Karate & Self-Defense Articles

It’s All About The Journey In Karate

Long Road and JourneyI want to point out that achieving a Black Belt at The Dojo of Karate is really all about the journey and not the ACTUAL belt.

Too many times I have students and parents that ONLY eye the end goal — a Black Belt.  But they miss the lessons learned throughout the journey.

And, those students are usually long gone by now.  Mainly because they are so fixated on achieving a Black Belt, they are missing the lessons that are trying to be taught at The Dojo of Karate.  Their stubbornness holds them back from being successful.

Time and time again, I see some of the most talented students come through the doors of The Dojo of Karate, with their eyes on the prize, only to fall short of their goal because they didn’t acknowledge the importance of the journey.  They missed an opportunity to grow and learn.  They neglected the fact that they are already a Black Belt, they just need to put in the time to getting a Black Belt.

A saying taught to me at an early age was “a black belt is just a white belt that never gave up.”

And, it’s true.  All of my students have the ability of becoming a Black Belt, but are they willing to do the following:

  • Spend the time in grade
  • Learn how to fail forward
  • Appreciate success
  • Cherish the long road to Black Belt

On the other hand, I also have the student that only eyes something else, such as discipline, focus, self-defense skills or respect, but they don’t have a clear goal of achieving a Black Belt.  Getting to Black Belt is not even on their radar, so learning how to reach a goal is impossible or non existent.

Now, am I being hypocritical with my students when I make the statement in classes that “We Are A Black Belt School”.


Again, it goes back to college.

The journey and growth you gain from college is usually life changing, whether you get a degree or not.  Obviously, the entire point of going to college is to get a degree, but sometimes the journey  and experience in college is equal, if not more important then the degree.  The degree can sometimes be looked at as the by-product of achieving the minimum standards set by the university.

Look at Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer.  He went to college, dropped out, but stuck around classes to “learn” different things.  Then he started Apple Computer.  Very impressive if you ask me…

When I was 13 years old, getting ready to test for my Black Belt in a few months, I had a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  As I got closer and closer to my goal, and as my sensei helped me improve, I began to realize that it wasn’t just about the belt, but the path to getting to the belt.  At that point I realized that Black Belt wasn’t just a belt, rather something I wanted to be.  I wanted more then just the belt.  I wanted to experience all the benefits that came along with being a Black Belt.  The knowledge, education, training, experience, privileges, benefits, respect, responsibility, etc.

I wanted it all.  Not just the belt…

The toughest part about being a Karate instructor isn’t necessarily teaching a student, but getting a student to understand that the journey to success is a long road and only those that are willing to put the time, effort, focus,  and desire will come out in the end more successful then their peers.

So, the next time you or your child are a discouraged because it is taking to long to achieve their goal of a Black Belt, ask yourself this question.

“Are you chasing a belt or are you experiencing a journey?”

Wado Kai Karate Videos

So, in the past we’ve had students ask for our katas to be posted online so that they can refer to it as a guide.

I’ve been hesitant on this for many reasons.

The most obvious one is that students should take the time to practice what is taught to them, in order for them to actually KNOW the kata.  Not just go through the movement of the kata and say you “know” the kata.

The other reasons have to do with requirements at certain levels.  The kata is not the same as it is for an Orange belt as it is for a Brown belt.  There are certain movements that need to be executed, and usually it can’t be explained in a video — because it makes no sense unless you’ve been training in our dojo for a regular basis.

The thing to understand is that Wado Kai Karate is a never ending learning process.  You learn one move, then you learn a better way to execute that particular move.  From there you then refine the movement to make it even better.  Sometimes you add other body parts to do the actual movement and that helps a certain move go faster, smoother, with more power.

Then, you continue to train, and learn something else while you’re practicing your kata and you realize there’s a more efficient way to perform the kata or a certain move in the kata (hopefully you’re lead by your sensei before you start doing this).  So, you remove what you learned previously and start using the “new” version.

See, Wado, when it became what it is, never really had a “finished product”.  Things were always changing and continue to change.

Why do they change?

Half the time I have no idea…

While other times is the actual time spent in the kata that one needs to search and start mining for more information.  And, the only way to figure that out is by simply spending time in kata.  Spending time in actually learning what the kata means.

Since Wado is sort of like a living, breathing organism, it continues to grow and improve.  While other styles of martial arts are “pre-packaged”.  Thus, they don’t change what was in the book that was written 25 years ago, because it’s their “bible” for training.

The dojo (where you train) is where you make the changes and adaptations that is being taught to the sensei.

What is taught to one student will not necessarily be the same for another student.

Wado has a way of making everyone the same, yet different at the same time, while other styles — everyone looks the same.

So, instead of having me do a video of wado kata’s, I decided to actually use video from Otsuka Sensei – our Grandmaster of Wado Kai Karate.  Keep in mind that this was filled in the mid 60’s with a 8mm video camera.  So, it’s rough.  And what he is doing is different from what we do — at times because he’s older and may have been “hiding” movements that he didn’t want other outsiders to learn and know.

Finally, every time I go train with my sensei, I learn new things, which then makes me change my basics and katas — specifically my 5 pinan katas.  I tell my adult students to learn to adapt and accept that there are always going to be a “system” update.

Again, my main hesitation when it comes to placing videos online of our kata.

Anyways, enjoy the Wado Katas from Otsuka Sensei.

Pinan Sandan – Wado Kai Karate

Here’s the 4th Pinan Kata in the Wado Kai system — performed by Otsuka Sensei.

Pinan Sandan – Wado Kai Karate

Pinan Yondan – Wado Kai Karate

Here’s the 5th Pinan kata in the Wado Kai Karate system — performed by our founder Otsuka Sensei.

Pinan Yondan – Wado Kai Karate

Pinan Godan – Wado Kai Karate

Here’s the 5th Pinan Kata performed by Otsuka Sensei.

Pinan Godan – Wado Kai Karate

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