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5 Stories -- Bad Foundation

This is a story.

A 5th degree black belt in another style of Karate visited a Sensei and asked to become his student. The Sensei was reluctant and said:

"Imagine that each of your dan levels is like the story of a building."

"So I would be like a 5 story building?" asked the student (looking a little proud of himself).

"Yes," replied the Sensei. "So you see the problem?"

"Well I don't know," answered the student, "it took me many years to earn my 5th dan and for my age I'd have to say that I am pretty skilled."

"Perhaps," said the Sensei, "but the problem starts in your foundation. It is easy to lay a good foundation -- it is exceedingly difficult to remove a foundation and replace it when there already is a five story building above it."

"I see" confessed the student.

"Do you?" continued the Sensei. "With an improper foundation, the first story is also incorrect, as is the second, third, etc. Really, you should remove the first story, and the second, and the third, etc. If the foundation is wrong, everything built upon it will be wrong too."

"But I am a 5th degree black belt," declared the student.

"Let's just take one problem at a time," said the Sensei.

The End.

There are several aspects to this story. First, forget about rank. If you want to learn, be willing to start from scratch.

Second, when you think you know something, that itself is part of the problem. A beautiful looking building will be weak if it is built on sand. And if the foundation is weak, the rest of the structure will almost certainly be weak too. A contractor who is foolish enough to build a weak foundation, will probably do an equally poor job on the rest of the structure.

This is one reason that I generally prefer to teach students with no Karate experience, unless they are exceptionally willing to learn and work hard on themselves -- without attachment to what they had already learned. Such students are exceptionally rare.

This story also has a happy side. If as student has a good foundation, his Karate will certainly be good as well. Good basics lead to good advanced techniques, and good advanced techniques cannot exist without good basics. So if you can do one technique really well, you should be able to learn to do all techniques really well.


Charles C. Goodin