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Learning Through Cooperation or Competition


Most of us are familiar with competition. Throughout our lives, at school, at work, or in sports, we have competed. For many people, the way that they perceive "getting ahead" in life is through successfully competing with their peers. One of the problems with competition; however, is that when you beat someone at something, they usually experience being beaten. That is, if you win, they lose. It is often the case that the experience of losing in competition is much more frequent than the experience of winning. This losing experience can be very unpleasant leading a person to become depressed or to completely withdraw from the activity in question.

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(Sensei Altwal trains with Shany with the Bo staff. Partner training with sticks can be very safe, provided that students realize the importance of cooperation.)
Here at the Karate Center, we encourage students to learn cooperatively. In Basics class, when a fellow student is awarded a stripe, we can be happy for their accomplishment. It is not necessary to compare ourselves competitively with our classmates. During partner practice, work with your partners to achieve the purpose of the practice and the best results for your training. Stay on task so that you can both benefit as much as possible. It is never appropriate to compete against your partners or to try to gratify your ego at their expense.

In Kata, always strive to be the best that you can be. Admire the form of those who are better than you are, and model your practice after theirs so that you can improve. At the same time, be of assistance to those whom you are able to help.

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(Power Kicking in Karate Camp for Parker!)
Sparring is one of the most difficult areas to address cooperatively; yet, it is the best way to spar. Sparring cooperatively means staying, all of the time, within the meaning and intent of the sparring rules. It means never striking with excessive contact which might injure or intimidate a training partner. Cooperative sparring is about being able to work within the limitations of a smaller, weaker, or less-experienced partner, for optimum mutual benefit. It also means having respect for the reserve and control exercised by a bigger, stronger, or more-experienced training partner. Sparring in this way allows your partners to give you their best match. It allows you to work to deal with their most proficient techniques. It also allows them to test you with techniques they would consider too risky to try if you were going to nail them hard.

Even the best students can be appropriately challenged by less skillful partners provided that this etiquette is observed.
By training cooperatively, rather than competitively, everyone can leave the Dojo after class feeling like a winner. It is in this way that students can develop intrinsic motivation to train, rather than being dependent on external motivators like stripes and belts for rewards.
Shihan Robert H. Mason ©2018

A View From The Real World


Teaching Karate was the first thing that instilled in me the desire to be an educator at all. Despite other teachers I've had throughout life, it was the consistency and skill of my Karate teachers that taught me the true importance of a teacher. Outside of my university, UKC was the only place where I knew, beyond a doubt, that my teachers could control a classroom, respected their students, and absolutely knew their subject matter. To have teachers who still consider themselves students brings a level of honesty and integrity to a classroom that students recognize and appreciate, even subconsciously. An educational system that believes the title "teacher," Sensei, is a distinctive and hard-earned honor has given me some of the best role models for my career path.

There are so many small things that have become so big, now that I think about them in a (slightly) more mature way: Drills have taught me that sometimes success takes many tries; slow progression is often the best way to develop a new skill; there really is value in a good push-up; the ability to defend oneself can translate into the ability to expand oneself. Perhaps best of all, Karate has given me a community that I can depend on. I know that, no matter where my new adult life takes me, I can always come back to UKC to visit with old friends and teachers and freshen up the skills that have taken me so far. Who knows where they will take me next?

© Sensei Emily Snyder

My child complains about coming to class; What should I do?

July 2018


Sometimes parents, especially the parents of very young children, mention to us that the kids complain about coming to class. The parents acknowledge that the kids like the class once they are there; yet they think maybe the child is losing interest.

In many cases, the child is not telling you they doesn’t like their classes. Often, they are demonstrating that they are “present focused.” At early stages of development, kids are not always able to project their thinking into the future, or weigh the potential for future enjoyment. For example, if you offer a young child a dollar now, or five dollars in a week, they probably will choose the dollar now, and the immediate gratification.

To deal with this, first of all, understand that the child may be delighted with the lessons, and still demonstrate this “complaining behavior.” Secondly, talk with your child... not when they are complaining, but at a later time. Explain to your child that you will no longer accept complaints about this commitment to karate... that if they have a specific complaint, they should speak to their instructor. By doing this, you are eliminating any complaining that is just complaining; at the same time, you give your child the opportunity to address any real issues.


