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Committing to Growth


February 2017  - Download the Full Newsletter Here! pdf icon2


 

In choosing to study the Martial Arts, you have the opportunity to set goals for yourself. Every time you go to class, practice your kicks, or read something new about the Martial Arts, you move towards achieving your next goal, stripe by stripe and belt by belt. The time that you devote to Martial Arts practice and study, along with your interest in making Martial Arts principles a part of your lifestyle, demonstrate the power of your Black Belt goals to set a proactive tone in your life. While setting goals can seem easy enough, achieving them can be tough. With a little vision; however, you can achieve any goal.

Be realistic. Lofty goals may or may not get you anywhere. Focus on what truly interests and inspires you. Focus on those areas that are within your control; think positively.

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(Whether you train mostly for fitness, personal growth, self defense or competition, set your goals to keep progressing!)

Break big goals down into manageable, measurable pieces. Once you decide on a goal, take a bird’s eye view of it. How are you going to get from here to the finish line? What needs to happen first? Second? Third? Write these steps down. These are your “short-term goals.”

Review goals regularly. Your attention and focus is called upon by so many things each day that it’s not hard to lose track of the essence of what you are trying to accomplish. Writing your goals down gives you the option of reviewing and renewing your commitment as often as you need to. It also allows you to modify them as the need arises. Be flexible in your thinking. This doesn’t mean being wishy-washy. It does mean being tuned in to your own body, your sentiments, and your circumstances. Do you need to make changes in the way you are approaching your goal? In extreme cases, you may need to rethink your goal completely. Be honest with yourself.

Value the roots of your achievements. Even while you aspire to something greater, or simply different, recognize the special meaning of who you are and what you are doing right now. Even when you have earned your Black Belt, you won’t leave the person you were as a Gold Belt behind; without the “Gold Belt you”, the “Black Belt you” couldn’t have happened. While working toward your goals, take care of yourself. Take time to rest. Listen to your body.

 

 

Helpfulness: A Trait Worthy of Development

 

January 2017

 

Some children and adults are spontaneously helpful. When we help others we benefit ourselves by deepening our own understanding. Sometimes we might selfishly think that being helpful is somehow costing us something; to the contrary, a helpful attitude is a powerful mechanism for our own personal growth.

The Dalai Lama has instituted a program to teach compassion to children by giving them the opportunity to help others. It is from this kind of practice that we can all continue to develop our own values, based upon experience rather than just on theory.

“Teaching young people about compassion is one of the most important things we can do for them, says the Dalai Lama, and for the future of humanity......educating the heart as well as the mind...”

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(In addition to being a winning tournament competitor Sensei Hannaly Altwal is a seasoned assistant instructor in the Sempai program. You will often see her helping Shihan Mason in the Junior Kata class and assisting in the Karate Tiger and Little Dragons classes.)

In general there have been three goals (different models) of education: The Good Citizen, The Good Worker, or The Good Person.

The ideal of the Good Citizen goes back to the ancient Greeks. The goal is to form students into responsible, empowered, thoughtful citizens whose well-rounded education and good judgment will benefit society.

The Good Worker is the goal of the mass education of the industrial revolution, standardized schooling to create punctual, hard-working, obedient workers for capitalism’s factories, mines, and industry. A lot of public schooling today is still a bit like this.

And finally, the Good Person, the student who is caring, compassionate, peaceful and tolerant. The student who sees all humanity as brothers and sisters. The student whose heart is as well-educated as their mind. This is the educational ideal of the Dalai Lama, as well as of Western educators pioneering the new field of social and emotional learning.

Here at the Dojo I have set up the training to include personal growth and development, as I have observed that training only the body will simply produce physical ability, but will not address the emotional and intellectual aspects of individual development.

MuDoKai Martial Arts is an educational experience that will stay with the student for a lifetime. Many Black Belts believe that it is their most valued developmental program and personal resource.

The Sempai Program for senior students allows leadership development through the commitment to help others achieve their Martial Arts goals. Sempai Students assist the Sensei in class, and benefit themselves by helping others learn how to practice and progress through the ranks.

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(Sparring action may seem fast and furious to the untrained eye, but in MuDoKai it is an advanced exercise in Self Control, Cooperation and the development of Strategic Skills.)

 

“Real change is in the heart, but in modern education there is not sufficient talk about compassion. Through education, through training the mind and using intelligence, we can see the value of compassion and the harmfulness of anger and hatred.”
says the Dalai Lama. Our Sempai program teaches students to learn and pass on this important understanding.

