5 Smart Ways To Improve Your Karate Faster

Train smarter, not just harder.

Do you want to improve your Karate?

Of course. We all do.

Unfortunately, sometimes it feels like we’re not improving as fast as we want.

Especially if you’re an advanced practitioner.

In fact, research shows that your rate of improvement decreases the longer you’ve been practicing.

Unless you do something about it…

That’s why I want to share 5 smart ways to improve your Karate faster with you today.

I use these myself and with my students.

Check it out:

#1: Private Training

This is the best way to supercharge your Karate.

Regular training rarely leaves time for deep personal interaction with your sensei.

However, with private training, you get highly specific and personal corrections. This is especially important for advanced practitioners.

Imagine 1-2 hours of continuous, tailor-made personal feedback.

That’s what you get with private training!

Personally, I often book private lessons with local experts when I’m travelling.

Just last week I practiced 2 hours Wing Chun in Hong Kong with an 8th degree master. I’ve also done Capoeira in Brazil, Kobudo in Okinawa and Uechi-ryu in USA.

As a dojo owner who teaches private sessions almost daily, I can easily say that private students progress 10x faster compared to regular students.

Unfortunately, private training is expensive. Many people can’t afford it.

Another problem is timing, since private classes often need to be held outside of regular class times and must match your sensei’s schedule.

PROS: Personal and specific corrections. Time effective. Invaluable feedback.
CONS: Expensive. Requires a competent sensei and must match his/her schedule.

#2: Seminars & Camps

Attending seminars & camps is a great way to broaden your knowledge.

They often cover a wide range of topics during a full day, weekend or week.

This kind of focused, intense practice is great for pushing you outside of your regular comfort zone. You are basically guaranteed to improve.

Moreover, when you attend seminars you often meet new and interesting people.

If you are a good networker, you can make awesome connections here.

Photo taken at my recent seminar in Canada

As an international seminar instructor myself, I see this first hand. The friendships people make with each other can last for years; transcending style, dojo and age.

The main problems with seminars are logistical.

Finding them, travelling to them, taking time off from work/school/family and making sure they don’t collide with your other dates can be tricky.

PROS: Concentrated dose of knowledge. Wide range of topics. Meet interesting people.
CONS: Expensive to travel. Requires time & effort. Dates must match schedule.

#3: Teaching

This might come as a surprise, but trust me.

To teach is to learn twice.

Few things challenge your knowledge of a Karate as much as teaching it.

The reason is simple – when you teach something to others (especially beginners or kids) you are forced to rethink your understanding of it.

Like Einstein said:

“If you can’t explain it to a 5-year-old, you don’t understand it well enough.”

That’s why teaching is an amazing way to elevate your Karate knowledge.

(Believe me – I’ve been teaching since I was 16.)

The hardest part about teaching is to find a group of passionate students that consistently want to learn from you.

Also, if you’re not a natural born leader, it might be stressful.

You need to be comfortable with both your Karate skills, social interaction, pedagogy and interacting with students and parents.

But the rewards are incredible…

PROS: Boosts your Karate on a high level. Develops social and leadership skills.
CONS: Very challenging. Requires more than “just” Karate knowledge.

#4: Books

A good book can change your life.

So, imagine what a great Karate book can do for your Karate!

Being a book lover myself, as well as a #1 Amazon best-selling author, I experience the power of books all the time. People love to tell me what they’ve learned from my work.

Many legendary Karate pioneers (e.g. Funakoshi, Mabuni, Konishi, Taira, Motobu etc.) wrote books as well. Some of these have been translated to English. Try to find them!

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find exceptional Karate books.

For every 10 books you buy, 9 will be vanilla. Before you know it, your house is filled with hundreds of books – but only a handful are worth keeping. That can get expensive!

Luckily, books can be super cheap if you get them second hand.

However, it’s hard to learn advanced Karate techniques from books. Video is better.

PROS: Proven way to learn. Easily accessible. Doesn’t require batteries or internet.
CONS: Bad for learning advanced skills. Hard to find best books. Requires space.

