Taking Responsibility

Taking Responsibility


Do you find yourself making excuses?  I know I sometimes do.  Do you blame your lack of rank advancement on your instructor(s) or examiner(s)?  Do you feel like you would get more out of your training if your sparring partners didn’t come in so fast with their attacks?  Do you spend time thinking up excuses for not training more?

While there may be legitimate reasons, we all, at some time, fail to take responsibility for our own behavior.  Whether or not we are at fault for our shortcomings, transferring blame to someone else should not become a habit.

Other commitments in your life may sometimes hold a higher priority than training, as has been the case with me, now that I have a baby at home.  But while this may be a valid excuse for not going to the dojo as often as I used to (or would like), it is not an excuse for me to give up training altogether.  I can still work out at home in between other things.  And I can train while I teach at the dojo (for at least part of the class).  I feel that I am responsible for my students’ continuing progress, and therefore also feel responsible for what other teachers at my dojo do who lead classes in my absence.

If I find myself partnered in kumite with someone who is slow, I do not blame my partner for my lessened training.  Instead, I change my focus to something other than working on speed.  If someone lacks control, I use this to test myself in “expecting the unexpected,” as long as things do not get out of hand such that safety becomes a major concern.

As an instructor, I have a responsibility to my students to provide a high level of teaching.  If I feel that someone’s learning or training desires do not fit with the subject or methods that I teach, I gladly point them to another location/instructor that I think might be more suitable.  I think of this as my responsibility, too.

Competitors at a tournament may blame the judges for not calling the scores better.  Judges may assume that a technique scored a point because another judge scored it.  We are all human, thus capable and prone to make mistakes.  We must acknowledge our shortcomings and learn from them.  We can also learn from observing the shortcomings of others.  In fact, I think it is our responsibility to learn from the mistakes we make as well as the mistakes others make.

Students sometimes feel as though they are spending too much time practicing the basics, when they would rather be introduced to advanced kata or free-sparring.  I suggest that students who feel that way try to realize the value of these basic repetitions, that their advanced kata and free-sparring will be improved, eventually, as a result of this seemingly mundane practice.

Classes cost too much?  If you do a little comparison-shopping, you would probably find that karate classes are an incredible bargain, compared to, for example, ballet or college classes.  If you still think that your dues are too high, consider discussing this with your instructor.  Often, the instructor would consider a lesser payment if a student cannot make it to the majority of classes due to a hectic schedule or long commute.  Or perhaps the instructor could offer referral fees for helping to bring in new students or some other “soft-dollar” arrangement.

I have heard the excuse many times that “I am not in good shape now, so I can’t make it to class.”  Isn’t one of the reasons to come to class “to get (or keep) in shape”?

The bottom line is that we should not make excuses.  There are some legitimate reasons why we may not be perfect.  But let’s take responsibility for our actions (or inaction, as the case may be).

Some quotes worth considering:

“Life is tough, but when you’re tough on yourself, life is infinitely more rewarding” (Zig Zigler)

“If you keep on doing what you have been doing, you are going to keep on getting what you have been getting.” (Alcoholics Anonymous)

“We must ask where we are and whither we are going.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are probably right.” (Henry Ford)

“A goal is nothing more than a dream with a time limit.” (Joe L. Griffith)

Copyright © 2022, Jon Keeling (originally published September 2002)