To progress, most of what you need is to suit up and show up to the dojo on a consistent basis. If you fail to suit up and show up, your skills become stagnant and you are no longer growing on your karate journey.
When we signed up for karate, we looked for three things, probably the same as you:
- Location, a dojo near the house
- Classes that fit our timing, day of the week and times we could regularly attend
- An initial fee and ongoing cost that fit our budget.
As good shoppers, we had the kids attend a week long karate camp in the summer. We were interested in ensuring they could learn and wanted to attend. We also discussed with some of our friends where they sent their kids.
We have stayed suited up and showing up for three main reasons:
- We are always learning.
- Every class we attend at the dojo, we learn something to include in our notebooks or to pass along to others.
- I helped teach today and learned several great new drills and ways to teach—and I only helped for the first couple of classes.
- We have tested our skills and found them excellent.
- We have both competed in the AAU karate national tournaments and found that the instruction we receive from our sensei at the dojo is equal to or better than other dojos. It is because our competition teams routinely win top honors in competitions that we know how well our instruction methods stand up nationally.
- We have put the program to the test, and the program has come out on top. Other dojos can also make that claim. See if yours does.
- We are growing and progressing in our martial arts journey. I have learned that preparation determines outcomes.
- We are prepared and follow a planned progression of ever building skills as we advance in the ranks.
- We believe in showing up and suiting up. Our instructor challenges us each class. I showed up to class consistently as a part of the program to pass the second degree black belt test. The test was more to show to the panel that I paid attention and practiced. Suit up and show up consistently to pass the test.
All of this is to say that if you find yourself in a dojo and you are not consistently learning and growing as well as advancing, you may want to look around for a different instructor in martial arts. My guess is this is a rare occurrence when we are in our first few years of training.
The point about testing our skills is to do so in structured ways, not going out to fight random strangers on the street. Our recommendation is to go to clinics and tournaments. At clinics and tournaments you will be able to see your training in action against students outside of your dojo. In a clinic, you will learn from other masters. I would not say that losing a fight is due to poor teaching. I have lost fights and know I have a very good sensei. It is looking at the whole work being performed at the dojo.
As a white belt, my son encountered some different fighting skills and lost a few rounds early in a tournament. Was our teaching bad? No it was not. We did not know how much work or effort was needed to become a champion at our first competition. We had never been tested outside of our classmates. So, the next time we encountered students from the same school we did better and won more rounds as we worked on new skills. On the whole, our dojo students win more than they lose. Of course we have never been 100% in the win column. I lost the gold medal fight in the AAU national tournament. It was my lack of skill and not the coaching from our sensei. It was a close fight, and a loss. I was able to learn from that experience to become a better fighter.
Your preparation does indeed determine what you will achieve from any program, and karate is no exception. You will continue to learn and grow as long as you continue to suit up and show up at the dojo door. See you in the dojo soon.