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Mosquito & Butterfly

Learning various martial arts in Hawaii dojo since high school, I heard two terms to describe certain students.

A "mosquito student" is one that only shows up from time to time. This type of student is an annoyance, like a mosquito or gnat buzzing at your ear. For some reason, we also call this student a "mosquito fish." I think it is because mosquito fish smack at the surface of the water looking for mosquitos. Mosquito fish stay at the surface and never go deep -- thus, mosquito fish student.

A "butterfly student" is one that flutters from one dojo to another, never learning very much. In Japanese, the word for butterfly is "chocho" so we call this type of student a "chocho." He learns a little here and a little there, and puts it all together to make very little.

Before anyone thinks I am writing about them... I have been both of these at one time or another. In law school, during which time my first son was born, it was very difficult for me to make the time to attend training. I'm sure that I was a mosquito student.

I've also trained in more than one dojo at the same time, sometimes on the same day. I must have seemed like a chocho.

I always tell my students that family and work must come first. Karate is something you do only after everything else is taken care of. I give my students permission to come to class late if necessary. I give "permission" so that my students will not feel stressed.

Japanese students in particular, feel great stress and even shame if they miss class or are late. I have felt this way many times during my life. I even used to get heart palpitations. Stress and shame can make some of the best students quit. So I try to make my expectations both known and flexible, particularly with respect to family, work, and school. See Missing Class.

But as students, we should try our best. If we consistently lack the time to train, perhaps we should ask for a leave of absence from the dojo until our schedules are more acommodating. We do not want to be mosquitos or butterflies.


Charles C. Goodin