6 Things Your Sensei NEVER Told You About Karate

Do you remember your very first Karate class?

I don’t.

(Hey, I was like 2 years old!)

Do you remember that feeling of putting your white belt on for the first time?

For most people, recalling the first time they stepped into the dojo undoubtedly evokes mixed feelings: Nostalgia. Fascination. Curiosity. Sometimes a bit fear.

I mean, Karate isn’t just “any” activity, is it?

It’s actually pretty weird when you think about it from a beginner’s point of view: Funny-looking techniques. Japanese words. Strange rituals. Unfashionable clothes. And to top it off, there’s often a dude in front who everyone bows to and calls “sense-eye”.

Pretty unlike any other physical activity you could have chosen, right?

(And that’s exactly why you chose it.)

Yet, here you are, years later.

  • Still training.
  • Still pushing.
  • Still getting bruises
  • Still learning.
  • Still getting the occasional ego check.
  • (And perhaps even teching others.)

Many people would consider this a miracle of sorts.

And indeed, the fact that you even started training Karate is pretty awesome, considering all the other things you could have taken up.

(Like chess boxing.)

But… when you think about it, it’s actually far from a miracle that you’re still training Karate. In fact, if you ask me, it’s probably only 1 percent miracle.

The rest?

99 percent evil conspiracy – from your sensei.

You see, there’s a whole bunch of stuff your sensei NEVER told you about Karate. And rightfully so. Because, if you were told these things when you started out, you would probably have slammed the dojo door shut and sprinted the heck away from that god-forgotten place faster than a speeding bullet.

You know it.

And if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, you’re living in denial.

You just haven’t admitted it to yourself yet.

So without further ado, allow me to present 6 Things Your Sensei NEVER Told You About Karate (Luckily).

Listen up:

#1: “You Will Probably Not Get to Black Belt”

Sounds harsh?

Sure.

Is it true?

Damn right.

But no matter how crushing it might sound, the statistical, mathematical, scientific, logical, proven, reality is that most people who join a Karate dojo will never get to the legendary black belt.

Is it possible to get a black belt?

Of course.

But probable?

Hell no.

Thousands of new students pass through dojo doors around the world every minute. How many of those even get to the second belt? How many get to the third belt? Fourth? Fifth? Sixth?

Black?!

Do the math.

(Answer: “Not many.”)

It’s just simple statistics. Nobody is trying to discourage you or anything. It’s not a plot. Nobody is out to get you. But let’s keep it real here: Just like most businesses fail within two years of starting, most Karate students don’t get to black belt. They just don’t have that time, dedication, willingness or spark.

It’s not that it’s “impossible”.

It’s just pretty improbable.

And thankfully, your sensei was sensible enough to never tell you this.

#2: “Modern Karate Sucks for Self-Defense”

Oh…

You want to learn how to REALLY be safe against harm?

Here are 15 random things that are more effective than most “Karate” stuff out there, for keeping safe and avoiding physical danger:

  1. Buy a dog.
  2. Take running lessons.
  3. Stay away from shady places.
  4. Join a knitting club.
  5. Buy an Xbox with tons of addicting games.
  6. Learn to channel your agressions/feelings.
  7. Attend a risk management course.
  8. Hit the gym. (Steroids optional. But try to get buff.)
  9. Stop drinking alcohol.
  10. Get a taser gun.
  11. Practice verbal de-escalation techniques.
  12. Stop looking like a victim.
  13. Always walk with company.
  14. Watch out for young agressive males.
  15. Don’t do drugs.

The reality is, although Karate was originally developed to be an all-encompassing martial art for civil self-protection, today’s average modern Karate dojo teaches not only highly impractical, but sometimes even downright immoral or illegal techniques for self-defense to be used on the notorious “Street”.

I’m not making this up.

And, if you do find a dojo that actually teaches functional self-defense Karate, they’ll often practice it in a laid-back fashion with little or no active resistance – making you as effective for the “Street” as a one-legged midget in an ass-kicking contest.

Obviously, I’m making some broad generalizations here.

But you get the idea.

I mean, in what other sensible martial art do you train several years and still have almost no improved chance at winning a street fight, should you ever find yourself in one? Really, any ice hockey player, rugby player, footballer or basketball player will have more fighting spirit, toughness and die-hard never-give-up attitude than your average Karate-ka today.

And when push comes to shove, those are the REAL qualities you need.

Not ten more wrist lock variations.

(And hey, even if your style of Karate is super practical for self-defense, YOU WILL PROBABLY NEVER KNOW. Unless you go out and search for trouble. Which I don’t recommend.)

Luckily, your sensei never told you that.

#3: “You Will Be Confused. Again and Again.”

For most people starting out in Karate, many things are based upon blindly accepting what you are being taught as the truth.

And that’s perfectly in order.

Blind faith is a prerequisite for ultimately transcending your boundaries of knowledge, hopefully arriving at an elevated level of understanding in the end.

(This goes for all fields of endavor, not only Karate.)

But as beginners we don’t realize this.

All we notice is: “I’m confused”.

  • “Just tell me what to do.”
  • “Then tell me how to do it.”
  • “And if I’m ready for it, maybe even tell me why to do it.”

That’s it.

More than that, and we freak out.

As you know, there’s a lot of stuff in Karate that is completely illogical and makes no friggin’ sense whatsoever – especially for beginners (let’s just start with why we keep our hands by our hips, instead of guarding our face? And when was the last time you saw somebody use a cat stance (neko-ashi dachi) in a real fight?).

To a beginner, Karate is often confusing.

And depending on how complex your style/system is, it might get worse.

But that’s not all: To top it off, in the process of trying to get you to understand Karate better, your sensei will often mess things up even more. One door will open ten new doors. Those doors open a hundred new doors. This might frustrate you.

Or make you angry.

But a lot of things in Karate make no sense in the beginning.

It wasn’t made by engineers, after all.

Let’s be grateful that your sensei never told you this.

#4: “Karate is Not Cool. Neither Will You Be.”

Karate is not soccer, baseball, break dancing or boxing.

It’s not mainstream.

Corollary, it follows that Karate attracts people who are trying to steer away from the mainstream – for one reason or another. Why? Often because they secretly hope it will bring them a unique sense of belonging.

This might very well be the result of training Karate.

But you will never be “cool”.

(You will be a Karate Nerd)

Sadly, however, many beginners think Karate is a huge leap up the social coolness ladder. It’s not.

It’s a step down.

If you truly want Karate to fulfil somekind of innate alpha male desire (girls, adjust the following advice to your worldview), you’re better off learning to a) juggle, b) drink ungodly amounts of beer, c) do a handstand, d) bench press twice your bodyweight, e) memorize classic movie quotes, f) have a solid right hook, or just g) learn a few simple card tricks.

Nine times out of ten, that will give you more social cred than Karate EVER will.

Even in Japan.

But, as you know today, the real purpose of Karate is something entirely else.

You didn’t know it back then though. And you were probably not interested.

All you wanted to be was accepted.

Be glad you sensei kept quiet.

#5: “You Will Get Annoying Injuries.”

There’s a strong possibility you will get injured at some point in your Karate journey.

It’s pretty much standard procedure these days.

(If not, you’re either lucky or not training hard enough.)

It might be something minor, like a sprained toe or hyperextension. But it might be worse too: Like a cracked rib, broken arm or knock-out. Either way, you will get injured one way or other during Karate practice, and it will affect your everyday life whether you like it or not. Especially your mood.

That’s not what you signed up for when you began, was it?

Nope.

And then we have the mental injuries: Your feelings will get hurt. Repeatedly. Your ego will get checked too. You will feel provoked. You will get sad and you will get angry. You will lose motivation.

Deal with it.

Karate is a fighting art.

The word “fighting” comes first for a reason, and the implications should be obvious to everyone.

Just be glad you sensei never told you about it.

#6: “I’m Not a Superhuman. Seriously.”

Lastly, this one is critical:

Your sensei is not a superhuman.

Let me repeat that:

Not. A. Super. Human.

No matter how many badges, belts, diplomas, trophies or awards you see hangin’ in the office.

This is a tough pill to swallow for many beginners in Karate. But the truth is, your sensei is just a regular dude/dudette who happened to realize there was a business opportunity in teaching Karate to others!

And sure, some people claim they teach Karate because it’s “their passion”. Congratulations to them. That might be what they tell themselves. They might even actually believe that. But don’t get it twisted: There is ALWAYS an incentive hiding in the background; whether it’s a social, moral, spiritual or economical satisfaction. It’s an inescapable part of the human condition.

Sure, your sensei knows a LOT about Karate. But that doesn’t equal saint-like status. And I doubt your sensei would want it either.

For all we know, your training fees might be going to hookers and blow.

So thank your sensei.

Because if you had been told these six things when you started, you might have quit and never looked back.

And you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

And you would just have saved four minutes of your life.

And you would never have learned what it truly entails to be a martial artist.

And that lesson is invaluable.

And lifelong.

Luckily, your sensei never told you that either.

(And I just overused the word “and” way too much.)

Are YOU are grateful for something YOUR sensei NEVER told you?

Leave a comment.

