Do you remember your very first Karate class?
(Hey, I was like 2 years old!)
Do you remember that feeling of putting your white belt on for the first time?
For most people, recalling the first time they stepped into the dojo undoubtedly evokes mixed feelings: Nostalgia. Fascination. Curiosity. Sometimes a bit fear.
I mean, Karate isn’t just “any” activity, is it?
It’s actually pretty weird when you think about it from a beginner’s point of view: Funny-looking techniques. Japanese words. Strange rituals. Unfashionable clothes. And to top it off, there’s often a dude in front who everyone bows to and calls “sense-eye”.
Pretty unlike any other physical activity you could have chosen, right?
(And that’s exactly why you chose it.)
Yet, here you are, years later.
- Still training.
- Still pushing.
- Still getting bruises
- Still learning.
- Still getting the occasional ego check.
- (And perhaps even teching others.)
Many people would consider this a miracle of sorts.
And indeed, the fact that you even started training Karate is pretty awesome, considering all the other things you could have taken up.
(Like chess boxing.)
But… when you think about it, it’s actually far from a miracle that you’re still training Karate. In fact, if you ask me, it’s probably only 1 percent miracle.
99 percent evil conspiracy – from your sensei.
You see, there’s a whole bunch of stuff your sensei NEVER told you about Karate. And rightfully so. Because, if you were told these things when you started out, you would probably have slammed the dojo door shut and sprinted the heck away from that god-forgotten place faster than a speeding bullet.
You know it.
And if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, you’re living in denial.
You just haven’t admitted it to yourself yet.
So without further ado, allow me to present 6 Things Your Sensei NEVER Told You About Karate (Luckily).
#1: “You Will Probably Not Get to Black Belt”
Is it true?
But no matter how crushing it might sound, the statistical, mathematical, scientific, logical, proven, reality is that most people who join a Karate dojo will never get to the legendary black belt.
Is it possible to get a black belt?
Thousands of new students pass through dojo doors around the world every minute. How many of those even get to the second belt? How many get to the third belt? Fourth? Fifth? Sixth?
Do the math.
(Answer: “Not many.”)
It’s just simple statistics. Nobody is trying to discourage you or anything. It’s not a plot. Nobody is out to get you. But let’s keep it real here: Just like most businesses fail within two years of starting, most Karate students don’t get to black belt. They just don’t have that time, dedication, willingness or spark.
It’s not that it’s “impossible”.
It’s just pretty improbable.
And thankfully, your sensei was sensible enough to never tell you this.
#2: “Modern Karate Sucks for Self-Defense”
You want to learn how to REALLY be safe against harm?
Here are 15 random things that are more effective than most “Karate” stuff out there, for keeping safe and avoiding physical danger:
- Buy a dog.
- Take running lessons.
- Stay away from shady places.
- Join a knitting club.
- Buy an Xbox with tons of addicting games.
- Learn to channel your agressions/feelings.
- Attend a risk management course.
- Hit the gym. (Steroids optional. But try to get buff.)
- Stop drinking alcohol.
- Get a taser gun.
- Practice verbal de-escalation techniques.
- Stop looking like a victim.
- Always walk with company.
- Watch out for young agressive males.
- Don’t do drugs.
The reality is, although Karate was originally developed to be an all-encompassing martial art for civil self-protection, today’s average modern Karate dojo teaches not only highly impractical, but sometimes even downright immoral or illegal techniques for self-defense to be used on the notorious “Street”.
I’m not making this up.
And, if you do find a dojo that actually teaches functional self-defense Karate, they’ll often practice it in a laid-back fashion with little or no active resistance – making you as effective for the “Street” as a one-legged midget in an ass-kicking contest.
Obviously, I’m making some broad generalizations here.
But you get the idea.
I mean, in what other sensible martial art do you train several years and still have almost no improved chance at winning a street fight, should you ever find yourself in one? Really, any ice hockey player, rugby player, footballer or basketball player will have more fighting spirit, toughness and die-hard never-give-up attitude than your average Karate-ka today.
And when push comes to shove, those are the REAL qualities you need.
Not ten more wrist lock variations.
(And hey, even if your style of Karate is super practical for self-defense, YOU WILL PROBABLY NEVER KNOW. Unless you go out and search for trouble. Which I don’t recommend.)
Luckily, your sensei never told you that.
#3: “You Will Be Confused. Again and Again.”
For most people starting out in Karate, many things are based upon blindly accepting what you are being taught as the truth.
