Back to Top

Martial Arts for Adult Students

December 2017


One of the best personal choices I've ever made was joining the adult martial arts class at University Karate Center. Being significantly overweight, I was concerned about heart disease and the potential for diabetes. Beginning a healthy diet was one component toward reaching my fitness goal. The second was finding a good cardio/fat burning workout. My friend Sensei Stan Meyer recommended classes at University Karate Center.

Martial arts have always interested me, so I decided to make a commitment. It took about a month before I actually overcame my personal shyness/intimidation and came in to take the first class. Being overweight, I feared not being able to keep up, and was uncomfortable about the way I looked in my uniform.

December2017 001

Everyone at the school and in class made me feel welcome. I've come to realize that the respect for others that is so important in the children’s martial arts program is actually basic to all the martial arts training at University Karate Center, including the MMA intensity classes for adults, the self defense training and the weapons classes. In class, the trainers patiently explained each technique, helping me to modify each element to my ability and training level.

After the first few weeks, classes seemed to get a little easier, I could keep up and was learning the moves: proper form for punches and kicks. The instructors continued to be encouraging while making sure I did things properly to avoid injury.

After a few months stamina was improving, breathing was easier. I had better balance; was developing self-confidence. I was getting stronger and toning muscles (which contribute to improved appearance — a very thin person would also benefit from this with added muscle), but the way I felt, the extra energy I have after a class and all the time, are at least as important as appearance. At my current level, I especially appreciate the increased awareness and mental and physical self-defense components of class.

The classes are structured to build on learned techniques. As each level is achieved, new moves and combinations are introduced, keeping brain function in learning mode. The train-ers vary the MMA classes to make them challenging and fun, keeping the workout at optimal levels for even advanced students.

Fitness is a wonderful natural high. Much of the time I feel like I'm walking on air. I recommend the classes at UKC to anyone. For those of us with limited time, each hour-long class provides the best possible balance of cardio workout, pad and bag striking drills and self defense and fighting skills. Classes are available seven days a week, including some family clas-ses, so there is plenty of opportunity to train often enough to make real progress: 2-4 times a week. See you there soon!


Jo Ellen Bate© 2017

Martial Arts Motivation

December 2017

Studying Martial Arts is one of the most challenging and rewarding pursuits that you will ever encounter. Martial Arts proficiency requires many hours of hard work spent practicing form and technique. Howev-er, as you progress through the ranks, you will achieve a satisfaction that makes all of your hard work and dedication worth while.
At times as we undertake tasks associated with our many pursuits we might begin to feel discouraged. We need to step back and assess our situations so that we can find something that will help us remain motivated and better able to reach the great peaks of success.
December2017 002
Here are some mental steps that you can take:
1. Maintain a Positive Outlook
A positive outlook can greatly increase motivation and will help you to stick with your endeavors to their completion. Instead of focusing on setbacks try to consider the many benefits that you will gain with a "can do" attitude.
2. Keep your "Eye on the Prize"
Few things inspire as much as really great reward. Set a realistic goal for yourself (such as your next belt level) and work toward that goal. If your goals are realistic and attainable within a reasonable amount of time, they will better help to motivate you than unrealistic or distant goals.
3. Look at the big picture
While you are working each day to learn a new set of movements or forms, remember that the martial arts is a system that cannot work without each of its component parts. Each time you learn something new, try to see how it fits into the big picture.
4. Keep things in perspective
Maintaining perspective will greatly assist you in all of your endeavors. A small set back is not the end of the world. Remember that you are only limited by your own perceptions of reality. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch but yard by yard it’s hard.
5. Stay self-disciplined
One great way to stay motivated is to attend class regularly and participate fully in class activi-ties. This will lead to an increased rate of learning and give you the tools that you will need for Martial Arts success.
Staying motivated is one of the keys to success in the Martial Arts and in your life. If you approach each of life’s endeavors with a high level of motivation and commitment, you are sure to succeed.

Making a Commitment to Train

How long do we think about doing something that we are interested in? Usually this thought occupies our mind for a significant amount of time, whether it is losing weight, joining a gym, trying a new activity. By the time we actually take the first step, there is a significant gap. Taking the first step is wonderful, however, it needs to be followed with the second step, and the third, and so on.
We live in a fast paced society now which is made more intense by the social media network which everyone is plugged into. I was re-minded of this fact recently when I spoke with a young adult who told me that he never turns off his cell phone. No one wants to be left out, so faster and more is the order of the day. There is even a name for this: FOMO (fear of missing out).
November2017 001
Of course, there are the obligations we all have, home-work, work, family, hobbies, other activities, and yet there is that original commitment to train which we begin with as an enthusi-astic, curious White Belt. There is a saying, a Black Belt is simply a White Belt that kept showing up.
November2017 002
Invariably former students will visit the karate school. If they are under-belts (students who were unable to complete their training and make it to Black Belt, for whatever reason) they always regret not finishing what they started.
November2017 003
Recently a former student , who had trained as a child, visited the karate school and expressed their disappointment at be-ing unable to attain Black Belt back then. What was different about this person, now an adult, is that they signed back up again to complete their journey to Black Belt now. Bravo. That is making a commitment to train, and keeping that commitment.
Shihan Robert H. Mason ©2017

