Tips for the First Year Student

For a new student at the dojo, the first year can be a busy and exciting time and a fantastic opportunity for personal growth. Here are some suggestions for new students.

Stay calm. New students often put pressure on themselves to perform new skills as some of the more experienced belts are performing them. Don’t panic. Karate veterans understand there is a steep learning curve for new karate students. A more experienced student will lead the way along with the Sensei. They will explain some of the moves that you may have difficulty on and will answer your questions. I know that as I began in karate there was always someone one to two belts above me who could show me just a little something prior to or after class that calmed me down and allowed me to acknowledge to myself that I could learn the kata or self-defense move. Often they wanted the extra practice that came with sharing the technique with me so it was a win-win. Of course new students should know that some skills are beyond their current belt level and concentrate on the material at hand for their belt and time in the program.

Paul good front stance

Show up on time with a smile to class. Attitude and punctuality are two things that every new student can control. Students who are present and pleasant to work with will find that they learn skills faster as others are always willing to share with them. They may even learn some other technique that others at their same belt level are not learning as they were present for the class or were willing to work with an upper belt on an issue they were having with a technique that the student would not normally learn at their belt level.

Be Conscientious. The routine work performed by the new student, such as basic kicks and punches may seem mundane. It is often the foundation of all skills being used in fighting and kata. Like in match if you learn well how to add you can move onto multiplication. In karate if you learn a basic kick and the four parts that will help in all future kicks you will learn during your karate career.

Know your limits. One of the hardest things for new students is to lean when to ask for help. Karate is highly technical and physically demanding. It is unlikely that a new student will have the skills and stamina to get value out of multiple classes in one day. Ultimately, knowing your limits can save you time and energy as you progress in the ranks as well as reducing frustration and misunderstandings.

Keep notes and ask questions. Sensei Mae wrote a great post on this and taking notes and being ready to ask questions on the prior class will help the student as they progress. It is best for new students to obtain a clear understanding of a technique or kata as they work on that technique or kata. Writing it down after class will quickly reveal gaps in your understanding and you have the added benefit of repeating it back to a fellow student or the Sensei to say here is what I wrote is that correct?

Enjoy the experience. You are only a first year student once. Experiences and growth during this first year should be embraced. There is no other time in your karate career when so much knowledge is obtained in such a short period. Think about what you knew of karate prior to walking in the door and what you know today. In addition to the new experiences and learning curve, new students are exposed to a vast array of unique individuals with wonderful backgrounds. Embrace the relationships you develop and the things you are leaning along the way.

See you in class soon.

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