“Good,” I told my students, after calling a pause in their repetitions. “That’s good enough,” I tell them.
“But is ‘good enough’ really all that good?”
When you have the cable guy come out to hook up your TV and he shows up 2 hours late and takes another hour for what you were told would take 10 minutes, you may call this “good enough”, as he did eventually get you hooked up. When you get to your hotel room and notice that it does have a bed, bathroom, etc., but doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the photo you were shown, you may call it “good enough”. But there are times when “good enough” may not or should not be considered “good enough”.
Your kick may be good enough to score a point at a local tournament. But would that same kick (granted it is controlled for safety in the tournament) be effective in a real self-defense encounter? Is it really “good enough” for you?
Your punch seems faster than it was when you first started your training years ago. But the woman next to you seems faster. You may be “good enough” to pass the minimal required criteria on your next kyu or dan exam. But is this good enough for you?
Each person has his or her own priorities and levels of acceptance for different things. If I am in a class and the instructor says “good”, I usually think of that as meaning ‘good enough’, and then try even harder. My standards are higher than most. And I know when I am doing just enough to do better than the person next to me in line at my dojo. At times like this I sometimes imagine that I am back in Tokyo, next to people training at a level beyond what I am letting myself settle for.
Is traveling to Japan to train the answer? Will that make us good enough to be really “good enough”? It depends on what you want to get out of your training. For some people, putting the extra effort into traveling to a different location to focus on training might really help. For others, just focusing more on training at the home dojo might be the better answer. (For more on this, please see articles on Training in Japan and Gung-ho Training)
This is not to say that we should never be happy with our performance. If we are not happy during training, we are not doing it right! Karate should be, overall, an enjoyable activity. No need to get frustrated during every exercise. But are our standards as high as they should be? Are we sometimes letting ‘good enough’ be our goal?
As also explained in my Challenge article, we must push ourselves. It should not always be up to the instructor/coach to push us. This self-challenging can involve pushing ourselves to go a little faster or train a little harder or more often. But it can also involve taking a hard look at ourselves to assess our technical performance (see articles on Video Training and Look & Feel in Kihon for more on this subject).
Let’s strive to be good. But when we can, let’s try to be better than just “good”. Let’s try to be outstanding!
Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published November 2005)