I felt like a white belt all over…

I like to think I’m reasonably coordinated at most things as I’ve played sport all my life and taken martial arts for the best part of 25 years. So there isn’t too much that I feel completely uncordinated with…

But in recent years I’ve discovered two things at which I’m completely and utterly useless.

  1. Playing the guitar (Guitar hero ok, real guitar not ok)
  2. Golf

Since it was Father’s Day last Sunday, my wife bought me a round of golf with my father in law Doug, and my brother in law Dave.

“Cool!”, I thought, “Golf! Yeah!”

I vaguely remember playing about, oh, um…. 10 years ago was it? Geez, I don’t even remember the last time I picked up a golf club. Ah, but what the heck this was going to be fun!

We were scheduled to play Sunday, so on Saturday Doug and Dave decided to go to the driving range and get in some extra practice. Unfortunately, I had another commitment so I couldn’t attend.

I wasn’t particularly happy they were going to be at a considerable advantage, both experience-wise AND the fact they’d also get in some pre Father’s Day Golf Challenge practice.


Oh well, this was still going to be a fun day, right?

So at 7:28am on Sunday morning we tee’d off.

“Just make sure you make it past the ladies’ tees on your first swing!”, laughed Doug.

“Yeah, yeah…”, I replied as I focused on the ball and lifted my club. I was sure I was going to smack this golf ball straight down the middle of the fairway and Doug would be eating his words.


I swung the club hitting the top of the ball, causing it to shoot off to the side of the fairway. Not only didn’t it make it past the ladies’ tees, the ball bounced into a ditch and lay in 3 foot of scrub.


The roar of laughter behind me and the wisecracks that followed were enough to last me the rest of the day.

“Way to go Tiger!”

“Nice one!”

“You need some help up out of there?”

For the next 18 holes I struggled. Dave gave me pointers all day long about how to stand, club selection, swing technique, the position of the ball relative to my feet, how to follow through, etc, etc. I could UNDERSTAND perfectly what he was saying.

And I could do the things he said, but I just couldn’t do them all at once. And on rare occasions I’d hit the ball like I’d been playing for years… but I couldn’t REPRODUCE the same shot twice.

I knew I wasn’t any good a golf so I didn’t have any expectations. But after 15 holes, seeing no noticeable improvement, I was becoming frustrated and I realized exactly why when I used karate as an analogy.

I was unable to get any REPETITIONS of the same technique, before having to change and do another. It was like doing a single punch, then a different punch, followed by a few different strikes and then a block.

Then at the next hole, I’d have to try to remember how to do the first technique I’d done and reproduce it again. But by that stage I’d forgotten all the pointers Dave had given me… and I’d probably mixed up a few of the things he told me too.

It was like I was trying to block up when I really should have been blocking down, and then wondering why it didn’t work. 

Man, for the first time in a long time I felt completely uncoordinated!

This experience reminded me just how important it is as a karate teacher that you work with your students on just a couple of things at a time.

Unfortunately too many karate teachers have their students do too many different things in any one class. They might begin with some basics, then some impact training, then some self defense applications, followed by a new kata, then some sparring.


My golfing experience reminded me to mention how important it is to build skill on top of skill, and then move to the next skill set, rather than working on 6 different skill sets at once. I’m sure you realize this, but do you do it? Do you give consideration to the structure of your class and how the next thing should build on the previous?
Whether you’re doing basic repetitions or using drills to disguise those reps, planning your class so students can build the muscle memory before changing to some other skill set is critical. As trying to work on 7 different things at once, leads to frustration and virtually zero accomplishment…

It’s kinda like playing 18 holes of golf without spending any time practicing putting, or an afternoon at the driving range hitting balls, and then expecting to do well…

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