133 Comments

  • Szilard
    Well, the article is a good read, but I don't get one thing: how are these issues even relevant to my karate training? First of all my sensei 2 and a half decades ago on day 1 promised me karate will make me move from head to tail, I will find muscle pain at spots I didn't even know I had muscles. He was right. He didn't say anything about black belt. Actually about black belt he said it was overrated, because it was customary there and then to stay on the same color belt level and neglect belt tests for years, in some cases for over a decade. Belt tests were considered a luxury. Looking back it is kinda weird, how can a green belt teach a blue belt? But it happened and all was well. Second thing is that I do my hobbies because of the people I am with when practicing them. If I don't like the people I go find something else. Self defense just doesn't come in the picture. Anyways in any remotely serious situations I fall back to my wrestling skills as soon as I start reacting from instinct, they are way better to control someone without hurting him/her than karate will ever be. However I didn't like the wrestling classes in my area, so I still go for karate. It just gets the most beautiful minds together working on learning something new every day.
    • LBraida
      Try Wing Tsun Kung Fu. I obtained a black belt and quickly learned the only thing it was good for was holding up my pants so I stopped studying karate when I found WT. It is the only style that can defeat a street fighter with a minimum of effort. I found all the other styles were only suitable for muscle heads. Power against power. The strongest always wins. A good martial art will allow a weaker fighter to overcome a stronger one and WT is the only one that I have found. Almost every student of WT started out in a power tripping martial art only to forget that nonsense because it does not work for self defense when shown the simplicity of WT Kung fu. There is a garbage can of black belts in their gym that have been abandoned for a student level in Tsun. I was an assistant third generation instructor for my Sifu who was trained by Leung Ting. He was taught by Yip Man. WT is far superior to everything except Gun Fu. Glock Bang Do works very good!
      • Court Ellis
        The system of practice has nothing to do with the practitioner of the system. I tried Wing Tsun and love it, but that doesn't that I'm supposed to give up on karate because my instructor, sensei or whatever you want to call him wasn't all "I" expected. The learning of the art is on you, and you alone to do the research, practice, practice, practice!! This always sounds odd to me when people say try this system because it's better. Again I love Wing Tsun; hell I love all martial arts, so I just think it's a matter of taste if you will.
        • Oh, it's really wonderful article you wrote Jesse. Thanks a lot. And yes, Court Ellis, Wing Tsun is wonder level form as I personally liked it.
      • Jack Raderchak
        That's why we see so many UFC fighters with a WT background. Try looking a little closer at real Karate like Kyokushin or Muay Tai.
    • Leo Sharp
      Why do think that? I think that wrestling has more freedom. I do wrestling and used to do karate. Karate was just about "focusing your core." It does not make you stronger. Say that you are a 6th degree black belt and know a lot of technique. And you are against a huge wrestler that is super buffed and muscular and won nationals twice. Who do you think will win?
      • Anonymous
        If you trained properly, you have every chance. What's a wrestler going to when they get punched? Also you make it sound like karate practitioners are weak people. From my experience, which is 8+ years, strength building is a massive part of a Karate-ka's training, if you do it right.
        • I agree. I think Jess you are just one cynical person and it wouldn't matter what sport you chose you would find something wrong. I'm 70 years old and have attended classes for two years. It has really helped support me in physical and mental health and j enjoy the ages from 4-78. All the kids are great to work with. The Kata makes you use your mind and you learn humility and give respect for all humans, There is nothing evil or negative in this clever martial art. Helen
      • Goju Knight
        Uhh The 6th degree black belt will probably win if they actually deserve that rank. As a former high school wrestler who won many tournaments when I actually got in a street fight all I knew how to do was tackle and slam people to the ground, so I did it on reflex, and then the guy kept punching me from the bottom and I didn't know what to do.That's why I ended up starting karate. Not to mention wrestler posture is basically designed to get kicked or kneed in the face.
    • PAUL
      I love the bit about belts. My son started and almost every month they were grading him obviously for extra money revenue cert and belt etc he never really earned the belt. It did boost his confidence. He now does mma he has never been graded and he has taken on many black belts and 2nd Dan etc. Discipline and fighting and sheer hard work and a good trainer who isn't money motivated can teach a lot. My son is lucky to have found this trainer.
  • Great read Jesse-san. There are a couple of items you mentioned that have not made it to my ears via my Sensei, nor have I offered them as sound advice or quotable tidbits to my students. When one of my students gets bopped on the nose or hit on top of the head with a bo staff because they were not paying attention, I am fond of telling them that "This is not ballet class. Pain happens".As for what my Sensei never told me, I had to think about that for a moment, but I came up with something, and I hope it was something he chose not to tell me vs something he neglected to tell me. Leading up to my shodan grading, there was what I felt to be a substantial number of small things wrong with my technique; flipping the elbow, weak stance, not tightening my core, etc. I was quite discouraged leading up to my grading because all of a sudden, all of these things are being pointed out to me. Why were they not pointed out before? Why am I just learning of these now? These issues have been there the whole time, so why am I being corrected now when I have to re-learn it?Over a period of 3 to 4 weeks prior to my shodan grading, I made it a point to strip EVERYTHING down and work on things diligently, until I was happy with the technique. I spent hours every week, on top of regular classes, re-learning and getting the idea of how it should feel to do it correctly.Best. Month. Ever.I learned so much from training by myself and looking for all of the imperfections. I had a much better understanding of technique that I was able to transfer on to my students to make them better. I was so comfortable with everything that I learned that I just seemed to be on auto-pilot for my shodan grading. I was so much more comfortable with my technique that everything just flowed.Now, did my Sensei neglect to tell me about those issues because he chose not to, or because he didn't think they were important at the time? I'm pretty sure it's the former, and it is the best information that I never received.
    • Love your story, Terry-san. Thanks for sharing!
    • Jada
      I had more pain, blood, and injuries from ballet than I ever got from 6 years of karate training... something about putting all your weight on the tips of your big toes and then dancing on them hurt far more than breaking boards, and eventually bricks, with my fist. *shrug*
      • Casper
        I often hear too that we don't train ballet. What I believe is meant by that is that we don't just memorize a bunch of movements like in ballet - we have to understand and analyze the movements (there's not much idea behind a block if it looks good, but doesn't work!). If you practise karate and all you do is trying to break boards/bricks then I understand why you never feel any pain, because that just sounds pointless to me. Whenever I step into the dojo (wether it be practice with my sensei or I practice by myself) I'm determined to give myself 100%, and everytime I walk out of the dojo again I feel like my brain and body thoroughly used. "Pain" from exercise is useless unless it's the "right kind of pain" - pain from pushing yourself until you can't take it anymore and still keep going is fantastic! I believe you can do that no matter what sport you practice, but it's really hard to learn how to keep on pushing - I have learned that by doing karate. I can't see any other sport teaching that.
      • Yeah, sure you can totally break a brick with your fist.. That must be one weak brick if that's the case.
        • Anthony
          Depends on the type of brick Jimmy, and where you hit it. A normal board of wood is easier to break than say the thick wall studs people are so fond of breaking their hands on. And most bricks break under their own weight if dropped a from a foot or two up.
      • Leo Sharp
        No, Karate gives you more injuries.
  • Guitaronin
    All right on, except #6. My sensei really is super human. That's not bias talking. He's like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable. The thing he didn't tell me was that he didn't get that way through karate. It took me over 20 years to realize that just practicing karate and working out wasn't going to endow me with the physical gifts he was born with. :)
  • Sanjit Mandal
    Thanks for posting, some great information for everyone!
  • Sensei
    I know people for whom teaching karate is a passion. Of course they have to earn money but I'm sure if it would have been only for the money they wouldn't have lasted!
  • vic arnold
    My 1st sensei (1960) had a hand out for people who asked "how long does it take to get a black belt?"It read "minimum of 4 classes a week for 5 years to be considered for a black belt examination and testing"Another of his favorite sayings "there is no such thing as self defense if you become involved in a fight.Self defense is walking away or running if neccesary or escaping a criminal intent on robbery rape etc. .Everything else is mutual aggression" His view of a well run dojo?Start with 100 new sign ups at the begining of the month and only half that or less by the end of the month .The 45 minute classes so popular today was our warm up.
    • Leo Sharp
      Only 5 years to get a black belt??? Unbelievable.
      • Maureen
        My granddaughter became a blackbelt just over 4 years ago she is totally immersed in the sport she is 12 and not being pushed by anyone she loves the precision of the katas.
  • Pablo Proaño
    That is totally true, in my case my sensei became crazy and expeled everybody from the dojo. At the end we realice our crazy idolyzation to him and finally we grew and continue growing.
  • Hansraj Jugroop
    "I mean, in what other sensible martial art do you train several years and still have almost no improved chance at winning a street fight, should you ever find yourself in one? Really, any ice hockey player, rugby player, footballer or basketball player will have more fighting spirit, toughness and die-hard never-give-up attitude than your average Karate-ka today."Have you ever heard of Kyokushinkai?
    • Kyokushin? Where you're not "allowed" to punch each other in the face? Sure. I've heard of it. Even trained it. But, as quoted, we're talking about the average modern Karate-ka here.
      • Josep
        I am doing Kyokushin now. I love it!But as Jesse-san says, they banned me to do a hundred moves inmy first kumite. Good fightin spirit but a lot of rules!
      • David E.
