Karate Thoughts Blog

Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1700+ Posts... and Counting

Koshi Percentage

OK, this is a serious post.

If you would like to have a few very talented Karate students with exceptional body dynamics, teaching koshi is the way to go. If you do not mind spending many years (even decades) teaching and working on the fine points of body dynamics, power generation, power transfer, weight shifting, body alignment, body shifting, timing, focus, recoil, and other fascinating subjects (not to mention all the other practical aspects of Karate), then koshi is the right path for you.

But if you would like to have a large school/dojo with 100, 500, 1,000, or even more students, then you might want to think about another approach.

Let me clarify this. If you just want to have many students, that is one thing. But if you would like for them to be very talented with exceptional body dynamics, that is quite another thing. For example, you probably do not want to have 1,000 students but only 3 who are talented.

I think that it is fair to ask: "If you teach a koshi/body dynamics oriented class, what percentage of students can be excepted to become talented?"

I will be honest. I think that the answer is somewhere between 5% and 1%.

A higher percentage will learn the principles and may even become able to apply them to some extent -- but only a very small percentage will get the principles, apply them to all the movements in the curriculum, develop the physical coordination and body strength (in the bones, muscles, tendons, etc.), and be fast and strong enough to become truly talented with exceptional body dynamics.

Actually, I think that 5% may be too high.

I also do not think that after a certain point, the skill of the Sensei makes much of a difference. If a Sensei is skilled in koshi/body dynamics, it does not make much difference if he is skilled, or really, really, really skilled. What I am trying to say is that a great teacher of koshi/body dynamics will probably also be limited by the 5%/1% rule.

My Sensei in Okinawa is fantastic (in my opinion), certainly many times more skilled and knowledgeable than me. However, even he, even his own instructors, did not produce a large number of exceptional students. Please don't get me wrong -- they certainly did produce some truly exceptional students, just not that many of them.

If you want to teach 1,000 students (or more) who will be able to successfully "get" and perform the curriculum, you really have to limit the curriculum. You have to teach in a way that an average student who goes to school or works and only has a limited amount of time (and patience) for practice, will be able to do "well". You have to teach in a way that students can be promoted and encouraged, and stick around long enough to help you to maintain and expand the school.

You have to be able to teach in a way so that a student can one day realize his dream of wearing a "black belt."

You have to be able to teach in a way so that your students can move together and look alike -- like a unified group.

I'm sorry, but if this is your goal, a curriculum focusing on koshi/body dynamics is not the way to go. My dojo, for example, is small and my students all move differently (of course). In a typical class, we might have 12 to 15 people, which includes three or more instructors. We do not award any kyu ranks, only rarely promote at the yudansha level, and charge only $5 per month tuition.

My Sensei's dojo in Okinawa is not much different. He does not have a large class. Often, he spends time concentrating on only one, two or three students. He spends much time helping visitors.

Let's say that my Sensei in Okinawa is 10 times more skilled that me. That does not mean that he will have 10 times more students. In fact, I believe that the more skilled a Sensei is, the fewer students he will choose to teach -- so that he can concentrate on the details and focus on a few students who can rise to the exceptional level.

Actually, now I think that 1% may be too high.

And guess what happens when my students perform kata at a demonstration? We all tend to move differently. This is fine if we are performing solo, but in a group, this will probably look disorganized and strange to the audience. But let me ask you this -- should people of different size, weight, strength, and skill level move exactly the same? If they did so, would they be moving in the best way possible for each student -- or would they be sacrificing for the sake of uniformity?

And I have a tiny dojo! How would it look if I have 100 students or even more? They probably would knock each other off the stage!

So if you would like to have a large school that "looks good", a koshi orientation is probably not the way to go.

Given that, would I change the way I teach? Not in the slightest. I want to give each student the chance to become the very best he or she can become -- to the best of and limits of my ability. Having tried a "conventional" approach for many years and reaching a frustrating and seemingly impenetrable barrier, I found that a koshi/body dynamics approach opened the sky for me. Since then, some of my students have also "ignited" and surpassed me (particularly in speed and strength).

I would not feel honest teaching 1,000 students so that they could reach the same barrier I had experienced -- even if they were happily promoted to high ranks and perceived as being skilled in Karate.

When you really think about it, 1% is not that bad. Look at any talented artist. Thank about singer/song writers. What percentage does someone like Billy Joel represent? I'm certain that he is something like 1% of 1% of 1%.

Any truly talented artist or athlete is an exception -- perhaps one in a million. It shouldn't be any different in Karate.

However, I feel that it is important to present the student with a curriculum that gives him the opportunity to become exceptional -- even if it is statistically unlikely.

As a Sensei, we pour all our effort, sweat, heart and soul into our students. As parents, we do the same for our children. We want to give our children every opportunity to become the best they can be. We should want the same for our students. Every student has great potential.


Charles C. Goodin