Happy birthday to me!

Happy Birthday

Well… not me as such.  My own birthday was in December when I finally left the 20’s and hit the big 30.  Instead today marks the first anniversary of the Shotokan Karate Training website.

It’s been quite a year if I look back.  In a nutshell I’ve started to enter tournaments again, attended new seminars, met new karate friends and for the first time put my thoughts down in writing for the purpose of this site and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.  I’d like to say a thank you to everybody who has supported me with this over the last year and also followed the Shotokan Karate Training page on Facebook.  Without your support it wouldn’t be worth doing it.

I’d like to give a special thanks to Tipton Shotokan Karate and Matt Price Sensei for the seminar and content Matt allowed me to upload.  Also I’d like to thank my own club Ruach, Gary Beggan and Ronnie Christopher for their teaching and opportunities to enter various competitions.  In addition to this Sensei Sean Roberts who came over from Hawaii.  There were some extremely mind boggling lessons there that i;m still trying to implement in to my karate,  I’d also like to mention World Champion Luke Howard for his time for the interview for the site it is much appreciated.  I musn’t forget old friend and Sensei Tom Davies and his South Staffs club along with student Louis Powell for the excellent Kyu grading syllabus material permission to upload.

Finally I’d like to thank Sensei John Johnston for his publishing of my material to a wider audience stirring up quite a good debate earlier on in the year and the invite to Birmingham University to take on some of his students.

Here’s to another successful year and I hope to see you back to take on the journey with me.

Matt Cromwell

Advertising to the masses; Quality vs Quantity

I want to talk today about what factors are the most important with regards to karate training for instructors and students.  From an instructor point of view; Is it the quantity of students or the quality? There are many reasons why students decide to take up martial arts.  These include, but are not limited to keeping fit, to gain confidence and to learn self defense.  With this in mind an instructor has a lot to consider when teaching as he must take in to consideration the individual needs of students, whilst still pushing through the ethos that (in this case) karate is first and foremost, a fighting art. In an ideal world, the instructor would train his or her students to be the best they can be.  After all, nobody can be better than reaching that self actualization.  If I talk specifically from a kumite perspective with a goal to winning competition in this scenario, then what can be considered the maximum an instructor can push his students to achieve their full potential? When we train in a controlled setting, working together with our partners to ensure safety; Does this really develop us to our maximum in order to achieve our best?  In my opinion, the struggle of the instructor is that the club is made up of its’ students and whilst pushing some to breaking point is acceptable and beneficial to one student, it could possibly lead to driving another student away.  So the question then is, what is the purpose behind a club from an instructor’s point of view? Is it to have as many students as possible that are enjoying themselves having fun that may necessarily not be as good as they could be if pushed harder?  The benefits of this approach however would be promoting karate to a wider audience.  This in turn could help to advertise karate to more potential karateka creating a snow ball effect if you will.  Or is this approach in fact doing a disservice to the art, promoting quantity over quality as the order of the day. What draws me to karate is its’ uniqueness.  It’s not like playing football or rugby or another mainstream sport.  If you were to compare practicing and working on skill, technique then yeah, you’d find similarities, but karate goes much deeper than that.  It’s a mindset outside of the art and to an extent a way of life.  The Dojo Kun principles of karate transfer in to valuable life skills.  How one presents themselves, their conduct, their attitude, their discipline, their ego (or lack of). I’m personally all for seeing the art develop and grow and would love to see as many students taking part in karate as possible.  Would I want this to happen at the expense of the overall quality of its’ students development though?  Most definitely not.  Allowing this free for all, any attitude accepted approach would in turn see black belts being given out like free sweets and the thought of this churns my stomach.  I’m sure it does happen in some clubs and organisations.  Instructor’s whose main aim is to make as much money as possible for personal financial gain, I’ve heard these referred to as McDojo’s but I cannot see this in any shape or form as being acceptable.  If a true karate instructor had learnt any moral values through the art then this practice would not come to realisation in the first place! Thankfully, all the clubs I know and have trained with have kept to the discipline whereby if you’ve earned that black belt then you’ve bloody well earned it properly.  My Shodan was awarded by the late Enoeda and Sherry Sensei.  These two aren’t giving black belts out!  If you don’t cut it, you don’t cut it and that is something i’m proud of;  To have stood up in front of some of the very best and shown that I have a good standard and thus being recognised for the work I’ve put in over the years. I talk from a completely honest and personal point of view when I write this.  If we focus on a balance of mundane, but gut busting high quality training vs quality training mixed with fun (excluding McDojo’s) then which approach is more valuable to the student?  All I can go are my own feelings.  My instructor’s are top notch.  When I say good, I mean really good.  I enjoy my training to the maximum and give 100% every lesson.  There’s always a burning question in my heart that is left unanswered though.  If I enjoyed it a little less and trained with others to the tune of a bootcamp, blood, sweat, tears and all;  Would this make me better at what I did?  Would the beatings I could potentially, in fact, inevitably take in training toughen me up further to prepare me for a real life situation?  My answer to this?  I honestly don’t know.  They always say grass is greener on the other side and for now at least my teeth, nose and other vitals are (touch wood) still in tact.  Would I be writing this with the same perspective if i were to be getting my backside kicked each week?  Who knows! From a new starters point of view; I’d suggest a happy medium between engaging, fun karate and quality teaching.  This feels like a good balance to begin with.  From there on in it is up to the student to decide the way in they want to take their training.  The only person that can decide if their club is truly beneficial to them is the student themselves.  Stick to your guns, feel with your heart, give it your all and the rest will follow.