Building Students’ Confidence and Competence

I want to request that parents to cooperate with me in giving our students the space that they need to come to class and train. I know that parents are sometimes anxious about the progress of their children and believe that “being there for the kids” means physically accompanying the child as they enter the academy, helping them with their attendance cards, taking them to their Dojo and even putting away their shoes.
At the karate school we teach children self-discipline, self-confidence and self-esteem as part of our program of personal growth and development by letting students learn how to do these tasks themselves. The Junior level is distinguished from the Dragons and Tigers by the degree of independence that we expect from the children. For example, in the half-hour Little Dragons class the staff fills out the attendance card for the child and the parents are allowed to bring the child into the facility and to shepherd the child to and from the classroom, helping the child put away shoes if necessary. In the forty-five minute Junior class the child is expected to be capable of doing these basic tasks, or of learning to do them, on their own. As parents and educators it is important that we all work together towards a common goal: providing opportunities for the children in our care to learn how to be self-sufficient.
Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying that “we don’t help others when we do for them what they could and should do for themselves.” At times people are confused about how children learn competence and confidence and how this relates to self-esteem.

November2017 004

(Sparring practice will quickly build the students’ confidence!)

Nathanial Brandon, who is the author of several groundbreaking books on self-esteem, is very precise when he defines what contributes to building this attribute in children. He believes that the two most important components of self-esteem are self-respect and competence. When a child is shown respect by the adults in their envi-ronment, they learn to respect themselves. When children are allowed to learn how to take care of themselves, they learn competence. In order to learn competence a child needs to be able to make mistakes, to try something and fail, and to be permit-ted to struggle with difficult tasks on their own terms, without being rescued prema-turely by a well-meaning parent, adult or older sibling. We can not learn for them. They must learn for themselves.
Children can pick up on adults’ anxiety and learn to fear “failure”. Their natural ability to learn is shut down under the well-meaning guise of parental protection and in-volvement. Self-esteem is based on, and built through, learning how to be competent in life skills, according to Dr. Martin Seligman, a leading pioneer in the field of com-petence and depression. He says that we teach our children to be helpless when we prevent them from learning life skills, for them-selves. As parents we can give our kids opportunities by placing them in structured learning situations (with appropriate supervi-sion) and supporting them in their efforts to learn, by letting them go through the process on their own. Seligman’s book “Learned Optimism” explores this topic in detail, with research and empirical data compiled through years of observing the American pro-cess of child rearing. As adults we need to make the proffering of “rewards” (praise is a reward) contingent upon the delivery of reasonable, correct behavior from the child. Self-esteem is best developed when the child actually learns how to do something cor-rectly, and that happens only through the process of trial and error on the part of the child.
I encourage you to view our classes at any time through the windows. Many parents bring chairs to sit and watch their children train. If you have a question for the staff or instructors or need to schedule an appointment or purchase an item, of course, you are welcome to come inside for those purposes. If you are concerned about knowing what your child is learning, you may choose to purchase a DVD of the belt material your child is studying for home viewing and practice, or you may decide to take class yourself as many parents do. Additionally, by bringing your child only a few minutes before the class time, and picking them up promptly after class, you can help us to maintain good order in the Dojo.
Moving forward towards 2018 I anticipate renewed growth in our program. I welcome any efforts that can be made by our current body of students and their parents to bring us new members. I have been working with the Sensei’s who teach classes to further develop their teaching skills and build on their experience to lead our members forward towards the goal of Black Belt and beyond. It is because I have the assistance of the senior Black Belts that we are able to offer classes every week, seven days a week. Any stu-dents ranked Purple belt or higher who are members of our “Black Belt Club” may apply to be Sempai (class instructor assistants). Forms are available at the Front Desk. It is from this program that students can be selected for training as Instructors after achieving their Black Belts.
Shihan Robert H. Mason ©2017

Dominance and Martial Arts Philosophy


Dominance, and issues relating to it, are a feature of life for humans and animals alike. Wolves fight to establish or maintain a dominance hierarchy, siblings fight over who gets to hold the TV remote control and spouses fight over who gets to spend the money on a new motor cycle, or a new high fashion outfit. Who is dominant is an issue for life. The struggle for dominance can be seen at the beginning of most of the Junior classes, when, following the warm-ups, we see the competition over who should stand where in the line; in spite of the fact that the students’ belts and stripes largely define the order. Everyone gets to take class, no matter where they stand in line. It’s not an issue worth fighting over, and yet youngsters will contend for territorial dominance in this instance.
October2017 002

(Dominance in sparring is about scoring the most points. Respect and self-control are essential to avoid training injuries.)

Who is the boss? Who is in charge? This is often how we perceive who has the power in a situation. We don’t want to be bossed around. In a society where “the customer is always right” there is often the idea that the consumer of a product or service is “in charge.” In Martial Arts it does not work that way. The Sensei is in charge. He is dominant. The students, starting from the most senior among them, form a hierarchy beneath the Sensei, based upon their rank. Where that rank is equal, they are encouraged to be modest, humble and deferential towards each other. The real test of their ability to be respected as dominant, lies after all, in their ability to perform rather than push.
October2017 003

(Dominance on the ground is important for self-defense. Grappling requires thicker mats for safe practice.)

