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Whatever You Like Least

Students sometimes ask me what they need to work on the most, and I always give the same answer: “whatever you like least.”

This is my favorite answer for a couple reasons.  First, this is guidance they can use forever.  Their preferences might shift over time, and their ability may strengthen in certain areas, but we will all tend to ignore the items we don't enjoy a little more than the ones we favor.  If I say they should work on sparring, for instance, that might not be true in a year.  If I give them a principle they can use to decide for themselves, however, I've given them guidance they can use for decades while also giving students agency over their education.

Second, I have found this is great advice because, as we practice the things we already like, we'll get better at them and receive more praise, encouraging us to practice them even more – to the detriment of our weaker skills.   Doing only the things we’re good at feels good and feeds our egos, so this becomes a vicious cycle where we don't strengthen our overall ability.  Developing advanced skill in karate is based on the conversation that happens between the different parts of the curriculum.  If we only include the parts we enjoy most, the missing pieces will ultimately prevent us from succeeding in a larger sense.  Our greatest skill will become our downfall.

A poor to average martial artist practices at random, letting whim and preference guide them.  An extraordinary martial artist will give equal weight to all aspects of the curriculum.  If you want to be extraordinary, go out of your way to train on whatever you like least.  You'll be surprised at how that makes everything else better too.


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