Jamey Bazes is a lifelong Hudson Valley martial artist and senior student at Precision MMA in LaGrange, NY. Here he recounts how his early experiences in Karate classes and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu taught him valuable life lessons.
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How Training in Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Classes as a Child Impacted My Life as an Adult
I still remember being eight years old and my reaction to seeing The Karate Kid for the first time. “I want to do that”, I said to myself. And so it began. Four days a week of training at my local Hudson Valley Karate classes. I actually remember the very first technique I ever learned: a defense again a stranglehold consisting of two elbows and a hammer fist. I remember getting back from that first class and practicing the move in my backyard under the hot July sun. I remember feeling empowered that I actually knew how to perform a martial arts move.
Little did I know that that day in the Hudson Valley Karate class would begin my life long love affair with the martial arts and that this training would bring about many positive changes in my life as I got older. However, even as a child I would soon find out that this path would not be an easy one. It took me much longer to earn my first belt than most of my peers. I clearly remember wondering why students who had begun training after me were being awarded their belts first. Even as a young child I remember thinking to myself “is my Sensei testing me? Is there some reason he wants to make me wait longer before giving me that next belt?” To this day I am convinced that my Sensei was trying to teach me the lessons of patience and perseverance. Karate classes would test me more than anything I had faced at that point in my life. When I finally did get my first belt I would find that the next few did not come much more easily.
Earning the right to take a “belt test”, as they were referred to, was not easy and I remember that once during karate class I asked my Sensei whether or not I was ready for the “test” yet that he responded “don’t ask me when you are ready for your next belt test, I will tell you.” I never asked again, but it was very difficult to resist the temptation to do so. However, whenever I would be told I was ready for my next test and the date would be set for me to prepare, I would become jubilant. Knowing that the end was in sight and that I had a goal to work towards inspired me at this young age in a way that tests or papers in school could not. When the tests would finally happen, they would be emotionally trying. My instructor would stand there, stoic faced with a pen and clip board in hand watching my movements and marking things off. I could never read his expression and would wonder the entire time “how am I doing? Am I going to pass?” And then when the test would finally end and he would walk towards me, hand out stretched to shake mine and say “congratulations, you passed the test” the feeling of achievement would be incredible.
The most important memory I have of my early training though was when I took my 1st degree brown belt test. Looking back, what stands out was not the karate class where I received the belt or even the moments where I was doing well. Rather, it is the experience of getting punched in the stomach and knocked down during a sparring session with one of my more advanced peers. I remember that after falling I locked eyes with my instructor. As I did he looked down at me with a slight smile and a “knowing look”, as if he knew that this was an early test of my manhood and that my passing would be dependent upon my getting back to my feet again. Of course, I did, and I passed the test. It might seem like a small moment, but afterwards I felt like the toughest man in the entire Hudson Valley.
I only stayed in Karate class for one more belt mainly because I wanted to learn the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Much like my early years in Karate classes, belts did not come easy. Likewise, it had been my goal for years to take first place in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament, a task that would be years in the making. But when it did occur, and I won 2 tournaments in the span of 3 weeks, the victory felt that much sweeter because of how long it had taken me. Three years later I would win another two tournaments in only one week’s time. The lessons of patience and dedication I had learned as a youth in my Hudson Valley Karate classes served me well once again.
The end result is that the martial arts training I had as a child taught me patience and perseverance. When I would take exams in school I would usually be one of the last to finish, but I would simply smile to myself when other students would rush up to turn in their exams in only half the time, knowing that in the end I would probably do just as well as them, and I usually did. When I worked on a farm for one summer in my adult hood and certain tasks took me longer than others, who would be quick to criticize me for being slow, I would never acknowledge their remarks, and in the end I would be praised by my boss for my attention to detail.
I am convinced that in every martial arts instructor and every truly good teacher that I have had since my days in Karate that there has been present in each just a little bit of my first Sensei. The lessons he taught me about persistence have stood the test of time and crossed over into these other areas of my life. I have actually come to enjoy being made to work harder to achieve my goals, because I know that the end result will be that much more deserved. So now when a certain endeavor takes me longer than it might take some, or I am made to wait for some reward that I am working towards, I do not lose faith or become impatient. In fact, I would not have it any other way.
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