While Martial Arts teaches respect for everyone, it also teaches the importance of winning, of being dominant, where issues of real importance are concerned. Additionally, self mastery is held to be of more value than dominating others. Respect is a by-product of this dominance hierarchy. For example, if a lion cub does not respect a male lion, he may end up being hurt, or even killed. Similarly, if a person does not respect a judge in court, they may end up going to jail for their attitude of contempt. Judges rule in their courtroom.
We ask that all students develop a proper respect for the traditions of the Dojo, and remember that respect for property is a part of this. Training equipment, magazines, displays of photographs and even the paint on the walls are all part of the dojo, the place where we train. It is important that everyone who enters this special space shows the proper regard for both the space and each other. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference in this respect.

Finding Your Voice

The karate school participated in a self-defense course for the Girl Scout Jamboree in Hollywood a while ago. The classes for the girls included verbal defensive response skills as well as physical training. The girls were allowed to ask questions and many eagerly participated in the give and take of the sessions. Real-life examples of successful escape scenarios were used to illustrate the thesis that it is always better to resist capture no matter what. Part of what makes a predator back off and give up is when the proposed victim does not cooperate; but instead fights hard by yelling, punching, kicking. In one true incident that we related to the scouts the child who was abducted was only ten years old. She and her younger brother were forced into a car by the assailant; but she did not give up. She kicked, punched, scratched and yelled so loudly that the kidnapper let her and her brother out of his car after driving only one block as she was attracting so much attention. She told the police his car license plate number and he was arrested and prosecuted.
October2017 001
(Young children can learn powerful assertive techniques to be safe and strong.)
It was interesting to observe the differences in how the girl scouts responded to the drills in which they were instructed to participate. In the martial arts it is very important to exhale forcefully when executing a technique and to kiai (yell) when instructed to do so. Some of the girls had no problem with this; yet others were shy, and when asked to kiai were actually unable to utter a single sound, in spite of repeated attempts to encourage them. Even being in a room full of other girls who were yelling loudly did not incite them to make a noise or to breathe out. Consequently, in a real-life situation they might prove to be under-rehearsed and less likely to succeed in their defense. In Martial arts training it is crucial to teach students how to breathe properly and also how to find their voice. We practice similar drills in the Dojo at all levels of training and it is essential that students comprehend the importance of this practice.
While visiting the world-famous Hippocrates Health Institute recently in West Palm Beach I listened to a short talk by its Director Brian Clements, who has studied health and diet and exercise for over forty years. His speech was interesting and informative; it was surprising to hear him say that the most important element in recovery from an illness is the patient’s belief that they deserve to get well. Similarly, a young person’s belief that they deserve to be safe and strong is important in defending themselves in a close encounter with a potential assailant. “I am safe; I am strong” was
imprinted on the front of the special tee shirts that Girl Scouts wore at the Jamboree and it makes a good motto for our young students too.
Martial Arts training gives students the idea that they can and should defend themselves, and provides a practical means for doing just that. They learn that they can feel safe as a result of the skills that they practice regularly in class and that they can be strong because of a training regimen that builds muscular, emotional and mental strength.
Shihan Robert H. Mason © 2017

A New Start - A New Schedule

September 2017

September is the start of the new school year, a time when parents and kids have to regroup to deal with busy schedules, changing schedules, and priorities. There is only so much time and energy in one 24 hour day, so the question really becomes: what are the most important things that must be done each day? There are obvious choices such as school, home-work, job, eating, sleeping and travel time; then there is what we do with the time that we have left, assuming that there is some leftover time. Often here is where things get tricky as this is the area that is not mandated, and so this is the area of free choice, such as it is. This is where our values determine what choices we will make-an indication of what is truly important to us, where the rubber meets the road.
September 2017 01
(Shihan Mason with Molly and Ryan after being awarded their Brown Belts. : The final part of the Brown Belt test involves 6 matches in a row.)

We all know of times both for ourselves and for others where we have heard someone, maybe ourselves say, gee I would really like to ________(fill in the blank), but I don’t have the time, money, energy, will power, whatever; however, as the saying goes, “where there is a will, there is a way.” The key issue is how determined is the person to reach that particular goal. Obesity is one of the biggest issues in America today. Diets abound, usually at least one a week that promises the impossible: lose weight while eating whatever you want, when-ever you want. It can seem the same with martial arts: get your Black Belt in one year the quick and easy way. The truth is that to achieve Black Belt excellence takes time and hard work.
September 2017 02
(Shihan Mason congratulates Sensei Steven Apicella on his promotion to Nidan the 2nd Degree Black Belt rank.)
It means making the “training challenge” a priority. It means working hard on a regular schedule to achieve a goal over several years, step by step. Rather than just wishful thinking, those on the path to Black Belt, and beyond, to self-mastery, are on track with real achievement. Before you can really know anything you must know yourself. Regular weekly practice of Mudokai.