Tag Archives: exercise


I am an unabashed believer in recognizing the difference between an ‘Instructor’ and a ‘Teacher’.

It is my belief that an Instructor leads a class and demonstrates his/her interpretation of ‘what is’, and how to do the technique or application applied and usually with relying on a counting rhythm. We need Instructors and we do value their contribution!

A Teacher I believe, adds so much more, not only within technique lessons but also the intangibles required to lead students. This idea will be expanded upon in a future blog post.
Within the framework of my preamble above, I note that more than a few ‘Instructors’ tend to keep their students interested by trying to teach more ‘advanced’ techniques without first laying a proper fundamental foundation by emphasizing the basics (kihon).

This practice coined by Kyoshi Dan O’Brien as ‘OVERTEACHING’ is quite apt.

Overteaching is just plainly giving more than a student can handle without them having the proper foundation and understanding required to affect a proper technique. Often, if we lack our own proper understanding and imagination, or even a well thought out teaching curriculum, we resort to an advanced idea/technique to impress those we teach. Could it be that we lack confidence in our own selves so much that we overteach and gloss over our own martial arts insecurities by giving more than we should?
A beloved Teacher I trained with years ago (Peter Phillips -Renshi) stated, “Advanced karate is just better basics.” – agreed!

Let’s overteach our basics so that the advanced technique is just a step away and so much easier to digest.
Karate students — your turn. Are we as students, guilty of ‘OVERREACHING’???

By ‘overreaching’, I refer to a student’s propensity to always try and do more than what they are ready for, by seeking out other ideas and trying to mimic these ideas while neglecting their own studies. We’ve all done it and we’ve all seen it.

I personally knew of an intermediate student recently, who was always online looking at more advanced ideas that he may try and then he’d approach with his interpretation of what he saw and thought he’d understood. It was obvious that he was in over his head!

Well, then it became apparent that his own dojo efforts and concepts were suffering and his in class corrections were mounting, he soon came to the realization that he was being torn in two different directions – something had to give. I received a note from this student a short time later indicating that he’d become lost within his own karate enthusiasm and was re-dedicating himself to his karate studies with no distractions.

The grass may be greener on the other side, but if we are invested in our own style and that is where our love is, that is where we should invest our efforts and be patient, we will be rewarded in due time! The Universe will unfold as it should!
A personal investment in making ourselves better through diligent studies of well understood technique and our own bio-mechanics through better basics, will inevitably reward us with effective and confidence building skills capable of dealing with any adversity.

No batteries… but, Patience is required.
Yours in the arts, Gary Christensen – Renshi

Sharpen Your Tools

Carpenters, mechanics and other tradespeople all have their own tools of which they rely on to get the job done. Maintaining and sharpening their tools assures that when the time comes to use whatever it is that they need, they have confidence in that tool’s ability to work as desired.

As karateka, the obvious tools at our disposal are namely our hands and feet used to strike and/or block.

Hands are very versatile tools in that we can form fists, half fists, spear hands, knife edge hand, palm heel, etc., etc.

Conversely, our feet are tools that may deliver strikes with ball of foot, toe kicks, shins, foot edge, heel, insteps etc., as well as further up, the knees.

These are the more obvious tools that we have to use. We could delve into more weapons within our bodies but to be brief, we’ll use these examples for now.
Having recognized that we too, must maintain our tools, we must also sharpen these tools so that when called upon, we may rely on them to achieve a desired result (defending ourselves.)

Maintaining and sharpening our tools require training on the makiwara with various hand and foot strikes and hitting the heavy bag with both. When we practice with a partner striking, blocking and flowing within each other’s actions we can hone our distance and proximity skills, along with the sensitivity required and thereby, sharpen these tools, also.

We must always explore the various strike and block permutations of our bodies weapons looking at shapes and tool configurations to achieve desired results. Be aware of what is useful under the circumstances presented and recognize the appropriate tool useful to us.
Practicing kata, reinforces our patterns, develops our form and timing as well as allows us to use those tools of ours. We mustn’t be content with just blocking and striking empty air with these tools, we must also be able to actually develop our ‘tool’ confidence for real by striking, blocking and kicking something!

Honing those tools, also involves doing various strength exercises and working on stretch flexibility. All of this tool maintenance, combines to give us the confidence required to make us effective karateka.

Recognize and develop your own weapons/tools so that they are always available.

Most of us have 3 – 5 favourite go-to techniques that we rely on. Make sure we always have those techniques backed up by our sharpened tools.

Yours in the arts,

Gary Christensen

Should I enroll my child in Karate?

You may be considering enrolling your child in Karate.  After-all, it’s great exercise and a fun way to learn some life-long skills.  Before you make your decision, there are a few things to consider:

1.) Is your child old enough for Karate?  To be honest, Karate instructors face a unique challenge in this regard.  On one had, they are trying to run a business – and since having many children in a dojo can help pay the bills, it can be difficult for an instructor to turn a blind eye to the revenue generation potential of having very young students.  On the other hand – there is the debate about how young is ‘too young’.  Opinions on this vary greatly but in my truly honest opinion, there is a point at which a child is too young to practice Karate.  In my experience with very young children – it can be difficult to justify the time and cost investment.  When too young, a child can train for many, many months and really not learn much at all – or learn very little.  I guess the real question is, would a child benefit greatly by waiting an extra year, at which time they would be more mature and could potentially learn in only a few weeks what would take them months to learn at their current age.  It also depends on the child’s personality.  Some young kids just do not have the attention span necessary to train in an effective way.  Of course, all children are unique, so it’s hard to draw the line, but if you’re considering training and your child is around 5 years old – I think this is too young.  Personally, I would hesitate to train anyone under 8 – but that’s just my opinion.