        In sparring and competition face punches are not allowed, this is because bare knuckle full-contact punches will cause lots of injuries. But hand strikes to the head ,including punches, and their blocks are taught and practised in the style.The plus points of kyokushin are raw power, high intensity training, thai boxing style strikes and ability to take hits, which gives a realistic aspect of training.There is no complete art, but kyokushin sure is a harcore style.
      • Sebastian T.
        Kyokushin? The style that Andy Hug, Franscisco Filho and Ewerton Teixeira proved continuously in K-1? The style that was the origin of Dutch kickboxing? The style that Bas Rutten and GSP trained? That Kyokushin? You say you have trained it, thus you must know that the "no punches to the face" only applies to competition (since it is a bare-knuckle, FULL CONTACT style) and punches to the face are commonly trained in the gym/dojo with gloves as well as kumite training. And if you are not satisfied you can go and compensate with some boxing. Please, with all due respect, do not lump all karate together and make it look useless... Not everything is shotokan or point karate. You also talk about your average karateka, but do not take into account that Kyokushin is one of the larger karate styles, numbering more than twelve million members worldwide... Much respect. Osu!
        • There is certainly a great deal to learn about this issue. I love all the points you've made.
      • Paul
        look at koshiki! allows a true testing ground for real technique, many of its practitioners have become successfull pro fighters.
  • Interesting reading. I must comment on the self defence part, correct me if Im wrong. :)Regular high level karate training will give you:- a fit body (stronger, flexible, good cardio etc)- develope a good sence of balance- muscle memory for deflecting incoming attacks and reflexes for countering- reflexes for dodging- understanding of de-balancing an opponent- ability to read an aggresive body language and react to it- self-confidence (accurate or faked) to look like you know what you are doing- speed in movements- know what it feels like to get hit and hurtI would say these are a pretty good advantage compared to a regular angry dude with no training at all. If the bad guy has these features too and have combat experience then you are in trouble.What I really do miss in karate when it comes to defence is the close combat grapplings and wrestlings. Fights will sooner or later end up on the ground.
    • kairu
      I would jump on board with you hear. I would say there is a lot about Karate that is not totally practical for self defence however even the most stream lined sport Karate where you hold your hand firmly at your hip for no reason will give you a one up.I my self have spent most of my time in the martial arts training rather "traditional" Shotokan Karate. I have been in a few altercations and it has always served me well. Since I have been on a hiatus from Shotokan I have trained hard to stop putting my hand at my hip as that has never served me well, landed me a ruptured eardrum once. But other than that the hard Shotokan training I received from has given me enough to be able to defend my self adequately.I am not saying my training was perfect or that I know everything I need to know about self defence just that what I have learnt has lent it's self well to self defence scenarios. There are a lot of other things I wish we had covered but then again there is always something new to learn.
    • Very true, Robert-san. Now let's just hope more people learn to recognize "regular high level Karate training"! ;)
    • Dod
      If Karate training does not improve self-defence skills at all then we are waisting our time and should play football instead. Karate should be for self defence.I particularly agree with Robert on the the fitness, balance, and self-confidence (even if misguided) benefits helping with self defence.I would add, though, that although it is very true that the way Karate has generally been taught in recent years does not yield the best self defence benefits, we must be positive: there are effective training methods and applications (many of which had been discarded) that can and increasingly are being used, which greatly benefit self defence like karate used to do. Yes criticise the ineffective methods, but with the purpose of improving. It is not that karate cannot be good for self defence :)
      • Warren
        "Karate should be for self-defence."I really get sad/frustrated/annoyed whenever I come across that all too common misconception. Self-defence is for self-defence. Martial arts is so much more.I never consider how what I'm practicing work if I was attacked. If I did I wouldn't be enjoying martial arts because I'd be continuously associating it with something negative, and something that will probably never happen anyway.In other words a complete waste of time and energy that would be much better focused on enjoying the true beauty of martial arts and training for the sake enjoying it.
        • Courtney Ellis
          Thank you!!
        • Goju Knight
          I'll have to disagree with you on that, if I wanted to take dance classes I would take dance classes. My wife would appreciate me doing that a lot more than Karate.
      • Leo Sharp
        Only 5 years to get a black belt??? Unbelievable.
    • Deon
      I fully agree 100%! Well said
    • lisa
      You are completely right.
  • kairu
    I am grateful my sensei never told me I couldn't come to class when my single mother was late or short with paying my fees. As long as I trained my hardest he was happy I was there. I imagine it was annoying at times. I my self have had classes at the local university canceled because students weren't paying their fees on time. Luckily it was summer and we took the class outdoors and I simply asked for donations.Perhaps this is why I avoid making Karate my career and keep it as a side job. But like my sensei what matters to me the most is that the people who come to my classes break a sweat push their boundaries and build their confidence by dancing around in crazy white suits and counting to ten in Japanese.
  • Tyson F. Gautreaux
    Love your web-site! Very helpfull. I will highly recommended! Thank You for the information!
  • Christopher Woods Marlin
    I am going to use this as a monologue some time.
  • Andi Kidd
    Hi JesseMy worry is with number two. Most clubs advertise themselves at least partially as 'self defence'. If your instructor doesn't tell you about number two then they are giving a false impression and this could lead you into danger.All the best!
    • Kona
      This is true. Like shady advertising. Why not just promote the practice of karate as a way to get physically active and healthy?
      • Anthony
        I've personally never seen karate as a self defense activity. Never taken it, but just from watching others who were taking it, I've always felt(Even as a kid) that it was far too limited for a self defence. It's something that looks nice, can probably be fun and at best works against someone else who is also using karate. Most of my combat training(bows, spears, bo staffs, knives and 1 and a half swords) however is just for getting a better grip for working on 3D animation with boxing being for fun and Krav Maga out of curiosity. I mean, I live in the United States, very little reason to get into a fight here, even in high school, people are pretty skittish so even if you saw a someone bullying another student a fight was hardly required to solve it.
  • I loved this, thanks Jesse! So true. I'm glad my first Sensei never told me how ridiculous I probably looked in my first class as the only 12 year old among the little 5 and 6 year olds beginners, and how funny we all probably seemed learning our first kata to the music of the Sugar Plum Fairy (ballet class was always next door). I'm also glad I was never told that getting my first dan would mean returning to the beginning again. I thought I had 'arrived', little did I know that it would take another 15 years to understand what it meant. If I had known what a life journey it would require, I probably would have stuck with swimming!
  • Madelyn
    Coming home from training I have another number to ad to your list. Karate will be the most horrible, frustrating, enfuriating thing to put yourself through on daily/weekly basis. And you will not quit either, you will just go back, again and again and again.But I love karate and I cannot quit, I don't think I'm alone in this. I'm just not a natural fighter, so working at it sometimes gets really tough. But my sensei still reckons there is hope for me yet ;)
    • Anthony
      It's probably good you're not a natural fighter. Most natural fighters just kind "detach" from what they're doing and in something like Karate(very little protection) that can get nasty real fast. Or just make you feel pent up and frustrated like some caged animal. A natural fighter isn't someone who can learn the techniques quickly, that's just an active quick learner. A natural fighter is someone who could easily win the fight with no training, Often looking like they do have training.
  • A Guy
    My sensei never told me that what he taught was the absolute worst, most impractical, fairy-tale filled, non-physical, robotic, dogmatic, cookie-cutter, garbage that could still be called karate. It is a McDojo that is terrible at being a McDojo.Because he never told me that for 5 years I was going to waste my time, I blindly fed into it; going to every available class early and staying late, training harder than anybody who even knew its name.And I could not be more grateful for it.I HATE the place with everything that I have. It infuriates me to no end to know that I was ever a part of that abomination that claims to teach the martial arts. But purely because of that reason, I searched hard. I searched, I trained, I researched, and I asked karate every day.Then one day it gave back.It's been 3 years since I was graded for black there. I have a two new instructors now. One is a physical person, who is everything one could ever want in a sensei. Physical, spiritual, and mental, he's the real deal.I know I'm going to sound so cliche here, but the other instructor?Karate.Thank you sensei, for leaving me in the dark. I cannot thank you enough that through your ignorance, you had single-handedly prepared me so that when I met my two true sensei, I was able to begin training from that moment onward.Ichi-go ichi-e.
  • hey there Jesse-san,first: yes, i remember my first Karate lesson. It was on Monday 19th January 1998. It was abot 4 months prior to my 13th birthday. in those days the style practiced in that dojo was (no surprise from nowasdays point of view) Shotokan. my teacher, a former policeman with much practical experience due to his former job, was not satisfied with his Karate. he felt there was something he hadn't found yet. he was in search for the old style Karate, so we changed style 2 times. now we practice Shima-Ha Shorin Ryu and Yamanni-Chinen Ryu Kobujutsu. and now that my Sensei passed away almost one year ago i find myself teaching in the very same dojo alongside with some of my Karate-fellows.Concerning the statistics, how many students achieve black belt: only too true. from my very first group of young teens i am the only one remaining to practice. same is valid for the second group i was in. somehow it's sad. but on the other hand it's good cause some people aren't meant to practice Karate. you just keep them stuck to it so they pay their monthly dues. and some day they leave... concerning financial aspects you're upset about this, concerning Karate you're happy they gave up.Concerning the confusion: i held 6th or 5th Kyu as my Sensei stated: "They more you get involved in Karate, the deeper you're in to it, the more you deal with it and the darker your belt becomes the more it can get confusing. so he told me about confusion. that i was unable to understand the meaning of his words is another chapter. but when i was holding 1st Kyu and was in preparation for Shodan-test i understood, what my Sensei meant.the thing i'm most grateful to my Sensei: he never told us how poor he was in health (cancer and other deceases). he was truly a rolemodel concerning toughness, discipline and strong will. and i'm grateful for all the things he taught me, so i can teach today together with my Karate-friends. and my personal motivation for teaching is: to me it is means of improving my own skills
