Article by Emanuel Giordano

Karate is a discipline suitable for everyone and for all ages!”: how many times have we heard it said, and how many times have we repeated it? So many. But is it really so? First of all we clarify that this sentence is obviously linked only to the world of traditional Karate, and not to Karate sport. The second, in fact, is a competitive activity where only the best athletes have a future ahead of them. After the competitive phase, in fact, the former champions can convert into sports Karate coaches during courses or seminars, while the others have no choice but to abandon the practice of the discipline (or enter the world of refereeing or federal bureaucracy). Traditional Karate, on the other hand, although its main objectives are combat training intended as personal (or third party) defense, and the physical, spiritual and mental training of the individual, today it is also practiced for other purposes. There are young and old people, men and women, who practice Karate to keep fit with a healthy activity, there are those who practice it to relieve daily stress, some because they are fascinated by this discipline, some to do physical activity in a group of people, etc., etc. Although they will probably never excel in practice, nothing prevents them from practicing alongside the most committed, convinced and performing karateka, nor from being able to become good practitioners and to be satisfied with what they are doing. Here then in the traditional Karate dojo we can find high-level practitioners and less skilled practitioners practicing side by side, respecting each other. From this first analysis it emerges therefore that, although Karate is suitable for everyone, only some can excel in the practice. But is that really all there is to it? Obviously not...

Every teacher knows well that among the various beginners enrolled in their dojo there is always someone who, for one reason or another, will sooner or later abandon the practice (or change dojo in search of something else). Normally these are not people who have movement or coordination difficulties, but people who have limits that are much more difficult to solve, problems that no teacher is able to fix. As in everything, it is the mind that controls what we do. Seemingly insurmountable limits, with the right attitude and the right willpower, can be faced and overcome. Let us think for a moment of the various disabled athletes who, in the various disciplines, still manage to go on improving day after day; let's think of those people who, despite a thousand difficulties, manage to face everyday life;  think of those who, despite a bad injury or illness, are able to complete what they are doing; etc. etc. The same willpower and the same mental attitude can also lead karateka to excel, surpassing themselves, as well as those who were physically better predisposed, but at the same time less determined. However, the mind can also be a huge brake, and not just an accelerator. In fact, if it is true that those with strong determination and a good mental attitude can distinguish themselves from the average practitioner, the opposite is also true, that is, those who have a wrong mental attitude will tend to have problems practicing Karate. Problems that often lead to an inevitable abandonment of the practice. There are different types of wrong attitudes, but regardless of the historical era, they are roughly always due to the same reasons. Hence the problems encountered by the masters of the past can also be encountered today, and vice versa. Here are two extracts from two articles. The first was written by Kyan Chotoku sensei, while the second by Uechi Kanei sensei:

Students starting [practicing] Karate for the first time are motivated by several factors. Some start training for self-defense without doing any research on what karate really is; some have seen stimulating demonstrations of how to throw [down] and kick an opponent, and join [the group of practitioners] out of curiosity; some simply want to develop a strong, healthy and muscular body [like the one] they see in Karate exponents. Some of them believe that they will be able to move freely like the Tengu, and that their bodies will become as healthy as gold and iron after listening to some Karate explanations and [doing] some training. People like this start training with great enthusiasm, but if they don't see results after a short period of time, they start to get lazy and, little by little, they start quitting, until they finally stop exercising. Others believe that the rapid acquisition of skills comes from over-training, but then quickly drop out of school due to an injury or an inability to tolerate pain.” Kyan Chotoku, Karate no Omoide (1942) 
I teach in the best way I can, but today's young people don't have what it takes. There are many who practice for a while, but then drop out halfway. If you really think you want to learn Karate, you must first really love Karate. I work on the farm during the day and teach at night from 8pm to 11pm. I get up early every morning, and I never get enough sleep, but I never think about stopping. This is how much I love Karate, so I don't see it as a sacrifice.” Uechi Kanei, Making human beings: the Karate that a person can be proud of (1960)
In conclusion it is therefore clear that although Karate is really suitable for everyone, at the same time not everyone is suitable for practicing Karate, almost always due to a wrong mental attitude.
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata 2" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: kata" (here)
  • "Shorin-ryu Karate: The legacy of the bodyguards of the king of Okinawa" (here)
  • "The legend of the masters of Okinawan Karate: Biographies, curiosities and mysteries"  (here)