In a Kyokushin karate dojo, especially this one, you're going to get hit. You're going to take punches and kicks and knees and elbows, but you'll grow to love it. I cannot adequately express in words the satisfaction of taking a shot (a punch or kick) that would have floored you just a few weeks ago...all with a smile on your face.
A friend of mine (Marco, thank you!) inquired as to when exactly I let students start taking contact. From what I understand, in some schools, students aren't allowed to take contact until they get to a certain level or they've been training a set amount of time. Some martial arts schools don't allow sparring until a student has been training for six months. Personally, I think that's a bit much.
So, at The Forge Dojo, when do my students start training leg kicks and body punches? Typically within a half hour of walking into class. While I've got a few reasons for this, they all branch off of this following belief of mine:
Learning how to take a punch or kick makes you tougher...mentally. We have a toddler at home...and toddlers fall down a lot. Ever notice how little ones will fall and then almost immediately look around for their parents? They're trying to figure out how to respond. You freak out, the toddler freaks out. You stay calm...that's right, the toddler stays calm.
The longer you train, the more likely you are to have the wind knocked out of you. That isn't meant to be threatening...it's just the way things go. I can always tell when one of my students has gotten the wind knocked out them for the first time, and my advice is usually the same: "I know you think that it hurts, but it doesn't. This doesn't hurt. You feel uncomfortable and it's scary, but you will be fine." From there, we try to get breathing back on track and within a minute or so, we're all back to training. What happens the next time that student takes a punch or a kick and has the wind knocked out of them? MOST of the time, with a smile on my face, I watch them push through...never stopping, staying calm and working through the trial.
The confidence that you build by gradually building up a tolerance to discomfort or pain is amazing. It is empowering. It's the primary reason that folks usually receive some level of contact on their very first day in the dojo! Why would I want to withhold this kind of experience from a student (or potential student) for weeks or months? No way...we're going to start growing right away.