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The “Shut-Up-And-Train” Challenge

The “Shut-Up-And-Train” Challenge

This “Shut-Up-And-Train” Challenge Will Laser-Focus Your Karate

By: Jesse Enkamp

It was a hot evening in August, 1952

David Tudor approached his piano on stage at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, New York.

In his hand, he held a stopwatch.

As Tudor sat before the grand piano, he closed the keyboard lid.

Then, for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, he sat in complete silence.

Not striking a single note.

This was the world-premier of a silent piece called 4’33” by composer John Cage, which comprises three parts during which the pianist is instructed to produce no intentional sounds for four minutes and 33 seconds.

The audience was outraged!

Needless to say, this radical “non-performance” broke the conventional structure of music at the time, and made all the newspapers’ headlines.

Here’s what the composer said in a later interview:

“They missed the point. There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first part. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third, the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out. — John Cage, on the premiere of 4’33”

shut up and train challenge

The first page of John Cage’s historic 4’33” piece.

It’s a fact. Silence makes people uncomfortable. 


Because, when our environment isn’t filled with sound, it means we have to listen to ourselves. And many people are not comfortable with themselves. In fact, many people’s internal dialogue is filled with poison.

So what better antidote than Karate?

Listen up…

Today I want to challenge you.

The challenge, if you choose to accept it, will laser-focus your Karate like never before. (Unless you cheat.) 

Here’s the “Shut-up-and-Train” challenge:

For one whole Karate class, you cannot say anything.

Not a single word.

I want your body, spirit and technique to do the talking.

Not your vocal chord.

In fact, the only thing that can come out of your piehole is “kiai!”

That’s it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking:

“Jesse-san, that sounds too easy. It even sounds silly! What good would it do to stay silent for a whole Karate class?”

All right.

Let me break it down for you.

I’ve found three major reasons why people blabber during Karate class:

1. First of all, many people use talking as an escape from hard training. As soon as they are forced to do something difficult or uncomfortable, they use talking as an excuse to rest. They ask for “details” or “pointers” to give them some breathing room, either intentionally or unintentionally. Why? Simple because they’re afraid of dancing on the edge of their comfort zone.

2. Secondly, many people talk because they don’t trust their skills. Therefore, they never try anything new without knowing, for certain, exactly what, how, when, where and why it needs to be done. It’s paralysis by analysis. So instead of “learning by doing”, they’d rather talk, then try a little, then talk some more, then try a little bit again, then talk some more, and then, finally, hopefully, maybe, perhaps… do it.

3. Lastly, and sadly, many people lack human connection. Their days are filled with loneliness, so they come to the dojo to socialize. They crave the talking, like I crave carrot cake. That’s fine. But it should be done after, or before, the training.


While these reasons are perfectly human, I want you to challenge yourself.

Can you stay silent for a whole Karate class?

That’s 60-120 minutes, depending on your dojo schedule.

Believe me – the shift you’ll notice in your training is mind-blowing.

It’s like you’ve overdosed on focus, awareness, attention & grit.

When I’ve conducted this experiment “challenge” with my own students, both adults and kids, I’ve had magical moments. And people are really happy afterwards.

It’s strange!

This article refers to Karate but it means the same for any martial art.  Food for thought!!

See you in class

Master Bartley

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