How To Make Boring Karate Fun (“The Broccoli Method”)

“Bleurgh! Hnng! Yuck!”

Those were the sounds I made as a kid, every time my mom tried to make me eat broccoli.

I couldn’t stand it, even though I knew it was super healthy.

I’d rather eat carrot cake every day of the week!

Until mom had a brilliant idea…

She threw cheese over the broccoli, popped it in the oven, and served it sizzling hot.

SLAM DUNK!

I ate it all.

In less than 3 seconds I devoured the whole plate and even asked for more – barely realizing I had just eaten tons of “yucky” broccoli!

Incredible.

Ever since that day, I’ve used the exact same principle for many things in life that I know I should be doing, but I don’t really want to.

(I call it “The Broccoli Method”.)

And it works like MAGIC for Karate too.

You see, there are many things in Karate that we know we should do, but don’t really want to do. Things that are outside of our physical, technical or mental comfort zone.

Like basic repetition.

The #1 Karate motivation killer.

I mean, we all know repetition is the mother of perfection, right? The neurological pathways your brain associate with specific movements are strengthened each time you repeat them, making you faster, smoother and more efficient in your Karate techniques.

Yet…

We never do it enough!

Why?

Because it’s boring.

Solution?

Repeat without repeating.

Hide the broccoli.

You need to disguise your dull (but super important) “broccoli techniques” in a juicy layer of fun and exciting “melted cheese exercises” in order to train smarter, not just harder.

Get it?

Just follow this 2-step formula:

1. Identify the repetitious techniques that you want to practice.

That’s your broccoli.

2. Hide it them a couple of challenging exercises.

That’s your cheese.

BAM!

Super easy – and suddenly you’re repeating without realizing it.

Here’s a practical example:

1. Let’s say you want to practice the transition between zenkutsu-dachi (front stance) and neko ashi-dachi (cat stance). Great skill to improve, but a real sleeping pill.

2. Design 3 different exercises to practice it; one solo, one with a partner, and one with an external object (resistance band, weight vest, balance board, focus pads, timer etc.). Practice each exercise for 10 reps only (so it doesn’t get repetitive) and then switch exercise, for a total of 4 sets per exercise (circuit training style).

BOOM!

Suddenly you’ve repeated one basic skill (moving between zenkutsu-dachi and neko ashi-dachi) 120 times (3 x 10 x 4), without getting tired of it at all!

And the best part?

You can do this with E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

Just choose a couple of things you need to repeat (punches, kicks, kata, kumite, grading stuff) and use my 2-step “plug-and-play” formula above to get it effectively done.

That’s it.

This approach is supreme not only for improving your own skills, but also for teaching and retaining students in a more efficient, fun and result-oriented way.

Don’t be a martial artist.

Be a smartial artist.

(Tweet that)

Repeat without repeating.

Hide the broccoli.

Good luck!

_____

PS. You should never underestimate the value of getting familiar with, and deeply exploring, the meditive aspects of grueling repetition too. Although it’s cool to “hide the broccoli”, especially for lower and intermediate Karate-ka, eventually you must practice eating the broccoli without cheese. Why? Like a wise man once told me; “strong training makes strong spirit.”