  • hey I don't think karate s useless according to history kung Fu and jiu jitsu gave karate their techniques. also karate is not a Japanese martial art it is Okinawan since Okinawa parts in-between china and japan. also kajukenbo is heavily influenced japan they had given them their karate techniques and jiu jitsu and muay Thai also got their strikes from Japanese kick boxing which originated from karate. also kung Fu did not originate from china no from India the martial art called kalarippyatu search this up if you want and before that the ancient Greek martial art pankration gave its techniques to India and there is much more history to other martial arts and were they originated from. so if you are saying karate is useless then you are saying almost all martial arts are useless
  • This article should be called... How every coach in every sport will not tell you the truth.The fact that someone who start karate does not get to blackbelt is their problem, if they cant commit then why should we worry, I did that is why I have my BB.anyway, this could go for rugby soccer and any other sport, just change sensei to coach
  • awestin
    i dont know in my style its what happens after you get the black belt you pretty much turn 16 its like heres your black belt now the real fun begins.but karate is one of our nations fastest growing sports so. And whaile i aggree about learning japenes seriously hanchi were in america not japan why do i have to learn the difference betwwen an ochchichu and a blabla bla i know how to do it why do i need to learn how to say it.
  • billfromny
    In Karate, I see development of core muscles, discipline, respect, an opportunity to regain my physical balance and weight maintenance. The color of the belt makes no difference to me. Being cool has nothing to do with it. I'm 60 years old and should have done this long ago. It also teaches respect of people, children, young enough to be your great grand children, who know more than you do, and not allowing yourself to be degraded, emasculated or shamed. It's fun. One thing for certain is to not take what reactions you're getting from them personally. You're there for you, and the respect of others, and the respect FOR others, and self-discipline, regardless of age and skill.
  • Dane
    There's some generalizations here and that's okay. I think it's important to recognize, however, that some of these ARE generalizations and not absolutes.When it comes to earning one's black belt, I'd say Jesse is more or less spot on. The problem is that even people who want to continue training often get interrupted by "real" life. There's only so much time in a day, a week, etc. and it's not always easy to make time for everything you want to do. I think this is why so many people fall out of training. I mean, imagine someone who is married, a full time worker and has a kid. The reality of time always comes crashing in.I wouldn't say that modern karate sucks for self-defense because there are many variables to it's self-defense application. What style did you study? How alive was your training? How often did you spar? If your school spars, does it work it's way into hard sparring? How do apply the techniques you've learned? When it comes to self-defense, what situations are we talking about? An unarmed attack by a single person? Attacked by multiple people? Attacked with a weapon? Obviously, in the real world, your karate is only going to get you so far, but depending on your training and the kind of attack you face, your karate can enormously helpful or not much help at all.Karate can very often be confusing to beginners. It's even worse if you have a very mediocre teacher. Learning the whys and wherefores of stances, techniques, movements...all of this requires a lot of effort on the part of the student. No argument there.I really don't agree with the whole 'you'll never be cool because it's not mainstream' idea. I have run across very few people who got involved in martial arts just so they could be "cool". It happens, of course. I'd say, however, that these days that training in martial arts is far more mainstream than it's ever been...even karate. The advent of MMA has made more people interested than ever before, so I don't think most people would think of anyone as just a 'karate nerd'.Injuries. Yup, you're gonna get hurt. Probably a lot. Not just your body but your mind and emotions as well. The only way to deal with this as it happens is do just that: deal with it. You don't have to be alone, though. Talk to senior students. Talk to assistant instructors. Talk to the head instructor. Anyone of these people worth their salt can help you adjust, absorb and deal with what you're going to go through.Your sensei. He's your sensei. He's not a figure of legend. He's a person who decided to teach something that he (hopefully) does very well...but he doesn't have Iron Skin, he can't catch bullets with his teeth and he can't jump thirty feet high. Now, I've seen some instructors who are hella-tough and damn good at what they do...but remember..at the end of the day, Jesse is right: he's just a human being. Jesse is also right that he has a reason for opening a school. It may be a noble reason, like he wants to keep his art alive and pass down what he knows. He may doing it just for the money. He may doing it because he doesn't know how to do anything else. He may be (hopefully not) a fraud, whose ranks are incredibly suspicious and he's just teaching crap to make some bucks. As Jesse said, be rest assured...there is always a reason.
  • Q
    The never gonna be cool comment is dumb...cool is relative and an illusion most of the time.Karate does keep you in shape..last time I checked being in good shape is actually cool...like real cool and not superficial chug a bottle of vodka cool.The only people who have issues with cool are not all that cool themselves and not people I need to be accepted by.often uncool is a lot cooler than cool..
  • Casper
    I'm glad my Sensei never told me how addicted I'd become to practicing karate :)
  • ryan
    YEs im glad he dind't tell me he would make me unable to train just so he could teach my partner how to kick... i still have trubble wlaking up stairs
  • The Real Mike Oka
    I think this article is brilliant. I think a lot of people can agree, and I think a lot of people's feelings were hurt. Maybe hit too close to the mark, I don't know.I admit that when I began in Shito-Ryu the majority of my life ago, hahah, it was because my girlfriend was in it, her sister, my sister, and almost all of my friends, plus a few of my mentors. It made sense to join, because as you said, it was something to do with belonging, and being the kid I was, in the background I was from, it only reinforces the idea that there is both a non-conformist take on it, and a need to belong. It's like a gang, but without guns, tagging, or decent parties.Anyway... because I was like, 11, my girlfriend wasn't going to last, and my friends would all eventually drop out, and my sister, and my mentors would move on to other dojos to teach, or further their instruction... and so I was the last one standing, so to speak, and I did what felt right to me, and just kept going.I will say this though. Karate hasn't made me superhuman, or fearless, or any kind of expert student. In fact, among my classmates, one instructor hailed me as the only one who put 110% of myself into the art... but not as the best in the class, hahah... and I'm OK with that.I've been in different sorts of security these past ten years, gradually leading into the kind of security where I would actually need the things I learned in Karate, and you know what? Because of the things instructors never tell you, you have to learn the hard way. Refusing to lose (or die) is the only reason I walked away from my first few fights. Once I managed to accept the reality of karate, I learned how to adapt what I knew with what actually worked well in live combat scenarios, against one, or more opponents who WEREN'T using my style, or any style for that matter. No one picks you up by the lapels and shakes you down for lunch money, and if they ever did, it was something you saw in 1955... or at least Back to the Future's version of 1955 (November 05, 1955... precisely!).In reality, without even knowing it, they're trying to hurt you. Maybe even kill you. In the state of California, brutalizing someone with a closed fist is considered use of deadly force, as the only reason you're going to use a closed fist is to try and dish out severe bodily harm (which is one of the caveats of the definition of deadly force!).So, learning on my own the fallibility of martial arts has strangely helped me learn how to better myself in it. To (guiltily) see the shocked expressions when sparring, when I utilize something I modified for a street fight, or the (mostly) shameful feeling of seeing someone's hard learned techniques failing to things they could not have anticipated.Because no, we don't learn that. We learn "if they do this, we do that..." but no one ever prepares you when combat variables are far too great to anticipate in such a short time in a dojo.Soldiers undergo extreme training for 8 - 12 weeks, more if special forces, in which they train in combat every single day of their early military lives... and this was what Martial Arts may have been once, but for us who train two or three times a week... of even five, or seven...It isn't from dusk 'til dawn (great movie), and it isn't every day, every month, for 3 - 6 months straight, followed by being thrown into actual combat life and death scenarios....and for those of us who HAVE lived that life, they can tell you the difference between the dojo, and the fox hole, the tourney, and the trench.We've no right to have hurt feelings, or to feel shocked, or betrayed by any truths. The fact remains that we earned the honor to find a place in something where we feel we belong, and the reason why doesn't really matter. If it has a positive outcome, then it's good for us. If it makes our lives better, than it's doing it's job... and if we can take what we know, and apply even just 1% of it correctly, then we're doing it right....at least, that's my opinion.
  • The Real Mike Oka
    "Deadly force, is the force which a person uses, causing—or that a person knows, or should know, would create a substantial risk of causing—death, serious bodily harm, or injury."
  • Filip
    #6 I'm not superhumanI don't know about you, but Shinjo Sensei seems pretty superhuman to me. They even call him Okinawa's Superman :)
  • scott
    #7 Your rank will most likely not transfer to any other school and especially not a different style! So that black belt you worked so hard for, doesn't mean squat at Joe Flying Fist Dojo down the street.
