We all get to a point in our training where we feel like we haven’t improved in…
I’ve done karate since I was four years old: that’s twenty-six years of karate. So trust me: I know the feeling.
We go in, we do class, we follow the normal steps, and nothing improves. The guy beside you in line is still better than you. Maybe you practice at home, do katas in your garage or backyard and practice kicks as you walk around the house.
But you get to class and again, your techniques still feel slow, you don’t hit the punching bags as hard as you want, and nothing feels better.
Why aren’t you improving?
Sometimes, you have to change something to see improvement. Something you never thought to change.
If what you’re doing isn’t working, you have to ask yourself two things:
#1: Do I want to do the work?
Because the work to improve is hard. You can’t expect to keep doing what you’re doing now and see results: doing the same thing over and over and expecting results to just magically happen is insanity. Life doesn’t work like that
Think of a bee stuck inside the house. If the bee keeps bumping into a window, the glass is never going to vanish. He has to buzz somewhere else, find an open door and get out. So, find your window.
Then, you have to ask yourself:
#2: WHY do I want to do the work?
This one is harder to quantify. You have to sit and think and find your reason.
Here are some not-so-good reasons for long-time karate-ka. These are short-term reasons: anyone with these reasons will probably end up quitting once the goal is achieved, unless they figure out a new reason. Here are a few:
Your next grading
Your black belt
Being better than the guy beside you in line
For a long time, my reason was just to be better than the person standing beside me in line, and that was okay in the short-term. It drove me, but mostly, it just made me jealous. In the end, this is a terrible reason to keep training, because here’s the thing:
You will never be better than that other guy. If you surpass that guy, there will be someone else someone older or younger, faster or stronger. There will always be a ‘better person’.
As I get older, my reasons have changed:
I want to be a better Sensei
I want to be deserving of my rank
I actually like training and can’t imagine not training
I want to be physically fit and healthy
I want to stay physically fit and healthy as I age
And, most importantly:
I want to improve for the sake of improving, because seeing steps toward being better are one of the best parts of training.
Now, the hard part.
If you’ve found your reason, and you have decided to do the work, let’s talk about how to do the work.
How do we cut through the stagnancy? How to you improve after staying the same for so long?
First, identify the problem. Are you too slow, too unhealthy, too tired, is your kata weak?
Now, find a solution. Here are some ideas.
1. New Gear.
Add weights to your training. Hold dumbbells, use resistance bands, buy a punching bag or new sparring gloves, even a new gi. I know it sounds weird, but if I buy a new peice of gear, I always use it and it motivates me to train harder in order to improve. Pro tip: second-hand stores, Kijiji and Amazon all have great priced fitness gear.
Youtube has about a billion fitness gurus. Maybe don’t look for karate videos (there aren’t many except for Jesse Enkamp and “Team Ki”, who have some good content) but search something like: weighted workouts, agility workouts (to improve speed), Improve Speed for Karate, Boxing Workout, Eating for Fitness, kicking harder, etc.
3. Ask for Help.
Your Sensei has a lot of knowledge and is literally a Sensei because they want to help you. It’s what a Sensei does. So, ask your Sensei what you can do, and here’s the most important thing:
Actually listen to them. Write down what they day and do it. You have no idea how many times someone asks me for input and I watch them not do what I said. Drives me crazy.
4. Diet and Supplements.
Diet is important. You need the right balance of good, clean food to feel good when you move. If you live off pasta and fried chicken, you’ll probably feel bloated and slow no matter what you do in class. If your diet doesn’t match your training, you might be stuck. Do some Googling on this:
The second half of this, SUPPLEMENTS, is a magical world once you realize it exists. If you’re too tired, too slow, exhausted after a workout, or want to be able to work harder, there is a whole world of fitness supplements that I never knew about until like 3 years ago. Search up things like:
and “Fitness Supplements” as a whole
5. Talk to a doctor.
A few years back I told my doctor I was exhausted no matter what (even if I didn’t train that day) and I found out I had alarmingly low iron. Easy fix: a simple iron pill each day. So, ask your doctor whats up, and they can run some bloodwork and make sure all is well.
In the end, where there’s a will, there’s a way. People who are going to give up will give up at some point: others will find a way.