The moment we stepped into Alpha Martial Arts in Seattle, we quickly learned it's all about respect, tradition and rules in this discipline.
Before we walked onto the mat, we got suited up, stood with our hands by our sides, and bowed.
The first thing Master Keith Busch taught us is the horse stance, which is essentially a really wide squat.
Busch also told us the key is to show confidence and shout "Kiai,” which is a Japanese term used in martial arts when performing an attacking move. Busch said yelling will give us 15% more power. When we forgot to yell, he made us do pushups.
There are two disciplines of karate in the Olympics: Kata and Kumite.
Athletes choose from a list of 102 Kata and will perform a sequence of movements. Kata is non-contact and Olympians will be judged on speed, strength, focus and balance.
Kumite, the other discipline, is sparring, which is scored.
Busch taught us a basic Kata, which includes various forms of blocking, punching and kicking. Learning just one set of movements takes a lot of focus and repetition.
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"You know, it takes 10,000 times doing something perfectly to be an expert,” explained Busch. “And for every time you do that wrong, it takes away two, right? So, if you throw a jab and you get lazy, well, I just took away four jabs of my 10,000 count, right?"
For over an hour, we punched, kicked, blocked and worked up quite a sweat from the class. We also gained a new appreciation for the sport that is more challenging mentally than it is physically.
"It's getting your body and being confident and just staying focused,” said Busch. “You know, anything's easy to do for two, three minutes. But you guys did it for over an hour. You did great at the strikes and the kicks. You're really natural."