Offered by: Willy Strohmeier – Colorado Karate Club
It was the Summer of 2008 at the National Karate Championship in Houston, TX. I was fighting in the open weight division against another member of the National Karate Team. He was about a foot taller and about 30 lbs heavier than me. With time running out, down by two points, I lunged forward with a combination that fell short. He counter attacked with a punch that struck my face with a cracking noise. I knew right away that my left cheekbone had been crushed. While I felt no pain, as the nerves had been severed on impact, I knew it was a serious injury.
That was the end of Nationals for me that year, and a long way of recovery that included hospital visits and reconstructive surgeries. I was already 35 years old, but there was still plenty of fire within me.
My wife asked me to stop competing, and I gave it a thought… about 5 seconds worth…I wasn’t done yet. I loved competing, was in great shape, and had plenty of experience that helped me overcome the 10-17 year gap with my opponents. After that, I went on to compete very successfully for another four years, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
People asked me if I was afraid to compete after what had happened. I competed for almost three decades, there were always the butterflies in my stomach the morning of the competition. But once I stepped into the ring, it was all business. No nerves, and especially, no fear. Regardless of the size or skill of my opponent, fear never entered my mind. But I do recall squaring against an opponent and seeing the fear in his eyes. I knew that in his mind, he was already defeated. The match was only a formality.
We tell our students, if you’re afraid of getting hit, you will get hit. If you’re afraid of getting hurt, you will surely get hurt. If fear dominates your thoughts, it will come for you. Just like poor, stricken Job put it, “For what I fear comes upon me, And what I dread befalls me.” – Job 3:25
Today, I look around and I see widespread fear, that paralyzing fear I saw in my opponent’s eyes years ago. As a competitor, I preferred to fight and risk injury, rather than give into fear and carry on with life-long regrets. However, I was never reckless, I prepared well, weighed the risks, and moved forward with full knowledge and confidence in my abilities.
I think that if we can properly understand the challenge in front of us, weigh the risks, and take action, we can move forward with courage and determination, rather than timidity and fear. As the Polish physicist Marie Curie said over a century ago: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less”.
And this I wish for us all.
Willy Strohmeier – Colorado Karate Club