And that’s perfectly in order.
Blind faith is a prerequisite for ultimately transcending your boundaries of knowledge, hopefully arriving at an elevated level of understanding in the end.
(This goes for all fields of endavor, not only Karate.)
But as beginners we don’t realize this.
All we notice is: “I’m confused”.
- “Just tell me what to do.”
- “Then tell me how to do it.”
- “And if I’m ready for it, maybe even tell me why to do it.”
More than that, and we freak out.
As you know, there’s a lot of stuff in Karate that is completely illogical and makes no friggin’ sense whatsoever – especially for beginners (let’s just start with why we keep our hands by our hips, instead of guarding our face? And when was the last time you saw somebody use a cat stance (neko-ashi dachi) in a real fight?).
To a beginner, Karate is often confusing.
And depending on how complex your style/system is, it might get worse.
But that’s not all: To top it off, in the process of trying to get you to understand Karate better, your sensei will often mess things up even more. One door will open ten new doors. Those doors open a hundred new doors. This might frustrate you.
Or make you angry.
But a lot of things in Karate make no sense in the beginning.
It wasn’t made by engineers, after all.
Let’s be grateful that your sensei never told you this.
#4: “Karate is Not Cool. Neither Will You Be.”
Karate is not soccer, baseball, break dancing or boxing.
It’s not mainstream.
Corollary, it follows that Karate attracts people who are trying to steer away from the mainstream – for one reason or another. Why? Often because they secretly hope it will bring them a unique sense of belonging.
This might very well be the result of training Karate.
But you will never be “cool”.
(You will be a Karate Nerd™)
Sadly, however, many beginners think Karate is a huge leap up the social coolness ladder. It’s not.
It’s a step down.
If you truly want Karate to fulfil somekind of innate alpha male desire (girls, adjust the following advice to your worldview), you’re better off learning to a) juggle, b) drink ungodly amounts of beer, c) do a handstand, d) bench press twice your bodyweight, e) memorize classic movie quotes, f) have a solid right hook, or just g) learn a few simple card tricks.
Nine times out of ten, that will give you more social cred than Karate EVER will.
Even in Japan.
But, as you know today, the real purpose of Karate is something entirely else.
You didn’t know it back then though. And you were probably not interested.
All you wanted to be was accepted.
Be glad you sensei kept quiet.
#5: “You Will Get Annoying Injuries.”
There’s a strong possibility you will get injured at some point in your Karate journey.
It’s pretty much standard procedure these days.
(If not, you’re either lucky or not training hard enough.)
It might be something minor, like a sprained toe or hyperextension. But it might be worse too: Like a cracked rib, broken arm or knock-out. Either way, you will get injured one way or other during Karate practice, and it will affect your everyday life whether you like it or not. Especially your mood.
That’s not what you signed up for when you began, was it?
And then we have the mental injuries: Your feelings will get hurt. Repeatedly. Your ego will get checked too. You will feel provoked. You will get sad and you will get angry. You will lose motivation.
Deal with it.
Karate is a fighting art.
The word “fighting” comes first for a reason, and the implications should be obvious to everyone.
Just be glad you sensei never told you about it.
#6: “I’m Not a Superhuman. Seriously.”
Lastly, this one is critical:
Your sensei is not a superhuman.
Let me repeat that:
Not. A. Super. Human.
No matter how many badges, belts, diplomas, trophies or awards you see hangin’ in the office.
This is a tough pill to swallow for many beginners in Karate. But the truth is, your sensei is just a regular dude/dudette who happened to realize there was a business opportunity in teaching Karate to others!
And sure, some people claim they teach Karate because it’s “their passion”. Congratulations to them. That might be what they tell themselves. They might even actually believe that. But don’t get it twisted: There is ALWAYS an incentive hiding in the background; whether it’s a social, moral, spiritual or economical satisfaction. It’s an inescapable part of the human condition.
Sure, your sensei knows a LOT about Karate. But that doesn’t equal saint-like status. And I doubt your sensei would want it either.
For all we know, your training fees might be going to hookers and blow.
So thank your sensei.
Because if you had been told these six things when you started, you might have quit and never looked back.
And you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
And you would just have saved four minutes of your life.
And you would never have learned what it truly entails to be a martial artist.
And that lesson is invaluable.
Luckily, your sensei never told you that either.
(And I just overused the word “and” way too much.)
Are YOU are grateful for something YOUR sensei NEVER told you?
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