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  • Writer's pictureMatt Powell

Choose Grace Over Pace!

During our marathon months on Zoom, I gradually became accustomed to the balance of action and description that was necessary to get the best possible experience for our students.

I found that I kept repeating certain phrases or sayings as a means to reinforce a point or concept and help the students remember them.

My favourite of these Zoomism’s is

‘Choose Grace Over Pace!’

I first heard myself saying it whilst working on our square drills with a particular emphasis on sidekicks.

Over the years I have been training and teaching I have often noticed people using speed to ‘cheat’ a technique or hide imperfections. All this does is mask unhealthy habits and invite injury that will damage joints and cause long term problems. None of us are immune to the temptation of this habit.

We must all keep working on good form and flow.

Presently we are working on flowing kick combinations at medium pace to appraise form and movement. We are working on the details.

Earlier this month I revisited my lockdown work to benchmark some improvements but also reference some drills and theory I had been working on. My emphasis on the need for grace and to fight the urge to rush resonated with me once more.

Like many dojos that supported their membership through the pandemic, our clubs have experienced significant growth over the last year. But when I reflect on the club’s development, I think is important to ponder the speed and manner at how we have grown.

It has never been our goal to have the biggest club possible. It has always been about offering a quality learning experience with connection and invested-interest in all of our students’ development.

If clubs grow too quickly; poor communication, stifled student development and lower morale can be unseen. This can also appear in our actual karate where poor knee position or kick trajectory can be disguised with speed.

The consequences all-round then become,

short-term gain ….. long-term pain!

We are now preparing for our next wave of grading examinations and without doubt I will have to encourage some students to ‘sit this one out’. Everyone learns and develops at a unique speed and for some the next grading will come around a little too soon.

Karate like life … is not a race!

I recently had a lovely conversation with a friend in the West Country who is pursuing Karate as a profession. They had been offered an additional teaching opportunity and she wanted to talk things through with me.

I advised my friend to trust her instincts and be clear on her own aspirations. Some opportunities come to us at the wrong time or simply too quickly with insufficient opportunity to prepare ourselves appropriately.

In these instances, I believe we should challenge the trajectory of the opportunity just as we should appraise the trajectory and path of a kick.

If the course is good but something still doesn’t quite feel right, then perhaps the timing isn’t right. Maybe its too much too soon and on some level, we are not ready!

Don't throw the kick if you know it will miss!

From my experience, long term prosperity in the dojo is born of consistent incremental development and improvements.

In my life outside of karate I have witnessed businesses grow with staggering speed only to compromise themselves by losing sense of direction and by drifting off trajectory. I knew a lovely company once that went bankrupt with a full order book as they had stretched themselves too far and lost control of cash flow.

In Karate I have also seen students step up a level too early in their competitive karate career and be disheartened by their performances to the point where they quit rather than compete.

As a Sensei I feel I must encourage students to take small incremental steps to ensure their long-term prosperity and gains.

Life has such a rich array of experiences, opportunities, and challenges. Sometimes new techniques, job offers or exciting competition invites may come along and excite us in the moment.

But it doesn’t hurt to take a moment, slow down and consider the bigger picture. Is the path correct and void of risk?

I encourage everyone to think and then;

Choose Grace over Pace!

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