    • Depends on where you earned it, and if you actually earned it, or "earned it".I was raised up from 11 - 23 under Shito-Ryu Genbu-Kai. Demura Sensei was adamant about new students starting from basics, so anything I learned or "knew" before then (which turned out to be nothing) was void.The last time I was able to study in Genbu Kai was 2011. I'd been a green belt 10 years (on purpose, believe it or not). When I returned to my new home in Clovis, CA, I began looking for a Shito-Ryu Genbu-Kai dojo, but there were none. However, I did come across a shito-ryu dojo headed by Fraijo Sensei, and I came in a green belt. Rather than start me over, he tested my knowledge of basics, kata, and to his (and my) surprise, I was closer to brown belt (3rd Kyu). The belt was transferrable... so hard work pays off.However if you were to say, get your Dan belt from Grandmaster Flying Joe Fistpunch... odds are that belt may have little impact in any legitimate dojo.
  • Nijil Jacob
    Hey jesse san, In the first one you said you would probably not even get black belt. But, that is not the case know, now you might as well get black belt after about for years of practice but won't be at the black belt level. Some people in the class I go to seem to be lazy and very bad at doing katas and everything related to karate but they still keep pass in their grading tests and will surely become black belts but its not about the belt is it ? Its about how much hardwork and practice you have put in. I being aware of this have personally decided to push myself and happy to say that my sensei appreciates my hardwork. So I am a karateka at the aim international dojo created by The great dai sensei Moses Thilak who practiced Shito-Ryu karate with the Sensei Kenwa Mabuni who is the founder himself. Sensei moses thilak is known as the Father of Indian Karate. I feel a lot of pride in telling that my Sensei Blesson Louis is not just a karate master but also is in the Police and uses it once in a while.
  • sam
    Couple of comments.The relevance of your answers invariably depends on the club you train with. I began karate at 5, at 18 I went to university as a very competent 2nd dan, found a club and went to visit.The unprofessionalism, the language, the approach to teaching, and the general standard of both the students and the '4th dan' instructor were terrifying. it entirely depends on where you train. My club have very high standards, are constantly seeking development and improvement, and working hard to make karate useful in the unlikely event of getting into a spot of bother outside of the dojo.Karate is ENTIRELY useful for self defence. best defence is not being there, and if you have a good understanding of distance, you can move yourself out of harms way even when the drunken pillock has decided he's going to try and clip you. If he won't leave you alone, and you've done a few months of kumite, you know that if you step forward and punch their nose, they won't bother you. There's an obsession at the moment with Krav maga, capoeira, MMA or various cool fighting sports with flashy go/shorts/underpants, but if you practise punching something with good technique, if you're in trouble and you do it, you stand a better chance than doing nothing.Also, this ridiculous myth of illegal techniques is STILL being batted around. if someone with a knife is going to take my money or stab me, I am absolutely happy to stick an oizuki into their throat. If I cause damage, then they shouldn't have been committing crime. If I break their leg with a low mawashi, and push their knee though their skin, they shouldn't have been committing crime. Self defence is something people are afraid of, and for me, that goes hand in hand with blame culture, litigation culture and the general demise of social responsibility. In addition - if your club doesn't explore the bunkai behind the moves in kata especially, and they're alien and confusing, then your club isn't particularly excellent. I can speak with some authority, as I have been a karateka for most of my life (with a few years off), and I am a primary school teacher.I think Karate not being cool, and never reaching black belt are entwined whole-heartedly…. if you take up an activity because of its cool factor, chances are you won't stick with it.Injuries - agreed. Teachers appearing superhuman - see my professionalism and effectiveness of the club earlier.
  • Francisco
    I started out in Karate because my Sensei was my friend before becoming my Sensei. He's just 2 years older than me. He never told me that we would grow up an wiser together. That I would watch him make mistakes and be more mature, as well as me. Best years ever.
  • Darren clark
    you are so right I got to brown belt before I saw the light are teacher had a fling with a student. And he was not open minded at all loved to see kids do press ups on there nuckels and God help anyone who could do more sit-ups than him. There maybe some good teachers out there but not many I bet.
  • Court Ellis
    I really enjoyed this article as I could still hear my teacher back in 1973 saying: "you know you could just tell your parents or bust them in the head with a baseball bat and send that big German Shepard you have after them". He would say the most realistic things each lesson, like:1. If you don't practice it don't work. 2. You may get your feelings hurt in here 3. Not baby sitter place 4. Why that kick, you try that somewhere and some guy hit you with brick 6. That a good way to get killed Mr. Ellis 7. Secret technique? no secret technique just you practice this and be able to look outside box!
  • Lesley
    I enjoyed this article. I agree with it. I just got my yellow belt. It is very confusing. Even if I had a Black belt my little foot couldn't kick Shaq down. Honestly. I do it for exercise and because I'm bored on Saturday's. For self defense I'll stick with mace. Some kids haven't come back and they are only just White belts.
    • Court Ellis
      Hi Lesley, that always happens and when the students leave there is always one instructor asking what happened and another that will tell some students start off with the intention of becoming a black belt only in theory, then the find out they have to commit or some just realize they don't really want to do (insert martial art or sport) it and move on. Some eventually come back if you can believe that. As far as doing it for the exercise, well even that can get boring, and just make sure you have the good mace; as that may not work in many situations, i.e. wind in another direction lol!!
  • Wavechrushersg
    When I was in college , I was one of the founding member of our Judo-Karate Club. By the way, it was 25 yrs ago. I got a brown belt during that time, competing both in Karate and Judo tournament. And then one day , I just stop attending the class and found different hobbies like clubbing. In the 80's it was the era of New Wave and my direction learning martial arts went awry. Fast forward 20 yrs later, I enrolled in Jujitsu and MMA class, unluckily after few sessions someone broke my ribs and I have to take few weeks leave. After stopping again for many years, here I am again , enrolled in Enshin Karate in our neighbourhood. Start from the basic ( white belt) and hopefully to aget at least green or brown. Forget about black belt, since I have to practice and train for 3 to 5 yrs.
  • Have you ever heard of a catch 22 Kyokushin is not realistic because they don't work with natural reactions Sport karate realist but no impact If one was free the sport karate man can be top
  • That's not true, 1. I'm 11 and I have black belt 2. It's not confusing, this is wrong ??
    • Court Ellis
      You're right Helen it isn't confusing, but there are many factors in martial arts that some teachers simply don't talk about. Think about this term: "hey maybe you're a good test taker!" I hate hearing that because it may be that some teachers can't truly teach application or teach the hokey stuff. I have a nine year old Poom Dan who has been training for six years. I asked her to break down a blue belt form and knew how. The bottom line is there are those who learn faster and those who will take some time to get right. That is very important for an instructor to know an very important that he instructor knows what they are talking about. I leave you with this: As you help teach in class make sure those you teach can teach others as well. Best wishes!!
  • Glenn Alan
    You will appreciate this: you know I have been doing "mental martial arts" for 25 years. Well, a few days ago I purchased a heavy bag for my son so that he could practice his kicks and punches. What I did not know was the 25 years of mental martial arts does not translate virtually.After a few rounds of kicks, I'm nursing my hip: Ice, Ben gay, icy hot, Advil... Oh my god what happened! I've turned into an old Rusty Ass Bruce Lee.
  • I've been teaching Kyokushin now for 20 years.One of the first things I tell new students is that they are going to feel like uncoordinated dorks.Then I tell them that I am not teaching them self defense - merely providing them with the tools (strength, speed, coordination, and techniques) to improve their chances if they NEED to defend themselves. The same way a carpentry course teaches you how to use hammer and nail. Sure - you can use them without the course, but after the course, you can use them MUCH better. However, I also suggest that the best technique is the Nike defense - put on your Nikes and run like hell. In a pinch, forget the Nikes.Funakoshi himself, in his Nijukun, said (and I paraphrase) "seek not how to win a fight - rather, seek how not to lose". I tell this to my students too, while reminding them that winning a street fight is not when the the other guy is lying defeated on the ground, but when you manage to come out of it, by whatever means, unharmed and alive. Your chances of this are improved if you avoid fighting.I also tell them that learning karate is like having total disability insurance: if you have to make use of it, you're probably in more trouble than you want to be. I've never had to use either - and I hope I never will.I started Kyokushin three times, each time started at white belt. First time at age 14, then again in another country at 16, then again in yet another country at 31. I had other options, but I was set on Kyokushin. The first time I joined BECAUSE it WAS cool. The other times were because I still wanted my black belt. I've had one now for almost 20 years, and I when I look at myself in the mirror I still fistpump and say "Hell yeah! I've got a black belt!" Except I don't use the word "Hell" - I use a more emphatic one.I love teaching it. Yes, I make money with it - but not lots, though I do actually earn my living with it. It's a lot less than I used to get doing IT support, but it's more fun, and much more satisfying. The McDojo down the road, with the 9 year old black belts, earns heaps - about 15 times as much as I do. I guess he's NOT telling his students all these things, and I'm losing out be telling mine.Oh well...
    • That was well said. Now I do have a 9 year old poom belt, but she is learning the lesson of humility. I inherited her from the main instructor and had to explain to her that if you don't understand what it is you are doing then pay attention and learn. The problem is that students were being taught only to perform that form for the test and then they dumped it. So when I asked my little "black belt" to help with the junior ranks I received blank stares. My answer: "Fall in line with everyone else young lady you've got some learning to do!!
  • Mrs. Z
