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At What Cost?

So let's say that you are a Shodan. It will take some work to earn your Nidan. It is not just a question of staying in Karate. It will take effort.

Rising from Nidan to Sandan will be even more difficult.

In fact, the higher the rank, the steeper the mountain becomes! The climb becomes more and more difficult.

Well, actually, I think that most of us enjoy training, so it is not really that difficult.

But I want to ask a question. If you have already reached the 99% level among Karate students, how much is it worth to you to strive for that remaining 1%? Let's say you are already proficient at self-defense. If so, it is worth expending considerable time and effort to become a little bit more proficient?

When I was in high school, I took a driver's education class. Then I got my driver's license. Since then, I have driven pretty well. I haven't had to take any additional classes. I am not a race car driver. For my personal driving, I seem to have learned what was necessary.

How much is necessary when it comes to Karate? I started practicing Shorin-Ryu about 37 years ago. That is quite a long time. I'm glad that I haven't had to go to 37 years of driver's education classes!

Don't get me wrong -- I really enjoy practicing and teaching Karate. Actually, my emphasis is on teaching. But I continue to try to improve my Karate skills too.

It is not like I am looking for a higher rank or titles so that I can draw more students. The opposite seems to be true -- the more skilled I become (over a long time), the fewer students I want to teach. My idea of an ideal class is one in which I teach a single student in depth! I don't need a higher rank or titles to do that.

And the point I am getting at is this: if you enjoy Karate training, than that is reward enough. If you do not enjoy Karate training, then external rewards such as rank and titles will probably not be enough. An unhappy 7th dan will probably become an unhappy 8th dan -- and make his students unhappy too.

But there is another point. How much time and effort are you willing to put in to improve just a little?

One of my sons was lifting weights and broke his previous record by 10 pounds. I mentioned this to a serious lifter who replied that a his level, lifting even a pound or two more would be very difficult. The more advanced you become, the harder it is to progress even a little.

If you are not interested in rank and titles, and are only interested in skill, how much time and effort would you be willing to expend to improve 1% or 2%? And is that margin of improvement really relevant when it comes to self defense?

I do not know the answer, but I thought it was an interesting question.

For me, training and teaching is worth it. I enjoy training and I enjoy teaching and helping students. It is sort of like gardening. I grow vegetables in my home garden. Nothing makes me happier than giving eggplants, okra, cucumbers, and avocados to my relatives and friends. Often, there is more than my immediate family can eat. My avocado tree had about 400 fruits this year. It seemed like the more I gave away, the more fruits there were.

I feel exactly the same about teaching. It makes me happy and it seems that the more I teach, the more there is to teach.

I think that improvement is a byproduct of the process, not necessarily the goal.


Charles C. Goodin