According to Mark Greenberg, a “Social and Emotional Learning” (SEL) pioneer at Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development “there is substantial evidence that this is doable. Research has shown that we can successfully teach children how to overcome and manage emotions such as fear, hatred, anger and anxiety. SEL programs have proven that children can develop lifelong abilities such as self-awareness, anger management, and impulse control, and positive qualities such as empathy and compassion.”

The approach of the Dalai Lama reflects the Buddhist view that the “true nature” of all beings is basically good, including an inherent capacity for compassion. These good qualities are seeds we all possess, and these seeds need only be cultivated to bloom into the unbiased and universal compassion that heals the world. We can educate people in order to sustain and nurture compassion. Proper education is very important. His faith is in human intelligence reason, and self-interest, albeit a higher self-interest. We can learn to be more compassionate because it makes sense.

Children understand this intuitively; I was told recently by a parent that when they were summoned into their child’s school for a Parent-Teacher Conference, the teacher stressed the importance of the helpfulness that their child spontaneously exhibited in the classroom toward fellow students who were not as accomplished academically as this student. We seek to foster this attitude of cooperation here at the Dojo through the Sempai Program, which is a natural complement to the sometimes competitive nature of the Curriculum Program. To thrive in our modern world it is necessary to know how to successfully cooperate as well as how to compete. In MuDoKai we seek to teach both of these important perspectives simultaneously.

Shihan Robert Heale Mason © 2017

The Real Purpose of the Martial Arts

Learning How to be Humble

 

December 2016


 

Being humbled, or some would say humiliated, is an experience that most people would avoid at all costs, or at least shy away from. However, in the training that is required of a martial artist humiliation, or public embarrassment, may be an occasional occurrence. How the student responds to this essential aspect of training will determine the quality of their martial arts experience.

The capacity to learn requires that the individual have an open attitude about what happens to them in class. If they are predisposed to judging incidents from a “civilian” point of view they will miss the “lesson” inherent in many martial arts interactions, whether inside or outside of the dojo. In order for martial arts training to have a “life changing” impact on the student, they must allow it to change their perspective as they progress with their training, which can be tough at times.

 

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(When sparring we must expect that we will sometimes have points scored on us. We must accept this This demands humility and respect.)

 

These challenges are most evident in sparring (strategy) class where the difference between ego and confidence is often blurred in the intensity of the moment. Nonetheless, it is very important for students to trust the process and to “...strive to concentrate only on the martial arts...and to “leave behind any problems or animosities which could be counterproductive”. Sometimes students hit too hard and the natural reaction to that would be to hit back harder; yet, Mudokai students are expected to show self -control, a response required that is quite different from their natural tendency to strike back.

Years ago I promoted a kickboxing match for ESPN TV between Dennis “Mad Dog” Downey and Paul Ellis, in which Downey picked Ellis up and threw him over the ropes and out of the ring. Ellis calmly picked himself up, stepped carefully back into the ring, took a stance and proceeded to skillfully counter Downey’s next move, winning the match with his focused determination and superior skill. While Downey’s purpose may have been to intimidate Ellis through publicly humiliating him, Ellis chose instead to respond with integrity and technique, which won the match, gaining him the respect of the officials and the fans of the sport.

Shihan Robert H. Mason © 2016

The Schools within the School

 

November 2016

 

 

Since we teach the Mugendo system at University Karate Center, we can consider that there are several schools within the school. Mugendo means ”unlimited way”, so that all martial arts principals are included in our training.

MuDoKai Martial Arts basics are taught daily and form the basis of our training. For adult students we offer kickboxing MMA classes two days a week. These classes are a useful introduction to martial arts for adults (14 and older) looking for a fun and intense workout, but who do not necessarily feel ready to begin martial arts training within our structured curriculum. They are also a great training tool for adult martial arts students looking to build up their cardio conditioning and hone their skills in the circuit training portion of the workout. The Friday morning class is similar to the circuit training portion of the MMA class, except that the dress code is Karate pants with belt and a school tee shirt, and the last 15 minutes of class includes sparring.

