Updated: Nov 14
As Sensei Jesse Enkamp writes, the practice of karate (or any other martial art) is not a religion but instead another tool for improving our lives and the lives of those we touch. Please read this article and apply what works for you.
1. Thou Shalt Not Talk More Than You Train
Training is hard. Talking is easy. As human beings, we inevitably gravitate towards the easier things in life. That’s why we sometimes avoid the really hard stuff in training. Sometimes by accident, sometimes by purpose. But Karate training wasn’t made to be easy. So, unless talking actually develops your Karate, save the chatter for the dressing room. Cry in the dojo – laugh on the battlefield.
2. Thou Shalt Think For Yourself
Getting stuck in routine is normal. Expected, even. But you and I are not normal. We try to actively find new ways to improve our Karate, no matter how unexpected it appears. We don’t blindly follow rules and regulations. Thinking outside the box is hard, sure, and will sometimes make you feel uneasy, yes. But it’s always worth it. As long as you are moving in the right direction, anything goes. Unconventional does not equal unfavorable.
3. Thou Shalt Promote Real Karate
Everyone aren’t as blessed as you and me in finding a great dojo. Just like we can’t choose our parents, many people can’t choose a good dojo. Often they don’t have much choice. And when you’re a beginner, everything looks the same anyway! So let’s help people out. If you see a McDojo™ victim, educate him. Tell about real Karate. The purpose of knowledge is not to have it, it’s to share it – because that’s when it turns to wisdom.
4. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Rank
Comparing ourselves to people around us is a trap we all fall into. It’s an inescapable part of the human condition to compete with others, hard-wired into our DNA. But, measuring our success in Karate by comparing belts with other people is a dead-end that only leads to frustration, jealousy and sadness in the long run. Never try to be better than the next man. Silence the lizard brain. The higher you climb, the less a rank will mean anyway.
5. Thou Shalt Never Be Afraid of Questioning
The day you stop questioning is the day you commit intellectual suicide. Much of what we are taught is so rooted in unchallenged tradition that we often forget to ask ourselves if things are really productive to our progress in Karate. So ask. Ask smart questions. Ask stupid questions. It’s better to look a fool for a second than remain an emotionally insecure wreck for life. Never be afraid of questioning anything. Anywhere. Anytime. But remember to always do it respectfully.
6. Thou Shalt Honor Thy Sensei
Your sensei is a treasure trove of information. The sum of decades of experience in the art of Karate. But your sensei is human too, and all humans – especially ones who spend their days helping other people – need to be seen and respected for what they do. Make sure your sensei knows that you truly appreciate every last bit of wisdom you get. It’s the best way to unlock more personal feedback in the future and will propel you forward in Karate faster than you think. As a bonus, it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
7. Thou Shalt Know Your History
Sometimes we forget that Karate is not just a “social activity”, “sport” or “exotic hobby”. It is, above all, a cultural heritage from the tiny island of Okinawa, from where it spread through Japan into the rest of the world. As such, it is our duty to research our past in order to understand our present and embrace our future. Karate is too valuable, rich and unique in its nature to ever dismiss as just any other martial art. Know your lineage, know your history.
8. Thou Shalt Embrace All Parts of Karate
Whether you are interested in the strictly combative side of Karate, the spiritual side, the theoretical side, the technical side, the philosophical side, the cultural side or the historical side; there’s too much amazing stuff to learn in Karate to ever lock oneself into one department. Embrace the full spectrum of Karate, and you will always find yourself invigorated no matter what, where, or with whom you train. The art of Karate is best enjoyed from a 360 degree perspective. Realize this now, or learn it the hard way later.
9. Thou Shalt Never Be Afraid of Progress
Progress inevitably means change. But change doesn’t always equal progress. That’s why change invokes uncertainty and fear in some people. But as long as you feel that change is going in the right direction, never be afraid of progress. Momentum is your friend. Constantly have a mindset of learning and improving. One day you will realize that this mentality is just as valuable inside the dojo as outside.
10. Thou Shalt Keep Holy Thy Dojo
The dojo is unlike any other place for practice. It is a special place (“jo”) where we study the Way (“do”). Hence, the term “dojo” symbolizes a place dedicated to not only our improvement in Karate, but the Way of life in general. And the Way of life, as we all too often realize, is an intricate and delicate path that involves many hardships and battles. As such, the place for studying the Way requires the utmost respect. This is why we bow when we enter and exit the dojo. Because Karate begins and ends with respect.
Just like life.
And those were the 10 Commandments of Karate Nerds™.