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Goal Setting, Persistence, and Training in MuDoKai

September 2016

I trained for about 8 years before earning my Black Belt in MuDoKai Karate. It was a relatively slow process for me as I had to balance my training with school and a job. The truth is though,even without those outside responsibilities I wouldn't have set any speed records in my pursuit of Shodan. But I had set a goal for myself and I was going to achieve it. I knew I could, because I had set goals before which ended with success. A year before I started my martial arts training, I entered and won my class at the Mr. Sunshine State Bodybuilding Championships. That was a HUGE achievement for me as I had once been the proverbial skinny kid on the beach getting sand kicked in my face.

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(Sensei Katon, Mason and Mayer)

The turning point in my life came when I began to set goals and write them down. Initially they were very small goals. For example, I would write down that I wanted to bench press a certain amount of weight by a given date. Since I knew what I could bench press when I started out, I knew that in order to get to my goal I would have to make a certain amount of progress in each workout. My progress was slow and steady and I was realistic with my expectations, but I always challenged myself to give my best effort. Each time I met a workout goal it gave me a boost of confidence. And that confidence led to more success,and so on. That translated into success in the dojo. From the day I walked into the University Karate Center I was hooked. I loved the atmosphere and was in awe of the black belts. While I was strong, these people had a combination of strength, speed and agility that was really impressive. I made a goal at that time to earn my black belt. It took longer than I thought it would. But that's the way goals are sometimes. A goal is a destination. I see it as setting a course and then hoisting the anchor. Sometimes, the "winds of life" may pull you off that course, but you can reset the sails.

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(Sensei Katon kicks while sparring Sensei Stamp)

The great thing about having a goal is that you always have that "end point", and can readjust to get there. Eventually I got there! I used the same strategy in school. An underachiever in high school, I was told by my college guidance counselor that I should not pursue a career in pharmacy because of the math involved. When I began college, my first math course wasn't even for college credit! That's how far behind I was!! Ah, but I had tasted success by then with bodybuilding and karate and KNEW that I could do anything I was willing to work hard enough for. I'm convinced that the discipline I gained through my martial arts training at UKC was a key factor in my success in school. I graduated pharmacy school with honors and won the "Deans Award" for highest scholastic achievement in my graduating class!
You can use this same goal setting strategy in all aspects of your life. Keep balance in mind, and SET YOUR GOALS for school, work, training and family. WRITE THEM DOWN. Above all, NEVER QUIT! Remember, anything worth having takes work. And nothing is as important as hard work and persistence. Good luck with your goals. You get one chance at life so do it right!

© Sensei Dean Katon, Sandan (3rd Degree Black Belt) July 18th 2006

UKC Instructors Incorporate TAGteachᴿ in Karate Tigers Classes

August 2016

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TAGteachᴿ, also known in behavioral science as “auditory marker training”, is a very effective way of teaching sports that uses a sharp click sound, called a “tag”, to mark a correct response from an athlete. When necessary, the sound is paired with verbal praise or other things that are demonstrated to be positive reinforcers for a targeted skill element, but often the sound of the tag itself is motivating enough.

The tag sound takes on the properties of reinforcement but with some advantages over praise. The sound is less distracting than praise, as it does not interrupt the flow of movement or invite a social response. It is also much briefer, so it precisely marks an athlete’s proprioceptive feeling in the split second that his or her body is in correct position. Proprioception, the sixth sense, is a person’s feeling of body movement and orientation in space. Athletes experience the tag like the click of a camera that captures a feeling, rather than an image, of a moment in time. In this way, tagging is more like biofeedback than praise.

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In addition to the tag sound, the method uses a very specific way of prompting correct physical movements designed to be maximally efficient so fast learning can occur.

TAGteachᴿ has been used in many countries and with all ages and ability levels, including world class and professional athletes. It is used to teach gymnastics, golfing, rock climbing, parkour, ballet, soccer, tennis many other activities. Athletes report that tagging is fun and helps to keep them focused during practice.

Sensei Laraine Winston, a Behavioral Sports and Health Consultant and Certified TAG Teacher is currently collaborating with Sensei Sheila Apicella and Sensei Steven Apicella to use this cutting edge strategy in their Karate Tigers classes. More information on TAGteachᴿ can be found at!

© 2016 Sensei Laraine Winston MS, LMHC, BCBA. 2010 Black Belt World Champion

Executive Director and Lead Practitioner Life Targets, LLC


Progress, not Perfection - a Road to Success

July 2016

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Once you have chosen MuDoKai karate as your way, your path to excellence, embrace it with all of your strength. It is a path that you will walk for the rest of your life, if you are sincere. MuDoKai is not just a sport, a hobby, or a pastime. It can not be placed as the last of your priorities right behind baseball, or golf, or playing computer games. Such a weak approach would be a shameful waste of time for all concerned. MuDoKai is practiced best when it is practiced regularly and with intensity.


