An e-mail was received.
From a ridiculously handsome man named Gary, with an impeccable taste in blogs.
Jesse-san, first and foremost, I’m a huge fan of this site and I never miss an article because they’re ALL great.
Okay, you can tell right now that this guy is good.
A while back, I asked you what your thoughts were on training with a mirror vs training without, and you came through for me, posting a fantabulous article and putting things into perspective.
My latest idea for a good article for you to post has to deal with this: how long should a student train with their sensei before they truly can grasp the concept of the basics, therefore opening up their own martial arts school.
I’m constantly viewing traditional karate school websites and when I go their head sensei’s bio page, a lot of the time I become very confused. Sometimes they’ll skip the part of who their instructor is/was and jump right to the awards, promotions, how long the school has been in business, etc. Okay, getting to the main idea, how long do you think a good, hungry for knowledge, martial artist should train with their instructor before branching off to spread their style?
I would think that in most cases, once somebody opens a school, they would have little or no time to train with their sensei because they’re way too busy focusing on their own school. Me personally, even if the day comes where I do decide to open a school of my own, I will train with my sensei until he’s no longer here. Perhaps the sensei would know best when their student is ready but then again, should their student/teacher relationship end there as far as the physical training?
Maybe I’m looking too much into this and maybe there’s not even a definitive answer. Maybe there’s no right or wrong. Ah, the curse of the minds of us karate nerds 😉
Keep up the GREAT work…… Gary
Okay. You had me at Jesse-san.
(Note: Many people can’t even spell Jess…i?…y?… ie? Needless to say, I can never delete those e-mails fast enough)
First of all, young Gary-san, this is a complicated matter.
Let’s put that on the table.
Cuz I’m about to go all new-agey on your ass.
It’s like: What should you eat for breakfast? When should you brush your teeth? Should you have milk or sugar in your coffee? How many times should you reuse your dirty underwear? These are the sort of questions only you can answer, and if you’re true to yourself, I believe the answer will never be hard.
Because, no matter how much I try, I can’t really smell your underwear through the internet. Sometimes you just gotta do stuff for yourself, and see where it takes you!
Indeed, my underwear probably don’t smell like yours (okay, this analogy is going too far), right?
Yet, general guidelines can always be given, and with the help of those guidelines one can only hope that smart, educated Karate nerds like you lot out there can make the decision on your own.
When are you ready to leave your sensei and do your own thang?
Here’s what I’m thinking.
Look into a mirror.
No, don’t just sit there imagining looking into a mirror. That’s not the idea. Seriously, go and really look into a mirror, and tell me what you see. Or do it the next time you go to the bathroom. The above pic doesn’t count.
Then ask yourself this: Can you look into your eyes and see yourself?
Do you see you?
Not somebody else, not who you want to be, not who you wanted to be, not who you could have been, not who your parents/friends/sensei/girl/boyfriend want you to be, or thinks you are… but… you?
If you do, you are lucky.
Because that means you are real.
If you do see your true self in the mirror, then you can set sail in whichever direction you wish. Because you are real. From the heart. Genuine. And everything you do will be recognized precisely because of that.
History has taught us that if it is one thing that’s universally respected in a person, then it is realness. Revolutionaries, pioneers, heroes… villains. No matter what language you speak, job you have, culture you represent or neighborhood you grew up in, realness is there for everyone to see because it shines through in everything you do.
That’s what I’m thinking.
So therefore, I think it’s safe to say that if you feel the need to e-mail a carrot cake loving, Karate nerd blogging, self-centered, comment-moderating-like-the-communist-party jerk like me, for advice on when to leave your sensei and start up something on your own… then you are perhaps not ready.
Does this make sense?
Which isn’t to say that you can’t.
On the contrary, I believe history is full of people who have done exactly that, which has led us to where we are today – both in terms of quality and quantity. Additionally, people keep e-mailing me on what gi to buy, what books to read, what tournaments to go to, what styles to practise and everything else between heaven and earth, so sure, go ahead, you’re not alone in your fear on being on you own.
