Karate Tortoise and Martial Arts Hare

    In over a couple decades of teaching martial arts, we notice certain trends. When I say we, I mean my husband and I who have come up in karate together. Being martial arts spouses has both pros and cons. But I’d say the positives outweigh the negatives. And one of the pros we enjoy is checking if we both observe the same results at the dojo. There are always exceptions to the natural rules we observe. But one thing we have both noticed is the benefit of being a karate tortoise as opposed to a martial arts hare. (These metaphors are inspired by Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.)

What is a Karate Tortoise?

    A karate tortoise is a practitioner who takes their time. They get to class, not every day, but they get to class regularly and consistently. They may take a while to learn some katas or moves. But they try and try again. They practice and eventually, they get it. They may get some things easily, but they mostly earn their talent and knowledge over time. And if they keep up with their training, they become the white belt who never quit. They become a black belt.

What is a Martial Arts Hare?

    A martial arts hare is a student who goes to every class offered. They have natural talent and learn their moves almost as soon as they see them. They absorb katas like a sponge. In the beginning of their martial arts journey, these students test every month, because they learn the curriculum quickly. But these students burn out pretty quickly. Martial arts hares are rare and not your typical practitioner. But every one we have had at our dojo burned out long before black belt.

    Perhaps martial arts hares burn out because they are going to so many classes. When you do basically the same thing for four or five hours a week, it can get repetitive. Maybe they lose interest in training as soon as one of their belts takes longer to earn. Because eventually, a student, no matter how good they are, will take much longer than a month to learn the material and to get it at the level we want to see. Or maybe, as soon as they encounter materials that are more difficult to learn, which may take some time, they become disheartened.  

    My husband and I were proud and intrigued by the first couple of martial arts hares that we took on as students. But then we saw the way that these types of students burn out relatively quickly and stop abruptly. It’s almost like their martial arts passion burns so bright and hot that it has to go out as suddenly as it started. That type of fire cannot be sustained over a long term. It’s fortunate that the majority of our students are karate tortoises instead. Slow and steady wins the race. Or, as Confucius said, “It doesn’t matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

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