I know, I know…
You probably think I write these articles lying naked on a bearskin rug, feather pen and glass of wine in hand, with no worries on the horizon.
(Actually, replace the wine with carrot cake and milk).
However, even though my saint-like nature and ridiculously impressive character often seems to suggest that I’ve achieved inner peace to the point of Buddhahood, the truth is that wringing out these Karate articles, books, products, secret projects and videos eventually takes its toll even on humble Karate Nerds™ like me.
And I’m not talking about mouse elbow or writer’s cramp.
I’m talking deeper stuff.
You see, there are moments when even I get fed up.
Fed up with with things that happen in the Karate world. Things I see, things I read, things I hear, things I feel, things I notice…
In 9 times out of 10, these things are caused by certain people.
And the time has come for me to ventilate.
Today I’m presenting you with a list, in no special order, of 27 kinds of Karate people that annoy the heck out of me right now. People that, if they suddenly vanished from the face of the earth, would instantly make the Karate world a better place for the rest of us.
(I’m 101% convinced that you know exactly what kinds of people I’m talking about.)
Let’s examine them together:
#1: Senseis who believe their own hype.
They once began as humble students. Although they didn’t necessarily have “talent”, they still worked hard, trained every day and stayed passionately humble. Then “POOF!”, all gone. Today they have their own dojos, huge organizations and loads of students – but what once was a true feeling of humbleness and gratitude has shifted – to narcissistic worshipping of their own ego. They post big images of themselves with made-up quotes on social media. They print t-shirts with images of themselves. They build a cult around their own hype. And the saddest part? They’ll never realize it. On the outside they appear successful, but on the inside the fetischism for their own legend has strangled their Karate spirit. Out cold.
#2: People who believe in “ranks”.
The idea of belts and ranks in Karate sounds awesome. Just like communism, flying cars and jetpacks once did. Until you realize that nobody has a flying car, jetpacks only have fuel for 30 second flights and communism… well, let’s just not go there. Nonetheless: Belts, ranks, diplomas and credentials are the perfect marketing tool. Why? Because they work. They truly do. People are gullible. The widespread notion amongst the general population – that Karate degrees are standardized worldwide, like academic degrees (bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D.) – is a big reason McDojos thrive.
#3: People who trash-talk certain Karate.
The fact that so many people talk trash about traditional Karate (“it’s too traditional and impractical”) is as stunning as the fact that so many people talk trash about modern Karate (“it’s too modern and impractical”). Folks… it’s two sides of the same coin. We just have different sets of goals. But the method remains the same: Train. Your. Ass. Off. Another man’s path isn’t less “worthy” than your path – especially not when those paths lead up the same mountain. At the end of the day, we have two arms, two legs and one head. Use them as wisely as possible to attain your goals in Karate. What you then choose to call your path is less important.
#4: People who believe they don’t deserve success.
This is especially obvious when it comes to gradings (belt tests). People simply don’t believe they deserve to succeed! They begin each training by excusing themselves from doing their best (“Sensei, my toe hurts a little today, so I think I’ll just go half speed.”), making things harder than they have to be. Don’t fight against yourself. Fight with yourself. Overcome those speed bumps and stop being friggin’ afraid of progress (remember The 10 Karate Nerd Commandments?). It baffles me that I constantly need to convince and remind grown-ups that a) not only are you capable of doing the techniques I teach you (otherwise I wouldn’t have shown it to you in the first place), and b) you owe it to yourself to train like you deserve nothing but the best results.
#5: People who take themselves too seriously.
My DNA is 96% chimpanzee. So is yours. In other words, we are basically nothing but monkeys flying through space on an organic spaceship (the earth) spinning around a huge ball of fire (the sun). Sounds ridiculous, right? Exactly. Still, some people insist on acting like their poop doesn’t smell. So please, do us all a favor and remind yourself that tomatoes have 7000 more genes than you the next time you put ketchup on your holier-than-thou sandwich. The tallest rice plant bows the lowest.
#6: People who never try grappling.
