Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Novice Test

You're sparring against a novice, and he's frustrating the crap out of you. You've been training for years, practicing all the kata, doing all the drills, exercising and hitting the punching bag everyday. Your form is impeccable, and you placed first in the last two kumite tournaments you entered. You know you're good, but this guy is connecting. He's trained for a month, he can barely perform the basic blocks and he's a goofy mess, but he keeps tagging you with this big-eyed expression of terror on his face. He's making you awkward, unbalanced and worst of all he's making you look bad. You don't want to admit it, but it keeps going through your head "he's not doing it right."

Sound familiar? Has this happened to you? Does it fill you with a little bit of fear? It probably should.

Usually after the guy has a few more months of training and gets his "form," you start schooling him. He telegraphs, hesitates, and generally tries the same thing over and over again. This usually puts your fears to rest for a bit, because you can tell yourself it was just a fluke.

This has happened to me a few times, and I took it as a big warning sign. My junk didn't work as good as I thought it did.

Let's be blunt. If you can't completely annihilate a pure novice, your karate doesn't work. I mean if everyone is following their dojo kun than you shouldn't be running around fighting other karate practitioners anyway. You'll be defending yourself against thugs that presumably don't know karate. Are we starting to see the problem?

You can even find quotes like this one from Motobu Choki “The techniques of kata have their limits and were never intended to be used against an opponent in an arena or on a battlefield.” 

This basically means that at the very least karate should work against the untrained.

This is a hard truth, and it's even harder to face. The dojo has a big sign on the window that says "Learn Self Defense." It has a long lineage. You've also put in a lot of effort. All the fees, the testing, the practice. You've got a black belt or you're about to have one. You've been told it works. Your sensei said it works.  It's all supposed to mean something. Worst of all, it's your identity, the core of your ego.

What do you do?

Do you ignore reality, or do you face it and do something about it?