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The Unexpected Gift of Karate



Can learning to punch and kick bring you closer to your true self – even to God? It’s a secret the Shaolin monks knew fourteen hundred years ago. And it’s changing lives today.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2001 issue of Spirituality & Health. Physically I have always been an exercise-avoiding wuss. Yet all my life I have been drawn to Eastern traditions, including the martial arts, and when the chance to study karate dropped into my lap, in the form of a month’s free lessons won at a PTA fundraiser, I jumped at the chance. I studied, taking two or three one-hour classes a week for three years, gradually working my way up to the green belt, about a third of the way to the coveted black. At first I was a timid, weepy little thing, afraid of “flunking” class. Gradually, though, the karate worked its unique magic on me, and I was drawn into this amazing art form — created, it is said, in 400 B.C. as exercise for Buddhist monks. I got stronger physically, yes. But there was something else going on. There were more lessons to come. First, however, my dojo closed abruptly. For months I shopped around, experimenting with different schools and styles — there are dozens — and finally found another school that felt right. Sensei Jason Hoffman …

Gay Norton Edelman is a senior editor at McCall’s magazine. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons.

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