Who Do you Practice for?

For Karateka and Kobudoka who have been training for a number of years, practice should be about refining what you know and learning new material, and not necessarily about doing a workout. Yet, some students in the West equate practice with fitness, getting a good sweat going, and practicing some of the dojo curriculum. Of course this is true to an extent, but isn’t the whole picture.

I suppose that you may be able to improve your technique and fitness somewhat by going to the dojo a one or two nights a week, but you will never truly understand what Kobudo or Karatedo are really about. If you’re ok with that, then there’s no reason to read on, but if you’re not you need to consider the larger picture of how often you practice, and more importantly why you practice. Indeed, in my limited experience you will need to also train on your own time to aid your progress and understanding.

Taking my own Kobudo teacher for example, Yoshimura sensei, on top of his 9:00 to 5:00 job, raising a family, and his own teaching schedule, still finds time for daily practice – taking a kata and some techniques, working through them, and thinking about them in detail. This daily practice is a ritual of sorts for him as it not only brings a better understanding of the physical aspect of Kobudo (the kata, techniques, postures, etc) but also helps frame his kobudo as an essential part of his life. It allows him both a micro and macro view of what Kobudo is about.

The problem with some students is that they won’t look for this extra time outside the dojo. They may think that since they’ve paid their monthly fees and go to class; they’re learning. But this perception is wrong. They’re not learning and they’re definitely not understanding. Likely, they’re probably repeating the same material over and over because they haven’t really understood it (not necessarily a bad thing in a traditional dojo).

There are many reasons for not finding the time: busy, tired, stressed, overworked or conversely unmotivated, lazy, irresponsible. Well, guess what, so am I and everyone else in the world, but since I value Kobudo and Karatedo I find the time to practice outside of the dojo. This is one distinction that I make between people who practice Karate and people who practice Karate-do. The ‘Do’ (道) aspect is essential and is sadly not emphasized these days; how could it when dojo are conducting ZOOM classes.

Practice, as it is defined in English, is not the same as how my teachers view it. Practice for them means keiko (稽古) – to literally “think about the past”. In other words, reflecting on what you previously did. If you’re honest with yourself, then you will realize that you need to put in a few more hours a week. It doesn’t take a lot, 20 to 30 minutes a day adds up quickly, but if that’s too much time for you on top of regular practice, maybe you need to reflect on why you train.