1. You don’t need to “move like they do”. Karate has evolved quite a bit since Karate practitioners of yesteryear were first captured on film or motion picture. A lot has changed. In fact, entire fields of study, like sports medicine for example, have been invented since the old masters practiced their art. These days, we have a much better understanding of the relationship between muscles and tendons. We have scientific understanding of the relationship between velocity and “power”. So, what does all of this mean? Well, it means that as a Karate student, you don’t necessarily have to take your queues from the great masters. There is plenty of theory in sports medicine and training dynamics to help guide you. You have access to tons of resources online. You should be “stealing” bits of relevant information from practitioners of all martial arts. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
2. You have gifts – use them. Everybody has a unique body. Different heights, weights, flexibility, speed, etc., etc., etc. The great thing about Karate, is that you can maximize your strengths. Talk with your Sensei about what your natural abilities and strengths are. Perhaps you’re not utilizing your long legs for example. Remember, Okinawan Karate was first practiced by Okinawan people. They tend to be shorter in stature and more “compact” than North Americans for example. So, you may need to take a look at the way an Okinawan moves vs. how you move and understand the differences. There is nothing wrong with leveraging your strengths. Find out what they are – and use them in your Karate.
3. Karate does not need to be “all you do” for exercise. Karate can be an amazing exercise tool. It essentially works all aspects of the body – muscle, tendon, cardio-vascular, etc., but it’s not the “be all and end all” of exercise. I would recommend a mixed-bag of exercise activities to round out your training. Myself, I like to combine Karate with weight lifting, hockey (to work the cardio-vascular system) and other sports like soccer or even rock climbing. You’ll notice that as you build strength doing other activities, it’ll have a positive impact on your Karate as well. Remember, have fun!
4. If it’s too bad to be true, it probably ain’t. Are you looking around your fellow karate-ka and thinking, “There’s got to be more to karate then this!” Is the instruction lacking? Are you endlessly grinding through Kata, with no real signs of improvement? Does your instructor keep looking at the time? Well guess what – you’re probably training at a “McDojo“. Yep – but now you know, so the question is – what are you going to do about it? What you need is an instructor that inspires you. Someone who gets to know you and you abilities and can offer constructive feedback that’s relevant to you. And from where did your instructor receive his black-belt? In a “Mc” world, it’s truly buyer beware. You need to do your research, people! Try to find out if your instructor has ever competed or if his/her instructor has. Were any awards received? If so, what are they? And no – random certificates on the wall don’t count. What do other students say? There are plenty of reviews on line. Ask your instructor, “how long to get my black-belt?” If their response is anything less than 5-7 years – move on. OR, if they quickly start talking about monthly plans, starter packages, costs, specials, incentives, or anything like that – move on!