Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fat Karate Instructors

I have studied martial arts since 1995 and one thing that has always amazed me is how many morbidly obese karate instructors there are out there. Now I'll admit that I need to lose about 20 lbs and cut my body fat in half to be at a healthy body weight but I am very average size for a woman. These people must have been in top physical condition at some point and then they just let it all go. We all gain weight over the years but there is a difference between needing to go up a couple of sizes in your clothes and having to buy your pants online.

My first karate instructor was awesome. He was right out of a movie: middle aged, super fit, kind of scary. He spent most of time during class teaching techniques to the students; he rarely worked out with us. It was obvious that he was working out on his own time to maintain that level of fitness. When we went to karate tournaments or seminars I would notice how some of the other instructors were really fat. I was glad that they weren't my instructor and wondered how beneficial their training was to their students.

I understand how it happens. You become a 5th degree black belt and open your own karate school. There isn't anyone there to challenge you so you have to have the willpower to challenge yourself or seek out people who are more knowledgeable than you to continue to grow as a martial artist. So you spend all your time building your school and passing your knowledge along to your students. That ravenous appetite that you had when you were working out 12 hours a week is still there but you are no longer working out regularly so the pounds start piling on. The food is filling the hole that karate once filled. If you don't find another hobby to commit yourself to once you stop regular karate training then overeating is just as easy a vice to pick up as any.

A handful of my karate friends turned to excessive drinking and partying when they stopped practicing regularly. Others gained weight. Some found something else to fill that part of their life: children, spouses, a new career, etc. I'm sure it might seem odd to someone who isn't a martial artist to understand how karate can be such an important part of a persons life. What you have to understand is that a martial artist, a true martial artist, not someone who took a few classes at their local mall franchise karate school, but a real martial artist is defined by their practice. Before I started karate I didn't have a sense of who I was. It was like there was this piece of me missing that I could never explain and karate was the answer. My self esteem, my friends, my personal choices, everything changed after I started karate. When I stopped practicing karate after 10 years of consistent training I lost myself. A new job, moving to a new house, meeting my husband all took my attention for a while. But while I found myself fulfilled in areas of my life that I hadn't been previously I still felt off. It wasn't until I started training again this year, after 4 years off, that I felt like I was myself again. i proudly show off my bruises and complain about my sore muscles. I feel like a martial artist again and I love it.

My previous three karate instructors were morbidly obese. I found fault at each of these schools because the training didn't compare to the training that I had received at my first school. It wasn't until after I left these schools that I realized that each of these men were miserable. That they had lost themselves at some point and that they weren't happy in their lives. I wasn't in a position to help them and honestly, even if I had inquired, I doubt I would have been able to do anything to help them. My current karate instructor reminds me of my first instructor. He is intense but happy. His life appears to be in balance. He works out with us all the time and talks about his workouts outside of the dojo. I feel like I have found a great school to train in for the first time in a long time but I can't help but think of the instructors that I have left behind and where life has taken them. They remind me of how dangerous it can be not to cultivate my spirit. I will not let myself become like them; I will not lose myself.


  1. Understanding what you say about all this, but when the martial arts is no longer a priority and paying the bills in your dojo is the important factor; then you need to hire others to do that or get out of that business. It only says that martial arts has become a way to pay the bills and not a way of life.

  2. P.S I am a middle aged martial artist

  3. You are so right Alex. Glad to hear that you haven't fallen into a rut.