July 2016 Newsletter Progress Not Perfection

(3x State Champion : Sensei Chirstina Brigida)

During the course of training, for both children and adults, difficulties will arise. The Sensei know that students are not perfected masters when they enter the Dojo; therefore, when a student falls short in class, the Sensei understands and works to help the student get back on track. Sometimes Junior students, even when they have a high rank, misbehave in class, or in some way fall short of our goals for them. While the Sensei strive to be strict and fair in these situations, it is sometimes difficult for an observing parent to understand why a stripe was taken, or not taken, from the offending student. This is a matter for the Sensei, and while we are open to your input, we must be the teachers in the Dojo. The quest is to develop balance in all things, and this includes discipline and correction. There is a good reason why we award youngsters a “Junior Black Belt” rather than the same belt they would earn as adults. It is because we recognize that Juniors are not just physically immature, but also emotionally and psychologically immature. While the goal is to help them in the growing process with firm guidance where necessary, we must be careful not to crush their spirit. All of our advanced Juniors have made excellent progress, given where they started from. If some of them at times seem more immature than you might anticipate for their age or rank, you may not have known them as long as we have. Perfection is not so much a goal as a process. Perseverance and correction through enlightened instruction is the method we recommend.

Students and parents should never take instruction for granted, since one of the conditions of a true deshi (student) is to make himself or herself, worthy every day of the teachings he or she is about to receive. To offer the minimum effort to receive the maximum profit may be the axiom of a business professional or an investor, but not of a Karate student. In Karate we need the maximum effort at all times. Students often travel great distances in order to have the opportunity to train or compete. If the opportunity is close to home for you, be sure that you realize your good fortune.

Fortunately, compassion, humility, honor and loyalty are not obsolete virtues. The survival of the ancient traditions depends on them. Allow your appreciation of these virtues to grow with your weekly training The process of training is in some ways like alchemy. Our goal is to turn the information we receive in the Dojo, into knowledge, through the process of practice. Just as the alchemist turns base metal into gold.

© 2016 Adapted by Shihan Mason from the maxims of the Daito Ryu Aiki Jutsu


The Freedom of Honesty

July 2016

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Philosopher, scholar, and martial artist Bruce Lee wrote, “To see a thing uncolored by one’s own personal preferences and desires is to see it in its own pristine simplicity.” For martial artists ancient traditions steeped in principles have made truth and honesty fairly concrete notions. Being honest means rising above our lower human instincts and taking oneself-one’s needs, fears, agendas-out of a situation, then looking closely and clearly at what is left.

No examination of honesty would itself be terribly honest if it didn’t acknowledge the role of dishonesty in our lives. Dishonesty can protect us from pain, whether it is the pain of seeing a loved one with hurt feelings, or the pain of acknowledging our own imperfections. Dishonesty, particularly when a trauma has been suffered or a difficult concept presents itself, can seem to help us minimize potential damage to our psyches. It can seem to help us weather emotional storms.

July 2016 Newsletter Freedom of Honesty 1

(Bruce Lee art by Sensei Juan Carlos Casais)

The danger comes when we are unable to let go of the protective subterfuge of dishonesty, when the fear of what we are shielding ourselves from becomes so strong we must remain hidden in deceptions. There we are trapped, not only have we misrepresented things to others, but we must now work to maintain the illusions we have created.

So how can we get closer to embracing the ideal of honesty Bruce Lee speaks of? How do we embrace honesty when it may hurt? How do we reap the benefits of knowing that we have been truthful, and have nothing to hide from others or from ourselves?

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(Winning a tournament is proof that your Sensei have been honest with you about your progress as a Martial Artist)

Here are some points to consider:

Be objective: Look at the bigger picture. If you don’t think about your opinion of something, what changes in the way you perceive it?

Think critically: Question what you see, hear, and feel. Dare to dig a little more deeply into the question of why events have unfolded as they have.

Be responsible: Be sure to examine the role you have played in things, whether passively or actively. There is no quicker way to doom yourself to repeating mistakes, or missing out on triumphs, than failing to consider the consequences, positive or negative, of your actions and attitudes.


KATA: A Way to Practice Balance and Centering

June 2016

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Many times students find the practice of Kata (empty hand forms) to be challenging because the practice requires so much repetition. They think that when they have learned the moves of the Kata and run through it a few times, that they know the Kata.

From Gold belt (8th Kyu) to Brown belt (3rd Kyu) the students learn one Kata per rank at each belt level. By the time they are preparing for Black Belt a student will have learned eight Kata. While the Kata involve many moves from the basics, these moves are executed in different directions and at different angles. The idea is to imagine different opponents coming from different directions and counter these imagined attacks. Directed use of visual imagery helps in the development of spatial thinking skills. The footwork learned through Kata practice develops skills and strategies for self-defense, while the adjustments of balance required throughout the practice teach a new level of self-control.

