How to go to Karate Class

by Jenifer Tull-Gauger

You may be wondering why I would write in detail about arriving at class.  Don’t you just have to show up?  Showing up a couple times a week is the most important thing to do for your training.  Just being there, attending and participating in class, is a priority.  Being on time is a good thing to aim for too.  But I’d like to share some insider’s secrets with you, and why these little habits can make a big difference in your martial arts training.

Analogy #1: When you go to a ball game, just showing up is good, but if you want to be a fan with finesse you might put a little more thought into your arrival.  You might park in a certain spot to make your entry or exit easier.  You might get your drinks and snacks or use the restroom before the game, to be prepared.  You might scope out the people sitting near you and greet them.  If you do these things it might make your experience more enjoyable.

Just doing it – just arriving – just being there – is great!  But doing it in the best way is even better.  Analogy #2: Imagine that someone gives you an orange.  Taking it and eating it is a great way to enjoy that gift.  BUT taking the orange and saying “thank you,” then being careful not to get juice all over the place when you peel it, and throwing away your orange peels when you are done, is a better way to enjoy that gift. 

Similarly, there is a preferred way to arrive at the dojo rather than just thoughtlessly doing it.  Here are reminders of things that need to be done when you come to class at East Valley Martial Arts Kenshin Kan.  These pointers are helpful for new students, and they are a good way for long-timers to check-up on their etiquette and behavior:

□ Bow in at the door.  When you enter the dojo, pause near the threshold and bow toward the dojo.  This is your first chance to practice mushin, clearing your mind.  That is mentally leaving the outside world out there, forgetting about what happened earlier, and just focusing on the present moment.  By mentally preparing and focusing on doing your best right now, you will do better in training, and you will better absorb the lessons.  On the other hand, if you are distracted, you will not learn as much in class.  In a worst-case-scenario, if unfocused, you could be a danger to your safety and others’.

□ Go to the instructors, (look for black belts) bow, and say hello.  This is traditional etiquette.  It is similar to saying hello to the occupant of a house when you arrive for a visit.  This shows the teachers you are respectful and courteous.  If you do this simple thing every time, it will show you are a conscientious student.  The instructor just might return the courtesy by doing a class activity that you enjoy.

□ Take off your shoes and put them out of the way, along with your gear.  This shows respect for everyone who walks in to the dojo.  They don’t want to walk around or over your stuff to get where they need to go.  The benefit to you?  You’ll be able to easily find all your things when you are ready to go.

□ Pull your card out (adults sign in).  If a kid pulls his attendance card as soon as he is ready, it will prevent a traffic jam at the card box, and prevent the student from being late when he had arrived on time.  If an adult makes signing-in a habit, it shows personal responsibility and helps him move forward to testing on time.

□ Make sure your uniform is ready (e.g. dojo t-shirt tucked in and belt tied properly).  The soldier doesn’t line up in formation and then tidy up his uniform.  The karateka should also have his uniform presentable before it is time to line up for class.

□ Get warmed up – practice katas or complexes, don’t hesitate to ask a classmate to go over katas or complexes with you.  If you are ready and still have a few minutes before class, start warming up.  This is the bonus time for intermediate and advanced students who have a lot to remember and retain.  Using those few minutes before class wisely, to review material (alone or with a partner) can make a world of difference in your training.  Warming up helps your body and mind be ready for a great class!

If you make the six steps above a habit, it will help you focus on fully participating in class.  It will remove stress and scatter-brained scurrying before you go into class.  When you take the initiative to do these things without being reminded by a parent or instructor, it shows maturity.  Consistently doing these things will help you become a cream-of-the-crop top student!

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