Here is a list of 9 tips that every beginner should know when starting karate lessons. If you know these tips, you will be more knowledgeable than 95% of all beginners. When people start their martial arts training, they have preconceived thoughts about what they will do in a typical karate class. Although the tips I mention may vary slightly between schools, if you know this information ahead of time, you can’t go wrong!
1. It is common courtesy to address instructors as sir, madam or sensei. By doing this, you show that you have respect for the instructor and that you understand the disciplinary side of martial arts. Karate lessons will help you learn discipline and respect as you gain experience as a martial artist.
2. A karate school is often referred to as a Dojo, Dojang, school or training hall. Dojo is short for dojang and simply means a place where people gather to train in martial arts.
3. Bowing is a sign of mutual respect for another person. Many Americans associate “bowing” with bowing to authority or that someone is better than them. This is not the case at all in martial arts, it is a sign of mutual respect. Depending on how traditional the school is, you should bow when entering and exiting the training room, when starting and ending class, and when speaking with your instructor. This will vary by school, so don’t be afraid to ask.
4. Always be courteous and respectful to others. This should be a mantra to live by anyway; however, in a martial arts training room it is a rule! Lose your ego, treat others how you want to be treated, you know, the basics. Once you walk through the door and into the dojo, you are no longer a doctor, mom, dad, lawyer, cashier, etc., you are a student.
5. Watch a class before registering to see what is being taught in school. This is a common mistake made by beginners, they sign up at the first place they visit and realize this was not the type of training they were looking for. If the instructor is extremely pushy and won’t let you watch a class or try one for free, this should be a sign. I realize that schools have to make money, all businesses do! If your program is great, you won’t have to pressure people to sign up!
6. Have the right attitude: martial arts is not about “kicking someone’s butt”! Karate lessons will build confidence and help build self-esteem. It is a great exercise and it will help you lose weight and get in shape, all this is true! The goal is to learn how to be a strong martial artist, and if you have to defend yourself, you have to be good at it. Protecting you and your family, absolutely! Training to start fights and kick butt, for nothing! Now don’t get me wrong, fighting in the ring is not only a great experience, but it allows you to test your skills in the right forum, not on the street for fun.
7. You must be open to learn, if you already know everything, why are you there? Many younger students arrive with the attitude that they already know a lot from practicing what they see on television. You may know a few things based on research and that’s great; however, to improve you must be open to learning. The day will soon come when you will try out for your next rank and you will have plenty of time to show off your skills.
8. Work hard and always do your best! Martial arts will help you push your limits and do things you never thought were possible. By working hard and pushing yourself safely, you will expand your mind and body and grow as a martial artist. The more you give, the more you get back!
9. Help others as you grow and develop as a martial artist. Part of learning and improving your life is also giving back to others. I don’t mean to say you should walk around and correct everyone and be a know-it-all, that’s not the point. But I do mean helping others achieve their goals, improve their techniques, and become better martial artists.