Today I won’t get into any financial concepts. Today, I want to talk to you about the financial lessons we can learn from karate, through a story that’s close to my heart.


Picture a shy, under-confident 12-year-old refusing to join a Karate class in her neighbourhood. Let’s call her Tanya.

Tanya was terrified by all the stories that her cousin had told her about how strict the instructors were, and the routine drills that the students were made to do. Monkeying around the house, imitating martial artists from the movies was one thing, joining a Karate class was quite another. But one fine day, despite the resistance, she found herself standing outside the classroom, gingerly fiddling with the doorknob, apprehensive about what was in store. Little did she know what the next five years would mean to her, and how they would transform her life.

How is this story connected to your finances, you ask? Bear with me for just a bit.

A Sense of Purpose

If you’ve watched The Karate Kid series, you know Mr. Miyagi’s two rules of karate.
Rule 1: Karate is for defence only.
Rule 2: First learn rule number one.

When Tanya started learning karate, she knew her purpose was to learn self-defence. That’s the only thing that motivated her to open that door on Day 1, and to stick with the class through the next couple of weeks, despite feeling a bit out of place. The why is essential to keep one going.

Money is universal. We all use it. But managing our own finances isn’t something we all do. Learning the art of money management is often put on the backburner. Only when we realise how much power and freedom there is in taking charge of our own finances, will we stop pawning off that responsibility to others, learn the essentials ourselves, and maybe even share the responsibility with others.

A Foundation of Discipline

Class was held for an hour and a half, three times a week. Skipping class meant missing out on learning new moves that helped one progress. Within a month, the awkwardness that Tanya had initially felt, gave way to a sense of discipline that she hadn’t experienced before. She’d get to class before time and practice on her own for a bit. She would make sure she followed her instructor as best she could. And she never bunked. Over time, she got better and better. She also started feeling that discipline spilling into other areas of her life, at home and at school.

The art of money management, much like martial arts, is a bunch of different moves that when performed in sequence, and with deliberate practice and consistency, gives astounding results. Budgeting, tracking your expenses, saving and investing, must all go hand-in-hand on a regular basis to ensure that your finances are hale and hearty. Discipline is the foundation of success in any field, and money management is no exception.

Building Self-confidence

Someone once said, it is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting.

For a martial artist, the only way to build confidence in one’s abilities is by putting in the work. Tanya trained hard. Just showing up for class raised her confidence levels bit by bit. With each passing year, she felt her diffidence shedding, and being replaced by a newfound sense of self-confidence.

When you start to manage your own money, you might feel a little lost and under-confident in the beginning. You might even be afraid that you’ll mess up and lose money trying to do things on your own. But with time, and repeated efforts, you start seeing the results of your actions. And that initial apprehension inevitably changes into confidence.

Anyone Can be Good at it

Tanya’s Karate class was filled with all kinds of students; tall, short, strong, average. Some of them didn’t think they had what it took to be in that class. But they persevered anyway. And eventually, they got to the black belt level.

Money management might seem daunting at the outset. Especially if we have this limiting belief that we aren’t good at it. It’s easy to fall prey to this mindset. Personal finance isn’t taught in schools or colleges. Some of us might not have any background or starting point. But if we begin with the basics, learn what is truly important, and stick with it through thick and thin, there’s nothing that can stop us from becoming great at it.

Together is Better

In a Karate class, you have an instructor and a whole lot of students around you. You’re likely to feel more motivated to stay the course in such an environment.

Think of your finances the same way. Rope in your family, talk to them about the journey you’re on, and discuss the highs and lows. Seek help from a financial advisor if you feel the need. Together is always better than alone.

Black Belt and Beyond

For Tanya, learning Karate was one of those transformational experiences that she cannot imagine her life without. Over the course of nearly five years of training, she got better and better, and was eventually awarded a black belt. But karate doesn’t end with a black belt. The more one trains, the higher rank (or Dan) one achieves. The journey from white belt to black belt, and beyond, is a journey of mastery. It is a way of life.

Our financial journey is much the same. Showing up, building the keystone habits, and sticking with them day in, day out will help keep you financially fit throughout life. Moreover, understanding that this is a process will take the pressure off you to make “x” amount of money in “x” amount of time.

PS: In case you’re wondering why Tanya’s story is close to my heart, it’s because this was my karate story. 🙂

Author Bio - Komal Shivdasani

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