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(Some happy students with their medals from our recent Shiaii Dojo tournament, along with the Sensei who judged our event. Students could compete in Basics, Forms, Sparring and Weapons)

The Adult classes include a focus on adult self defense applications, and allow more development of the students’ knowledge of Jiu Jutsu. Our Mudokai style draws on techniques from the Shindo Yoshin Ryu Aikijujutsu system. My Sensei’s Sensei, Professor Hironori Ohtsuka was the Grandmaster of this style, before he founded the Wado Ryu Karate style which combined Karate and Jiu Jutsu.

On Monday nights we offer Kobudo, practice in the art of Okinawan weapons for Adult Black Belt Club and Charter Members. Junior students who are members of the Black Belt Club have their own Kobudo classes on Thursdays.

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(Sensei Fernandez grapples with Sensei Ahearn)

For the more advanced Martial Arts students, classes are offered weekly in Kata (Forms) and Strategy (Sparring). These classes allow junior and adult students to meet the criteria for promotion through the MuDoKai ranks to Black Belt and beyond. They also offer a training regimen to prepare for martial arts tournaments, should that be within the student’s realm of interest.

Our goal is to train Martial Artists who can cope with attacks utilizing all three major martial arts principals:
Striking, which includes all punches, kicks, blocks and strikes.
Taking the foundation, which includes all sweeps, throws, takedowns, projections, kickthroughs, kneeldowns and stepdowns.
Taking a limb, which includes all arm, wrist and finger locks, leg, ankle and toe locks, neck and head locks and grappling techniques.

We have it all available for you, your friends and family. As you train and benefit from our program we hope you will take the opportunity to recommend University Karate Center to those who might be interested in our broad and thorough curriculum.

Shihan Robert H. Mason, © 2016

The Importance of Friends


December 2016


 

Most likely you have heard that the Martial Arts is more than just a physical discipline; that it is a discipline that develops both the mind and body. The presence of mind that the Martial Arts demand helps us to make wise and thoughtful decisions. Often these decisions involve choosing others as friends—and all of us need to choose friends well.  I heard a new item this week on TV where they reported some young men were shot by police during the commission of a crime. The grandmother of one of the youngsters who was killed commented that “he was not a bad boy, but he got in with a bad crowd”.
We obviously want to make friends with people who are “good guys”.

It is sometimes very mysterious why we choose who we do as friends. Often we like a person immediately based on some intuitive thought or feeling. Other times we observe someone for a while with admiration, and build up to a formal introduction. Friendship is a wonderful thing, often beyond words, and is sometimes sparked by an almost electric power of attraction. This is what gives friendship such a strong and almost magical power to tie people together so closely. All the same, our first impressions can be mistaken. There is no way to be certain that everybody you choose as a friend will turn out to be a “good buddy”, but Martial Arts schools are a terrific place to meet new people. Many life-long friendships have begun in the Dojo. Here are some tips on how to choose friends that might be right for you:

 

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(The respect and self control that is part of the sparring process allows students to become friends, despite the tendency to be competitive!)

 

Look for people who share the same basic values that you do. Karate teaches you certain values and principles that you should know to look for. Honesty, respect, self control are all good qualities that a lot of people share. Having friends with these qualities will make it a lot easier for you to feel relaxed and at ease when you are with them.
Look for people who respect your decisions. Your friends may have different tastes than you do, but they should respect your freedom of choice, just as you should respect theirs. Sometimes you may think that a friend is not making a positive choice, or a friend may feel that you not making a positive choice. Discuss these issues. Nothing is more important to friendship than open communication and honesty.
Look for people that are team players. You know what that means: people who are willing to stick by you through thick and thin, will be there when you need them, and will show you the understanding that you in turn give back. A friend that you know you can depend on can be a friend for life! There will be times when you think that a friend of yours is consistently making bad choices, or is not treating you with respect. The Martial Artist takes pride in understanding: try to see where your friend is coming from, and try to resolve any differences that you might have. Feel free to speak to your instructors. They have the benefit of experience, and are always looking out for your best interests. There are very few things as precious as having good friends, and you should not let them go easily. Hold onto your friendships; let your friends know you value them and do your best to solve problems as quickly as they arise. Trust your instincts and follow your heart!


Traveling, Training and Time

...seeing the bigger picture...

 

November 2016

 

 

During a trip to England a few years ago I trained very little in Martial Arts. In fact, I only trained a few hours towards the end of my visit, yet it struck me that, in many ways, traveling and training are similar. They both have the capacity to open up a person’s mind to the bigger picture, to something that is interesting and challenging, both engaging and stimulating.

