Ask the Senseis: What’s a Common Mistake that most Karateka make when just starting out? #SWKKF

James Ryan

Ask the Senseis: What’s a Common Mistake that most Karateka make when just starting out?
By: Sensei James Ryan
St. Catharines Wado Kai Karate

Sensei Darren Marshall (Toronto): “Relying on pre-conceived information. For example: ‘Bruce Lee did it this way!’ Or trying to learn too much, too fast. ‘Ok, so I did 12 front kicks, so teach me the roundhouse now.’ Just slow down, assume you know nothing and listen. Then when you do come across things you are familiar with it will be a short reprieve to the uncomfortably hard learning to train your body.”

Sensei Neil Prime (St. Catharines): “Training at a different club than mine. Also, expecting results too quickly.”

Sensei Jim Atkinson (Delhi): “Goal Setting! When starting anything, you need to set goals. One goal is high, and the other goals are the steps you need in order to achieve and reach the higher goal. For example: The higher goal would be a black belt. The steps to reach this goal are smaller goals such as yellow belt, orange belt and so on. Many beginners start with the ultimate goal however, and get discouraged because they didn’t focus on the smaller goals along the way. This will help someone make the journey at their own ability and timeline rather than comparing themselves to others, which as I said, can be discouraging. Goal setting doesn’t stop at black belt however, and becomes even more important down the road.”

Sensei Marco Reyes (Jarvis/Simcoe): “Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to ask… we all started at the beginning. Also, find an instructor that you like. If you like them, you will learn something.”

Sensei Lauren Pankratz (St. Catharines): “Underestimating the amount of time and effort it takes to learn something that’s new to them.”

Sensei Kris Reynolds (Kawartha Lakes): “Misunderstanding the context of your training. We train for results, but what result are we looking for? As a beginner, the goal of the training will be chosen by your instructor – not you.  As a student, you will likely not understand the reason you are doing things a certain way. Your Sensei will teach you to do something because the practice will develop you in a particular area. The dangerous mistake made by many students is to assume they know everything, and subsequently attempt to transfer what they practice to a different, misaligned context. For example: An instructor may teach something a particular way to improve your ability in specific point competition.   This will likely be very effective for your tournament results, but could have terrible results in a self-defense situation. Another example: An instructor might teach something in a particular way to improve your basic skills like tai sabaki, or body alignment by breaking things down to an extreme level. That might produce terrible results if you try to apply it to sparring. As a student, you should trust your Sensei, and simply try your best to learn what they are teaching, the way they are asking you to do it. Your Sensei knows better. Once you are proficient at the way they ask, you should think about (and ask your Sensei) ‘Why’ you are doing it that way and make sure you understand the proper context for it. When you’re ready, your Sensei will change it to yield results in other aspects of your training. You will know you are ready because your Sensei will tell you.”

Sensei Peter Avino (Buffalo): “New students have certain ideas of what they think they need to do. Most of them won’t listen to their instructor on the actual correct movements. They spend too much time trying to figure out what’s too hard or what’s too soft instead of actually listening to what the instructor is telling them.”

Sensei Brodie Hicks (Peterborough): “I think the most common mistake people make when they’re just starting out is only practicing 100% in the dojo or in class. Class training should represent 20%, and the other 80% is training outside of the dojo. Training and practicing – waking up early to get in that extra practice before school – or whenever you can squeeze in some practice time into your busy schedule. You can always improve. It could be something as simple as stretching while watching TV.”

Sensei Brad Cosby (St. Catharines): “People get discouraged because they try to learn too much all at once. If you learn one new thing a night – that’s good, you tried… but people get discouraged, and then that’s it – they quit. Where if they just didn’t set their sights so high at the beginning, and instead looked at what they learned and not at what they didn’t learn, then they wouldn’t get as discouraged.  You don’t have to learn everything all in one night.”

Sensei Ron Mattie (Welland): “You can’t make a mistake, so long as you’re trying.”


Special thanks and gratitude to all of the Senseis who participated in the inaugural edition of Ask the Senseis. Have a Question? Please feel free to reach out and email me at jamesryan.writer@outlook.com.

James Ryan
James Ryan


Leave a Reply