Hitting a Plateau
It seems I’ve stalled out. I’m working as hard as I ever was, maybe harder. I have high-intensity practice and low-intensity practice but I don’t seem to be getting any further. What can I do to get out of this karate-slump?
Does any of this sound familiar? For many karateka, plateaus come about unnoticed and unwelcomed. This happens when you continually see advancement and improvement for a while (perhaps even continually for years) and then you go through a period where it seems that nothing is improving no matter how hard you try.
I’ve talked to others about this and they say the same thing. You see measurable improvement for a while and then comes along 6 months of nothing at all. This happened to me (and those I’ve talked to recently) around the purple belt (4th kyu) level.
Perhaps it has something to do with continually learning discovering how little you know. Perhaps it has something to do with losing interest and focus. But regardless of the problem, plateaus happen, you hit a wall, take a dip, fall into a slump… however you want to phrase it, it happens.
And it’s happening again.
I’ve been practicing at home almost every night for a while now; at least as long as I’ve received shodan. I still go to class about once a week and research karate once or twice a week. But regardless of my efforts, it seems I can’t get any better. I’ve noticed this especially toward the end of class when I’m still as winded as I was as a brown-belt.
I’ve found solace in the words of a friend: “advancement in karate is not always physical or tangible”. How true. I do feel my understanding of it continues to grow, albeit slowly, but if I can’t demonstrate that understanding or bounce it back to another person verbally, how do I prove to myself that I really know it? My understanding of the Buddhist approach to explaining this are not in-depth enough to write it here.
Where do we go once we hit a plateau? Is this the top of the mountain for us? Do we continue to train as we have until we serendipitously realize we’re already partly up the next hill? I accept that life and karate are not about reaching the peak, but about the climb, but what if it looks like I’ve reached the top of my own personal hill or if I don’t know where to continue from where I am?
Where to next?
The answer, in part, is to at least realize there is still a long ways to go.