2. Why does your child want to train?  What are the reasons to train?  For example, did you child approach you about training, or are you making the decision?  Did your child watch movie and suddenly become interested or is his/her interest more deeply rooted.  Karate is hard work.  It takes determination and will power to succeed.  In many cases, practitioners train for many many years to become proficient and even then, there is always room for improvement.  Those who train are in a constant state of self improvement.  Consider your real reason for wanting to enroll your child.  Many children “try it out” for a few months only to give up.  It’s important to try and be as informed as possible before you make your decision.

3.) Will it impact other extra-curricular activities?  We seem to live in a world where our kids these days are involved in a plethora of extra-curricular activities.  One thing that Karate demands is focus.  If your child is spread too thin, they are less likely to succeed and/or enjoy their training.  It might be a good time to evaluate your child’s schedule and really be honest with yourself:  is more extra-curricular activity really needed?  On the flip side of course, if they are not spread thin, then Karate could be a great fit.  Evaluate your kid’s schedule.  Remember, your kids need downtime as well.  Here is an important article about the importance of kids getting sufficient sleep.  Click here.

4.) Are there “good” karate schools in your area? Karate has become very popular in North America.  Dojos have sprung up all over the place!  The rise of popularity of Karate is great – but it does come with its challenges.  Namely, the “McDojo” or a school that for all intents and purposes is quite horrible.  How can you tell if you’re training at a McDojo?  Here is a pretty good article about the topic – click here.



Intake a deep breath and relax, you’ve found your martial art, your place of training (dojo) and a competent Teacher! I honestly envy you and your journey on the path up the mountain to training in your chosen art.  Lucky you!

Do we ever reach the summit of the mountain?   I doubt it, there’s so much to learn and discover, besides, the journey itself is so worthwhile and satisfying!
Again, I’ll use Karate as my point of view platform (my chosen art long ago).   I smile as I recall for the first time, entering the dojo change room and putting on that fresh and crisp, brand new white gi and then wondering what the heck was I going to do with that long, white belt.  Lol!  Nervous, but excited trepidation!

Onto the floor, thinking everyone was looking at me… weren’t they?  Well, maybe a little bit, my belt was dragging on the floor (wrapped around once!) but then each was back to their own pre-class ritual, stretching, kata, makiwara, etc.  I anonymously slinked into a corner until Sempai Mike came over and showed me how to tie my obi! — My first step on the path!

I am quite sure that many will recognize their own first step much the same (maybe without the obi faux pas!)
Starting an art is one of the hardest things you’ll do, no doubt.  With a few tips, this start can be a little less intimidating and a little more palatable.
First, bring an open attitude.  In other words, enter the dojo with an empty cup (figuratively speaking) and be receptive to the knowledge your Sensei imparts, to fill your cup!

Not all, but generally, males are more inclined to walk into a dojo with a half filled cup, thinking that karate is all about fighting and so therefore by virtue of their own reservoir of testosterone, they are already halfway to mastering this art. Haha!  I say ‘No!’   Nice try guys!  Frustration will at some point, set in because the realization that learning karate is hard work and their cup wasn’t half full after all.  This is a bit of a reality check.  No biggie, readjust attitude and move forward.

Females, generally (in my opinion) tend to enter a dojo with an empty cup, inasmuch to say, ‘Here I am, I’m interested in learning.   Teach me!’ – a great attitude!

Anyone entering the dojo with an empty cup, will learn quicker with this ’empty cup attitude’ and will be fulfilled much sooner and will therefore, thrive for the duration.
Secondly, make mistakes with a smile on your face!  Get frustrated with a spring in your step!  Be as embarrassed as you can!  It all makes your journey that much more interesting!  Revel in the good and bad of your training!!  Frustrating, embarrassing mistakes are tools that handled well and learned from, bring you back to the straight and narrow of training and solidify your resolve.

If we all did things perfectly, it would all be pretty boring with no ups or downs to ride.
Thirdly, accept the fact that to get good at any endeavour requires hard work and the martial arts are no different.  The self satisfaction derived by your hard work and the success gained thereby, will develop good self esteem and of course, confidence.   Positivity is borne of positivity.

The last item I’ll reveal (there are more, but I’m stopping here to save something for later blogs) is share, share and share again!  By share, I refer to the positives gained by your journey’s study.  Martial arts study has so much going for it and the practitioners involved.  Physical prowess, self defence and mental acuity are but three of many attributes we develop within training and therefore share with others.

Training will never start on entering or on leaving our dojos.  We share our training attitude at all times whether by being polite, doing volunteer work, assisting others or any other worthwhile service for others.
Too often martial artists are seen as those who learn to fight, when in actual fact we actually are learning to conquer ourselves through that journey up the mountain over many, many years.  Enjoy the scenery on the way!

Yours in the arts, Gary Christensen