 July 2018 001 Newsletter

( Ducking a focus pad is a good idea for Sensei Altwal at a Mall demonstration with Shihan Mason. Ducking class is always a bad idea. )


Next, follow through! If your child complains again, hold up your hands and say, “Wait! If you have complaints about your classes, let’s set up a time for you to speak to Shihan Mason!” And when your child does come without complaining, let them know how much this pleases you.


Being firm and consistent will get good immediate results... and in the future, as your child matures, they will be better able to understand delayed gratification. Without perseverance nothing of real value can be achieved. In the process of self-discovery, that we achieve through regular practice in Mudokai Karate, there may sometimes be distractions, and at times frustration. With encouragement students can overcome these issues as long as the parents of our young students will persevere and help us to keep the youngsters “on task” towards Black Belt excellence.

© 2018 Shihan Robert H. Mason


Fitness is a Full Time Pastime

June 2018

By Sensei Joseph Winn


Students often fail to realize the enormous benefits they are getting from their training. Kids “open up” and become more confident, and thus assertive. We have many stories from parents of formerly shy kids who now complain because they “talk back”. Yes, they found their voice! Let’s help them use it in the best way possible. Adults learn to face challenges gracefully, without getting frustrated. Everyone gains something substantial. Sometimes parents don’t notice this growth in their children until it is pointed out to them, specifically in relation to their own child.


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(Mudokai Team Members Ken Everdale, Sensei Christie Brigida and Sensei Joshua Meyer. Confidence as a result of skill.) 


When training is stopped, or reduced to a much lower frequency, these benefits start to fade, just as with your physical moves. I've seen too many kids fall back into their shell, adults begin to put themselves down, all after we had helped them overcome these obstacles. What's habit is comfortable, even if it isn't good for us. The Sensei help you set new habits in the form of better body use, greater confidence, increased focus, and more. Yet we can only do this when you are here!


Our Dojo offers classes every day, many with both morning and evening options, to suit a wide variety of schedules. Can't get in at 5:15? Come by at 11 in the morning. Sundays a no-go? That's fine, I happen to teach on Saturdays. One class is better than no class. Two is even better than one. Once a student is coming in at least twice a week, the mental and physi-cal fade is halted; plus, we can reverse any previous effects. To some extent at least however, generally “more is better”.


Every instructor at your karate school is ready to help you overcome your challenges. Let's keep your mind as flexible as your body. Make it a habit to attend and reap the benefits!

Conscious Work and Intentional Suffering

by Sensei Joseph Winn © March 2018


“Breathe and stretch. Feel the extension. Breathe.” “But it hurts!” “A little discomfort is expected. Breathe and stretch.”


Why do we put ourselves through any degree of pain? It’d be a lot easier if we just, well, didn’t. I would much prefer stretches that didn’t require me to...stretch. Same with kicking drills. Or punches. Or remembering tiny details in my kata.


You already know the answer. Self-improvement requires us to push ourselves beyond where we are now.  At the dojo, we call it “intentional suffering”. You may have heard the phrase, “no pain, no gain”. It’s based on the same idea, only people sometimes take it to an unhealthy extreme, and it no longer qualifies as “conscious work”.


We believe suffering has two forms: Intentional and unintentional.


Intentional suffering means you control the “pain”. It could be easing into a stretch. Or it could be dealing with the frustration in executing a technique better. Maybe it’s overcoming the fear of sparring. All of these conscious actions make you a better martial artist and a better person.


Unintentional suffering is when pain is your (not great) teacher. It’s when you get injured due to poor body use. Or when you get hit in the face after running straight into your opponent’s (well-controlled) technique. It’s any time something bad happens due to a lack of preparation on your part. We try to avoid these experiences, as they: 1) keep you from your training, and 2) don’t really teach you any valuable lesson you couldn’t have learned safely.


What’s the best way to ensure your training is conscious and your suffering is intentional? Train regularly and deliberately. Be in the moment, every moment. Make yourself ok with being uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. Maintain your awareness and focus.


We’re not about pushing so hard you break. We believe in pushing right to your limit, then breathing and stretching.


“Breathe and stretch.” That’s great improvement! Keep it up.