#5: Karate Nerd Insider

Finally, my favorite.

Karate Nerd Insider is my online video subscription club.

Every week you get new advanced Karate instructional videos – straight to your inbox.

Here’s an example:

I created Karate Nerd Insider for several reasons:

  • It’s convenient (new episodes are automatically sent to you)
  • It’s consistent (your Karate improves week after week)
  • It’s personal (videos are sent directly from me to you)
  • It’s inspirational (a positive injection of motivation)

Karate Nerd Insider takes your Karate to the next level.

Constant improvement.

Every week.

(Read more.)

If you ask me, this is the future of Karate learning.

PROS: Private Karate videos with new training methods sent to you every week.
CONS: Not as good as learning IRL. Requires internet to download & stream vids.


That’s it.

5 smart ways to improve your Karate faster.

Dont’t be afraid to invest in yourself.

You are worth it!

So many people spend time, energy and money on useless stuff. Imagine if they spent it on self-development and knowledge instead.

Invest in your Karate.

Your future self will thank you.


  • Great article Jesse-san! If I can add my own little to #4 that also has a tie-in to #3, read books on connecting and managing people. John C Maxwell's "Everyone Communicate's, Few Connect" is great, though there are thousands of books out there on the subject. And #5 - totally works. I've been an Insider since launch and look forward to the new release every week. Little details like scapula placement are things that can sometimes get taken for granted, and you explain in such a way that makes complete sense I feel bad for not thinking of it myself. Thanks again for the article!
    • Thanks Shaun-san! I totally agree. There are sooo many good books outside of the "Karate" genre that can really boost your Karate, especially when it comes to teaching & leadership. Also, deep bow for your Karate Nerd Insider testimonial - it makes me super happy to hear! :-)
  • Ossu, and I'm glad to know I'm on track with three out of five :-) Books and your Karate Nerd Insider are two things I haven't explored yet. I have had wonderful results from #1-3 in spite of the cons (and thank you for listing the cons, by the way - that balances out your article nicely). Alternatives to private lessons include Gasshuku (camp), sunny Fridays at a small dojo, and semi-private lessons with a small number of same-ranked people. I'm not planing on going to my country's national competition this year, but I'm supporting those who are competing this year by attending the training sessions. It helps the competitors to have a moving target, er, another sparring partner, and it gives me a great boost too. I'm curious about why you didn't list tournaments. Tournaments are great for pressure-testing your skills, particularly in kumite. Sparring with total and complete strangers is nothing like sparring against your dojo buddies. I greatly appreciate your insights, and thanks for pointing us karateka in the right direction for improvement!
    • You are right Joelle-san, tournaments can be a great way to improve your Karate skills. Especially your work ethic and focus. However, under the wrong coach, it can be detrimental. After all, Karate isn't so much about competing against others as it is about competing against ourselves. In a tournament, there are winners and losers, but in a real fight, there are only losers. To win without fighting is the highest victory.
    • E
      You should read his article pertaining to the word ossu. It's very informative.
  • Jack
    How about training in a different style and going back to white belt! I took the plunge a few months back, it messes with your head a bit, but to me it feels very liberating being a low grade again and it's great to study the basics from a slightly different perspective.
    • That's true Jack-san! Well done. The important thing is to do this at the right stage of one's development. Otherwise, it's like they say in Japan; "He who chases two rabbits catches neither."
      • Jack
        Thankfully I'm vegetarian! but grateful for your response Jesse and will heed your warning :)
    • Or take it a step further and drop to white belt in your own style... but with a different association. I went from SKIF to JKA once and got bashed for not twisting my feet by precisely fourty five degrees when delivering side kicks.
  • Akshat
    Attending seminars surely is a great way to boost knowledge as u meet experienced people and you actually enjoy learning it . You are away from home and there are literally no boundaries to not only valuable knowledge and practise but also fun. And yes, teaching also is great as you need to breakdown and start from level one so you actually revise yourself and according to my experince also discover new details and mistakes you make Great article anyway Jesse san ,and yes u r right about the passionate students thing :)