31 Comments

  • Ossu! [bow]Wallace: That's it - cheese! We'll go somewhere where there's cheese!LOL!Light bulb moment here! That's why I was so keen to learn a couple of pattern drills that the Senseis have recently taken out of mothballs. That's why I love working with my daughter on days we don't have class. That's why I appreciate one of my Sensei's ability to put together challenging drills. It's cheese! Cheeeeeeeeeeese![bow]
  • Szilard
    I think this is a rather misguided method that infiltrated pretty much every aspect of modern education, especially in the US. Seeing the general results in science, history and math, I would say use this method if you want karateka who has no idea how to do proper kihon, but finds it extremely troublesome if anyone even mentions it.If the cheese thing worked for you, chances are you are the only such kid, so far I have heard only negative experiences about it. So negative that one of my neighbor's kids are not willing to eat any cheese either, somehow they managed to associate it with broccoli.I trust you will learn from experience, deceive your white belts into practicing and you will have a backlash of quitting green belts when they should practice because they enjoy doing karate.
    • Monty
      I was under the impression that circuit training was rather effective. The boredom breaker is good too. I find that it's always good to walk away for a few minutes and then try again with a clear head. I find that repetition tends to put me into cruise control. When I leave to do something and then come back, I can recall subtelties that I've missed and can take corrective action.
    • @Szilard: I'm taking off my obi and gi here and putting on my teacher hat. Research backs up the cheese thing. Sorry.
    • I'm sorry to hear that Szilard-san. Good luck with training and teaching!
  • Great article, sir.Agreed. When teaching beginners, making reps fun is a must. But only because beginners don't understand that something even better is on the way... IMPROVEMENT.Increasing competence is its own kind of fun. That's why Karate Nerds don't mind cranking out rep after rep.Fun fades. Skills are forever!
    • Fun is just a bonus. The real benefit lies in the increased understanding you get of things when you study them from various angles, Ando-san. Makes sense?
      • Makes perfect sense! I was agreeing with you! :)
  • Jim
    Well now I'm having problems getting melted cheese out of my best Gi's Jesse-San - looks like this is a cunning ploy to sell loads of your new Gi :OBut seriously - I can see the technique applied to basic Kihon stuff but can you also give a couple of examples relating to Kata and Kumite practice ?Jim
    • Only your imagination sets the limit, Jim-san! Just identify the principle you want to practice and then approach it from a few different angles. This way you get a 360 degree understanding of the thing, plus it's not boring. That's the concept!
    • Arokthis
      Kata: Do it backwards, mirrored, backwards AND mirrored, figure out what the opponents are doing, blindfolded (and mirrored, backwards, or both) etc. My favorite is "distraction kata" - You do the kata while everyone asks you questions. All questions have to be short, quick to think of the answer, and the answer must be quick. ("What's your favorite color?" is good. "How many windows are there on your house?" is not because most people can't figure that out without stopping to think, unless they had gotten that information recently.)Kumite: Hands only, feet only, "minus a limb", "holding a baby", "protect a fallen buddy", "tied to a tree", "in an elevator" (use something to make walls), "on a cliff" (small area rug or flattened large cardboard box - whoever steps off is "dead")
  • Your really made it clear. And it is abolutely true. Variation is important to achieve training goals without the group losing fun and motivation. And I think there is also another reason why it is worth thinking about it: Not only within a training but also on a long term view diversity can help very much to keep enthusiasm for karate training. This it the reason why I chose diversity an the main subject on trainingdo.de and give examples of practical exercises and variations for a chosen topic, which can directly be used in training.
  • Thomas
    Hi Jesse, yes, I agree. I practice already for a longer time (without knowing that it is the "broccoli-cheese" theory). And I tested it with a part of kata Unsu (the Gyaku-Zuki-Sequence at the beginning) for instance. At first we did only the sequence. Without speed or kime or something like this only to learn the movements. Some already knew it. Others did it for the first time. Then I asked three different graduated students to do it three times as fast as they can and took their times. After that we started training only this sequence for more than a half an hour. In different ways (with and without a partner ...). At the end I took the time again. And the result was, every student was much faster and(!) the difference between the particular times of the students wasn't as wide as at the beginning. Each student now did the whole sequence faster and every try nearly within the same time. For me the "broccoli-cheese"-theory works. And I ask my students at the end of the training if it was boring, because we only did one movement over a long time. And all said "NO! It rather was interessting and funny". And this is only one example I experienced myself. In former times we trained kihon forwards, backwards, forward and so on. You are absoluty right: BORING! That's the old we have to learn from. Since that time science of sports made a huge leap forwards. That's the new we have to understand."Times change, the world changes, and obviously the martial arts must change too. The Karate that high school students practice today is not the same Karate that was practiced even as recently as ten years ago, and it is a long way indeed from the Karate I learned when I was a child in Okinawa.” >>Gichin Funakoshi<<PS: Who said, that we have to practice new methods not strong?
