempt though, the desire I had before wasn't there. I knew I had to do it, I just didn't have the drive. Then one night my 11 year old stepson came to me and told me he wanted to start practicing karate. I took him to his first class the next night. The instructor must have seen the interest in the class that night, because he invited me to bring some gym clothes to the next class. I did, and it was all downhill from there.
My first actual martial arts class , being a 280 lb clumsy oaf must have been so funny to watch. My instructor (sensei) was patient with me and my stepson, constantly fixing our stances, correcting our hand positions for our techniques, and I was having a blast! I absolutely loved it. I learned my first kata (taikyoku shodan , or first cause #1), I really thought I had accomplished something. After a few classes, I started studying martial arts history and philosophy at home. When I was in the gym, I found the desire I once had for working out was back! I wanted to be in the best shape I could in order to increase my proficiency in my art.
As I progressed in my martial arts career, I also noticed my gi (training uniform) was fitting a lot looser than it had when I started. I was actually losing weight! I had my first grading in march, I tested for red belt which is 9th kyu (10 total kyu grades until shodan, or black belt). At that point I weighed 250 or so, so I had made significant gains in my goal to lose weight. I kept getting better, and stronger, and more flexible. I entered my first national tournament in august and walked away a American Jukido Ryu National Champion. I've steadily dropped weight until baseball season this year. During and after the season, the weight training stopped, but the martial arts remained. I was down to 235 at my lowest when I was exercising. I've never been above 240 since I've stopped. I'm getting back at it now, I found a new gym in the town I live in. I've been running consistently again, and I have been faithful about practicing my art.
What's the point of this entire article. I could have said that martial arts can help keep one motivated. Martial arts can do a lot more than that. About a month ago, my wife and I were out at an outdoor concert. This guy was harassing my wife. I politely asked him to leave us alone, he got belligerent with me. He then took a swing, which was met with a strong outside V block which may have broken his arm when it contacted my elbow. After a palm strike to his solar plexus, he went down. I was escorted out of the venue (charges weren't filed because of witnesses saying I was defending myself) and he was carried out. Karate works regardless of what some people claim. It only takes one incident like the one I went through to make one glad he/she practices.
I felt silly at first when I started training. I've come to find out that martial arts can not only have an effect on your physical state, but it can help your mental state as well. I'm a lot more calm then I have ever been. If anyone is thinking about taking up a martial art, go ahead and take a class, you may be pleasantly surprised.
I originally wrote this article in September of 05. A lot has changed since then. I'm now 3rd kyu and a little over a year away from a black belt. I'm still kicking around 240 so the martial arts helped me keep my weight off.