    • Thank you Akshat-san, much appreciated. Keep it up!
  • Henry
    Can you recommend any books? That would be interesting to know :)
  • James
    I train in a small, private Dojo. At times I'm the only student to show (especially on Saturday mornings). Fortunately for me, #1 comes often, and at no extra charge. I find I have the most epiphany or "lightbulb" moments during these solo classes. Osu! James
    • What a privilege James-san! I actually experienced the same thing many times in Okinawa. Make the most of it!
  • Tymek
    I'm reading your blog for 6 months or so but now I'm writting my first comment because You do very great art. No one gives me as good advices as You. I can't buy insider because I'm 14 and I haven't got enough money to pay but if I were older You would have one new student :) (obviously if I were intrested in karate) I really respect You! Thank's sensei Jesse! Greetings from Poland!
    • Tymek-san - thanks for being a great Karate Nerd! Keep reading & practicing hard. You are on the right path! :-)
  • kapilwaran
    Excellent article san. Osu...
  • Charlie
    Hi Jesse-San, I've found Karate Nerd insider to be a great tool for both my own development and and also to the benefit of those in my class. It covers such a wide range of topics, concepts and exercises that I would never have considered before, all of which are well detailed yet easily explained. It has given me a great weekly insight into different worlds of Karate! Osu!
  • Caroline
    Jesse-San, Thanks for another great episode of Karate Nerd Insider. Each week you provide helpful focussed tips which allow me to develop my karate technique. What makes them so great is that they can be applied to any style and level of practitioner alongside and in partnership with regular training. Every week I can work on something new at home and in the Dojo, keeping my karate fresh and progressive, my enthusiasm high and my motivation strong. Even better than that, I can go back and watch them again and again. So grateful for your support - Thank you...
  • Danny
    Karate Nerd Insider is the smartest and fastest way to boost your karate in the right direction. If you feel that you have some gaps to fill, go get it.
  • Hugo
    Shotokan, Goju-ryu, Shito-Ryu… No matter the style; Jesse Enkamp is taking karate to the next level: He is teaching useful BUNKAIS that bring back sense to the kata, how to move efficiently and biomechanically correct… Always from a scientific perspective and taking into account the roots of karate. Remember the words of Funakoshi Sensei: “To search for the old is to understand the new”. These videos are all you need to become a karateka of the XXI century.
  • Mustang Sally
    Signing up for Karate Nerd Insider was one of the best decisions I could have made for my karate progress! Every week I receive a new, inspiring and educational video that helps to keep me enthusiastic about training hard! The content of the videos don't contradict my style of karate, but rather support what my Sensei is already teaching me, and help me to understand karate on a deeper level. Jesse's passion for karate is infectious! And as Galileo said: "Passion is the genesis of genius!". You can never have too much of it! Thanks, Jesse!
  • Mike McLaren
    Thanks for the latest Karate Nerd video Kote Kitae. This short, insightful video will turn an exercise in brute force into a learning experience. Thank you for reminding us why we do these drills and how they relate to our everyday training.
  • Andrew Kennedy
    I have been a subscriber to the Karate Nerd Insider videos since they first came out and I can't begin to describe how much they have had an influence on my training. One thing I love most about them is the vast amount of topics covered: one week a piece on bunkai and the next how to improve your cat stance to the next a video on mobility improvement. Having had the opportunity (read: honour and privilege) of being able to train with Sensei Enkamp in person I can say that one of the major aspects of the videos which speaks to me is this: his understanding and passion of Karate as well as his outstanding passion to share his knowledge with others is communicated as well through his videos as it is through his seminars.
  • Manu
    Hi Jesse Even though I trained for 29 years Karate and attended several seminars run by different masters I still learn new things due to your interesting Karate Nerd Insider videos and get an excellent brush up. Thank you and go on like this! CU Manu
