It has been said that the most difficult karate class one will ever attend is the very first one. While future classes may offer more rigor, greater challenges, and tax one’s mental and physical stamina, no other class can ever replicate the fear (and excitement) of the unknown experienced on day one.
I get it… it’s intimidating to walk into a room full of strange people, wearing strange clothes, speaking a strange language, and doing strange moves. Everything in a dojo can appear to be completely foreign to a new student and it can be overwhelming. But here are a few things to remember:
In fact, the phrase “cultivate a sense of solidarity on the basis of mutual support” is a cornerstone of our programs and appears in our Dojo Kun (school creed – see below).
“I had no idea karate could be fun!”
This may be in stark contrast to one’s perception of what karate training is like. Many of us grew up in an era of kung fu movies that inevitably showed a flashback scene where the protagonist was subjected to extreme training and abuse at the hands of his master. These training sessions ended with our hero showing his dedication by lifting a boiling hot cauldron with his forearms to brand himself with the school crest (most likely a snake or a dragon) thus graduating from the program and qualifying him to take on the bad guy (who killed his father/brother/wife/etc.) and is a gifted former student of the same old master. But I digress…
I am constantly shocked by stories of so-called senseis punishing their students with push ups (usually on their knuckles) or other physical chastisement for being late to class or for some other small reason. Don’t get me wrong, push ups are great, but for training – not for reprimand.
I once had an adult student attend a class with his child because the child wanted to try it but did not want to do it alone. After class, the father approached me and expressed how surprised he was to find that karate could actually be fun. He had taken karate as a young man and had been subjected to this old “Hollywood style” militaristic training. He was very apprehensive about returning to a dojo. The John Kreese of the Cobra Kai approach to training is as accurate a representation of a reputable, modern-day karate school as the Slapshot movie is to hockey. The following is our Dojo Kun (school creed) and underpins this Dojo’s (and our international association’s) approach to training:
Should be proud of studying Goju-do
Should always observe proper decorum
Should make it our principle to cultivate fortitude and plain spirit
Should cultivate the sense of solidarity on the basis of mutual support
Should be an honourable citizen
It is possible to balance rigorous training, high expectations, and tough challenges with a caring and student-focused approach. Any good educator will tell you that. Join us for the next class – we look forward to training with you.