Freaks and Geeks in Martial Arts

Don’t Let Your (Perceived) Limitations Prevent You From Joining

Everyone Else Has Started From the Same Point

During the course of their martial arts careers, just about every instructor will hear someone express interest in taking their class, but:

“I could never do that because:

  • I’m too uncoordinated.”
  • My physical condition is too bad.”
  • I’m not very athletic.”
  • I’m not flexible enough.”
  • I don’t have any talent.”

The truth is, they’re wrong.

Join a karate class, and you will find yourself in good company, among many other people who know what you’re going through. Students and teachers who once felt the same about themselves went on to excel in the martial arts, and they’re happy to accept you and help you on your way to great achievements of your own.

Here’s a secret about most martial artists—even the elite ones: They were no better than you when they started. In truth, martial arts like aikido, jujitsu, and karate are often the last stop for people who want to explore some sort of activity. Nothing else has worked for them.

Many successful martial artists tried and failed at football, volleyball, basketball, softball, or baseball. They may have attributed their failure to a lack of talent, coordination, and general athletic skills. If they possessed any of those attributes, they might believe, the school coach would have scooped them up.

Usually, it’s not an issue of physical limitations, but instruction. So many coaches might know how to improve a good athlete but not how to help someone who needs more work achieve their full potential. Coaches don’t always understand the fundamentals of their sports or how to communicate in language their players understand.

When they don’t see improvement in those players, lazy coaches may give up on them, rather than provide the extra attention and instruction they need to build their skills. Consequently, those students don’t improve, even when they work hard. In fact, all that hard practice just repeats and ingrains mistakes.

In fairness, some coaches feel pressure to win, so they focus their limited time on the athletes who will produce the greatest return for their teams.

Still, in those cases, it’s less a matter of the student failing at an activity than the coach failing the student.

Despite those experiences, and regardless of the reasons for them, many new martial artists find themselves surprised. They discover they do have talent. They do have skills. They only need time, effort, attention to detail, and patient instruction to develop them. Their coordination, flexibility, and conditioning improve along the way.

It helps that martial arts allow students to improve at their own pace, without the pressure of having to perform in front of people at scheduled games in school sports. Students can learn from their mistakes and not feel embarrassed that they let down the team, their parents, or themselves. Since few schools offer martial arts programs, students can develop their skills with more privacy than in school-sanctioned athletics.

Students are not always wrong about their physical limitations. This does not mean they cannot achieve great things in the martial arts. Frequently, they do.

With quality instruction, students learn how to work within their limitations. Self-defense, after all, is the essence of martial arts, and the small and weak seldom prey on the big and the strong. Thus, martial arts teach you to discover your advantages and how to press them. Rather than contesting an encounter against a bigger, stronger opponent on the basis of size and strength, you learn to use advantages in speed, strategy, technical skill,​ or physical conditioning to escape from danger.

So don’t let your perceived physical limitations prevent you from finding a martial arts program near you, and getting ready for your first class. With time, hard work, attention to detail, and quality, caring instruction, you may find yourself on the way toward extraordinary accomplishments.