It’s almost time for Kangeiko, our annual winter training. Basically, they take the most depressing time of the year and make it even more depressing by cutting out caffeine, sugar, alcohol, fried foods, red meat, etc., and requiring daily training. The goal is not to torture you, but to allow you to clear your mind and focus on your art, to dig deep and decide if it’s really what you want to do. It also gives you the template for healthy living that we should all strive for every day. In our dojo, Kangeiko usually lasts about a month, and if you complete all the requirements, you get a certificate. It’s done by the honor system, because no one except you really knows if you are following the rules. This will be my fifth year of participation, and I haven’t gotten a certificate yet. I usually end up cheating a little bit at some point. Even so, I have never felt like I “failed”. Just like all things in karate, I don’t believe the goal is perfection, I believe the reward lies in the attempt. Every year after Kangeiko, I find that some of the restrictions stick around voluntarily. Maybe someday I will live it all year round.
Sometimes people say they can’t cut out one or more of the things on the list, so therefore they don’t participate. That’s like saying “I can’t kick above knee height, so I can’t do karate.” You shouldn’t focus on what you can’t do, but on
what you can. Following Kangeiko to the best of your ability is better than not participating at all. It’s not supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be a challenge. It’s a test of your own dedication and willpower.
For myself, the most difficult aspect of Kangeiko training is quitting coffee. I didn’t start drinking the stuff until I was in my 30’s, and now I think I’m making up for lost time. My addiction is so deep that I once accidentally referred to Daddy Warbucks from Annie as Daddy Starbucks. I would probably drink nothing but coffee if I could. I love it so much that I even grind my own coffee beans…by hand. I suppose I could try drinking sugar-free decaf coffee, but really what’s the point? Besides, even decaf has a little caffeine in it, so that would technically be cheating.
It’s a sacrifice that I voluntarily undertake. I will dream about coffee and sweets, and count down the days until I can have them again. I will save a lot of money. I will sleep better at night. Every day that I follow the rules, I will feel a sense of accomplishment. I do it for myself, not for a certificate, so even if I don’t make it all the way through again this year, I will still feel like I succeeded. The reward comes with knowing that you can be stronger than temptation. Besides, that first cup of nonfat mocha that I have when Kangeiko finally ends tastes better than any coffee I have ever had before. It’s worth waiting for.