Many people go on retreats as a way of escaping their daily routine for a while and living new experiences that will leave them feeling refreshed and accomplished. Such experiences have also been known to give some people enough inspiration to spark their creative endeavors, such as writing blog posts for Retrigo (totally not me, right?). Jokes aside, I recently came back from a trip to Japan, and while it wasn’t a retreat per se, the quality of some activities I did has left me with a few interesting, Japanese-style retreat ideas in mind. The next two posts will serve as a tribute to the wonderful country that is Japan by providing an insight into some interesting traditional activities it has to offer.

Let’s start with a more physical, fitness-style retreat: karate, which happens to be one of my favorite sports (don’t mess with me, I’m a black belt!).

Brief History

The word “karate” means “empty hand” in Japanese, hence the non-usage of fighting tools in most styles of karate combating. This martial art originated in Okinawa as a method of self-defense to replace weapons, which were forbidden under the invasion of outer Japanese forces. It was formerly known as “te” (“hand”) and mainly practiced by the natives of Ryukyu Islands.

Later, the three Okinawan cities of Shuri, Tomari, and Naha each developed their own style of te, which they respectively called Shuri-te, Tomari-te, and Naha-te and collectively referred to as “tode.” Over time and to this day, the former two styles merged to become Shorin-ryu (the style I practice) while Naha-te took the name of Shorei-ryu.

Today, these two styles are referred to as branches of the renowned martial art called “karate.” The name comes from an Okinawan master who altered the pronunciation of the Chinese character “tode” to “kara” (“empty”) so that, combined with the character “te,” it meant “empty hand.” And thus, karate as we know it today was born.

Why Practice Karate?

Karate may not help me fight away jet lag from my trip (bummer!), but it has made countless contributions to my overall well-being, and I’m sure it will for you, too. I will leave the commonly known assets to physical defense and health aside and go straight to the psychological growth benefits, because I believe that the greatest fight in life is not a physical one.

Karate is about way more than just kicking, punching, and blocking attacks from an opponent. It also teaches you important values and lessons to apply to your life. A great emphasis is put on internalizing the values of discipline, determination, and perseverance as students learn various martial techniques, and personally, in my weekly classes, there is a “Word of the Week” which is especially discussed with the children (“politeness,” “gratitude,” “respect,” “goal fixing,” “tolerance,” and many more!).

Karate Kids

Because when will you actually need to physically defend yourself? Probably (and hopefully) never. But when will you need to do things to the best of your abilities? To never give up and keep working until you succeed? To follow your dreams and ambitions regardless of external obstacles and the thoughts of others? To treat the people on your way with respect, compassion, love, and empathy, just like you would want to be treated? To feel the incredible, indescribable feeling of holding in your hands your new, shiny black belt that you’ve worked tirelessly for so long to receive? Always. You will always need self-actualization, no matter where, when, or how.

Apply this lesson to your own dreams and conquer the world! Achieve your goals and have a happy retreat!

If you’re in Montreal and you’re interested in karate, check out Groupe Karaté Sportif, an awesome karate company with which I take my classes (in French).

English links for further reading:

You can take a look at our other karate retreats on our website!

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About the Author: Georges Awaad is 18 years old and originally from Montreal, Canada. Passionate about languages, he loves to learn them in his free time. He is currently fluent in 7 of them and is able to get by in simple conversations in about 10 more. His other favorite hobbies include reading, writing, karate, playing and listening to music. He also enjoys pondering life’s greatest dilemmas, such as what’s for dinner tonight (yeah… he’s a foodie, too). He is currently completing his first internship writing for Retrigo and loves it to death.