You thought Karate was strictly about punches and kicks? That’s cute. You’re just forgetting the simple fact that 99% of original Karate was based on the premise that your opponent is not only trying to beat you senseless with his fists, but also trying to wrestle you down and/or control you. That was the case hundreds of years ago, and that is still the case. I’m not saying people should learn ground techniques, grappling escapes, joint locks, throws and takedowns, but at least watch some YouTube clips so you know what to expect. Or, here’s an idea: Try a free class of Judo, Jiu-jitsu, Aikido or Wrestling. You’ll be humbled in roughly two seconds. Then go back to Karate and keep that feeling in mind.
#7: People who act like they’re the spiritual reincarnation of ancient Japanese samurai warlords, even when they’re clearly not.
You’re not fooling anybody: You eat soggy cereal for breakfast like the rest of us.
#8: Senseis who start meaningless organizations.
I get it. You want to feel like a boss. But here’s the deal: There are thousands of secret treehouse Karate clubs already. Why should we join your? And don’t tell us that you’re the spiritual reincarnation of an ancient Japanese samurai warrior. We need more than that. Show us what unique benefits your organization provides, what new knowledge we’ll have access too, what useful connections we’ll be able to make and what awesome events we’ll be able to attend. Otherwise, just stop it. We don’t need another membership card. We need the human connection.
#9: People who constantly display their medals.
You know when kids sometimes show you their cute, but horribly ugly, drawings? We smile, nod, pat them on their heads and say: “You must be really proud!”. Well, it’s the exact same with Karate people who love showing off their trophies and medals. If you are one of those, repeat after me: “The true measure of my skill is not attached to anything other than my own flesh and blood. I am the total sum of my own experience, pain and suffering in the dojo, and no medal or trophy can ever outweigh the magnitude of this realization.” When you understand this, you can finally feel free. That’s when you start putting the medals in the sock drawer. It’s not about not being proud of your achievements. It’s about not letting them limit you.
#10: People who are not Karate Nerds™.
Seriously. Just read my 7-day guide and make your life easier. You won’t regret it.
#11-27: Dude, I think your boss is looking over your shoulder. Let’s speed through the rest!
- People who travel all the time. Fleeing themselves and the lives they’ve created. Or worse, they’re telling themselves they’re after “self-discovery”, “exploration” or “new perspectives” – when really they are running towards more distraction and self-indulgence. (Also, where do they get the friggin’ money?). As Seneca, the Stoic philosopher, once wrote about the restlessness of people who compelled to travel: “And so we must realize that our difficulty is not the fault of the places but of ourselves.”
- People who do all their kata applications (bunkai) against Karate techniques (i.e. mae-geri, oi-zuki, yoko-geri etc.). I have just one question: Why would another Karate-ka attack you on the street?
- People who claim to be “traditional Karate-ka”, but have never held a bo or sai. Okay, I get that there are various interpretations of the word “traditional”. But every, and I mean literally every, dojo in Okinawa has traditional weapons (bo, sai, tonfa, nunchaku etc.). Many masters insist that you practice both. Even George Kotaka, multiple-times World Champion in kumite (WKF), did loads of Kobudo (the art of using the aforementioned weapons) when I visited his dojo in Hawaii earlier this year. I’m just sayin.
- People who hype bacon. It’s good, sure… but that good?
- People who think a job, by definition, must be boring. And therefore Karate isn’t a “real” job. The entrepreneurial pursuit of putting food on the table through teaching Karate is just as much of a job as anything else. The part where you put on a gi is just the icing on the cake, though. Most of the real work happens behind the scenes.
- People who don’t like carrot cake. (What’s wrong with you?)
- People who think all Karate uniforms are the same. Just wait… you’ll see.
- People who think they’re alone on the Earth. No you’re not. Everything you do affects other people. The whole earth is a living organism – and you are a part of its collective counsciousness (whether you like it or not). I’m not saying that you need to care about everybody else. I’m not even saying that a shitty decision from you will automatically have shitty consequences for someone else. But keep in mind that we’re in this thing together. Don’t be a douchebag. That’s all.
- People who are hard on others, but easy on themselves.
- People who make lists of other people who annoy them greatly.
- People who don’t learn from their failures (or successes).
- People who don’t use blinkers, who yell a lot, who fart in the dojo, who think other people should be responsible for raising their kids, and who put too little frosting on carrot cakes. Seriously. Bro. The frosting is half the experience.
Which ones did I miss?