Once the elation of getting your black belt has subsided you will, like many that have gone before you, wonder, “What’s Next?”
You’ve made it, and you’re officially brilliant, so why continue to train as hard as you have been? I don’t want to put a downer on things by repeating what my Sensei said to me so I will try to answer the question with some thoughts below.
Is your Japanese up to scratch? We have covered a great number of karate techniques but only touched the tip of an iceberg in reality. I suggest you download the ‘karate terms‘ app and give yourself a test. You may not be feeling quite so brilliant after doing so, I didn’t, despite my 27 years! It’s amazing how much you don’t know you don’t know.
Do you have any poor techniques that could be improved? The answer should always be a yes. Despite years of training we all have weak techniques. Sometimes these come to light under the pressure of the grading during the sequences, pad work or partner work. If you have a weaker side on pad work you have something to work on. If it takes you a few techniques to deliver your full power to the pad you have something to work on. If your kicks rarely go higher than chudan height you have something to work on….
Are your good techniques the best in the club? Maybe some of them are, which is as it should be, you are after all a black belt. However it is unlikely that many of them are and therefore they can be improved. Look around and see if you can figure out where you can improve them. That’s easier said than done of course but we are all here to help.
Perhaps they could be faster by improving physical power, reaction time, concentration or relaxation?
Perhaps they could be more powerful by improving the things mentioned above plus timing of hip work, posture and stance?
Perhaps your sequences could be faster and flow better by concentrating on the transitions between individual techniques, controlling your posture and your balance?
Do you really understand what you’re doing but more importantly why you’re doing it and why it works? It’s so much easier to do what you’re instructed to do rather than thinking about it. That’s something you only really get to grips with by teaching others. They may ask you why you’re doing something or ask your help as to why something isn’t working.
That leads onto teaching. Can you put a lesson together that follows on from basics, into partner work and pad work without appearing to be a random selection of stuff put together at the last minute (though it sometimes is just that)? That, like everything else, requires you to think about your karate, not just when you’re training, but when you have a quiet moment to yourself.
I will leave off on that point. Think about karate and you’ll find there’s lots more to master.
PS I forgot to mention katas! There are so many more to learn and master.