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What does it take for a student to become truly skilled at Karate? There are several things, but one of the most important is commitment.

Karate is very easy to start but very difficult to finish (actually, there is no finish as it is a lifelong pursuit). Many students begin Karate training filled with enthusiasm. But then they find that Karate training is hard work, not just for a few weeks or months, but for many years. I sometimes say that it takes about 10 years for a student to become pretty good at Karate. By this, I mean that the student will probably be comfortable with the curriculum by that time (know the basics and kata) and will probably be in pretty good shape. But this is just the starting point for continued training and refinement. Ten years is just a good start!

If that is true (that 10 years is just a good start), then the commitment required to learn Karate is pretty great, far greater than most students understand when they begin training.

Many Karate students are not athletic or even coordinated. Some are in bad shape, some are overweight, some have physical limitations or challenges, some begin training when they are older and aches and pains are part of everyday life. But a committed student, despite his challenges or limitations, will gradually improve. I have seen students overcome all kinds of problems and become quite skilled, confident, disciplined, and composed in the process. But it takes time and effort and in order to devote this much time and effort, the student must be committed.

Have you ever heard of a "mosquito student?" Here in Hawaii, that means a students who just shows up at class from time to time, like a mosquito buzzing in your ear. I don't know why, but I have also heard such students referred to as "mosquito fish." It is extremely hard for a student to learn if he does not attend class regularly and practice at home. It takes both. You come to class to learn and you practice at home.

My second son saw a student at our class. The student was doing very well. My son said, "You don't get like that by accident." It was obvious that this student, who attends class regularly, was also practicing diligently at home. Remember, you don't become skilled in Karate by accident, it takes time, effort, and commitment.

You might be thinking at this point that I mean commitment to the class, dojo, style, or association. No, I mean commitment to training -- commitment to Karate itself. Commitment to the other things might also be important, but skill comes from commitment to training (advancement may come from commitment to the other things).

In addition to "mosquito" students, there is also another kind. This student starts at one dojo, quits, joins another, quits, starts another style, quits, goes back to the first dojo, quits, starts/quits, starts/quits, on and on and on. Obviously, this will not lead to skill in Karate. The student may be able to superficially discuss Karate and other martial arts very well, but that is it.

A little Karate training is like being a little smart -- it is enough to get you in trouble but not enough to avoid trouble or get you out of it. This is important. Please remember it. A little Karate training is a dangerous thing.

I know many skilled Karate people. Some of the people I have met are truly amazing, despite the fact that they look and act like ordinary people. When people with minimal/shallow Karate experience, but a "big head" in Karate, meet and speak to such skilled Karate people, I always cringe. It would be like me talking to Einstein about physics. It would be like a child going up to a tiger and hitting it on the nose with stick. I just cringe.

But if the student is sincere and committed, more advanced students and instructors will always be understanding and supportive. "Just keep training," they will say, "and you will get it."

That is true. Just keep training. You will get it. The "secrets" of Karate are revealed to the student through training, particularly through training in the kata.

It takes time, effort, and commitment. If a student puts in the time and effort, and is committed, he will certainly improve and eventually become skilled in Karate. It will be no accident. It is certain to happen. But it will take a long time and buckets and buckets of sweat.

So attend your classes regularly (after you have attended to your work, school, and family obligations) and practice at home. You will make it. Try your best! And don't forget to encourage your juniors as you advance.


Charles C. Goodin