The 10 Commandments of Karate Nerds™

Karate is not a religion.

Still, I have come up with 10 “holy” commandments that you really need to follow if you ever desire “enlightenment” in the Way of the empty hand.

Why?

Well, I’m not promising you’ll end up in the Great Dojo in the sky, but you’ll definitely be light-years ahead of McDojo™ victims in the grand scheme of life. And when you think about it, isn’t that what Karate is about?

Improving our lives.

One punch, block or kick at a time.

Follow these 10 Commandments of Karate Nerds™ and you might just do that.

Listen:

1. Thou Shalt Not Talk More Than You Train

Thou Shalt Not Talk More Than You Train

Training is hard. Talking is easy. As human beings, we inevitably gravitate towards the easier things in life. That’s why we sometimes avoid the really hard stuff in training. Sometimes by accident, sometimes by purpose. But Karate training wasn’t made to be easy. So, unless talking actually develops your Karate, save the chatter for the dressing room. Cry in the dojo – laugh on the battlefield.

2. Thou Shalt Think For Yourself

Thou Shalt Think For Yourself

Getting stuck in routine is normal. Expected, even. But you and I are not normal. We try to actively find new ways to improve our Karate, no matter how unexpected it appears. We don’t blindly follow rules and regulations. Thinking outside the box is hard, sure, and will sometimes make you feel uneasy, yes. But it’s always worth it. As long as you are moving in the right direction, anything goes. Unconventional does not equal unfavorable.

3. Thou Shalt Promote Real Karate

Thou Shalt Promote Real Karate

Everyone aren’t as blessed as you and me in finding a great dojo. Just like we can’t choose our parents, many people can’t choose a good dojo. Often they don’t have much choice. And when you’re a beginner, everything looks the same anyway! So let’s help people out. If you see a McDojo™ victim, educate him. Tell about real Karate. The purpose of knowledge is not to have it, it’s to share it – because that’s when it turns to wisdom.

4. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Rank

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Rank

Comparing ourselves to people around us is a trap we all fall into. It’s an inescapable part of the human condition to compete with others, hard-wired into our DNA. But, measuring our success in Karate by comparing belts with other people is a dead-end that only leads to frustration, jealousy and sadness in the long run. Never try to be better than the next man. Silence the lizard brain. The higher you climb, the less a rank will mean anyway.

5. Thou Shalt Never Be Afraid of Questioning

Thou Shalt Never Be Afraid of Questioning

The day you stop questioning is the day you commit intellectual suicide. Much of what we are taught is so rooted in unchallenged tradition that we often forget to ask ourselves if things are really productive to our progress in Karate. So ask. Ask smart questions. Ask stupid questions. It’s better to look a fool for a second than remain an emotionally insecure wreck for life. Never be afraid of questioning anything. Anywhere. Anytime. But remember to always do it respectfully.

6. Thou Shalt Honor Thy Sensei

Thou Shalt Honor Thy Sensei

Your sensei is a treasure trove of information. The sum of decades of experience in the art of Karate. But your sensei is human too, and all humans – especially ones who spend their days helping other people – need to be seen and respected for what they do. Make sure your sensei knows that you truly appreciate every last bit of wisdom you get. It’s the best way to unlock more personal feedback in the future and will propel you forward in Karate faster than you think. As a bonus, it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

7. Thou Shalt Know Your History

Thou Shalt Know Your History

Sometimes we forget that Karate is not just a “social activity”, “sport” or “exotic hobby”. It is, above all, a cultural heritage from the tiny island of Okinawa, from where it spread through Japan into the rest of the world. As such, it is our duty to research our past in order to understand our present and embrace our future. Karate is too valuable, rich and unique in its nature to ever dismiss as just any other martial art. Know your lineage, know your history.

