How to Never Lose Motivation for Training Karate

I once read this interesting quote:

“There is no such thing as “motivation”. There is only love. If you love something enough, you will always find a way to do it.”


Except, life is not a Disney movie. So it doesn’t really work that way.

I mean, you love Karate, right?


You are passionate about training and improving your skills. You enjoy sweating in the dojo. You secretly admire your bruises. I know you do. I do too.

But sometimes, that motivational spark just isn’t there.

Know what I mean?

Sometimes it feels as if training is the least interesting thing to do. You’re tired. You want to chillax. You want to eat. Watch a movie. Hang out with your friends, kids or spouse. Do some work. Go shopping. Read awesome Karate blogs. Play Xbox.

So you decide to skip Karate, just one time.

No problemo, right?


You see, although you don’t know it yet, you’ve just started a habit. A deadly habit, may I add. Because, gradually you may find yourself coming up with more and more bad excuses for skipping training. I’m not saying that this happens to everyone, but when it does happen, this is how it always starts:

  • “I have a headache.”
  • “I have “stuff” to do.”
  • “I’m gonna be late anyway.”
  • “My toe hurts.”

As an instructor, I’ve heard ’em all.

And, unless the person in question has an impressive psyche, the inevitable outcome is always the same: Somebody who used to LOVE training Karate…

…one day “suddenly” quits!

Just like tax deadline sneaking up on you (or is that just me?), the habit of gradually skipping more and more training sessions becomes so convenient that the effort of breaking this new habit of chillin’ isn’t worth the perceived incremental rewards of getting back to the good ol’ grimy dojo grind.

And that, my friend, is how you lose your Dojo Mojo™.

This can happen to ANYBODY.

Believe me.

Like they say in the highest echelons of society: This is some serious sh*t.

You see, when it comes to maintaining motivation for training Karate, whether you are a black belt or white belt, girl or boy, old or young, there’s more to the recipe than simply “loving” Karate. Love isn’t enough. It’s cute, but not enough. Not now.

You, my friend, need something more.

A specific formula.

A blueprint, so to speak.

A way to not only stay super motivated in your day-to-day training, but also to make sure you never find yourself in that future position of “I think I’ll skip training just today”, which, as we just said, could easily snowball into far worse things – like quitting Karate altogether.

Don’t fear.

I’ve got the solution.

Dear Karate Nerd™: Allow me to present my über secret “Dojo Mojo™ Blueprint Formula Recipe” – as seen on Oprah, The View, The Today Show, Obama’s inaugural speech and other top-rated TV shows around the world.

In my humble opinion, this simple guide contains 99% of what you need to know about motivating people – yourself and others.

Take notes:

The Dojo Mojo™ Blueprint Formula Recipe

First of all, to get to the bottom of motivation, you need to understand the basics of it.

Simply put, there are two kinds of motivation:

  • Extrinsic Motivation
  • Intrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic Motivation is what happens outside of you.

Intrinsic Motivation is what happens inside of you.

For short-term success, especially in the business world, Extrinsic Motivation can work really well. You know; physical rewards, money, accolades, social proof, peer recognition, awards etc.

But Karate is not a business, amigo.

It is a smartial art.

So we want Intrinsic Motivation – to ensure long-term success.

And when it comes to that kind of internal motivation, there are three specific areas you really need to explore to make sure motivation is always at top (please note that these areas are immensely valuable for motivating others too. So if you are a teacher, instructors, sensei, coach, CEO or parent – pay close attention).

Check ’em out:

#1: Autonomy

Autonomy is our desire to be self-directed.

But this doesn’t mean we should always do everything by ourselves. Of course not. We still need to be taught by our sensei, shown proper techniques and pushed to our very limits. That’s a no-brainer.

What Autonomy really means is:

We should never feel forced.

If we feel in control over our own situation we will have far more motivation for starting, continuing and finishing stuff. Why? Because we know that the decision to do so has been made by ourselves.

As the proverb goes, you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

And you shouldn’t try to, either.

Or else it will quickly forget the joy of drinking.

So make sure you have Autonomy at all times in your Karate, especially when it comes to goals – whether it’s about competing, grading, getting fit, more confident or just having fun. Make sure you are ultimately responsible for the choices in your own journey.

Or else motivation starts to fade…

#2: Mastery

Mastery is our perception of progress.

To make sure motivation is optimal, we need to constantly experience Mastery.

That’s why it’s so incredibly important for a sensei to let students know when they have progressed. We need those acknowledgements of progress to pave the way for Mastery  – which is symbolized for most people in the coveted black belt.

Of course, the perceived lack of continued Mastery is also what gives life to the so-called Black Belt Syndrome™.

(You know, when you feel so content with your shiny black belt that you suddenly just lose all intrinsic motivation for training, since you can’t seem to find any significant skills to master anymore.)

In other words, you need to constantly experience small Mastery while seeing the possibility of big Mastery on the horizon.