    Jesse, This is the first time I have ever commented and posted on anything I read off the internet but I just had to say:You sound like someone who is so angry and bitter because you could not handle the pressure or physical stamina of Karate. My son joined karate at 9 years old and was awarded his black belt at 14. Yes, it is time intensive, can sometimes be confusing and there are injuries involved but that happens in sports. Will Karate make you cool…will other people think you are cool? Karate teaches self-confidence which helps overcome what others think. My son is a textbook nerd (all honors classes, 4.0, volunteers at church, etc.) and Karate gave him the confidence he needed to realize that he excelled in things other than academics. My son thinks he is cool and his self confidence shows through and makes him cool.Unless you are a devoted student of Karate you have no right to judge the sport. If you were a student for more than just for a few months then you were taught by the wrong person.I read your article to my son and he said “this guy sounds pathetic. I feel bad for him. He probably could not hang in karate and this is the only way he knows to make fun of it.”I am hoping you are not a parent and if you are I hope your inadequacies do not spread to your children.Feeling sad for you...Mrs. Z
    • Dane
      I think your comment is, essentially, a work of complete BS.Anyone that has made a serious study of martial arts knows that Jesse is pretty spot on in this article. This obviously does not include you or your son.You strike me as the kind of parent that dotes on her child and heaps praises upon your child even when that praise is not deserved. The rear bumper of your car is probably plastered with honor roll stickers or some such nonsense. I'm willing to bet that you're raising to child to believe that he is some special little snowflake that is perfect and will always succeed rather than being a parent that actually explains the realities of the world to your child.So your son got his black belt in five years? I'm going to guess that his certs are not worth the paper they are printed on. You've surely been hoodwinked by half competent instructor that managed to dazzle you because he could do a roundhouse kick. There is, unfortunately, a disturbing trend running through the martial arts community wherein half-ass instructors get parents to sign up their kids for half-ass lessons, speed them through the belt levels and produce teen black belts. Students of this type might appear halfway decent...then get in a real fight and just the crap beat out of them.Reality is a harsh mistress and you and your son will learn that soon.
      • Kenneth
        Many students fall for the bs because their sensi is a piece of crap designed to instill them with the knowledge of how to walk into a well whipped a$$
    • Court Ellis
      I think you missed the point of this article. It wasn't to belittle or degrade; but inform. Jesse has been devoted to the martial arts for quite sometime, perhaps reading more about him may help. In the martial arts world we often say things to remind people that while the martial arts builds confidence and character for most there are those who look at it for let's just say, a quick fix. Whether it takes five years or 25 years a dedicated student will put their all into the martial art of choice and know and understand everything Jesse spoke about. We are a unique group and I'll bet your son knows that. It's okay to be defensive, but remember when an article such as this pops up; remember your son may write one of the one type one day. Ouss
    • Warren
      :) If you think Jesse is some kind of failed martial artist watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_uov6VY-Qc, and then show your son what real karate looks when it's done properly, and then find him a an actual karate club that teaches actual karate. Then you can come back and post your comments once you have some understanding of what martial arts actually is.Jesse is basically the embodiment of a dedicated student of karate! I just hope your son doesn't get himself into trouble because of the fact that he's under the impression that he has the first clue how to defend himself.
  • I think that Jesse is right in some of it but for the most part I think he is WRONG!!!
  • I almost have my back belt and I'm only 12 years old
    • That's great and I hope you have been teaching others along to he way. Remember we martial artist must pass along the information we learn to those coming up behind us. Have you been doing any mentorship or pruning a student to follow in your footsteps to success? I know you said you are 12 and yet some student are simply just that a black belt. That is a far cry from being a martial artist. There is leadership, respect, guidance, integrity, moral values all of which apply to your everyday life. Funny how we don't seem to know that is a major part of the martial arts. Lulu I hope you are doing all of these things with your junior ranks as well as yourself.
  • Remember Lulu he is only wrong if you don't grasp the true concept and nature of the article. One of which you will have to write one day.
  • Bucksmallsy
    This article posted by Jesse-san is right on point in all its points!
  • Kenneth Hegler
    The reached black belt after 8 years of training. Many students came and went as I chugged along. I saw many people promoted to rank that they didn't deserve. The instructor showed a lot of favortism to some of his students. I met some young students who reached their black belts about the same time as I did who I know weren't qualified to whip themselves out of a paper bag. Some of them leave class thinking they are ready for actual street fighting, but I hope they never have to use what they have learned because they will more times than likely get the snot beat out of them. I believe that it is wrong to lead people to believe that they ready for a streetfight when the instructor knows that they are not nearly ready for one!!!!
  • Maximiliano
    You first introduced me to an amazing sport like chess boxing and then list all the reason of why karate sucks? I leaving Karate... No, just kidding. When I started training, my Sensei used to answer to my questions, "Don't ask, practice/train". Mostly for the reason of this article, today I am grateful he did it.
  • Slew
    I have just came to your site randomly as I am thinking to start with Karate as a sidecar for my MMA/Thaibox combo.Really nice article - I would like to try the Okinawa blend. Has to be amazing...and I would sometimes visit the Japan Dojo. Everyone was watching Van Damme movies right!? :DThumbs up from Czech Rep.Sle
  • Siril Siju
    Dear Jesse if karate is not useful....for anyone.. to fight practicaly why does many wishes to master it?????
    • Warren
      I have no interest at all in self-defence but I absolutely love martial arts, it's a huge part of my life and probably the most beautiful thing I've found, for many reasons.
  • Gerardo
    A good article but somewhat insulting for those of us who really do have a passion for teaching and keeping the traditional ways, oh and don't charge fees. Shouldn't have lumped us all into the McDojo category.
  • Gavin Randall
    Hey there Sensei Jesse,This is my 16th year training now the style of Kimura Shukokai Karate, and although a lot of what you mention in your article is of utmost truth, I disagree with the fact that you say Karate is of little or no use in a real street fight.Yes lots of people / dojo heads do go off at a tangent and concentrate on technique that may be ineffective. However if the individual is true to ones self, style and the principles and objectives of training technique. If he or she travels and trains with his or her world chief instructors and other top instructors from around the world, there is a very real possibility that one gets infected by a higher way of thinking when it comes to practicle technique and bunkei.I weigh 70 kgs, and recently was rushed by two 110kg / 115kg aggressive men who were swinging violently at me. I must admit proudly that neither of them managed to touch me and that they were both reduced to getting back up between 5 and 3 times each. I threw 7 gyakuzuki's with not too much effort to destroy them entirely, all 7 punches hit there marks causing a fair amount of blood and possibly a broken jaw....this I am uncertain of, but recent discussions of friends of the two bullies mentioned that this could be a possibility. I do feel a quit sad that I had to protect myself in this manner, but every time they got up they continued to try engage, until eventually they gave up. What I know for certain is that I escaped untouched and my blood filled fists was their blood and not mine. I know that had I raised the punches but an inch or two possibly two or three would have done the job. However then this may have been construed as excessive force. Because stitchers would have been minor requirements and then I would have been facing the law from the wrong side!As I was the one attacked by these bullies, I went to the police and opened a file with full names and events, but did not press charges. Just in the event they return and try to complete what they started, maybe with weapons. Just so that there is recourse, in the event of a planned revenge.In summary, 16 years of Karate training with a purpose and training with our world chief instructors as a result put me in a position to protect myself. Hence if as a student you fall short and fail to be inspired or fail to inspire, it is no ones fault, but your own. Thanks for your time and thanks for listening to my story. Oss.
  • Gary
    This is a lot of truth when you seem to be talking about beginners in the Martial Arts. You seem discouraged grass-hopper :-). But rememkber that once you reach black belt level you are now just starting. You have learned all the basics and the real training begins,If you want to compare a Karate person to a street fighter and who might win then please make it a black belt. Same goes for any sport or a boxer. When going through the ranks and learning things and unlearning bad habits you are mixed up and frustrated and might have been a better fighter if you just winged it and didn't try the Karate way LOL. Most boxers are the same way until they go pro. In Karate pro is black belt. Also please note that everyone that makes black belt including myself should not be lumped into the Bruce Lee category. A black belt is only a black belt to yourself. I look at it as when I started I could not even fight good. I thought I could but always lost to the guy the guy I was fighting because he knew more or he had more experience, stronger, bigger, or whatever.Look at it this way, if when I started as a white belt and there were two of me and I faced me now as a black belt I would destroy my white-belt self. Yet there are younger stronger people that just street fight a lot and has learn that way to fight that can certainly kick my ass.So I do agree with a lot that you said here about what they don't tell you. I got in it late in life at 36 years old and at 46 I made black belt finally. Were there better black belts than me. Oh hell yes and would beat me down when sparring or in competitions. But I won some too, however again I am a black belt to me and only me. It is just another way of fighting.One last thing is that the basics are boring but teach you speed and how to put your weight behind your punch or kick. Once you get in the higher levels you learn your own best way to deliver a crushing blow but using the basics you have learned for many years.The good thing is at least you have an option now right? Walk or run away, or stand your ground if someone is putting you or who you are with in danger. Fight or flight remember that. You are thinking Flight always? Hate to be a girl and be your date. LOL. Later I'm 70 now and still have no problem standing my ground against anyone if I am forced to. This kept me in good shape and strong even though I have not practiced for years it is something you don't forget like ridding a bike. So people don't feel bad about this guys article. Take it what it is worth. (not much). do what you want to do.