Sensei Joseph Winn © 2018


Is Karate A Team Sport?

April 2018


A common reason why students don’t start/continue their training is the allure of team sports. Soccer, basketball, baseball, etc.; they all have a perception of building social skills, teamwork, and more. Martial arts is seen as an individual activity, which is a way of saying, “we don’t believe it gives you those things”.

Turns out, martial arts, especially our system of MuDoKai, is more “team sport” than you might think.


Take soccer, for example. Say you’re the goalie. Does the skill of your right wing (Fun fact: That’s the position I played) have any bearing on you blocking or missing the opponent’s shot? No. In that moment, soccer is an individual sport, a competition between you and one or more others. It falls upon you to solve the problem of the opponents. Sure, you have teammates doing their best to accomplish the same goal, but what you do is your responsibility alone.


In a typical class, we have students of many ages, skill levels, and ranks, all in one dojo. Every one aims to make their techniques the best they can. The individual part. And if they are working pairs techniques? They are aiming to make their moves the best they can so their partner performs at their best. That’s teamwork. Even sparring, when you are trying to solve the mystery that is your opponent, it is not a fight. It is a strategic engagement where both parties seek to make the other better. I’m happy when I score a point. I’m also happy when my opponent does the same to me, because it means they figured me out for that moment.


Watch a class or two and you’ll see focused social interactions, competition, discipline, coupled with a desire to help the other students improve. If that’s not teamwork, I don’t know what is. And we haven’t even mentioned tournament teams!


I believe everyone should train in the martial arts. Of course, if you enjoy kicking/hitting/throwing a ball around, that’s fine, too. However, only one of these will also help build self-defense skills. Teamwork comes included here, too.


Sensei Joseph Winn © 2018

Why I Trained...Train...and Will Keep Training

by Sensei Joseph Winn © March 2018

I graduated elementary school as a big deal. If there was a club, I was an officer. Award? Won it. Recognition? Received it. The honors ceremony was an exercise in me getting up, walking to the stage, only to be back again in a few moments. Simply exhausting, you know? I still recall the faces of the other parents. They silently spoke volumes: “Him, again? When can *my* kid get recognized?”

I was also exactly what you’d picture. My genius parents recognized this was a recipe for trouble in the turbulent middle school environment. As a result, they encouraged me to sign up for training here at the University Karate Center. Needless to say, it was a great move. Let us count the reasons. And tell me which apply to you!




I graduated elementary school as a big deal. If there was a club, I was an officer. Award? Won it. Recognition? Received it. The honors ceremony was an exercise in me getting up, walking to the stage, only to be back again in a few moments. Simply exhausting, you know? I still recall the faces of the other parents. They silently spoke volumes: “Him, again? When can *my* kid get recognized?”

I was also exactly what you’d picture. My genius parents recognized this was a recipe for trouble in the turbulent middle school environment. As a result, they encouraged me to sign up for training here at the University Karate Center. Needless to say, it was a great move. Let us count the reasons. And tell me which apply to you!

Bully fodder: I had it all. Small. Shy. Smart. Teacher’s pet. Middle school was awful. Training at UKC gave me much-needed confidence and the skills to stand up against the worst of the bullying.
Outgoing: I’m still quiet in unfamiliar groups, and prefer small gatherings over large crowds. However, I am told repeatedly that martial arts training “brought me out of my shell”. Being part of a larger system where everyone seeks personal growth made a huge difference.
Fitness: I always considered myself to be in pretty decent shape. Training here regularly ensured that continued. From sparring to kata to a round of basics, it all enhances your body in unique ways. I am a runner now, and coming to class is a big part of my training regimen.
Leadership: No matter your age or rank, a leadership role is always available. I loved leading warm-ups, helping people often older and larger than me get stretched for class. My peers became everyone, and they listened to me! I am now a business-owner. My training and teaching here has done more for me professionally than any other skill.
Empathy: Everyone comes with their own story. It’s not yours. It’s not mine. Yet we can be pages in it. Will those pages be ones that make all parties smile or grimace? I learned that working with others means relating to their story, even if your first reaction is, “no way am I ever working with them!”

How many remind yourself of you? Sibling? Spouse? Friend? We’re here to help people become the best versions of themselves. Let’s take that journey together.

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