The Importance of Taking Notes

Sensei Mae here.

I remember when I started out as a white belt, I saw the upper belts taking notes during a water break, and then again after class was over. At the end the class my Sensei reminded us to take notes on what we did in class. I laughed to myself; I was a senior in high school at the time and had no intention of taking notes when I clearly didn’t have to.  I thought I was too good to take notes. I had no problem remembering to do my homework at school, and I assumed this activity wouldn’t be any different.

The problem was that I treated karate as an activity–just a place I visited once or twice a week for exercise and to learn some practical self-defense. I did not set out to become a black belt or even a sensei. So for purely recreational purposes, not taking notes was fine. Or at least it was for a while.

I was fortunate to have a brother doing karate with me, and we were able to practice at home.  A problem arose one day when we were working on some self-defense. I couldn’t remember the little details that made one particular move so cool. I was stuck in a painful wrist lock and had no way out. My brother (in a rare moment of grace) let me go and he tried to find it in his notes. It was then I realized that note taking was very important. Of course no attacker will stop and let you look up your notes to allow you to escape.  However, I would have remembered the technique better if I had written it down.

My Sensei is very wise to instruct his students to take notes. He has realized that students need to take notes for several reasons. The first is that it encourages understanding. Often after class while taking notes I ask my Sensei several more questions in order to understand the technique or concept better. In part, that is how we started talking about Karate and this is what you will see as we continue this blog. By putting the concepts into my own words, I have better understanding.

One of the most challenging aspects of keeping a notebook is how to organize it. I asked the upper belts, and they all gave me vague responses. Everyone should have his own notebook. Just as each student sees things differently, they write differently. Some prefer the physical notebook and pen while others have an app for that. Therefore, just like the way you take notes (pen and paper or an app) your notebook should reflect your organization.

As I progressed to black belt, I found myself understanding things differently, and wanting to reorganize my notebook. Each time I reorganized, I learned something new, and I remembered some things that I had forgotten.  The notebook is a powerful tool for students.  It encourages them to talk to each other and to take the steps toward black belt as a community. It also fuels the personal study of martial arts. By keeping a notebook, students have something to practice at home. The have their own personal reference.

Let me know how your notebook is organized! I’d love to hear if you go chronologically or section it out, or something else.

9 thoughts on “The Importance of Taking Notes

  1. This is Sempi Glen and I wanted to add onto the post from my white belt class notes on why take notes—it is as if I thought we would have a quiz…Here are the reasons I wrote down in my notebook on the topic of why to take notes:
    1. Overview of day
    2. Topic and reminder of lessons learned
    3. Prior to class—add date
    4. After class record lessons learned and sequences
    5. During class quick notes
    6. If kata—write sequence and Bunkai (Applications of kata)
    7. Document fundamental skills


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