  • Daniel
    Hi Jesse,I find there are some nonsense points in your article. 1.- You will probably not get to black belt. This like saying, don´t bother to enroll swimming lessons because you´ll never go to the Olympics, or that shouldn´t practice football or soccer because you´ll never be a pro. 2.- Modern Karate sucks for self-defense: well, this is quite disputable. Some other readers have already provided good responses to this point. 3.- You will be confused again and again: any learning process in discipline means getting to learn new things. Getting to know new material and discovering new ways of utilizing what you learnt, make it more challenging and interesting 4.- Karate is not cool,neither you will be. Anyone enrolling any sport or hobby just to try to be cool has a serious problem. By the way, the learnings you recommend definitely don´t make you any cool... Anyway, who decides what´s cool? 5.- You´ll get annoying injures: Does this mean that you shouldn´t practice a sport if you can get injured? So, would you recommend football over karate? Tennis maybe? Soccer? Let´s go for chess. Please if you know any sport where you cannot get injured, let me know. 6.- I´m not a superhuman. Seriously. In every filed there are better and worse professionals. That´s a fact. There are people who stablish a business just for the money, and there are other people wo stablish a business to do something they like AND make a living out of it. I don´t see the problem with that.I believe you can apply your 6 points to any other sport, hobby or activity.
  • It's nice to know that there are people who don't know that they're helping and your one of them, you're minimizing the victims of bullying.
  • Arshawn
    this was grate but i am a first degree black belt should i quit???????????? please reply!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    • Courtney S. Ellis
      No keep going!!!
  • arshawn
    I'm not in karate but they kicked me out thanks a loT :(
  • Alex J A
    I been doing karate for 8 years and it was kyokushin, i was 9 at that time when i turned 15 i got bullied at school. During my time of middle school and high school i got into fights, remember when i said i was training during that time? The moment that i was practicing bymiself i used to imagine my opponents, every block every strike because i knew i was going to get bullied the next day. The days that I got to fight for real i realized it was worth training, yes i kick their ass with "Karate" is no the same with everyone. My trick was to visualize my opponents during training, and believe that is possible.
    • Alex J A
      I started when i was 9 years old till now
  • Arshawn
    I started when I was 5
  • Steve E
    You're an arrogant asshole, actually. What about those that enjoy karate for the mere fact that they find it a fun worth while experience and way to spend their time? Sounds like you cannot stand the sport yourself. Or, maybe you're just so unhappy with your life in general. Giving people a realistic sense of something doesn't mean you need to insult them for choosing the sport, either.
  • rose
    Shito -ryu karate, kendo, tae-kwon do All Martial Arts are artistic and esotoric. But most of all I enjoyed the discipline it brought to my life.
  • Clint
    This article was spot on! I really enjoyed it. Thanks for writing it.
  • Gilbo
    I remember my first dealings with martial arts...sad. Everyone was forced to do it for "Self Defence" what really struck me was that the football team were visible from the room and their training seemed worlds tougher than what was going on in this "Self Defence" class - we're supposed to get tougher than the school bullies by not training as tough as they do? Makes total sense.Skip ahead five years and a school change a friend mentioned practicing Karate - I laughed at him for it and was invited along with the promise it would hurt so bad I probably wouldn't last the night. He wasn't wrong - it started out well too, walked past the head teacher and introduced myself to a Miyagi looking guy who directed me back to the head teacher - both 3rd dans but one looks like a Karate instructor, the other looks like Ronald McDonald. First hour didn't shake the memory of the highschool rubbish at all, more demanding but equally unimpressive, second hour things started getting interesting. They broke out two staves with padded ends and one with some cloth wrapping. Kids and adults up to 4th kyu lined up at the two padded sticks and the green, brown & black belts got the cloth wrap, what caught my attention wasn't how hard they went with the staves but how differently the guys and girls in the cloth bo line were responding, some met the bo force to force, some deflected it and some stayed as close as possible while avoiding it entirely. The point of the practice was to work on the areas you as a student thought you were weakest. The adults with the padded bo braced themselves in kibi-dachi with their arms held out to the side while the person with the bo gave them a good going over for toughening. Then we did sparring, I was distracted by how hard the higher grades were taking it to each other and got a kick in the solar plexis from a greenbelt girl who was trying to explain the rules of this particular kumite training and wasn't amused about not being the focus of my attention. I was put down for a round then put out properly by my friend who took the opportunity of everyone sparring everyone to make good his promise of me not lasting the class. Didn't finish the lesson but hung about for another decade. Competed in Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Boxing, MMA and any martial art event that had "Open" in the advertising. Words of wisdom I was given before my first competition were "The only way you can shame our dojo is if you run crying from the ring". Wish I still worked hours that allowed me to train more than once a week - 24 hour gym is a godsend but they don't have sparring practice. I miss Kyokushin.
  • Graziela
    I think the bruises are a big part. Back in the beginner's Judo group, getting a bruise from falling was rare. But in the advanced group, bruises from falling onto someones feet, weird choke marks(what sometimes really happens) or scratched hands from trying to grab your opponents collar and accidentaly scratching on their fingernails is normal. And everytime we play a game called "belt-stealing", where you try to get somebody else's obi with just ground techniques, even self-invented ones, like my beloved feet push when my arms are trapped, I come back home with a little bit of blood on my gi everytime. It's part of it. And the coolness part is also true. Why would you want to be friends with someones, that could knock you out or make you pass out or break your arm if they get angry?(The don't know how much self control you have and budo often seems violent) But none of this,, not even the confused faces of relatives after telling them you fight with some sticks in your free time, should be a reason to stop. To stop what you love to do.
  • KarateGirl
    I love my sense I she is very nice but when we get on the dojo floor and start training she is a beast. But we have fun and learn a lot from her. I recently joined her dojo and am only a white belt and am looking forward to my first tournament but until then I will continue to train and she will continue to push me.
  • I like your comment on being confused about karate. My uncle who has a black belt keeps saying it's really difficult and takes a lot of persistence and perseverance to get it but once you do it's really worth it. I'm continuing to emphasize to my son this point.
  • Anonymous
    I have to say, I don't agree with a lot of this, repectfully. For one, I have been doing karate for about 8 years, and just recently earned my black belt. In my dojo, and going to countless seminars, I feel as though I can be ready for any street-like scenario, whether it's a knife attack, sucker punch aimed out of nowhere etc.. But you should know, one very important concept I learnt from doing karate, is the best defense is to not be there. You can't get attacked if you don't put yourself in a situation to be attacked. I was taught very important street-smart senses. My second point is that not all sensei's are in it for the money. In my particular style, which is Goju, my sensei is pretty broke. She has no car, unmarried, living in an apartment, taking up odd jobs just to maintain herself. But she does it for the passion, she takes so much pride in teaching. I have trained under top top top shihan's in Canada, and they could all be retired and living in their homes, and not caring anymore. One of the top shihans in Canada is 76, nearly blind, and has a nasty temper when his blood sugar is low due to diabetes, is still teaching, running seminars. They teach you humbleness and humility through soji, which is the cleaning process that not every dojo practices, which is shocking. It is what makes people trainable and disciplined. The last thing I find wrong to some extent is this statement: "Really, any ice hockey player, rugby player, footballer or basketball player will have more fighting spirit, toughness and die-hard never-give-up attitude than your average Karate-ka today." - If karate is taught well, and the student is willing to learn, they should be able to grow a lot of muscle, learn grit and toughness, and learn spirit. During my black belt grading, I, and the other candidates endured lots of screaming and yelling, things like "Your stance sucks", "Your kata is weak, you're not doing it right", you get the gist. They do that on purpose, because a karate-ka should not break under pressure, they need to show their grit, passion, and spirit. one thing we were being marked on was spirit. So to say that people who do mainstream sports like hockey are going to do better in a street fight is not only unfair, but generally false.
    • David
      If you think you're ready for a knife attack you will die
      • Anonymous
        Well, I certainly have a better chance of staying alive than people who don't have training. And besides, it's not like I am going out of my way to get into a knife situation. Where I train and attend seminars, they simulate real-life attacks, by attacking randomly, so you have to be prepared for any possibility, What will get you killed, is having the mindset that you will be killed. Just think about that...
  • Jon
    When I began, I set one goal: and that was to come to the Dojo 500 times and then I would decide if I wanted to continue, that was it. I did not care about belts, only getting to 500. Three weeks before my Shodan, I hit 500...and decided to continue, why not? :-)PS: Yes I'm now a Black Belt, and I've finally begun. :-)
  • David
    I guess we will have to agree to disagree on the knife defense issue. Please look at some YouTube vids on prison knife assaults though, it could be an eye opener. Peace
    • Anonymous
      I'm sorry we have to disagree, but I'm pretty sure most knife assaults are not from trained or experienced attackers. If you look at the psychology behind knife attacks, or other up-close attacks, it is mostly anger-related, and not premeditated. So the odds of that person being well-trained are either very slim, or you put yourself in that position in which you only have yourself to blame. I only hope I am never in that situation, but if I am ever in that situation, I must trust myself