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Timing is important in the performance of your Kata. Each individual movement must be practiced to perfection. Each combination of movements must be put together for each direction so that you can flow from one move to the next. The Kata as a whole must be timed to fit together as a whole. It is like punctuation in writing where each move is distinct like a word, then each combination is like a sentence with a period at the end and a full stop. At distinctive points in the Kata there are Kiai (shout) which end that particular sequence and are like the end of a paragraph. The flow between these distinct stop and start points serve to make the Kata performance dynamic.

Kata also serve as a means of passing strategic ideas from one generation to another. Masters often hide specific strategic concepts within the moves of a Kata so that future generations can discover these ideas through practice of the form. Just as we may see a play or read a poem that was written hundreds of years ago, and yet is still meaningful today, so it can be with a Kata that, with practice, we can discover important strategic skills. Although Kata may sometimes seem very stylized and not like real fighting moves, like poetry or a Shakespearian play, the inner value remains intact.

While Kata is practiced in the Dojo for each graduation from Gold Belt on, it is also a division for competition. Kata tournaments are judged using a similar format to gymnastics or ice skating. Qualified judges assess each performance for balance, power, coordination, flexibility, agility, dynamics and other important variables to assess a score. The competitor with the highest score gets the biggest trophy. The confidence that grows from the experience of performing Kata, is part of the reward intrinsic to the process.


© 2016 Shihan Robert H. Mason



Respecting the Dojo ™

June 2016

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Most of us have been hearing the word “Dojo” since the first day we entered a Martial Arts school. The name Dojo originally meant “place of enlightenment.” Long ago Japanese warriors thought this would be a good name for the large rooms in which they practiced the Martial Arts. Over the years, Dojo has become the name for anyplace that Japanese “Do” (way) arts like judo, aikido, mugendo and karate-do are studied and practiced.


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(Above:  Sparring can be dangerous without the observation of Dojo etiquette)

Some things about the Martial Arts have changed since the early years; however, the idea that Martial Arts mastery brings enlightenment hasn’t changed. Martial Artists must be in touch with themselves and everything around them if they want to successfully live according to the ideals of wisdom, responsibility, and humility, to name a few. Today, the place where we study these Martial Arts ideals, techniques, forms and disciplines is our Dojo.


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(Above: Even young children can learn and thrive within the discipline of the dojo!)

Even young children can learn and thrive within the discipline of the DojoIt’s clear that the Dojo has an important role in the Martial Arts, and in the lives of Martial Artists. Special rules are needed to help it fulfill that role and to keep it a safe, focused environment for serious Martial Arts training.

The discipline, responsibility, and humility learned in the Dojo will serve you throughout life. Respect the Dojo, and make your challenging journey to Black Belt and beyond a smooth one. Shihan Mason and all of the Sensei are here to help you practice and understand the “unlimited way” of the Mudokai.


© 2016 Shihan Robert H. Mason



“How to be Physically Superb; as a Child or an Adult”

May 2016


When most people think of child development, and particularly the development of thinking, they do not necessarily consider the importance of overall neurological (brain) development. In our classes for young children 3-5 years old, it is important to cover the basics of crawling and creeping, as well as running and jumping. This is because some children may still need work in these areas. Actually students of all ages can benefit from revisiting these movements that are fundamental to neurological development.

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In the course of a lifetime of research, brain development specialist Glen Doman has discovered that in cultures where babies are not allowed to lie face down on the floor or ground, no civilization ever develops. This is because, by spending time on their tummies, babies develop convergent vision which allows them to interpret symbols and thus develop a written language and hence a civilization. They can also work on crawling and eventually creeping, from the natural movement reflexes present at birth as long as they are on the floor.

Many baby mammals, particularly those who are preyed upon by others, learn to stand and run within a few hours of being born. As we know, with us the process takes much longer. Gently rolling, tumbling, spinning and tossing babies, in a safe manner of course, helps their young brains to develop. Having them hang on to your thumbs while you lift their hands above their heads helps to set them up for brachiating (see photo) once they are old enough and have the strength to hang from a climbing frame.

Brachiating is one of the best ways to develop respiration, increase oxygen consumption and enhance brain development. Breathing is the basis of good health and is a skill that we work to improve on in all of our classes. If you think that you know how to breathe, see if you can take just thirty slow, even, connected breaths in thirty minutes; that’s one breath per minute for a half-hour. If you cannot, you have room for improvement. Running is good too, but actually does not develop the heart and lungs as much. Brachiating is also great for developing upper body strength and coordination.

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The floors in our two Dojo both make excellent surfaces for children and adults to roll around and tumble on, as well as being ideal for other aspects of Martial Arts training. If you are the parent of a young child in our Dragons or Tigers program and you see them running, rolling, crawling or jumping in class, these are essential preliminary exercises for them, and will lead to integrated physical and neurological development. If they are to be “physically superb”, to use Glen Doman’s terminology, they must be stimulated to challenge their abilities in terms of balance, coordination, agility, flexibility and cardio, muscular, respiratory fitness. Doman also asserts that barefoot activities on a safe surface are the best for developing walking and running abilities. All in all, Karate training here at UKC is just about perfect.

© 2016 Shihan Robert H. Mason


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