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Returning to Training After an Absence
Many people face the challenge of trying to get back into training, after taking time off. Whether they were black belts when they left or not, the issues all returning karate participants face are the same.
Who wants to get back into it?
Many instructors often quote a statistic: only 1% of people who start karate ever achieve black belt. It is difficult to figure out where they got this number from. What is clear is that a lot more people stop karate training than go on to tie that black belt around their waist. That means that there are a whole lot of people out there that might try to get back into training, perhaps for the same reasons, perhaps for new reasons. The discipline of fixed times, training with others, and doing something arguably useful and getting a workout at the same time are examples of the attraction of karate as an activity.
First things first
After an almost two year layoff from formal training, I decided to resume training in a karate class. I was accepted back with open arms. I did the following:
Be sure of what you want. Make sure that before approaching the instructor or school, you are sure in your own mind what can reasonably expect from karate training. If you do not have goals, the instructor cannot know what you want or need.
Make your goals or needs clear. Make it clear to the most senior instructor why you want to start again, and what you want to focus on. This will allow both of you to determine whether or not the karate school can and will cater to your needs. Leave neither of you in any doubt regarding your reasons for being there. It is pointless taking up karate at a school that cannot cater to your needs at least some of the time.
Make sure you still have the proper equipment in good condition. This may sound a bit obvious, but another karate friend, a 3rd dan who started again after a very long layoff, pulled an old, discolored pair of sparring mitts from his bag one evening before sparring started, and I was horrified at the odor they gave off. Needless to say, everyone avoided sparring with him, and he was quite embarrassed. One the subject of uniform, just wear the last belt rank you were awarded. Karate ranks don’t expire.
Try to condition yourself physically. Although it will take some time for your karate-fitness to achieve anything approaching former levels, you can make life a lot easier if you have done some work on your abdomen and legs, combined with a cardio workout. This is why it may be best to pick a future date to return to training. You can put in some exercise prior to returning. I found that the variety and pace of a gym circuit helped tremendously.
Other than that, all that is really left is to line up at the beginning of class. Whether you go back to a dojo you used to train in or to a new one, look for some smiles from old friends or new…
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