Going For Gold: Essential Life Skills That Sports Can Offer

As a passionate participant of sports I’ve noticed that there exist many, from football and cricket all the way to diving and horse-riding, that impart great knowledge, wisdom and essential life skills when it comes attitude and drive. I myself started karate at the age of seven years old. I’m now 22 with a 1st Dan black belt to my name and a lot of karate experience under my belt (excuse the pun!). What I appreciate the most from my years in the dojo is my fortune in gaining essential life skills.

I’m a strong believer that sport can offer a lot of things, not just for your health but also essential life skills that internships and other career opportunities equally provide. With this in mind, here are ten important life lessons that doing karate has taught me and allowed me to use in all aspects of life:

1. Determination

When I started karate I knew that climbing the ladder to get from a white belt to a 1st Dan black belt would be difficult. I had to get through challenging gradings, numerous belts, intensive training and potential injuries. But I was also aware that the difficulties would be worth dealing with if I achieved what I wanted. Karate taught me to aim for something important and to work hard at making my dream a reality. Like other sports, karate teaches the art of focusing on a goal and doing everything within your power to achieve it. After years of pushing past every hurdle I finally achieved my black belt. This fantastic achievement encouraged me to apply such determination to everything else that I chose to do in my life, especially regarding my career.

2. Discipline

Having goals is one thing but remaining strict and in control is equally important. For me karate has promoted the idea of keeping a tight grip on everything related to behaviour, attitude and the principles that I uphold. Learning katas (patterns of specific defence and attack movements) made me aware of the need to be obedient and to maintain order. These essential life skills that all sports offer can be essential in the workplace when following instructions or even in your personal life, learning to stick to your morals and sound values.

3. Concentration

Karate is not for the faint hearted; it requires you to step outside of your comfort zone and to push the boundaries away from familiarity. To keep up with all of this you need to focus on what is being asked of you. Karate emphasises paying attention to detail and putting in as much effort as possible. As I progressed by gaining belts and feeling more accomplished my drive strengthened as well as my ability to suppress all distractions and keep my eyes on the prize.

4. Practice makes perfect

Often sports provide long-term goals which can’t be achieved simply. They require lots of time, effort and preparation. In order to be the best that you can be you need to train hard. When going for the black belt I spent months working hard in the dojo, perfecting my katas and improving my overall technique. It wasn’t an easy or quick process. I did however learn very quickly that important goals are never this way; it’s about being patient and appreciating the gradual advances that you make each day.

5. Flexibility

Whether you’re playing football or doing gymnastics, all sports demand flexibility. In karate there were times where I had to work as a team and others where all that I had to depend on was myself. The varied activities involving individual and group work turned me into a versatile person. Even today this skill that karate has taught has been an invaluable asset to me in terms of adapting myself to various tasks and environments.

6. Taking responsibility

As a more experienced learner in karate I gradually gained more responsibilities, some included me teaching students of lower levels. From an early age I was taught to organise myself correctly, to plan out what I needed to do. I took accountability for what my instructor asked me to do and was prepared to accept when I made mistakes or was unable to fulfil everything that I needed to do. This further encouraged me to ask for help when needed and to assess my actions each time to work out what I could improve on.

7. Pushing your limits

There were many times in karate where I experienced a little bit of self-doubt. When I was taken out of my comfort zone I sometimes panicked but the harder I pushed myself the more confident and stronger I became. Karate and other sports stress the need to always challenge yourself and to never be complacent. By constantly taking myself one step further, even when I wasn’t sure that I could do it, the final outcome was much sweeter.

8. Valuing failure

The saying, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’ is very appropriate when it comes to sport. At times you will experience minor or major setbacks. In karate I sometimes felt that I had let myself down or made too many mistakes. But the more failures and successes that came my way, the more aware I was of the importance of failure on the journey to success. Failure is one of those essential life skills and key to never being arrogant, to continue working hard to reach the finish line and to constantly self-assess and work out what you need to do to improve.

9. Self-reflection

It may sound strange to say but karate made me really evaluate myself as a person. Through completing different tasks and testing my limits I worked out my strengths and weaknesses. From there I came up with ideas to improve on my weaknesses and to also accept that there were things that I wasn’t good at. Instead of getting upset and feeling like a failure I reflected on accepting that I wasn’t a perfect human being and finding ways to constantly strive to be a better version of myself in spite of this.

10. Success is a mind-set

It seems very easy to become pessimistic and to lie down in the face of challenge. It also appears to be a simple solution to give up when you fail despite working hard. But how worthwhile is this? Practising karate and other sports preach the idea to never give up. Even when we work hard things may not always work out but the trick to finally making a big break is to believe in yourself and to believe that one day you will get where you need to be. The fears that you have are only in your head; they don’t dictate how successful you will be, you do. For that to happen you need to change your mind-set and look to the future with positivity.


We should never underestimate the power of sport. It teaches us to learn, to reflect and to improve on ourselves. Consider trying out a new sport and I guarantee that you will gain essential life skills from the experience.



Photo courtesy of pexels
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