The One Secret All Karate Masters Have In Common


I just came home from teaching 157 passionate Karate Nerds in Canada.

Teaching biomechanics for Karate

(Photo here.)

During this trip, I attended a local tournament in Quebec.

One dude asked me a cool question:

“Jesse-san, you meet so many great Karate masters, champions and experts during your travels around the world. Tell me – what is the one thing they have in common? What makes them “great”?”

Holy cow…

What a brilliant question!

Nobody had asked me this before. In fact, I had never asked it to myself!

I was equally shocked and impressed.

(The art of asking good questions is something I pride myself on.)

It took a minute to digest the question, but my answer was clear. And I think it’s so important that I decided to share it here.

The one secret all Karate masters have in common is this:

They never stop learning.

They are lifelong students.

This mentality is what has brought them mastery. Not as a direct goal, but as a byproduct of constantly seeking deeper and richer knowledge.

The greatest Karate masters are hungry learners!

They are constantly seeking knowledge.

It’s a growth mindset.

Obviously, this is not exclusive for Karate. The mindset of mastery is the same for everything; whether you’re playing the piano, kicking a football or painting a picture.

This legendary samurai said it best:

“When you see the Way broadly, you see it in everything.”

– Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645)

Get it?

That’s why, when someone calls these people “masters”, they smile on the outside but shudder on the inside.

Because they know it’s a lie…

To others they might be experts, but to themselves, they are still beginners.

They know there’s so much left to learn!

The greatest Karate masters and experts don’t pretend to have all the answers. To them, there’s no such thing.

This is what keeps them so humble.

It’s like I said in this video:

The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.

As a consequence, the greatest masters know that life is too short to not live to its fullest. You need to seize every moment to embrace the curiosities of the world with open arms, constantly ready to reevaluate your understanding of Karate and life.

(Read that again.)

There’s no end to learning.

The journey is the destination.

Once you grasp this concept, Karate becomes more than just kicking and punching.

It becomes an artform.

A Way of Life.


