For anyone thinking of joining a martial arts club (of any style or description), there are a number of points that should be considered. Firstly, why do you want to do martial arts? For self-defense? Fitness? Because your mate down the street does it and says it’s cool? Secondly, have you really got the level of dedication it takes to succeed as a martial artist? Finally, what are your goals assuming that you really do want to practice martial arts?
Let’s look at point No 1. As a teacher of Shotokan Karate for over 30 years, I have encountered many and varied characters that have entered my dojo. These have been young and old, male and female. When asked why they want to train, they almost always say self-defense or fitness or both. Nothing wrong with that, but when, after a few weeks of basic training they feel they haven’t improved (because they can’t do what Bruce lee does!!) and it’s the same old boring basics again, they become disillusioned with karate and start to miss lessons and finally stop altogether.
This brings me nicely on to point No 2. It takes months/years of dedicated practice to succeed in the martial arts. I’m not talking about the “quick fix, just opened last night, we are the best give us your money” type of club, I am referring to an established club with a good Sensei/Instructor who has the skill and dedication in his/her own right to be able to pass on knowledge in such a way that develops a student’s all-round abilities with a structured training syllabus. “You only get out what you are prepared to put in.” Truer words have never been spoken, especially when it comes to martial arts. If you are considering joining a club, I would recommend regular training as you will develop far quicker, and you never know what you are missing! Your instructor may decide to focus on a particular kata as the theme for a night’s training, a kata which you want to learn. You decide not to attend that particular night ( England are on the telly) so you miss out on all that information. No, regular attendance is the key.
Finally, what are your goals once you have joined a club? Do you want to achieve a black belt/sash? Do you think you would have “arrived” once you achieve Dan’s grade? I ask this question because many of my students in the past, who got to 1st Dan, simply fell by the wayside. “There’s a disco on down the local youth club tonight”. “I’ve recently started courting and my boy/girlfriend says training is silly”. “I would rather be anywhere than in a dojo now. I’ve outgrown training???!!! “These are just some of the answers I have had when I have met ex-students in the street and, after trying to avoid me, then realizing they can’t, they make up some excuse why they no longer wish to train. Their choice, after all, is a free country.
My advice is to find a good, well-established club with the knowledgeable instructor(s). Whatever style you are interested in, stick with it for at least a year, by which time you will have achieved a few grades and will have a clearer indication of which direction you wish to go in your training. Fitness will come as a by-product of training, the levels of which, again, are governed by how much effort you put in. Self-defense techniques will also be an integral part of your instruction and will be ingrained as a matter of course.
Stick with your chosen Sensei/instructor and really listen to what he/she has to say. Remember, good, bona fide instructors have been through their chosen system and are constantly researching ways to make their own training better/ more effective, etc. which they will readily pass on to you.
Finally, if you do ever reach Dan’s grade, be aware that your training is ONLY JUST BEGINNING! More intense training, more effort, greater enthusiasm and much more will be asked of you by your sensei because you are now a Dan grade and should be an example to the latest batch of beginners that are looking up to you. Make time to pass on your knowledge to the lower grades. Ask your sensei if you may teach the “beginners class” I’m sure he/she would be grateful. Watch beginners grow as a result of your efforts and blossom themselves into capable martial artists. Then ask yourself, I am a dan grade now, IS my career really over, or just beginning? It’s up to you to find the answer.
My style is Shotokan karate and I have been training for over 35 years. I am currently ranked at 6th Dan and am also the chief instructor of the “Elite school of Japanese Karate”. Anyone interested in training at my dojo van contacts me.
Written by Ajay, 6th Dan Shotokan Karate and chief instructor of the “Elite school of Japanese Karate”
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