Being a student of the martial arts for 17 years has taught me that karate is much more than punching and kicking. Rather than being solely an aerobic activity, karate has a non-physical aspect in which every physical technique has a lesson that can be applied to daily life. One example is the flying side kick, and its philosophical teachings are especially important for college students.
I was at a karate class over the summer when my sensei led his students in a rather acrobatic drill to practice the flying side kick. The exercise involved a forward roll over an obstacle, followed by a flying side kick into the bag. If our kick sent us sailing off the cliff (also known as the edge of the mat), we were “invited” to perform 25 mountain climbers to make our way back up the mountain. Despite our best efforts, many of us found ourselves flying too far forward and landing off balance in an attempt to reach the bag and throw a strong kick.
This tendency to put our minds on the end result rather than focusing on moving from a grounded stance reflects our preoccupation with the future, both in the dojo and in daily life. We tend to worry about upcoming tasks while making plans and to-do lists. As a college student, I am constantly writing and checking notes in my planner for assignment due dates, meetings with professors and on-campus events. While this practice enhances my success as a student, it pulls my mind out of the present moment and into the future.
What I learned from the flying side kick is that when I feel myself being consumed with thoughts of the future, I need to bring my attention inward and find my stability. This can be accomplished by pausing to take a few deep and mindful breaths. When we practice being present, we can appreciate the full experience of life while feeling calm and grounded. As the busyness of school sets in, I encourage you to consider the lessons of the flying side kick and allow yourself time every day to slow your breath and appreciate the beautiful present moment.
“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design in the present.” – Jim Rohn