I’ve seen this quote (or similar) many times on karate forums, Facebook pages etc… and it is perhaps a fair question (or would be if it was ever asked as an actual question rather than a rhetorical question )
I have seen the point made again and a again that to be a great (or even good) karate-ka that you need to be an “elite” athlete , should be lean, toned and flexible, and that should be the goal that you strive towards!
Now it has to be said that there are many good reasons to not be fat (and can we please be grown up enough to refer to it as what it is).
The implications to your long term health and mobility from being over weight are well documented so we shouldn’t need to discus them here.
What is under discussion here is the idea that if someone is a “fat sensei” then they have nothing worth teaching you.
From what I have seen on YouTube (and in other places) there are a lot of “sensei” out there, fat or thin, young or old who have very little to offer and just seem to be chancers who are giving it a go.
However, it is not the fact that these guys are fat that is the give away, it is that they so obviously just don’t know anything.
They can get away with it because even legitimate karate is so full of bullshit that everybody clings to that. To the uninformed, as long as you can do the bullshit convincingly (and so many want to believe the mystic crap so badly) that a fat bloke who can afford a Gi and some flyers can be a master.
It doesn’t change the fact that this still isn’t a fat bloke issue.
There are some slim, well toned martial dancers out there who fit the athletic sensei mould but still only have a good line in bullshit to fall back on and very little else.
If you are looking for an exercise class and a weight loss programme then (despite what some claim) Karate probably isn’t for you.
Go to Zumba, or a spin class, or Boxercise (where you can pretend to your hearts content).
Proper karate is physically and mentally taxing and can put a lot of demands on your body but it is not an efficient way of getting fit ( in the currently accepted sense of the term) or losing weight.
If you’re currently not doing anything then it will certainly help but this is just a by product of taking up some sort of (any) physical activity, and not a goal, there are far more efficient ways to do it if fitness and weight loss are your aim.
Virtually all karate-ka who are in good shape do ancillary training on top of their karate to enhance their karate and general well being and fitness levels because real karate training itself doesn’t give them those things in sufficient quantity.
The bad news for anyone who is now thinking “but my karate class gives me those things without any extra training”, you are not really doing karate, you are in an exercise class.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being able to do 100 press ups or sit ups or spending 10 minute in the plank but if you are spending any of your dojo time doing this stuff you are not doing karate.
“How did we get from fat senseis to this rant?”
It’s fairly simple really, whilst your potential sensei may just be a fat bloke in a Gi he may also be a fat bloke with 40 years of experience behind him, he may be the best teacher you’ll ever find.
He may have health issues, he may have a collection of old injuries picked up over those years of experience that mean he cannot train like he used to.
He may feel that his time is better spent practising karate than going to the gym. Given in the real world your average fight lasts from 3-5 seconds being able to do star jumps for 10 minutes straight probably won’t help much, whereas being able to hit hard on a moving target might.
He may even just have got to the stage of his life where he feels he deserves the occasional pie.
All I am really saying is that judging the quality of potential instruction by the length of the belt is a very poor metric for choosing where to train.
If you just want to get thin by training under a fitness instructor then go to a personal trainer rather than a mock aerobics instructor in white pyjamas.
If you want to learn karate then learn to ask the right questions before you go and judge the guy (or gal) on the level of their knowledge and experience and, equally as important, their ability to impart it to you!