Today’s world is about speed. We have turned into a society of Speed: instant mash potatoes, meals ready to eat in fewer than sixty seconds, instant coffee and even waiting for the water to boil in a microwave takes too long. We want the feeling of immediate gratification. We want somebody telling us how good of a job we are doing or showing us by rewarding us in some fashion whether being a promotion, raises or awards.
The martial arts world is no different. The American culture has spoken. Just look at every strip mall and you will find a store front martial arts school. The window front usually has pictures, glossy pictures of aerial techniques, or glamour photos of the teachers.
Walk inside and they will sell you on everything from a gym bag to a key chain at discounted prices. The pictures of ancient warriors usually hang on the walls with oriental banners next to them as a tribute. They talk about how you can get different stripes on your belts, different belts and how quickly you succeed in this style. Then they talk about money, and the long term contract you must sign in order to join. This is American Karate at its worst, yes karate (they might not be teaching karate but that word is used and the public does not know the difference) that is what they are selling and Americans are buying. Within a 2 year span you can become a black belt, Instant Black Belt.
It is not all there fault, although they must share the blame. The students have taken over and want to learn everything NOW, and the teachers will skip lessons, take short cuts or even jam information too quickly only to have the student not remember any, or worse try to defend themselves and fail. The statement that next follows usually is my karate failed me, in reality you have failed your karate.
I remember when I first started Karate; my Sensei would talk about how one became a black belt. The white belt became so dirty from hard work that it turned black. I was a white belt for so long, I believed my journey would be white to black, no other color in between. I was wrong. I never felt sorry for myself, as other students from different dojos where being promoted ahead of me, when I started before them. I used that to my advantage. I absorbed the material, the lessons my Senseis taught. One night my Sensei asked about the white belt and if I was offended at being a white belt so long. My answer to him was No, it is not the belt that makes the person, it’s the person the makes the belt. He laughed and not long after I was promoted.
We must not cater to the whims of society; the history of martial arts is one of hard work, sacrifice, blood, and guts. The importance of karate is patience, we must teach above all that patience, practice, and hard work will not only give the student a new belt but a lifestyle.