For the last 26 years I have been teaching Karate to people from the ages of 5 all the way into their 80’s. In that time I have watched as society rapidly changed, and not for the better in my personal opinion. Karate at one time was sought out for the discipline it instilled and the strength, focus and determination it built in people of all ages. Today it seem that everyone still wants to those things but fail to understand how to achieve them.
When I began training I was a youngster and there really weren’t many kids in classes back in those days. The training was only a couple of nights a week and about 3 hours long each night. You didn’t dare miss a class because that would mean you missed out on something you needed to learn to progress up the belt rank chart. Today most schools are three to four, and sometimes six, days a week and classes are typically about an hour long. While I run a full time dojo with classes available up to five days a week, it seems that people just come and go from the dojo or don’t schedule their training. Then, these same people (parents and students), complain because they aren’t progressing or getting “better” at their Karate. So, I feel the need to explain what I call the “Karate Phases”…or phases you will go through when trying to actually learn Karate.
The first phase I call the “Gung Ho” phase. You are a new student, you are excited about coming to classes. You rarely miss a chance to train, workout at home or be in the dojo. It is all new experiences for you and you jump at the chance to train.
After about six to 12 months you enter the “I didn’t realize how much work Karate is” phase. You have realized that you need to train, you need to be in classes on a regular basis and you need to practice at home. During this phase most will slack off and then they get upset when they don’t progress to the next belt and those, who actually do come to class but began after them, pass them in rank. This phase is a critical one in your training as well as building your character and discipline. You have two choices…that’s it. You can keep complaining or you can DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. This is part of SELF discipline process you will learn in the dojo that will POSITIVELY IMPACT your life outside of the dojo. After all no one wants a “lazy” employee in their company, or a “lazy” student in their class.
IF you make it through this phase (which you should because that process of self discipline is EXACTLY what you wanted from Karate) then you will enter what I call the “second wind phase” of your training. You begin to realize you are getting good at Karate. The training is coming more natural and, instead of being hard work, it is becoming FUN. This phase is one of the best feelings you will ever experience because, in your own heart, you know you weren’t a quitter. This phase is where self esteem and confidence begin to nurture and grow which will make you achieve many incredible things both inside the dojo and outside in life. Most people who make it to this phase will achieve brown belt rank in their training.
Then the “It is TOO MUCH” phase hits you. Suddenly you realize that all those things Sensei has been telling you to work on require just that…HARD WORK…again. Karate gets tough because you are nearing black belt level and only the absolute best achieve that (at least in my dojo). You are capable of earning your black belt, you know this, but it all rests on your shoulders. You only have two choices again, no more. You can just give up or you can push through it, train hard and achieve greatness. Sadly many people just give up…and not once have I ever met one of them who was happy they did. As a point of fact they all say the same thing “I wish had never quit Karate”. So you need to buckle down, train, focus and use all that discipline you have been building to work hard and train…or you can just become another statistic…a quitter.
Those who make it through that phase enter one of the best phases, and reasons never to quit Karate, that exists. I call this phase the “LIGHT BULB”. After getting your Shodan (black belt) everything starts to make sense and you get enthusiastic about soaking up every single bit of training you can. Things start to fall into place and training becomes SUPER FUN all over again. This is one of your most enjoyable phases of learning Karate because you feel great, you feel determined, you are focused, you have self esteem, confidence and discipline. All those things you wanted to gain from your Karate training are now a part of your life. You begin to see awesome changes in your life outside of the dojo…you get better grades (college or public education)…you start impressing your boss and get raises and promotions. You simply see all the things you wanted life as a reality instead of dream because you understand completely the process of achieving goals and that nothing worth having in life will come easy.
There are plenty of more phases you will enter as a black belt but I will save them for another blog post. Parents the best thing you can do for your child is get them to the dojo on a regular basis so they are not falling behind. When they are progressing in rank they feel good about themselves, their training and stay the path. When they don’t want to be in the dojo make them go to the dojo and train. This teaches them the discipline they will need to make it through college and a career in life…it builds strong character that isn’t going to break when the first serious hiccup in life comes along. Everyone says they want the best for the kids…well, after 26 years of teaching thousands of children, I can honestly say that Karate will make that life a reality for them. So get them to the dojo, stop skipping classes, help us to help your kids.
If you are an adult who is studying Karate know these phases. Part of you wanted to do Karate, not just for the great self defense it will instill, but because your life was missing something. If you know these phases, get your behind in the dojo and train, you will soon find that missing thing in life which will make you more focused, happy and content. I have seen that thousands of times too in my adults students…as well as in my own life.
As always keep the path, keep training and SEE YOU IN DOJO!
Steven M. Franz
Rokudan – Shorin Ryu Shorinkan