Make sure you always learn or improve something, from anyone.

Or else motivation starts to fade…

#3: Purpose

Lastly, we have Purpose.

The name pretty much says it all.

If you don’t know the Purpose of what you do, you will never find the meaning of it.

And when things are meaningless, we lose motivation.

Simple as that.

We need Purpose to stay motivated, and that Purpose must make sense. We need to know why we are doing stuff, and where it will take us if we follow through. That’s why knowledge is so critical – it literally fuels our Purpose.

Also, as you already know, this is why a sensei should occasionally “lie” to his/her students. Because, when it comes to motivation, Purpose can sometimes be more important than Truth.

Make sure you know the Purpose of your journey, wherever it leads.

Or else motivation starts to fade…

And that’s it.

If you manage to successfully embrace your Intrinsic Motivation, by keeping Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in mind at all times – while placing minor value in Extrinsic Motivation (like trophies, grades and points) – you’ll effectively have become a motivational powerhouse.

And that’s when your Dojo Mojo™ will be an unbendable force.

Start implementing it today, my friend

In yourself and in others.

“Tomorrow: A mythical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, and achievement is stored.”


  • Patricia
    Ever since I've found your blog I'm always eager to read the next article. I love karate more than anything else and through your writting, I often find that ''mental'' support and it also reminds me where I wanna bring that passion! Merci, from Montreal! :) Patricia
  • Greg
    Good article and really useful at the moment for me. Some good tips that I will try to keep in mind. Thank you :)
  • Betsy
    There is actually another kind of 'black belt syndrome' which is far more insidious and damaging... That is when your sensei looks at your shiny new black belt and thinks that you have nothing else to master. It happens...and it is usually not entirely the sensei's fault - it can be the nature of the beast. The sensei is so busy making sure that his or her under belts reach their goals that he or she forgets the black belts. Now the black belts are simply there to teach the under belts and the kiddos. Sometimes I am so exhausted from the teaching load (and don't get me wrong - I love teaching and I love helping others reach their goals) that there is nothing left for me. Especially since I am a single mom of two kids (also in martial arts) and I have a full time job in addition to my dojo work. Currently, I train from 10:00 - midnight on my own after my kids are in bed. It is just me and the dog then. But that means I only get about 5 hours of sleep - this state cannot last forever! I AM 50 years old! :-( I am actually quite highly motivated. I compete a lot and am currently working on Unsu and Gankaku - I have developed my own personal black belt curriculum because -really - who else will? So - to all master sensei out there - please don't forget your black belts. Most of us are not content to admire our shiny new first dan...we want to continue to learn more so that when we get second dan it is because we learned and earned not just cuz we 'put in our time...'
  • Sören
    Ah, this text speaks directly to my biggest problem concerning Karate. I am motivated to train as... as... as you are motivated to eat carrot cakes. xD My problem is that I always get punished for it by the duty to iron my Gi after every time I washed it. :D It's horrible to iron a 16 oz. size 210 Kata Gi so I always unconsciously seek for excuses to avoid that as long as possible... until it's about an hour before the next training, I will try to adopt your method to this anyhow, maybe it helps there, too. By the way: Even this "punishment" never made it to be strong enough to make me skip a training... yet. But it's always hard nonetheless. So... I will be waiting impatiently for your next masterpiece of an article to soak it up like a sponge, translate it to German for my son (7-year-old Karate Nerd Junior™) and sit back knowing I learned something important again... and go ironing our Gis now... :D
  • Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel
    I'm OCD and fanatical about anything that I'm really interested in so I may not be the one to give advice in this area. I've been involved in the martial arts for a little over 55 years. I'll be 66 this year and next to God and family the martial arts are my greatest passion. In a sense the martial arts were instrumental to saving my life. I grew up in the inner city of the South Side of Chicago where the life expectancy of a young male wasn't anything to envy. I was on my way to an early demise or incarceration. I was hostil and city tough. My mother told my father that if he didn't do something I would go the way of so many of my peers. His solution was the martial arts. My mother thoght he was crazy but he was an ex marine D.I. and H2H combat instructor and understood the life changing value of the martial arts. The rest is history. Back in the day we claimed that, "Karate is My Life". I've grown past some of that realizing that life is multifaceted. Still the serious persuit of the arts should be viewed and accepted as a life style. It isn't a weekend distraction if truly embraced. Karate is and should be a life time endeavor.
  • Greetings Motivation,enthusiasm,and a clear detailed goal are all factors required to ensure continued success on the lifelong journey. Qualifying for shodan,is truly a most challenging task,however,it is only the true beginning phase of learning. A Black Belt achieves some understanding of the basics,a daily training routine is absolutely essential ,plus reading and meditating on this art. Each day,one should concentrate on training the correct basics ,correctly,and this can only be achieved with private lessons from a recognized ,seasoned master I try,each day to learn one new technique,executing it correctly.....and I always approach each lesson as "an empty cup"....empty mind....and then I look ,listen and follow my SENSEI My love,enthusiasm ,single minded focus,and knowledge of just how much I still have to learn...keeps me on track....and having old age as an additional stone in my shoe,only makes the journey more compelling