  • Alex
    Just. It's just beautiful, and so right. Thankyou Jesse-san, for sharing your insight, and I'll see you soon in London
    • Thanks Alex-san! See you at my London seminar soon! :-)
  • Liam O'Halloran
    Love the post Jesse-san, i feel like it spot on and sounds so true. The qoute you place by Musashi Sensei is very true for me, because i have see everything in my everyday life as an aspect of karate. And it became clear to me after I attended your seminar in Melbourne (at the Ultimate Martial Arts Dojo), that this was the case.
    • Thanks Liam-san, glad you liked the article. Musashi said many great things! Hope to see you at my next Melbourne seminar ;-) Cheers!
  • Quentin Stainer
    Thank you for this article, this is really inspiring !
    • Thanks for reading Quentin-san! Glad I can inspire :-)
      • Quentin Stainer
        Well thank YOU for writing these articles. I really want to go as far as possible in martial arts but I have inner hip pain that prevent me from performing a correct horse stance and side kick, but some of your articles involving proper knee placements were helpful in alleviating it. Hopefully I will finally get rid of these issues that are plaguing my work ...
  • Honest words, good words!
  • Sooraj Kumar
    Thank you so much for the are a great writer btw...
  • Elizabeth
    This is so true! It makes me sad when I see people achieve black belt and then either quit or sit back and get fat on their laurels. I try to approach the craft of martial arts like I am a brown belt with my black belt test looming in a few months....strive, strive, STRIVE!
  • Thanks Don't you just love the so called martial arts experts who introduce themselves as master so and so... or "I am sensei so and so" like it's PhD or something. I've had quite few visiting my dojo and introducing themselves as masters. I have real difficulties even speaking to them, it drains my hopes. Perhaps it could be a good topic for an article Jesse-san. I constantly remind my students and try to educate people who come through my door that, Karate or any martial art is a lifelong pursuit. The moment we think we are "all that" (master) is the moment we should leave the dojo floor or mat; the ego took over, we've missed the true essence of what it's all about. "SHOSHIN"-Never lose it. Thanks Jesse-san.
  • Ossu! This is why my blog will always be called "A Beginner's Journey," especially after I reach Shodan in a few years :-) Thank you for the reminder!
  • Jim Sorrell
    The day I received my black belt was a day of shock. I wanted it but when I actually received it I was surprised I actually obtained it. I realized I had the skill to be promoted. I realized my sensei had the confidence I could bring honor to the school and to myself. Then, an interesting thing happened. I forgot the color of the belt and kept coming. I kept seeing techniques or moves I hadn't saw before--although I practiced them along with the classmates. I began seeing the application of the moves. I realized what I needed to know. As long as I'm able I intend to keep coming and keep learning. A self-made man relieves God of the responsibility. I'm not. I still want to learn about karate and about myself.
  • Patrice
    Great reflexion Jesse-san, so true. Great masters search for knowledge and improvement of their understanding. The sad part is that some people call themself masters, specially when they reach their 5th dan, but stop learning and being curious thinking they have the answer to all. I even saw high grade "master" refusing to attend a seminar given by a lower ranked black belt...
  • Frank Selvera
    The archimedean spiral in our system of karate represents continuous learning and improvement.
  • Bob
    Another great article that leaves fantastic 'food for thought' and reignites and enthuses training minds. Jesse - keep up the superb work.
  • mike
    Its true... When we think we have " arrived" and are now ready to spread the word.. we in fact stop the journey, and karate as in life.. is about the journey and not the destination... Karate journey.... keeps us open to new ideas.. open to change.. and innovation.. open to all of the in depth lessons locked in a kata.. NOW we may think we know all the secrets in the kata.. but at that moment we cut off the journey.. be the student.. the dojo is a labratory in which the instructor experiments.. proves his theories.. or disproves them.. only to develop a new hypothesis... constantly learning.. a true master simply has developed the ability to navigate his own learning... eventually his sensei.. becomes a mentor to discuss options, possibilities.. etc.. a true teacher is not discouraged by his failures or mistakes.. he learns from them.. and moves forward.. The only thing that never changes is that " everything will change' ..
  • Nice article and nice to see my teacher's picture. Taba Sensei was a true Master in every sense of the word.
  • Elias
    It's a really good article. Thanks for your contribution.
  • Very nice. You are a exeptionally gifted writer and most likely a very good teacher...
  • metalhead
    Totally agree... We must not stop learning, not just in karate, but in everyone on our passions; our brain is the first who appreciates it, and the body comes after it. on a daily basis, there is always one thing to learn, it may be in our job, in our social relationships, and it may be little things... but, one day you will look to the past and think "oh,I've grown so much..." I put this in practice every day, and I've never felt so good with myself. Greetins from Spain!
  • Dave
    Karate Ka are always learning, always on a journey, start at a white belt and and back up at white belt when the black has all faded away from your black belt, an endless journey, always learning new things. My Sensei tells me all the time, a belt is just a thing that keeps your suit tidy, its the spirit inside that keeps karate ka going.
  • Rohit Kanojiya
    Inspiring article. Loved everyone.
  • aimie
    Great article i really love the quote The day you stop learning is the day you stop living.
  • Akshat chaudhari
    Smile on outside , shudder inside Don't pretend they know every thing TRUELY SPOKEN !
  • dwi soebandono
    Jesse-san, I like the statement lifelong student, since actually I am in sixties but still active in karate in Indonesia. I read your free arcticles but 10 bucks per month to get your special articles is too expensive for us here. do you have any way out for my condition here. appreciate and thanks a lot.
  • Clarence
    I read this article before like many others, but some are so excellent that you just have read it again. So I read this one again last night and this morning after training in conversation with my instructor - Kenny Uytenbogaardt (8th Dan Kyokushin) this was his exact words - " I am still a student, I am still learning every day. Sometimes I read and I get confirmation that my teaching is still on the right track, but there is so much more to learn"
  • Karateka were not the first to come up with this idea. It doesn't just apply to karate. It applies to your relationships with people. It is THE most fundamental aspect of scientific research - question, learn, the question again, and learn more. Musicians do it all the time. Heck, it even applies to teaching! I'm sure if you try, you can come up with other areas where this principle applies. It applies to EVERYTHING in life and EVERYTHING you do for which you want to have meaning. Or at least it should.
  • Alfredo Catania
    “The journey is the destination” Oss Sensei Grettings from ?? Costa Rica!
  • Themis
    As master Yoda said, The difference between a Master and A beginner is that the master has failed more times than the beginner has tried.

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