“Karate is Like Boiling Water:” Reasons for NWSMA’s Absence from Training Policy

demo team

Sempai Jasmine doing form at a demo.

One of Gichin Funakoshi’s 20 precepts of karate is,

Karate is like boiling water.

I think this has a lot to do with absences from training. Which has a lot to do with our new policy!

I promised everyone a fuller explanation. If you want to read what was going through our heads when we created it, please click “more.”

In his quote, Funakoshi goes on to point out that without heat, water returns to its tepid state. Training, even if its only once a week, is like keeping the stew over a burner on low–it keeps cooking, slowly, until it becomes delicious.

Would you ever turn the burner on for five minutes and off for half an hour to achieve delicious stew? I think not!!

What we’re trying to say is, without consistent, steady effort & commitment, the martial arts skills students are learning will return to their tepid state. So will things like their cardio endurance, reaction speed, and strength.

We have a lot of students who take time off. We’re okay with that!

But it is undeniable that the overall progress of their training suffers. We have to spend extra time re-teaching them things. It takes a lot of extra effort and muscle soreness to get the body back in shape for martial arts after a break.

A lot of us black belts have experienced this.

Sempai David about to take his sparring opponent down.

Sempai David about to take his sparring opponent down.

Like math, a martial arts curriculum builds on skills progressively. Skip two months of math class–can you still keep up when you come back to it?

It’s the same for martial arts.

The new policy calls on returning students to acknowledge that when returning to training from an extensive break, their skills are a little rusty. That they probably got weaker. That they forgot some a lot of stuff. That an old, bad habit came back.

That they’re not at the same level they were at when they took a break, and it will take some time and effort to get back to that level.

To sum it up:

  • We don’t give out belts for showing up.
  • Students earn belts through effort and a display of constantly improving skill.
  • Long breaks interrupt the development of skill.

So that’s what was going through our heads when we drew up this policy–and like anything NWSMA, we’ll take a look at individual cases when applying it.

Thanks for your support! ~NWSMA Teaching Team

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NWSMA Absence from Training Policy: Effective January 2014

1. Please notify the school, informally, when the student will be absent for more than (1) calendar week. Everyone already does this–thanks! :)

2. Students can “take a break” from training for 3 consecutive months without penalty. We will count this by calendar months. For example, a student who attends any class in June can miss July, August, and September months without penalty. This is designed with summer break in mind.

3. Students returning from a break of 4 or more consecutive months:

  • a) TKD white-advanced green belts/Karate white-advanced blue belts will have all stripes removed from their belt. The student will be able to earn the stripes back once they re-master their requirements. They must be able to (1) memorize their new material, (2) remember older forms, and (3) perform all techniques at a level appropriate for their age & belt rank. This is not meant to be a punishment, merely for the student to acknowledge that they have to re-attain their previous skills.
  • b) TKD blue belts/ Karate purple belts & above will not be allowed to wear a belt for the first month of training. At the end of the month, the student will re-take the test for their current rank and be able to wear belt upon passing the test. We will charge a $15 re-test fee. We fully encourage parents to help their student find a way to earn this money, as a way of showing that they are serious about continuing to train. Again, this is not meant as a punishment. Upper rank students have a lot more to remember than lower ranks.

4. Provisional Belts: Provisional belts are subject to 3b above. Additionally, if a provisional does not train for 6 consecutive months, we will consider that quitting. Their rank will revert to advanced brown & they must return their provisional belt. There will be no guaranteed re-test within 1 month of returning. Provisional black belt is a level at which you should decide if you’re serious about being a martial artist or not.

5. 1st degree black belts & above will be considered on an individual basis. Usually, by the time a student earns 1st degree, they’re mature enough to know what they need to work on without us having to tell them.

About Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei Yudanjanim Caitlin is a 2nd degree black belt, senior instructor, administrative assistant, and student of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Arnis at Northwest School of Martial Arts.
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