Yesterday, I wrote a post about dojo code of conduct and the etiquette that should be observed, regardless of what school you’re in or visiting. It’s a post I’ve written a few times over the past few years, because the concept never changes for me and merits being revisited. Plus, it’s always a good idea to provide information to potential new readers who may not have the time or motivation to read through almost 1,100 of my posts. yes, I may be bragging just a wee bit. I may be full of myself but honestly, who else would I be full of? But I digress…
When I covered a point related to not wasting your instructor’s time, I explained the concept that one shouldn’t JUST be training in the dojo. Although I kept it short (short by MY standards, of course), I think the concept merits further examination. When it comes to something like karate, it’s important to remember that it takes a greater commitment than attending a few classes a week. Although you MAY progress by doing this, the speed and level of your progress would be greatly improved by taking the time to train by yourself, outside the dojo.
When I joined karate, we had three, two-hour classes scheduled every week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It was a good spread and I almost always consistently attended all three classes. Over the years, I began to notice a trend where most students would only attend two out of three classes each week, with Friday being the most popular class to miss by virtue of the weekend arriving. For me, Friday was an easier night to train since I didn’t have the burden of homework to concern me before bed. But these absences eventually led to Sensei cancelling out the Friday classes, much to my dismay. I was lucky enough that one of Sensei’s black belts had opened a school of her own nearby and one of her classes happened to be on a Friday.
One of my many quirks (others call them quirks, I call it commitment) that made me somewhat unpopular among my friends, especially when I started dating, was the fact that I would attend class NO MATTER WHAT. This would often be a pain to others, especially during the warmer seasons when we’d be out swimming or sitting around a fire. “Oh, you can miss one class… We’re chillin’ here…” Chill away, lazy folks! Imma go build on my foundation. It sounds like I’m bragging and maybe on some level I am. The point is that I understood, even at a young age that I wouldn’t get to where I wanted to be or have the level of health I wanted to achieve by skipping out on class every time something fun presented itself.
The other problem is that I’d constantly be referencing karate or practicing outside the dojo. Again, others called it a problem; I called it commitment. If we hung out at the beach, I’d soon find myself doing forms on the sand. If we were on a road trip, I’d be using a hand grip strengthener to work my fingers and my grip. That used to drive my friends crazy, especially since I was usually the one driving. If homework was light and it WASN’T a karate night, I was still putting in a couple of hours in my bedroom or I’d go jogging or speed cycling. Anything and everything I could do to improve and increase my overall health and karate development.
It wasn’t always easy. In some ways, a lot of ways, I missed out on a lot of experiences that are considered a right of passage to some. I didn’t go to my prom. I never partied or drank alcohol as a teenager. I never travelled or participated in extra-curricular activities. I just never had the time. I always doing karate. It took me a little over ten years to achieve my black belt, even with that level of intensity and commitment. Of course, there were a number of differences between Sensei’s dojo and many of the ones you see now. Asking to be tested was not permitted; it was up to Sensei to deem when you’d be ready and to test accordingly. And a decade is pretty average in terms of obtaining a black belt in a traditional form of martial arts.
The lesson here is that there really isn’t a bad reason for joining karate, unless your reason is to beat the shit out of someone. So ultimately, if you attend your few classes every week, get a solid sweat in and learn anything, you’ll have still accomplished something. And anything is always something more than nothing. But if you truly want to learn the art, progress and grow into a proficient martial artist, it’ll take more than that. Time is one of the world’s most precious commodities. It the only one we can’t artificially produce or created more of. Giving of your own time is the greatest commitment you can make towards your martial arts journey. And it will eventually yield the best rewards. ☯️