I had just graduated fifth grade with all A’s and on the first day of summer vacation, my best friend’s dad rewarded us with a day at a nearby Karate tournament. He had front-row tickets; I was so excited I could hardly stand it. Other than looking through the window at the dojo Karate school that was down the street from our house, I’d only seen Karate fights in the movies. This time I’d be up front and close to the action.
Before starting the actual fights, the school put on several demonstrations. There were guys and girls showing their styles and techniques, and some of them were my age. I especially liked the weapons demonstrations with Nunchakus, swords, throwing-stars, and the like.
After the demos, some of the karate teachers, known as Senseis, and their students went through the crowd passing out fliers inviting people to join their schools. I recognized the teacher from the school near my house and waved at him. He came over and I told him how cool the demos were, and that I would love to learn how to do Karate. He told me it took a total commitment to work through the process; but if I’d give him that commitment (and $30 bucks a month), he would help me succeed.
Well, I came from a large family and my folks didn’t have $30 bucks a month to spend on Karate. So, I got a paper route and mowed lawns in order to pay for it myself. Nothing was going to stop me from doing this.
On the first day of class, the Sensei explained how the training worked. There were five levels or phases of the training, and whenever you completed a phase, you were awarded a different color belt to show your achievements. Each phase took an average of 90 days to complete and was broken down into 30-day segments. In the first month, we were going to exercise –a lot! We had to build endurance, and strength. And, we had to teach our muscles new habits, new ways to move. Then during the second month, we would learn punching, kicking, and blocking techniques and start putting them together into routines (or katas in Japanese). In the 3rd month, we’d just practice-practice-practice until we could perform those katas in our sleep. The rest of the phases would work exactly the same way. All told, it would take a little over a year to reach Black Belt (expert) status.
It wasn’t easy. There were all kinds of distractions. Getting up at five am every morning to deliver papers in all kinds of weather made me want to quit more than a few times. Mowing lawns and shoveling snow was no fun either. On top of it all, I had to keep my grades up or I’d be forced to quit. But, through it all, I want you to know that I showed up at that dojo nearly every day over that year no matter what it took. I worked my butt off. I earned my Black Belt, became a paid instructor, and was a “featured” tournament fighter and demonstrator. I wanted it more than anything else in the world, and with commitment, hard work and excellent instruction, I achieved my goal.
Things aren’t that different today. I have things I’m trying to do; goals I’d like to achieve. There’s still no easy way to make them happen. In fact, with my age, unemployment, and disabilities, it’s gotten harder. I’ve proven to myself and to others, over and over again throughout my life, that when I dedicate myself to a purpose, I always make very good progress towards it. When I choose not to give up, whatever the challenges, or however long it takes, I achieve my goals.
I’ll bet you have goals too. You also have disabilities; in many cases, there is really nothing you can do about them. Disabilities don’t make you any less a person with dreams and desires. They might be small, they might be huge, but you have a right to pursue them just like anybody else. If you pick a goal and dedicate yourself to it, and believe with your whole being, you WILL make good progress towards it. If you choose to NEVER give up no matter what it takes or how long it takes, you will achieve it. You CAN do it!
~James Medley @matrix