8. Thou Shalt Embrace All Parts of Karate

Thou Shalt Embrace All Parts of Karate

Whether you are interested in the strictly combative side of Karate, the spiritual side, the theoretical side, the technical side, the philosophical side, the cultural side or the historical side; there’s too much amazing stuff to learn in Karate to ever lock oneself into one department. Embrace the full spectrum of Karate, and you will always find yourself invigorated no matter what, where, or with whom you train. The art of Karate is best enjoyed from a 360 degree perspective. Realize this now, or learn it the hard way later.

9. Thou Shalt Never Be Afraid of Progress

Thou Shalt Never Be Afraid of Progress

Progress inevitably means change. But change doesn’t always equal progress. That’s why change invokes uncertainty and fear in some people. But as long as you feel that change is going in the right direction, never be afraid of progress. Momentum is your friend. Constantly have a mindset of learning and improving. One day you will realize that this mentality is just as valuable inside the dojo as outside.

10. Thou Shalt Keep Holy Thy Dojo

Thou Shalt Keep Holy Thy Dojo

The dojo is unlike any other place for practice. It is a special place (“jo”) where we study the Way (“do”). Hence, the term “dojo” symbolizes a place dedicated to not only our improvement in Karate, but the Way of life in general. And the Way of life, as we all too often realize, is an intricate and delicate path that involves many hardships and battles. As such, the place for studying the Way requires the utmost respect. This is why we bow when we enter and exit the dojo. Because Karate begins and ends with respect.

Just like life.

And those were the 10 Commandments of Karate Nerds™.

Amen.