  • Anonymous
    I'm sorry we have to disagree, but I'm pretty sure most knife assaults are not from trained or experienced attackers. If you look at the psychology behind knife attacks, or other up-close attacks, it is mostly anger-related, and not premeditated. So the odds of that person being well-trained are either very slim, or you put yourself in that position in which you only have yourself to blame. I only hope I am never in that situation, but if I am ever in that situation, I must trust myself
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  • My brother suggested I would possibly like this website. He used to be totally right. This publish actually made my day. You can not consider just how so much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!
  • Wilson Phillips
    Yes this article is a good read. For beginners it all depends on the teacher and student both. Over the years we've had students come and go. Some believe it is a walk in the park when they receive their first promotion but reality kicks in when they figure out that the belt tests get harder the further you progress..it does take time and dedication. Yes you do get hurt and either you learn how to push through it...if the teacher isn't pointing out every lil thing about what you're doing wrong from the beginning then they are not helping you. Otherwise good advice
  • Nearly 30 years ago... my Sensei and Dojo growing up were great. Taught me self-control, discipline, and how to take and throw a punch. We focused on full-contact sparring and work outs. A few forms thrown in for good measure. Sensei toughened us up but also taught us to fight smart. Our peers in school didn't respect us because we studied Karate. Most kids/teens were not into studying Karate. My younger brother never liked it, he dropped out after a month, then became a very good boxer. Once, when we were younger (in our 20's), I was visiting my hometown in NorCal and we settled a disagreement with our fists. I knew I couldn't outbox him, he outweighed me, out muscled me, he's built like a tank to this day... so I dodged/blocked a few punches and grappled him to the ground. His boxing was useless there, my dad heard the commotion and split us up. It was our last fight. Besides a few tussles with my brother... whether tested in a parking lot brawl or street fight, I could hold my own, Karate training never failed me. More importantly, I learned how to avoid a fight and channel my anger but if it came to a fight, I knew how to measure my strikes and neutralize an opponent. I fought boxers, fellow jocks, wrestlers, gangsters, etc... none gave me too much trouble. In those days, we didn't have MMA's, not sure how'd I fare with one of those.
  • Eric
    Thanks for the article. I've got a question. I'm currently doing Kyukushin Karate. I'm considering to quit because I don't find it practical at all. People say its the toughest form of karate. I've done it for 3 months now. Sensei always does an hour of drills "air hits" I call it. Last 30mins can be sparring, kata or hitting padded shields. Out of the 3 months. There has been 6 sparring sessions in 3 months 2 sessions of hitting padded shields in 3 months Rest are all katas. So in the space of 3 months. Does this sound about right?
  • Tom
    Ok I read this for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I honestly think a lot of this is unfairly cynical to martial arts and other martial artists, especially those who train in traditional karate, specifically: #1 - To say to any student, "you" will probably not get your black belt would be a self-fulfilling prophecy for a lot of students. I would put it another way - "It takes years of dedication and training to earn your black belt, and the vast majority of people give up along the way. Whether you earn it or not is up to you." So I agree that in reality, most people fail, but just about any dedicated student can earn a black belt if they are willing to put in the effort. But on one final note, who cares? If there's one thing I learned by getting my black belt, it's that the black belt is only the beginning of a much longer journey - it's a seat at the table, and nothing more. #2 - I have to just say "wrong" on this statement and most of the explanation that goes with it. I would say that there's no free lunch in this or anything else. Your ability to defend yourself is proportional to the amount of effort you put into it and how well you learn the principles of the martial art. Conditioning, strength training, cardio, all that stuff matters, too. I would argue that if you have two people who spend the same amount of time and effort, with comparable physical abilities to begin with, the one that learns karate will be better able to defend her/himself than the one that does some other sport. I suppose you're trying to dispel the idea that going to karate twice a week for an hour is going to make you a street fighter able to take on thugs - and I couldn't agree more. But this blurb "... train several years and still have almost no improved chance at winning a street fight"... I'm sorry, but if that's true, they are not being taught a martial art at all and they need to find a better sensei. #3 Agreed. I spend a lot of time being confused, and some of the finer points take literally years to untangle (learning internal connections, etc.) #4 - Again, it depends on the individual. If you spend lots of time bragging and showing off, you are probably going to look like a dork to a lot of people (think Dwight Shroot), but I personally find the self-confidence that goes with learning a martial art does make me "cool," and attractive, but most people I know casually don't know much about my martial arts dedication, so it's a non-issue. #5 We agree on this one, Some senseis are more protective against their students getting injured than others, so you might need to shop around to find a school that fits the level of risk/reward you're comfortable with. Still, people get hurt sometimes. #6 - I agree, but I have to wonder what the expectation is here. NOBODY is superhuman, that's true, and there's always a risk of putting somebody too high on a pedestal. But if you've never had the pleasure of working with a sensei who made your jaw drop in awe once or twice, you're missing something. I know at least 3-4 senseis who are truly amazing to work with - people who at least appear to push the boundaries of normal human ability in just this one aspect of life. But yeah, they are flawed humans in other ways, just like the rest of us. So thanks for writing this article, it got me thinking a lot, even if only to disagree with it. Good luck in your endeavors.
    • Juan Castellanos
      Preach brother
  • Caleb
    It doesn't matter what martial art you do or how much you learn or practice you are bound to fail. All the great masters and legends of the past had to go through hell to reach their level and found what worked for them. Personally as a karate lover and seasoned traveler their are a lot of schools of any martial arts that are quite pathetic, what they teach is impractical and at time dangerous if used in real life situations but 9 time out of 10 there is still something that can be learnt. In karate there are some showy styles but look at kungfu you have wushu which in pure show but in everything learn to seperate the practical from the impractical, even in the best of martial arts there is some stuff that is useless... but at the end of the day what are you looking for? To have fun and find friends with simular interests For fitness For self defence and so on....
  • Rakesh R. Raut
    Hansraj before asking him this question you should research about Jesse... He owned a karate dojo and trained in the same style you ask for since he was baby. Because his parents are masters in it... and his one opinion I will always appreciate because it is my way of thinking also. that you trained in any style... but you should be able to learn the application of it. on the top of the hill, everyone is going to see the same moon. no matter from which way or path you choose...
  • Joseph Malone
    Seems very dogmatic in your approach. I disagree with most points. They seem intentionally slanted and mix truth with lies never really clarifying anything but only to serve to add more confusion. Things like this is what gives martial arts a bad name. It is never right to lie. Anyone who denies another person the truth is a sinner and should be eliminated for truth is knowledge. If told the truth they would walk out? What gives an individual the right to lie and falsely advertise just to maximise profits? You make alot of base assumptions about your audience, namely that they are gullable and easy to prey on with false doctrine. People quit karate not because it is hard but because they dislike being in a class with children, wimps, and women who have no real desire to become fighters. They leave in join a mma gym because a gym won't give them confucian mindless psychobabble. All the "follow me blindly" mantra only serves to enslave a weak mind. Double speak and wordplay exist only to trick and deceive. The truth is they make training take longer by delibrately undermining and marginalising students so that they doubt themselves. Before karate they had confidence, after they are more doubtful and timid. Its brainwashing and 100% evil. You only care about profit through phony self help seminar style products. You are a phony and fraud.
  • Chris Lyons
    The practical self defense part is too subjective to include here I think. In big commercial dojos sure. But not across the board. Although I wasn't ther Bruce Lee I wanted to be by blue belt, I still had useful fighting techniques after a few months. The basics such as a tough front kick or a swift reverse punch to the midsection can end a fight real quick or allow you time to throw something else. Most people without martial arts training only know windmill swinging. There's a big but he though. So many martial artists want to do the complex tornado throw or jump spinning roundhouse kick oin a fight and they forget they have that front kick or some straight punch.
  • Juan Castellanos
    This might be true when you're taking Karate for sport. When you really get into the ethics and values that the founders had in mind, everything else comes as secondary or as an added bonus. You learn to control your emotions and be level headed; this helps making faster decisions while under duress. You learn to be in tone with and aware of your physical and mental capabilities and limitations; you'll know what you're phisically capable if you have to use your knowledge at any given time, are able to push yourself beyond your current limits during training, and are aware of your shortcomings and what needs to be worked on. Kata teaches you what techniques you can use in different situations and sparing helps putting those techniques to practice until they become second nature (tell me you've never automatically jumped to Zenkutsu dashi, Kamae when someone gives you a jump scare. Or raised your knee like you're about to throw a mae geri). It also improves your reflexes and visual motor skills more than many other sports. A hokey player probably wouldn't be as successful at quickly catching a falling object in the air as a martial artist would. If you don't think traditional martial arts work, go talk to Lyoto Machida.
  • lina
    I got my black belt and I'm thirteen and I started when I was four.

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