The Importance of Discipline
Discipline comes in several different forms. There is general discipline, meaning how you behave around others and how you relate to others; there is self-discipline, meaning the ability to control yourself when faced with temptation or when faced with trying circumstances whatever they may be; and there is a discipline, meaning something that is studied carefully, pursued for self-improvement or simply followed as a way of life, be it an art, a hobby or a religion.
Karate, and other forms of budo (martial arts), comprise all three stated forms of discipline. Karate requires interaction with other practitioners according to certain expected manners and forms of behavior. Karate requires self-control, often self-restraint and therefore self-belief in one’s abilities; and finally Karate is a martial discipline, that is to say a martial art that requires very strict adherence to set methods and rules in order to ultimately be successful and to reach the higher levels.
Regarding general discipline, an instructor has the responsibility to show the student the correct michi/do (path/Way) of Karate. It is the instructor’s responsibility to set expectations regarding proper etiquette in the dojo (training hall), expectations regarding how a Karate student should behave and finally some goals for each and every student, in order to help the student individually to become a good Karate student but more importantly to help the student become a productive and respected member of the dojo. The instructor’s responsibility of course does not stop there but this should be one of the main goals of any martial arts instructor – to set expectations, to help a student transition into the role of a good club member and to set goals for the student’s growth.
The second form of discipline that is mentioned, that of self-discipline, is one that the martial arts instructor, or any teacher for that matter, has only indirect control over. Self-discipline, as in the nature of the word “self”, has to come from within the student. It can only be encouraged, cajoled and modeled by the instructor but the ultimate responsibility lies with the student. However it doesn’t lie in a student’s technical ability or knowledge of Karate, it lies instead in a decision that the student must make for him/herself. That decision is simply, “Is Karate (or in real life, anything you want to replace this word with) important enough to deserve my full attention and my best effort?” If the answer is ‘yes’ then you need self-discipline, if it’s ‘no’ then go and find something that inspires you (and by the way you will still need self-discipline!).
Karate is a discipline as well as being a form of discipline. I believe it holds endless challenges for those who make the decision to follow the path or the Way but if it’s not for you then you should make that decision too. After all you owe it to yourself!