  • Karate Nerd Insider is exactly what the name says: Inside Information about Karate for those Nerds who want to go behind their everyday training. Every video gives me new training input for myself aswell as for my students. I take so much from it and improve my training from week to week. Karate Nerd Insider helps me on my way from Martial Arts to Smartial Arts. I am grateful to Jesse-san for his effort and passion he puts into his videos and especially for all the information that I get. I download all the videos and keep them in a special folder on my computer. Long story short: The price of the videos do by far not represent their value. They're short but full of knowledge and motivation, one always gets something new and should watch the videos more than once to extract all the information given.
  • Rob L
    So in the past I have received private tuition and have attended many seminars, I also teach on a regular basis, whilst reading as often as possible. All of these are fantastic methods for developing your Karate further as explained above. However, the one change I made recently which had a huge impact on my learning was Karate Nerd Insider! Now I receive very clever and useful information to help improve techniques, understanding and application of my Karate on a regular basis. What's even better is I receive this information via fantastic video from Jesse that I can watch over and over again. On so many occasions I have attended a seminar and by the time I get home there was always something I couldn't quite remember. With this I can now store all the videos and look back whenever I need to, for this reason they are worth every penny. Thank you Jesse for sharing your knowledge and for keeping me excited each week waiting for a new email.
  • Nic
    The best birthday present I got this year was one I gave myself. It was when Jesse started his Karate Nerd Insider videos. And it is the gift that keeps on giving. Every week Jesse's smiling face is in my inbox sharing his wisdom and insight. My depth of understanding of karate has developed greatly over the last few months. Jesse cares deeply about all his subscribers and often addresses questions they ask in bonus videos. This is awesome because often they were the questions I wanted answers to but never asked. My next goal is to train with Jesse in person, but for now the Karate Nerd Insider videos are the next best thing. Thanks Jesse!
  • Karate Nerd Insider is great. To have a new excercise, or another point of view, or just a re-afirmation of some karate concept is just fantastic! And the way you explain is very clear. I started to put in practice many of your excercises, to invrove the kicks, for example. But the way you explained how to breath with the hara was really simple and useful.
  • Angie
    Lovely having a Sensei in my pocket for those brief moments in my day when I can immerse myself in Karate (between shift work and kids) when I'm not at the dojo. Gotta love training in the 21st century! Thanks for Karate Nerd Insider Jesse-san.
  • Lahaye
    Hello Sensei Jesse, I must congratulate you how you manage to explain 'The old principles' to a logical scientifical set of efficient tools. You manage to open the secret black box of karate that was always conceiled to us in the West, beyond the borders of one's karate style. For me the kote kitae was a moment of on ko chi shin which I read about recently in a book called the Great Lie of Karate... ;-) Thank you very much giving the opportunity to learn what 's really lying underneath Cheers, Fred
  • Jesse's instructions are so clear and concise, the videos are long enough to explain a topic and short enough for them to be understood. Video is a powerful way to communicate ideas if done correctly, and these are done correctly. I like that he often will write a word on a white board, it greatly enhances my understanding when I can see the word visually while hearing it. You have heard of a lean mean fighting machine, these are lean, clean thoughtful teachings.
  • Brodie W
    Wow, I'm loving the Karate Nerd Insider program. As an instructor sometimes its hard to find good places to learn things, so glad I signed up for it! Every week we get a new point of view on things or learn new ways to improve technique. And the way it's all explained is so clear and well explained in a somewhat scientific point of view. I would recommend anybody and everybody who does martial arts (no matter what style) to sign up as well!
  • Mishra Vinaykumar. N
    This is realy helpful.
  • Keith Nakashima
    Hello. I'm a new subscriber to the Karate Nerd Insider. Love the videos! They are so formative and easy to follow. Jesse - San, you have a great way of explaining the techniques and exercises, that makes me want to get to the dojo and try them out and apply them in the classes that I teach. Thank you so much. I look forward to receiving the next video. Keith Nakashima, Prince George, B.C., Canada