Part of the reason why “travel broadens the mind” has to do with the novel situations that we experience as a part of being in new places and unfamiliar surroundings. The journey through the Martial Arts is similar. A student moves from rank to rank, achieving higher belts and being exposed, as a result, to new and more sophisticated concepts and principles. Just as traveling can make us feel uneasy and even fearful, so the challenge of learning new moves following a rank promotion can fill us with doubts and trepidation. To enjoy either kind of journey we need to put our fears aside and allow our excitement and eager anticipation of enjoyment carry us forward.

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(Sensei Joseph Winn applies an armbar to his opponent during the grappling segment of his recent grading for 4th Dan)

Just as a place we visit can become jaded and ordinary if we stay there for a long time, so the techniques we are seeking to master can become boring and tedious if we get stuck in a rank and lose our momentum and our aspiration to achieve the next level. This happens sometimes because we become comfortable at a particular rank or in a particular place, a bit like settling down somewhere we were only supposed to be visiting. As you journey through the Martial Arts ranks, don’t even think about settling down until you have achieved Black Belt. Even then it is helpful to engage a new level of excitement by taking advantage of the opportunities offered at the Black Belt level. Our path continues in new directions from the base we have established, perhaps through teaching or weapons training, and progresses to new levels of understanding through the Black Belt curriculum.

During October Sensei Fung Sang became the youngest student ever to achieve the rank of Godan (5th Degree Black Belt). He had the advantage of beginning his training very young, and has now been a student of Shihan Mason for over twenty years. Though it is true to say that the best time for anyone to begin Martial Arts training is the day a person takes their first lesson, be that at five or fifty-five years old. Sensei Fung Sang is so used to training now that his journey through the Martial Arts just keeps rolling along. It is a law of physics that “a body in motion tends to stay in motion”. Let’s keep our momentum going as we travel through our Martial Arts training over time. Achieving new heights, we come to see the bigger picture.

Shihan Robert H. Mason © 2016

The Connection between the Body and the Brain


October 2016


 

Top executives frequently have basketball nets and such in their office; it makes sense to combine the physical with the mental, as they are so closely connected. Our philosophy at the Dojo (karate school) is to stimulate consciousness and awareness primarily through physical activity. Jean Piaget, famous for his contributions to Developmental Psychology, was the first to realize that all concept development begins physically on a sensory-motor level. Even the most sophisticated abstract concepts can only develop as a consequence of earlier appropriate sensory-motor practice.
Glenn Doman, the internationally famous pioneer of “The Institutes for the Development of Human Potential”, realized long ago that brain-damaged children could often be led to a full recovery if natural reflexes were appropriately stimulated to encourage the next necessary steps in development. One day, while listening to a severely brain damaged five year old boy reading to him on a high school level, he asked himself the question, “what is the matter with normal kids who cannot read”. He went on to modify his techniques, which had been developed to teach brain-damaged children, to enable him to teach normal babies (aged 6 months -3 years) math and reading. I used his methods when teaching my daughter to read as a toddler.


 

( Sensei Sheila holds a pad for Carmen to kick at the Shiaii )   (Photo by JoEllen Bate)

Newsletter October 2016

( Notice that Carmen has her standing foot precisely angled, her hands are up, her head-neck orientation is great and her shoulders are relaxed. Her kicking foot is perfectly formed. She is balanced, poised and powerful as a result. Carmen is age 6 and a Karate Tiger. )

 


 

F.M. Alexander created his technique for the attainment of poise following research on his own voice. The “Alexander Method” has since been expanded to utilize reflexive movement to retrain the body to accomplish all manner of physical skills, while maintaining a state of relaxed poise. The tendency, Alexander noticed, was for students to “muscle up” prior to moving, often in a way that made smooth natural movement impossible. His training method allowed his students to learn to extend into what they were doing, regardless of what the action entailed, rather than contracting into their movements. All movements in the MuDoKai curriculum are to be taught and practiced using the “Alexander Principle”.
In our rush to conform with the traditions of the public education system, like homework and coaching for tests, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of developing our children's thinking skills. Jean Piaget showed how the development of thinking is connected to physical activities. Stimulating a child’s neurology in karate class leads to the development of new conceptual thinking skills, and is a practical way to promote the essential growth of children’s thinking abilities.
Our program is excellent for adults as well. After all, we are never too old to learn.


2016 Shihan Robert H. Mason