19 Foolproof Ways of Being a Completely Average and Unremarkable Karate-ka

1. Accept everything you’re told at face value. Especially if it comes from somebody with a higher rank than you. And if that belt comes wrapped around an Asian person… oh my gawd.

2. Never go to open seminars, camps or other get-togethers where there’s a realistic chance you’ll actually have to re-evaluate or question your current knowledge and understanding of Karate.

3. Completely disregard everything that is not in your immediate environment when it comes to other styles and kinds of Karate. They’re fun to look at, but not really that useable or interesting.

4. Don’t go to any Karate tournaments. Not even for looking. Of course, unless your sensei has explicitly demanded you to go. Then you go.

5. Don’t buy any Karate books, magazines, online courses or DVDs. They will only serve to confuse you and don’t apply to your dojo’s unique concept of Karate anyway.

6. Learn dozens of different defenses against a straight lunging punch with the right hand. Preferably in a deep forward stance. Kiai optional.

7. Always remember that the real Karate stuff (practical, realistic and dirty) will be taught to you. Eventually. When you are mature enough. Perhaps. Maybe. Hopefully.

8. Kobudo and other weapons based training? Leave that to the weirdos.

9. Think about all the other cool martial arts you’ve seen on YouTube, but never try any of them. That goes for two-person drills and strengthening exercises too.

10. Always go to Karate class with the intention of jumping through hoops and checking off boxes. Also, make sure you don’t stand out. Save your questions.

11. Keep training like you’ve always done. No need to change a winning concept. Don’t fix what’s not broken.

12. Take a “pause” from Karate when progress seems slow. Stopping training for a couple of weeks or months will boost your physical and mental well-being as well as enhance your technical progress.

13. Ignore the incredibly rich cultural legacy that comes packed with Karate. History is for dusty books and tradition is for church. Besides, the new and old are incompatible. That’s like a universal law. I think it was Newton who said it.

14. Don’t bother learning a couple of useful original Japanese Karate terms and phrases. Everyone will speak English in the future anyway. Save the brainspace.

15. Never let anybody tell you that you’re doing something wrong or different. Your Karate style/organization/club can be likened to your religion, and thus it must be defended at all costs. It’s simply a matter of integrity.

16. Don’t forget that Real Karate™ can only be found in Japan. Luckily, your sensei has been there (or at least somebody he knows has been there), so you will never have to go yourself.

17. All that esoteric and holistic stuff that the old masters used to talk about (respect, humility, persistance, gratitude, harmony, fighting spirit, enlightenment and such) is not something you need to consciously practise every single day of your life. Rather it will eventually, most likely automatically, come to you if you just keep training as usual.

18. No pain, no gain. If you’re a bit tired, always stay home from the dojo. You won’t be able to learn anything in your current state anyway. Eat a TV dinner and fall asleep to Oprah. No guilt included.

19. Lastly, if you’re ever – and I mean ever – unsure about something, just remind yourself of the three holy pillars of Karate: Conformism, Safety and Comfort.


  • Heinz
    Nice list! Unfortunately that's true for >75% of karate people I've met.
  • Hahahaah you are a genius!!! Nice not-to-do-list!!! However, i feel like guilty reading it... sometimes i actually do some of these errors... like: "Don’t buy any Karate books, magazines, online courses or DVDs..." or "Think about all the other cool martial arts you’ve seen on YouTube, but never try any of them." Sometimes is question of time, sometimes of mental attitude... We have to keep open our mind...
  • herrle 58
    And NEVER do any workout at home, without your senei watching you! Big mistakes might be trained in. And never try sandbag because you will mess up your technique, holy makiwara is the only way to build punching-power. And if you made any of the mistakes above, never tell anybody!!! Word of mouth will bring it to your seneis ears....OUCH! Very nice article again, you always show me, i`m not alone :-)
  • Jim
    Hey Jesse, thanks as always for the insight. I think its always good to have something like this to give yourself a wee reality check when it comes to Karate. I think the biggest problem we seem to face these days is that a lot of Karate-ka seem to leave their common sense at the entrance of their dojo.
  • Diego Romero
    lulz! disagree about 12, though. same as for physical exercise, sometimes a break IS what you need. the trick is knowing WHEN to rest, and for how long. rest at an inappropriate time, and you'll lose progress, or find it harder to come back.
    • Yes, the sports physiological concepts of periodization and super-compensation are vital. If you're an elite athlete. :)
  • Davide
    Lol, great post Jesse. Luckily it seems that (except for two of them, because i can't afford much seminars and don't have a car to reach tournaments) i'm not an average karateka...hopefylly. that's a good discovery XD
  • Manuel
    I'm moving away from the "average" state I was in.....thanks to you my dear jesse-san! unfortumaely, hereabout, there aren't that many karate-geeks to train with, out of the dojo.... I'm making a makiwara though... =)
  • JT
    I love number 14. I want it printed on a T-shirt. These are words I live my life by like any good Englishman ......and not just Karate :) Learning Japanese or Swedish.....pah!!!
  • Sasha
    This is sooo cool. I can really see most karate people being like that. If you talk about other styles, they frown at you. If you say you're learning some kata your sensei hasn't taught you yet, they panic with the thought. If you say you got this DVD course, they politely smile and reinforce your sensei's sacred principle in their heads that you need to be corrected absolutely all the time because your stance may deviate from the alleged optimum by 1 centimeter - discussing a number of bunkai applications is secondary.
  • Brian
    Hmmmm, interesting. Interesting that every comment is about how "other" Martial Artists act and not one admitted to personally doing an "average" item on this list. How can anyone move past their problems if they consistently deny they even have them? I'm guilty of 2,4 and 8. As for #2, I've been to seminars, but only to ones run by my instructor's teacher. Why?!!! Because it's comfortable (get out of the comfort bubble!). I'm currently looking for a random open seminar (in any style) that interests me so I can attend. Mock me if you want, but by letting someone know my downfalls, I now have some leverage on myself to correct those issues. Good stuff Jesse!
  • Barbara Hesselschwerdt
    Now I see why I get into so much trouble. This year I have trained in a seminar outside my style. Looked at other styles. I constantly look at videos and read books and experiment with what I learn. The problem comes when you realise that your style is not the holy grail and when you are conflicted about what you know and what you are required to teach. This is why clubs don't encourage you to look outside what they teach in their dojos. Sad but true.
  • Karato
    Exception from #2: When you are - excidentally - at seminars, don't scrutinise anything. Worship it all like gold (which you really gave for it) :...-)) Joke apart. The 19 rules have to be obeyed strictly in most organisations. Otherwise you run the risk of your most frustrating setbacks in belt examinations. Perhaps you would even never get the blackbelt, because this like other exams show mainly your conformity to the style. Crosstrining, marks from strange seminars, bunkai techniques from other styles, questions about exact execution - all that could prove, that "you don't understand the style". And you won't be happy to hear that verdict at your exam. Better hide anything of that for your private.
  • Gorinkai
    Marvelous! xD

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