  • Karate Nerd Insider is something a true visionary would make. Its amazing your point of view on how Karate Do can be teach around the world. Your ideas make me love you because the way you share your knowledge to everyone without the limits of styles, and hate you because they arent my ideas XD. In México nobody believes the true Karate Do is fun, amazing, and full of new things that came from the old masters. They still in love with Mc Dojos and Karate Fool. Your Blog, KNX14 KNX15 and Karate Nerd Insider are some of the tools that makes my dojo Better, my Experience of Karate Do even more enjoyable and my teaching more useful to the future generations. I Still have faith in changing Karate Do in México. PD. I want to train with you someday. With love and respect (and wishes to have a beautiful present XD) Francisco Centeno Miranda. Linage trace to Hanshi Toyama Kanken Sorry for my english :D http://karatedomx.blogspot.mx/
  • Some good tips here! Here's one more: we use video a lot to record each other – I find it really useful to compare what I think I do and what I actually do :)
  • Kurt Fischer
    I don't mean to sound pessimistic or anything similar, but is it a smart move for Jesse to teach Karate. From what I read in his article about his MMA fight - it seems to me he should wait a little bit and learn a lot more. Being a nerd for something just isn't enough. Do you guys remember what Taekwondo (basically not much more then a Korean twist on Karate) used to be like during Vietnam war when Korean "Tiger" division fought there, and look at it now. TKD today is a ballet. No more true masters, everyone wants to sell, sell, sell and quickly earn a lot of money. But is it the right way? Not by a long shot methinks. Am I a minority or do people think as I do?
  • Mohamed Aziz Ben Youssef
    Really really great article.. I liked your website alot! And now i will always check your news to improve my karate. But, i wish if you make an article about how to impro your speed in karate. Because as you know technique without speed is nothing :) Well done! Keep the nice work up.
  • Candice Calabria
    Great article. I agree with you 110% books, videos, articles, seminars, workshops all augment learning. I still use some of your warm-up drills when I teach. It's great!! Thanks Jesse-San
  • Steph
    That teaching part is so true. In my Dojo, when you reach a certain level, you need "teaching credits" to be able to grade to the next level. You get 1 Credit for every afternoon (ranging from one class to four classes) you teach/help out. Every time I teach, especially younger kids or beginners who like to ask why, I learn something that helps me understand karate better.
  • Hello sir ,we all knew that karate has now became important as well as compulsory in schools . But still there is not any kota ( reservation) for the karate players in govt. Jobs . So many people agree the fact that there is no future in karate as compared to other sports .why the equivalent priority isn't given to karate &its players??? And if karate isn't important than why it is made compulsory in schools???
  • Graziela
    I think teaching is a really good way to improve karate, or judo for me, or anything. I help teaching some of the kids in our dojo, where we usually only do the techniques for the 8th kyu, so the white-yellow belt, but sometimes we do the techniques for the 7th kyu,the yellow belt, which only a handfull of the kids get, because it's a beginner's course. I currently have the yellow belt but get my new one this month or next month, so the yellow belt requirements should be deep inside my brain. And teaching these kids helps a lot, all these techniques are now like a reflex when I see a gap in someones stance. And I also learned some new variations of throws or tips to do them. Definately recommended!
  • Caio de Araújo
    Hey Jesse, I'm a young karateka, can I use mudjong in my training?
  • Joe the Penguin
    I am going to test for my black belt very soon, and I cannot make it to any camps or tournaments before then. I will go to the class before this next belt test to improve (I still have to wait 4 months) but I can’t really do anything else outside of class. Do you have any tips on how to improve my karate at home?
  • Wondering Person
    The video helps a lot! Thankyou! Any tips on how to Do those without getting tired? (Lol)
  • Wondering Person
    By the way, What does "I" mean in Karate, I don't know if it is used in all Karate styles, but in Shotokan, we use it.
  • As someone who teaches Research Methodology & an author who has written about martial arts - I would add that not only is this a great article - but it is evidence based as well. Research studies support the approach contained in the article. Great information!
  • Great information. Please also check my blog about martial arts https://aikidodaily.blogspot.com

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