1) Instinctive But Not Mindless
Having reached 2nd kyu, you have no doubt developed excellent technique, much of which would be quite instinctive by now.
When our technique becomes instinctive we risk mentally ‘switching off’. And while our instincts will keep us on track for some time, eventually bad habits are sure to creep in. Such is the nature of the Universe. Where inactivity or a lack of focus is present, negativity will inevitably creep in. Consider a garden that is left un-nurtured. Before too long weeds will creep in and take over. We have taken quotes from the 20 precepts of Gichen Funakoshi (the father of modern karate) numerous times throughout the Journey section. Of his 20 precepts, number 11 translates as “Karate is like boiling water; it cools down if you do not keep applying heat”.
The student who stops focusing on their technique risks falling backwards in their technique.
2) Turn Up The Heat
If the first point warned you of turning down the heat (by mentally switching off) this point suggests that you actually turn it up. Having reached 2nd kyu, there will be a greater expectation placed on all your kihon techniques, previous kata and overall kumite technique. Often for a student to reach the next level it requires an increase in effort and/or focus. This is not always the case but you need to be aware that the greater expectation means areas that have held you back ever so slightly in the past may now become a larger hurdle.
This is not a negative and it is not intended to be a hurdle on route to your black belt. It’s simply saying that you need to be sure you are dotting all your I’s and crossing all your T’s.
Because of this it’s also important that you let go of any excuses that you may have been clinging onto in the past. It’s natural human tendency to make excuses for our flaws in life and our karate technique is no exception.
It’s important for you to know that an instructor will not expect you to perform things outside of your physical ability, but those things within your capabilities should be addressed. The problem is when excuses cause us to switch off and accept less from ourselves – which unfortunately can happen frequently in all areas of life.
A common dojo example follows:
Johnny has a bad knee and as a result, cannot get down properly into his neko ashi dachi (cat stance) or shiko dachi (sumo stance). Because of his inability to move into these stances properly he tends to switch off all aspects of the technique rather than just his legs. As a result, his hips rarely finish square in cat stance and his hands often go off track from the technique’s ideal path.
While you may have a good reason for not performing something correctly, be sure that everything surrounding this valid reason does not fall by the way side.
3) Communicate With Your Instructor
It’s important that you communicate with your instructor about the things you need to work on. Many students wait until they have passed the minimum time requirement to grade before asking their instructor what they need to work on. The problem with this is that they may have quite a bit of work to do on one or two areas of their karate; areas that require time and attention to fix.
By now you must have realised that getting constant feedback on your progress is not only essential, but pivotal to your progress. Too many people allow their ego to get in the way of their progress, and that is a danger you cannot afford. A smart student will always keep asking for feedback, and will never get to thinking that he/she ‘knows how its done’.