  • Joshua Caldwell
    Jesse-san, Just wanted to give my input from a "baby black belt" (1st Dan): I hate broccoli too...time to go find some cheese before my 2nd Dan testing... :)
  • Casper
    Who knew cheese was the secret to karate! :)I do believe your point is valid, however I think it can be dangerous to learn people to just "wrap cheese" around boring things. I mean, part of what I think people learn alot from is that 100 repitions - getting a meditative feeling about what they're doing.(I'm not disagreeing with you, I think what you say is true - you shouldn't get too comfortable about camouflaging the work).
    • For sure Casper-san! That's what my PS was about. ;-)
  • Craig
    Any recommendations on how to make upper and lower body basics cheesy?
  • Jim
    Jesse-San - do you think that there's a point at which students should be mature enough to not need the cheese and be able to appreciate the need for the simple repetition for it's own sake without needing to disguise the taste?Jim
    • @ Jim - At 44 I ought to be mature enough to not need cheese. I do just plain boring repetitions when there's no other form of practice available or when Sensei tells me to. I'm OK with that - I'm a beginner and I need to pound those movements into my thick skull, especially since I'm fighting against very old muscle memories from another style I trained in when I was a teen - muscle memories that shriek, "no, no, no - age uke is like THIS, remember?!?" Repetition - plain old boring repetition, is getting me past that. Having said that, I will loudly proclaim that cheese is soooo yummy! It motivates kids and adults alike. Kids love it that we're doing something different. Adults love it for the same reason, but added to that is a deeper appreciation for and understanding of the movement. I'll swap my obi for my teacher's hat again and say that adding cheese, or "game-ifying" tasks has proven very effective in classroom, business, and personal settings.
    • Martin
      As everything I guess that it just depends ????. It depends on the teacher , the kid , the group of kids. I started practicing with adults at 12 as I was phisically big enough to train with them and I was getting serious with karate so I didn't mind about repetitions, actually I liked that and always have, I'm 34 now. But my sensei's son for example, he gets quite bored about the repetitive stuff and he is 16 and he's been training with adults for a long time too. So now that I'm reading what I just typed down, it must depends just on what the kid/adult likes or not ????. So probably is not just the age, as there might me many adults who like plenty of cheese on their karate.The end! ????
      • @ Martin - you said it :-) Swapping my obi for my teacher's hat again... Everyone develops at their own pace. Everyone has different preferences. The trick is to motivate these wonderfully individual students to keep moving forward. Yep, Martin, it totally depends!
  • Jacki
    So true Jesse-San, I was fortunate enough to be able to run our lessons while our Sensei was in Japan recently and my biggest worry was that the class would get bored. I "wedged" repetition and basics in between an obstacle course that I set up before class - the kids went nuts! They loved it and still ask Sensei when can we do it again- there overall stamina and agility improved as well.
    • You got it Jacki-san! ;-)
  • Fabian
    It's actually back to the roots! Like: okay on my own would be Kihon, or Kata. With a partner would be Kumite or bunkai And the object to exercise my technique could be a makiwara!Honest light bulb moment!P.S. Jesse San
  • Donna
    I love broccoli...with or without cheese. I have rarely ever thought during training, "This is boring". I guess I love to practice, with or without cheese.
  • jarri nitiseno
    This is a funtastic article.I like this and I will to implemented this advice in my dojo. Don’t be a martial artist. Be a smartial artist. This is the 'magic' sentence, I will allways remember it.
  • Deny Hariyanto
    Nice article Jesse-san. I'd love it! As a sensei, we should have creativity in training method. Without it the training will be boring. I always learn psychology of kid to make it fun. How to make them eager to learn more, it's the key of success our training method.
  • I can see reasons why some have other tenets, but as a classroom teacher from various age groups the cheese is a something to utilize. We utilized this approach in our club as well (the Bloom's Taxonomy for karate) It works very well and of course must be tailored to vary with age group and levels of human development, physically and mentally. I personally like to incorporate higate in most of our drills and high energy closing for kids, including allowing them to have some "tegumi" time. Good writing.
  • Mofy
    Sir,thank u for that teaching i really learn alot from your article.THANKS
  • Alex from Venezuela
    Ohhh dude!!! you saved my life haha, I'm Sensei and I realized my class were been a little boring... Thanks a LOT! By the way, "Be a smartial Artist" was great and clever. Nice article.
  • Szilard
    I would absolutely eat your cheese if I can hope to find some broccoli in it. I would also do your motivational exercises if there is some hope for kihon, renraku, kata, or bunkai in there.

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