27 (More) Things About Karate You Ought To Know

By Jesse | 16 Comments

Blah, blah, blah, mandatory intro text that nobody reads. Oh, and see previous post on this theme, entitled 29 Things About Karate You Ought To Know, here.

Let’s go:

27 (More) Things About Karate You Ought To Know

1. Black belt is not a belt. It’s a state of mind.

2. Karate is like riding a bicycle. Those who insist on standing still will eventually fall over.

3. A dojo can be likened to a bank. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out. However, choose the wrong one and you might one day find yourself immensely f***ed.

4. If you’re suddenly attacked by a gang of man-eating tigers on the savannah, your first, basic, primal instinct will be to desperately look around for a weapon to save your life with (if you can’t run). This is one of the main reasons to why we practise Kobudo. For some reason, most Karate people have never grasped this fact.

5. The worst thing about traditional 1,2,3-step sparring is that it sets a precedent for expected structure that rarely ever exists in real life self-defense.

6. The best thing about traditional 1,2,3-step sparring is in experiencing those few, heated, intense moments of mental clarity when you are literally on the edge; not knowing if you’ll survive the next attack or not.

7. There are really only two important things in Karate; you and your opponent. Everything else is scenery.

8. The paradoxical part about performing a kata is that you must continually convince yourself to go faster and harder in every single technique, although you are just punching and kicking in “thin air” with no real visible threat. This, to a rational human mind, makes no practical sense. That’s why the best kata performers are always the people with the strongest minds and the most vivid imagination.

9. Always go to the dojo, even if it sometimes means literally dragging your sorry ass over there. In the long run, showing up is what really counts, not the imagined quality of practise you don’t get.

10. The key to improving in Karate lies not in obsessing over petty details or beating yourself up over “bad memory”, but in simply finding your personal golden ratio between volume, depth, direction and frequency of training. Then train. And keep doing it.

11. A black belt diploma isn’t a license to stop learning. Let your tombstone be your diploma.

12. Sometimes a single conversation with the right sensei can be worth more than ten years of training under the wrong one.

13. When it comes to practical self-defense, the hardest part for most people seems to be unlearning, rather than learning. We are all fighters under the surface.

14. Speaking of learning, many people claim they are ready to learn, yet they don’t like being taught. The closer one gets to the holy black belt, the truer this seems to become.

15. Show me a thoroughly satisfied sensei – and I will show you a failure.

16. The difference between Karate-jutsu and Karate-do? The difference between self-protection and self-perfection.

17. The secret to becoming great at Karate is to only train on days ending in -y.

18. Effortless reaction comes from years of concentrated action.

19. Knife sharpens on stone. Fist sharpens on makiwara.

20. Kata is an awkward set of bodily contortions, designed to kick ass. Most of the time that ass belongs to you though.

21. Karate is not a religion; When “attacked” by other martial arts, it doesn’t need to be defended. It is what it is. And it’ll become what we decide.

22. The job of a sensei is not so much to teach Karate as it is to teach the joy of learning and the passion for (self) exploration. Karate just provides an exciting framework, a canvas if you so will, with some possible health benefits as bonus.

23. When in doubt: Swift kick to the balls and immediate poke to the eyes. It’s like spray cheese – works every time, no matter the situation.

24. Being attacked by an opponent shouldn’t be feared – it should be considered a gift. And, as we know, there is an art to receiving gifts.

25. The amount of spinning head kicks you throw in kumite has a surprisingly strong correlation to the amount of attention you crave at dinner parties.

26. You can buy a rank, a fancy dojo, a grandmaster certificate and, yes, even muscles. But you can’t buy a Karate spirit.

27. I’m hungry.

Damn spray cheese fantasies…

About the author

is a self-titled Karate Nerd™, best-selling martial arts writer, unreasonably handsome elite athlete, autodidact, karatepreneur and carrot cake aficionado. He really thinks you should become a Karate Nerd™ too.

16 Comments

  1. Dan

    February 28, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Only with -y? In Brazil, the days end in -a or -o. Blimey, eh?

  2. hoover

    February 29, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Nice one, Jesse ;-) I really like #22 and even more so, #15.

    All the best, Uwe

  3. Carsten

    February 29, 2012 at 1:44 am

    I like #2 and #8, because it gives me convidence and intrinsic motivation about my health plan 2012. #2 because I “rode the bike” 23 yrs. ago -- and anyone who learned the “basic riding” knows how to do it even ages after. It is totery and looks goofy, but you will not fall on the first meters, maybe after 10. However, you know you can do it anyways. #8 because I enjoyed doing Kata. When I read your post, a big-screen movie showing me doing what you wrote. Faster and harder with every technique in sequence. That was fun those days. And it will be when I am back in the dojo. Never took the “mind and imagination” part for granted, but now things appear much cleare to me. :) Thanks Jesse for the inspiring blog.

  4. Francis Duguay

    February 29, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Jesse-san, thank you a lot. This one meant a lot to me. You helped myself as well as my students and partners evolve in our practice. We owe you one.

  5. Maria

    February 29, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Thank you -- just what I needed this morning :) Going to drive my circle mad quoting you for a while now.

  6. Martijn Bijlsma

    February 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I disagree with #7. Really love #11 and amen to #27.

    • Jesse

      March 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Perhaps if you reconsider your concept of who the “opponent” is you’ll agree. Just a thought :)

  7. Boban Alempijevic

    February 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Damyou Jesse-San, Number 17 showed me that I am still not awake, Had to actually count slowly in my head which days it was, came halfway and felt stooooopid :D

  8. Ørjan

    February 29, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    I really love #16:-D I have had this discussion (but in Mudo/Budo vs Musul/Bujitsu learning). I am inclined to think that if you learn the “jutsu” it will lead (or should I say “can”) to “Do”. Your number 16 is down to the essensce of the discussion (pardon my spelling, English is not my native tounge).

    That being said I am impressed with these points, and I am sure that you will be quoted on various websites/articles etc in the future. Some are funny and some are thought provocing.

  9. Szilard

    February 29, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    “Speaking of learning, many people claim they are ready to learn, yet they don’t like being taught. The closer one gets to the holy black belt, the truer this seems to become.”
    True, getting closer to black belt people develop a keen sense of deciding if someone is a sensei or not. And of course they want to learn from a sensei. As the belt color gets darker it becomes more and more difficult to fool the students with bogus ranks, fancy dojo and rank certificates like this:
    http://www.karatebyjesse.com/?p=7419
    or bunkai like this:
    http://www.karatebyjesse.com/?p=4859
    :)

  10. CharlieL

    February 29, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    I particularly like numbers 25 -- made me laugh out loud.

    Excellent list…thanks Jesse.

  11. Michael Casinha

    March 1, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Someone pass the spay cheese please…..

  12. Michael Casinha

    March 1, 2012 at 2:24 am

    Ok I meant SPRAY cheese :)

  13. Adam Cave

    March 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    We always say, “The first rule of karate is don’t get hit.” Feel free to use this one in the next list you come up with. So far, I like them all.

  14. Tobi madara

    November 24, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Lol spray cheese please,I hate cheese and the word please but I like all the quotes better they were perfection its self I have to say,you really are an intelligent intellect with humor you got me wanting to do karate

  15. Jack M

    April 4, 2013 at 1:31 am

    Jesse. Spray cheese is gross. Like really really gross. I thought better of you.

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