Wisdom does not emerge with age. It emerges with experience. Although, Kellan Lyman is only 28 years old, she has practiced Shotokan now for more then 20 years. The training has had a huge effect on her as she says: “Shotokan is spirit training that’s enabled me to follow my convictions working in environmental advocacy, facing hardships of life in a rural, developing nation, or any life challenge with excitement and determination.” In this very open interview Kellan describes for us what Do means for her and how it has formed and changed her. We get deep insights about how much more Shotokan is and can be if we focus on the mental and ethical aspects. It is a way of life. Oss, Kellan! By Dr. Christian Tribowski
Name: Kellan Lyman
Karate since: 1999
Origin and residence: Origin – Atlanta, Georgia, USA ; Residence – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Dan Rank: 4th dan
Dojo: Louisiana Karate Association Dojo – Sensei Takayuki Mikami
JKA National Team Member (2014, 2019)
All South Karate Champion – Kumite (2016, 2019), Kata (2019)
Team Kumite JKA National Champion – (2013, 2015, 2017)
Collegiate Kumite JKA Collegiate National Champion – (2010)
Captain of The University of Georgia Budokai Karate Club (2009 – 2012)
Lived & trained in the Philippines (2016 – 2019)
What was the reason that you started Shotokan Karate?
At age 8, I was enthralled with Xena, Warrior Princess, so I jumped at the chance when my parents asked if I wanted to enroll in an after-school karate program. The female instructor’s spirit and elegant movement inspired me, and during the summer I moved to training at the main dojo. My dad began as well; coming up through the kyu ranks together made training fun and kept me diligent in practicing at home. I’ve been training and competing since.
What do you like about Shotokan Karate?
One is that Shotokan trains the body, mind and spirit all at once; Shotokan teaches us to be present, an invaluable skill for any endeavor or daily living.
Shotokan’s large, strong movements are beautiful and effective, and the training style fits well with my body and personality. I have so much fun training, and after I feel super relaxed and happy, and have better posture.
I appreciate the Dojo Kun and traditional karate etiquette. Not only is Shotokan a physical practice, but it’s also a moral one that teaches us to be more virtuous, peaceful and courteous. Hard training and striving to live by the Dojo Kun foster strong spirit to navigate life situations calmly and have the will to uphold one’s beliefs.
I enjoy competing in the one-point matches of JKA kumite competition which demands we strive for perfect technique.
Is there something you do not like? What is it?
Politics that cause division in organizations. Our shared goal to uphold the best quality karate comes from working and training together.
What has been your greatest and your worst experience so far related to Shotokan Karate?
One recent challenge has been developing my solo karate practice while living for two years in a remote town in the Philippines. With no classes, and training partners scarce, I was determined not to let my skill decline, so I figured out how to most effectively practice alone and developed more discipline, being accountable to only myself.
I made friends while visiting clubs and met one Shotokan karateka at the weight gym I’d joined. We exchanged ideas and checked each other’s technique. Training with a friend was a new way of exploring karate, unlike a traditional sensei-student class setting.
Eager to catch a class wherever I can, I always pack a gi when traveling. Being welcomed at JKA clubs in the Philippines, Japan and Thailand and training in the same style at a dojo on the other side of the world gave me a greater appreciation for karate as a universal art that connects us.
Once, while visiting a small mountain town’s annual fiesta, I was surprised to find there was a local JKA club. After a vigorous workout, one member invited me to teach at a local college club the following evening. I agreed, expecting the typical number that attended my college club, 10 or so.
After finding my way across campus, to my surprise, I arrive to a gym packed with 80+ collegiate beginners warming up and am invited onto a stage to lead the class. Teaching and sharing the time with a group of enthusiastic students was energizing and fun. The regular instructor and I demonstrated kata and jiyu kumite together. That class renewed my appreciation for karate as an art that brings people from across nations together in a goodwill cultural exchange.
My worst experience would be last fall during a trip to Japan. On the first day, I did makiwara training after class. Unfortunately, I didn’t thoroughly wash my hands and got an infection that caused me to become so fatigued. I could hardly train, and lacked the energy to fully enjoy Japan. Even worse: I had no appetite for sushi.
What do you do when the training becomes challenging? Where do you get motivation from?
During class, I gain inspiration and motivation from my sensei and fellow karateka’s spirit. When training becomes challenging, I focus on being here and now and think each repetition is a gift because it’s a chance to do my best.
How has Shotokan Karate changed you as a person?
Having been a constant in my life for 20 years, it’s difficult to imagine how I’d be without Shotokan. I attribute my work ethic, confidence and ability interacting with people to Shotokan training.
Karate enhances my ability to focus my mind in the moment and to practice deliberately. It’s taught me to be more humble and to more openly receive criticism. Karate teaches me how to learn, which I can apply to other areas of life as well.
I observe parallels between my focus in training and personal development. For instance, when I trained intensively with drills that focus on reaction and commitment to a technique, I become sharper in decision making outside the dojo as well.
How has Shotokan Karate influenced your life? Has it helped you overcome or deal with difficult situations in your life? Is it helping you on a daily basis with the challenges of life?
Shotokan is spirit training that’s enabled me to follow my convictions working in environmental advocacy, facing hardships of life in a rural, developing nation, or any life challenge with excitement and determination.
It has forged in me a more courageous spirit; this realization did not appear so clearly until I lived in the Philippines where, in some ways, the lifestyle puts one closer to danger or death. However, because of Shotokan training, I’ve been able to face these challenges calmly and clear-mindedly. Now, I’m starting a coffee import business and applying the discipline, confidence and personal skills I’ve formed through Shotokan training.
Training clears my mind and helps me to be in tune with my body. This trains me to be in the here and now in daily life or to focus on a goal. After training, having been completely present during class, I carry this mindset to daily life. It’s taught me to be relaxed in all I do. Especially during challenging times, I still make training a priority; it helps me navigate those times more clearly.
Pursuit of strong training and a Shotokan community also led me to New Orleans where I now call home and have met many mentors and good friends.
How has your Shotokan Karate changed over time?
Before, I would try to focus on generating power. Now, I‘m focusing on relaxing as much as possible.
What are your personal Shotokan Karate short- and long-term goals?
In the short-term, my goal is to win the kumite competition at the JKA Pan-American Championship in Columbia this August.
Long-term, I want to improve my technique to be smoother and more powerful. I’ll continue training to strengthen my spirit to have more courage and resolve in continuing my work in environmental advocacy and entrepreneurial pursuits. I hope to increase awareness in New Orleans of the positive aspects of karate, so more people here might begin practicing it.
How should Shotokan Karate evolve in the future?
With so many Shotokan organizations now, I hope Shotokan karateka of differing affiliations will be able to train and compete together at more events, for the furtherance of the art.
Also, Shotokan clubs could do a better job making their local communities aware of what Shotokan is and its benefits, to encourage more students to begin. Training of mind, body and spirit is what many people need or are seeking. I think karateka should be open about their experience training with friends, so more people might try. It can be difficult to express but necessary for bringing in new training partners and would greatly benefit the new student.
Would you recommend Shotokan Karate to your female friends? Why?
Yes! If they want to strengthen themselves physically and mentally. Fitness, long-term health, mental relaxation, self-control and confidence are important benefits for anyone, especially women. Walking into a training hall of all men can be intimidating, but overcoming our fears to start, too, is part of forging courageous spirit, as in any case embarking on the study of an art. Like anything worthwhile, it takes time and dedication; the benefits can’t be understood until having been experienced. Gaining strength and spirit through training technique is empowering, so I hope more women pursue the Shotokan path.