I want my own Mr. Miyagi: Life lessons learned from my fictional guru

miyagi1I watched The Karate Kid movies in the late ‘90’s, years after they originally came out (the one’s with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, not the remakes). I didn’t grasp much of what the trilogy was trying to teach because my young mind was too busy thinking about how cute Daniel LaRusso was. I also thought that the 80’s were probably the worst fashion decade of all time.

Last weekend, they had an 80’s movie marathon, and I had the opportunity to see the first two movies again. What I discovered, when I actually paid attention, was how many important life lessons I had missed the first time around. Life lessons that I am only beginning to understand now, nearly 30 years after the first movie came out.

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Mr. Miyagi Lesson 1

“Walk on road, hmm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squishing sound and squishing gesture] get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no”. You karate do “guess so,” [makes squishing sound and squishing gesture].

What I learned: Don’t take a half-assed approach to your goals in life. Either commit yourself to something or don’t. And if there’s any doubt in your mind that you can accomplish something, then you won’t accomplish it.

Mr. Miyagi Lesson 2

“…for man with no forgiveness in heart, life worse punishment than death.”

What I learned: I can spend the rest of my life feeling upset or hurt by the people who betrayed me – but how does that change what they did? They’ll go on living their life, and I’ll be left with nothing but resentment and anger. Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it’s something we do for ourselves. Forgiveness sets us free from pain, anger, and resentment.

Mr. Miyagi Lesson 3

“Daniel-san, never put passion before principle. Even if win, you lose.”

What I learned: I’ve done some stupid things in my life; made decisions without thinking them through. I’m an emotional person, and I sometimes allow my emotions to influence my judgment and dictate my actions. This isn’t to say that I shouldn’t follow my heart – only that it’s always a good idea to take that extra moment to step back and put a situation in perspective, rather than acting in the heat of the moment. I’ll never regret being a passionate person, however.

Mr. Miyagi Lesson 4

“Lies only become truth if the…person chooses to believe them.”

What I learned: This brings to mind the concept of self-limiting beliefs. If you think or believe that you’re incompetent, incapable, fat, ugly, worthless, or whatever the case may be, after a while, your belief will become your truth. Do yourself a favor: Fill your mind with healthy thoughts and ideas about yourself. Don’t allow distorted beliefs – yours or someone else’s – to become your maxim.

Mr. Miyagi Lesson 5

“When you feel life out of focus, always return to basic of life. Breathing.”

What I learned: Taking deep breaths is a foreign concept to me. I think the only time I do breathe deeply is when I sigh.

When life becomes chaotic, the best thing to do is to return to something simple. Don’t underestimate the power of focusing on your breathing. It forces you to keep your mind focused on the present, centers you, calms you down, and relieves stress. When in doubt, breathe.

Insightfully yours,

Queen D