But until you get that realness, that swagger, you will always have some fear in the back of your mind.
Because in the end it all boils down to that. Fear.
Fear of letting your sensei down, fear of letting your “old” dojo friends down, fear of letting your style down, fear of letting your organization down, fear of letting your family (or other people who are proud/depend on you) down, and last but not least, the fear of letting yourself down.
But here’s the trillion yen question: Are we afraid of heights… or are we really afraid of falling from a great height? Are we afraid of the dark, or are we really afraid of what evil might hide in the darkness? Are we afraid of falling in love, or are we really afraid of being dumped? Are we afraid of sparring, or are we really afraid of getting our nose busted in sparring?
Isn’t it obvious?
“Can I really do it? Will I even get any students? What if they ask me something I don’t know? “What is the history of Karate?” I don’t know! Kobudo? What’s that? I’ll just tell them they are not ready for such things yet! Membership fees, insurances, organizations, bribes (?) paperwork… gaah!”
If you can look into the mirror and see your true self… then nothing will be frightening.
Because everything you do will be from your heart. It will be you, 110%. You, you, you, you and you only. And “you” can never be wrong, unless you are pretending something else. You need to know yourself.
“Whatever”, I hear you going. “Jesse is booooriiiing! Hey, Oprah called, she wants her show back!”
Okay. I am boring. Sorry. So let’s screw what I just wrote. If you read the above, and still think “Truck this, I’m going for that dough, boooy! Realness or not!” then I won’t stand in your way. Be my guest.
Join the rest.
I’ll give you three general pieces of advice instead:
1. Get to the “golden point” before you leave.
In all professions and skills, there’s a certain point you reach after many years of dedicated training. It’s that “magical” point just below that step to becoming an elite practitioner. After this point, you will have to train 5000 times as long and hard, to become 1,5 times better.
And that’s just what the best in the world have done.
But you don’t need to. You’re not aiming for best in the world. Most sensei aren’t. You needn’t.
You’re just aiming for “better than 95% of the random people that stumble into my new dojo.”
So get there.
2. Stuff some theory into that head.
Okay, you can do the 720 dragon flip kick of doom, but can you explain it?
Flashing your skills is not worth much if you can’t convey a message beyond “this hurts like crap” as you turn your newest recruits’ nose bone to mush with the aforementioned kick.
You see, there are people who are great athletes, but can’t explain how they do stuff. Then there are crappy athletes who can teach you some really advanced stuff.
You need to be in between.
In other words, if you can’t explain to me why I need to have my hikite lower or higher, why punching with a horizontal fist is better than a vertical fist, why I need to squeeze together my butt cheeks in sanchin dachi, why I need to look at the ceiling when I lift somebody to toss them, or why I must always keep my heel down in a gyakuzuki… [insert other random Karate gospel here]… and then show me exactly why/what you mean… then you’re not ready.
It’s just so simpo’.
3. Read some books.
If you are a kanchô (dojo head), then you need to know the history of what you teach. The history of Karate. And Okinawa. And Japan. And Kobudo. And the different sensei and styles, how they differ, why they differ, why your style obviously is superior, and…
Because people will ask.
Oh, and get some DVD’s too while you’re at it. And subscribe to great blogs.
But stay away from online (free) forums. They might just end up taking more energy than they give, and we have no use for that. Lurking is fine though.
And that’s what I could come to think of at the moment.
Leaving your dojo to start up something new is not easy, and especially not if you don’t know why you’re doing it in the first place. I mean, is it for monetary reasons? For personal reasons? Political? A spiritual journey? Why do you need to leave your dojo in the first place?
Are you simply bored?
(If yes, then Hokama sensei has a thing or two to teach you in The Karate Code!)
When you’ve figured that out, the rest will pretty much take care of itself. There’s a time and place for everything.
Sensitive, touchy stuff, indeed.
Perhaps it’s just easier to be real with it.
Confront the mirror tonight.
Good luck Gary-san!