Here is a list of 9 tips every beginner should know when starting karate lessons. If you know these tips going in you will have more knowledge than 95% of all beginners. When people first begin their martial arts training they have preconceived thoughts about what they will be doing in a typical karate class. Although the tips I mention might 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, ma’am, or sensei. By doing this you show that you have respect for the instructor and you understand the discipline side of the 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 it simply means a place where people gather to train in the martial arts.
3. Bowing is a sign of mutual respect towards another person. Many Americans relate “bowing” to bowing down to authority or that someone is better than they are. This is not at all the case in the martial arts, it’s a mutual sign of respect. Depending on how traditional the school is, you should bow when you enter and leave the training hall, when you start and finish the class, and when speaking with your instructor. This will vary by school so don’t be afraid to ask.
4. Always be polite and respectful to others. This should be a mantra you live by anyway; however, in a martial arts training hall its a rule! Lose your ego, treat others as you wish to be treated, you know, the basics. Once you walk through the door and enter the dojo, you are no longer a doctor, mom, dad, lawyer, cashier, etc., you are a student.
5. Watch a class before signing up so you see what is taught at the school. This is a common mistake by beginners, they sign up for the first place they visit only to 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 schools have to make money, every business does! If your program is great you won’t have to pressure people into signing up!
6. Have the right attitude- martial arts is not about “kicking someone’s butt”! Karate lessons will build confidence and help to build self-esteem. It’s a great workout and it will help you lose weight and get in shape, all of this is true! The goal is to learn how to be a strong martial artist and if you have to defend yourself you need to be good at it. Protecting yourself and your family, absolutely! Training to start fights and kick butt, not at all! Now, don’t get me wrong, fighting in the ring is not only a great experience, it allows you to put your skills to the test in the right forum, not on the street for fun.
7. You must be open to learning- if you already know everything why are you there? Many younger students come in with the attitude that they already know a lot based on practicing what they see on TV. You may know a few things based on research and that is great; however, to improve you must be open to learning. The day will soon come where you test for your next rank and have plenty of time to show your skills.
8. Work hard and always do your best! Martial arts will help you to push your boundaries and do things you never thought were possible. By working hard and safely pushing yourself you will expand your mind and body and grow as a martial artist. The more you give, the more you will get in return!
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 you should walk around and correct everyone and be a know it all, that is not the point. But I do mean helping others achieve their goals, improve techniques, and become better martial artists.