by Sensei Peter Leitch
February, 1997

Each person has their own way of understanding or learning something new. Some people seem to pick up concepts as quickly as they can be explained. For others, more time and much more effort may be required. This often has less to do with intelligence and more to do with the way a particular individual thinks.

Of course, nothing will substitute for good hard work and persistence, but it's no use just "beating your head against a wall".

Here are a few tips that I personally have found helpful, and in some cases essential. Always watch and listen carefully when a technique or combination is being demonstrated. This is not just a good idea; it is also good manners. There will be plenty of time to try out the technique after your sensei is finished. By paying close attention at first, you will be less likely to miss any important details.

Take the time to review in your mind what you learned at the workout. This can be done in just a few short minutes and is most helpful just before any practice at home.

Be sure to listen to all pointers given during the workout, even when you are certain they are not directed at yourself. If you have reached a state where you believe your technique is beyond criticism, then you will never improve beyond that state.

Learn not to take criticism personally. Instead, you must learn to welcome it.

Take the time to critique yourself. This is essential and is not as easy as it sounds. To be effective, your self-criticism must be honest and unrelenting. Besides the usual checking of stances, the use of mirrors, video tapes, shadows on walls... even footprints can be helpful.

Work with your sensei and help him or her to understand where your problems lie. Ask questions, and never be afraid to admit that you "still don't get it". Remember to be patient.

Understand that different instructors will have different ways of teaching karate. Some talk more than others. Some prefer less talk and more demonstration. Their emphasis may be kicks instead of punches or vice versa. They may have completely different interpretations of what appears to be the same technique. Never make the mistake of believing that just because what is being taught or the way it is being taught is different that it is wrong. Sounds obvious, but it is very easy to be turned off learning something new by allowing the unfamiliar to get in the way! This point is very important.

Always visualize your opponent and make your techniques explosive. Otherwise as Funakoshi once said, what you are practicing wil be very much like dancing.

Do not let other peoples' motives for studying karate cloud and spoil your own. You must be clear on this and true to yourself.

Be serious with the time you spend in the dojo. (This does not mean you can't enjoy yourself!) It is your time and it is valuable time.

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