  • Thanks Jesse-san. Really nice post. I really appreciate the extrinsic motivation you give us. And you've hit the mark on how we can all AMP™ up our training. I suggest that the P in your formula could simply be based on Newton's First Law, and you eluded to it in the beginning of your post. We've all heard it stated one way or another and maybe the most simple way of saying it is that a body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest. Applied to our martial arts training I'll add one caveat, when you rest you don't just stay at rest. You rust. And rust just makes it more difficult to get moving again. So my purpose of training (well, at least one of them) is to keep moving; and I remind my students of this often. When a student takes a break and we're lucky enough to see him/her step back on the floor the story is nearly always the same at the end of class "I really missed this, I'm glad to be back." This is a great reminder for other students in the room, especially those whose desire to train might be waning. A body in motion, stays in motion. A body at rest... rusts.
  • yngvi
    Awh - not willing to publish my previous comment about referencing you sources. That's really rather sad isn't it? :)
    • Hi Yngvi-san. I'm not sure what comment your're referring too. It must have got caught in my spam filter? If it's still of interest to you, feel free to elaborate. Thanks!
  • Samuel
    As I always say to myself when I'm tired: keizoku wa chikara nari!
  • Donnatello
    Awesome article, as always. I'm gonna have to buy more of your books. I read one already, "One Karate to Rule Them All" I think was the title...I bought it because of the title-awesome...creative. Anyway, This is a great article!
  • Donnatello
    BTW, its great to know I'm not the only Karate Nerd on the planet. I feel at home here.
  • Yngvi
    Jesse, my prior comment revolved around the question of why you didn't tip your hat either towards Dan Pink for his TED lecture or book on the same subject of motivation, or the original researchers whose work you are basing the article on. Basing your comments on scientific research, is always going to lend credence to your findings. Here's Dan's version; btw - a long time (well at least a year) reader of the site, love the articles... always interesting and thought provoking. I thought you were manually accepting all comments onto the site and that you had basically declined my comment. But, that's obviously not the case, rather it is either a technical snafu, or my own hands fumbling. Sorry about that.
    • Yngvi-san! I actually saw the "AMP" concept on Twitter, in the context of "creating happiness in the workplace", and immediately thought about how it applied to motivation in general, and Karate in specific. Thanks for the hat tip: Even though I read his new book, I had no idea the concept actually originated from Dan Pink's older work. I loved that TED talk! And hey, my comment spam filter is overly suspicious of everything that contains links - maybe that's why. Keep keepin' it real Yngvi-san, and thanks for supporting (and improving) my work! ;)
  • Thank you for your wonderful article about motivation. Keep up the good work.
  • Sebastiaan
    Hi Jesse-san, Yet another nice article; thank you! Concerning motivation for training/living the noble art of Karate, I look at it (and deal with it) this way: "Karate (and all my physical exercises to improve my Karate) are my daily vitamins for staying healthy." Keep it up! Regards, Sebastiaan Online Karate Trainer
  • Zfima
    Very good style of explain things! Teaching - is in Your DNA!
  • Very inspirational sir! Linked to it in my last blog post I liked it so much. Thank you.
  • Thanks for motivation Jesse . I have been reading your articles for about 5 years but you know I have a problem . I don't have that type of dojo like you have . I am the only student in the whole dojo . No one is interested here to learn karate but the instructor I have got is so awesome , I have never found such a great instructor in my life and I don't want to lose him but the problem is that after Ramadan it becomes almost impossible for me to again start training like before . I am just near to get black belt But I am not getting motivated to start the training again . I want to but unable as more than 2 months Have passed I haven't trained yet . So , the desire in me was jumping , therefore I searched on google and found your article again and I was motivated but can you give me some suggestions how should I start training again as there is no one except me to train and I have train alone .
  • Awesome! Itts genuinely amazing piece of writing, I have got much clear idea concerning from this post.
  • Perry Battles
    What a great article. You have truly taken your understanding of martial arts to the next level. I have a question for you regarding autonomy. I feel like, though I make a decision to start practicing, there's a cloud over my head to continue through the practice. Once I start, I stop feeling autonomous and I get a claustrophobic feeling. In your opinion, what's the most effective way to overcome this? More grind? A different approach? Respect, pb
  • Kevin JP OReilly
    Very nice article on self motivation Master Enkamp... I have been experiencing this loss of motivation for my beloved Karate Do. Slowly stoping after our world championships in 2014 (World Tang Soo Do Association), but when I read some of your articles it wakes up some of those old feelings I had when I started in 1968....well done my friend keep up the good work!
  • Thanks for the Information.
  • I always to learn karate and I'm planning to start training karate in the next year

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