17 Comments

  • Kris
    Very nice, Jesse!
  • Excelente. Só não concordo com a parte que se refere a lealdade e respeito ao sensei. Nem todos os sensei tem caráter para serem respeitados, mesmo por seus alunos. Oss!
    • Samir Campos
      Pinto San, Eu compreendo o seu questionamento e inclusive tive experiências que me fariam pensar da mesma maneira. Mas hoje eu penso que quando adquirimos consciência de que nosso sensei não é digno de lealdade e respeito, então é melhor trocar de sensei do que continuar com alguém cuja autoridade reconhecemos. Ainda assim, mesmo no caso de quem permanece com um mau sensei (às vezes por falta de opção), acredito que todas as pessoas merecem um mínimo de respeito e isso é especialmente importante dentro do dojo; então não custará muito manter um bom tratamento dentro daquele espaço, embora o praticante conserve um pensamento livre, e uma atitude independente fora da escola de karate. Embora seja engraçado falar português aqui neste espaço (e isso deve dar um nó na cabeça do Jesse-san), é muito bom encontrar lusófonos por aqui. No meu país (Brasil) existem ainda muito poucos praticantes com a compreensão acerca do karate no nível que é mostrado aqui neste site, então é uma grande satisfação encontrar alguém falando português no site (por mais inusitado que seja devido à língua-padrão daqui, e apesar de provavelmente não seres do meu país). Forte abraço, e bom treino!
      • Samir, o respeito é fundamental, mas na minha opinião quando descobrimos que o caráter do sensei ( prefiro me referi aos sem caráter como professores) é duvidoso, o melhor é procurar um outro local. Um mal caráter pode trazer vários problemas e prejudicar seus alunos. Agora se ainda assim o aluno optar em continuar com esse "professor", então deve manter o respeito e ter em mente que ele não será vitima de probelmas futuros mas sim conivente! Sou brasileiro de Pernambuco, mas moro no Japão. Abraços e peço desculpas ao Jesse por não saber falar inglês. Oss!
  • The first one is, IMHO, the most important one: talk less, train more!
    • Mike B.
      "Less yack. More smack." One of my favorite "dojoisms."
  • Dave Oddy
    Very nice as always - however, I've given up on #3... It just destroys friendships and rarely works anyway. If someone is enjoying their training and feels that it is valuable, no matter how shallow the knowledge and weak the foundation, there is little you can do to persuade them of this. Especially when they are bound by pride in those shallow accomplishments. Think of it this way - assume for a moment that your karate is poor and that you just don't know this, or don't have the technical depth to understand it. How easy would it be for someone else to convince you that you have been wasting your time? I like #3 in spirit and believe that good karate should be promoted. However, educating "McDojo Victims" is in my opinion a waste of time and a destroyer of friendships. Either they will find out on their own, or they won't - if they enjoy their "hobby" then I suppose its not really my business. Well - that's my $.02...
    • Marcilio Mosco
      I think there are ways of promoting real karate without destroying a friendship. For instance, I would talk to friend about different "interpretations" of kata application, instead of logicaly convincing them that the one they train is unpractical. We all would train and laugh. There are many ways to accomplish the goals of #3. Bye!
    • Rui Paulo Sanguinheira Diogo
      Agreed. What is real Karate anyway? I guess my definition might differ from yours and probably yours from Jesse's. Is it modern Karate – competition sport? Or is it the combative martial art from the 19th century which didn't know things like kihon, competitions or bouncing kumite and has been lost in great parts – things for example Motobu complained about already 80 years ago? Or is it something else? Didn't Jesse write about the diversity of Karate? Now about real Karate? I think he's trolling giving controverse input to get the discussion going. :D Same with "McDojo": What is a "McDojo"? Is it about those guys in wildly colored gis with lots of patches who have no or little connection to the 19th century martial art and are trying to manipulate people, make money out of Karate, playing power games and teaching stuff that they made up? Well, if I think about it (#2 is probably the most important rule and should come before #1 – you can train your ass off, but if you don't think about what you are actually doing then it is in vain! Unless you don't care what you are doing. Then it doesn't matter anyhow.) then this also applies in great parts to some "traditional" international organizations of some renown (No, I won't name them.) and their politics! If you ("you" as a wildcard for everyone) are happy with what you are doing and don't care about the rest. Well, it's totally ok. You don't bother me, I don't bother you. It's none of my business. If you want to discuss or promote something – also ok – but please don't feel hurt if someone disagrees... So if someone is promoting real Karate then he'd better be prepared for that. *shrugs*
  • Sandy b Herman
    Greetings Jesse San And congratulations with publishing these excellent 10 commandment,which do a great job in highlighting some important sentiments Thank you for your continued worthwhile contribution to MA You have my vote! Warmest Sandy
  • Omar
    I like them all, specially #7. I think, if you practice something but only repeat the sequences of blocks, punches, kicks in Kata, or even fight only for fun just to be "cool" without know about the roots of your art, it would be a big mistake call yourself a Karateka. Greetings Jesse-san
  • Ando
    This is truly top notch material, sir! Soooooooooooo well done. Although I must admit to being haunted by that creepy Sensei in #5! "Questions? Yeah, I got a question... will someone please call the police for me?" :)
  • Brian Okello
    On point... especially #3 and #7
  • Gerry Boyce
    Based on the thought bubble for number 9, it looks like hard work + magic mushrooms leads to incredible leaps in strength!
    • It's a Super Mario reference! ;)
  • Adalbert
    Much to ponder, thank you! I totally agree that "measuring our success in Karate by comparing belts with other people is a dead-end". But occasionally the trouble is that we are measured by others by comparing belts, degrees etc. Most people judge heedlessly by appearances and show (that which is externally visible), not by the quintessence (that which is perceptible only for the acute mind). I’ve practiced Karate for 15 years, never cared for belts (I’ve taken an exam only when they were already worn out; "In the old days rank was not important – The complete opposite of today. You just trained" – Higa Yuchoku). I am fully aware that my biggest enemy is my own weakness and misconception. From time to time, during kumite, I reluctantly, almost involuntarily, teach humility those glorious black belts that stubbornly grow more and more haughty and arrogant because of that undeserved and too hastily bestowed honour.
  • Graziela
    I think #4 is really really important. There's a boy in my Judo class(He once was one of my classmates but that switched schools), which is the same age as I am, but already has the orange belt and I have the yellow one(since we have a belt inbetween, he is 2 belts higher). He never brags about it. Noone brags about their belt. I know, that he knows more and that's fine. And he knows, that I don't know some techniques that well and that's also fine. You didn't earn you belt to brag, you earned it, because you progressed.

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