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Stretching

April 2016


 

Stretching is often the most ignored aspect of fitness training. When people think of “getting in shape” they often think of weight lifting, cardiovascular conditioning and diet before they think of stretching. However, when children are young they are naturally flexible, while old people are often very stiff. Perhaps we can postpone many of the negative effects of old age, particularly stiffness and the pain that often arises from being inflexible, by engaging in regular stretching.

April 2016 Newsletter Stretching 1

We begin every karate class with specific stretching exercises drawn primarily from yoga, in order to warm up the body and prepare for vigorous training. The stretching routine we use allows the muscles to learn to relax into each stretch so that we become more flexible as we practice day by day. Many of the advanced kicks that we teach require an advanced level of flexibility that only comes with practice. You will notice that as you stretch out more you will be able to throw your basic kicks higher with less effort and more accuracy and power. You will also have better control of you kicks and your agility will improve dramatically.

April 2016 Newsletter Stretching 2
Like everything else in life, we can only get the full benefit of a stretching routine if we put in the full effort. We normally begin our warm up with jumping jacks or a similar callisthenic exercise to get the heart rate up and prepare the body for stretching. Next I like to stretch the back and then the legs because leg stretching is what increases the flexibility we need for kicking. We always take care to keep the pressure off the joints and isolate our stretching in the muscles.
All of the stretches we teach can be practiced at home between classes, provided that they are performed correctly.


© 2016 Shihan Robert H. Mason

 


Paying Attention:

How Martial Arts is related to driving, academic achievement, and safety


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May 2016

It is easier to pay attention, but the human tendency to lose focus is increased by just about everything in modern life: cell phones, television, social media, ear buds, instant essaging, texting and 24 hour connectivity. So many devices that give us access to more information often lead us to a level of shallow comprehension and a feeling of being “out of touch” with the real world that we actually inhabit. This can lead to difficulties paying attention to a teacher in school, and can be disastrous when our efforts to “multi-task” lead to distracted driving.

The near continuous stream of new information pumped out by the Web also plays to our natural tendency to "vastly overvalue what happens to us right now,” as Union College psychologist Christopher Chabris explains. We crave the new even when we know that "the new is more often trivial than essential." And so we ask the Internet to keep interrupting us, in ever more and different ways. We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or more often diverting information we receive.

May2016 001 : University Karate Center Newsletter

The internet is, by design, an interruption system, a machine geared for dividing attention. That's not only a result of its ability to display many different kinds of media simultaneously; it is also a result of the ease with which it can be programmed to send and receive messages. Studies of office workers who use computers reveal that they constantly stop what they are doing to read and respond to incoming emails. Psychological research has proved what most of us know from experience: frequent interruptions scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious. The more complex the train of thought we are involved in, the greater the impairment the distractions cause.

Martial Arts training is about learning how to focus on what we are doing. It’s about being present and aware of where we actually are, and what is happening around us right now. In a recent advanced class some adult students were training to respond to an attack that they could not see, because the Sensei instructed them to close their eyes tight. One thing that they all noticed was the extreme level of concentration that they experienced during the drill. Even a simple drill with a partner can result in a student getting tagged if they are not fully focused on what they are supposed to be doing. In this way, Martial Arts practice and the Martial Arts lifestyle are the antidote to the shallow, weak and fragmented perceptual state that can be the consequence of the distractions offered by modern media devises.

For the information age to allow us to become knowledgeable and wise, rather than just distracted and shallow, we must practice focus and concentration as if our life depended upon it. We can then enjoy a fuller and more fulfilling life as a consequence. So, when we are driving we should drive, when in school we should listen, whatever our stage of life we must know how to pay attention to what we are doing, and not allow our focus to be diverted or our concentration fragmented. Our life may actually depend on it.

© 2016 Shihan Robert H. Mason

 


 

The Right Fit

March 2016


I was just shy of eighteen when I began my trial month at University Karate Center. I kept putting off showing up for my first day. I struggled with anxiety and the thought of going to a class full of strangers and trying something new terrified me. After a week of promising myself I would go I put on my gi for the first time, tied back my hair, and made the drive. The weeks that followed during my trial period led to some of the best experiences I have ever had, and they shaped who I am today.

From day one everyone from staff to students created a welcoming atmosphere. There was no judgment about anything. Rank and experience was never a problem. Everyone had started as a beginner at some point. They knew what it was like to be a novice, and they were happy to give you pointers to make you a better martial artist. The lessons in martial arts were just the start however. 

I met some of my best friends at UKC, people I still talk to nearly ten years later. I learned important things about myself, and about the world. I learned about right and wrong, morals and values, how to handle stress, and how to better myself. I learned to better the world for others. My anxiety subsided greatly while I was training, and my time since then. UKC helped shape me in ways I could never explain, and it is something I am thankful for every day.

March Newsletter Sensei Hannah Misciasci

In the years since I left Florida I of course wanted to continue my training. My experiences with other Dojos proved to me how truly lucky I was to train under Shihan Mason and the rest of the instructors. I have checked out multiple Dojos in two different states and nothing has come close to what UKC has to offer.

Some schools,

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Committing to Growth

February 2016


 

In choosing to study the Martial Arts, you have clearly set a goal for yourself; every time you go to class, practice your kicks, or read something new about the Martial Arts, you move toward your goal, form by form, 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 easily achieve any goal.

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The Value of Overcoming Fear in Training

January 2016


 

When a new student signs up for class they are usually very excited about the prospect of learning Martial Arts. After all, most people have watched a least one Martial Arts movie in which the main character is portrayed as someone who overcomes a situation which is dangerous or difficult with the use of their Martial Arts training. The only problem with this initial interest is that the beautiful moves that you see executed in a film are the product of many years of taking class; and they will not be learned quickly or easily. So the student suddenly faces the prospect of failure; what happens if they do not learn these punches and kicks quickly or easily; what if it is just too hard; what if they just can’t do it?

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MuDoKai System

August 2016


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A few years ago, I wrote an article about how martial arts, specifically the Mu Do Kai system, was a valuable contribution to your life at any age. All of the content rings true today, but through conversations with students, staff, fellow instructors, and parents, I’ve learned that I missed something. The Mu Do Kai system isn’t just the techniques we do. It’s so much more!

Let’s journey through a typical student’s experience at the dojo, leaving out the part where they do all that karate stuff. Instead, we’re focusing on what happens upon arrival and after they are dismissed from class by the Sensei. What does happen? I mean, isn’t it just a free-for-all that somehow works itself out in the end?

Not quite. Most junior students are dropped off by a parent or guardian (some do pitch a chair and observe from outside, which is completely fine). The student enters the office on their own, immediately moving to the attendance boxes. There, they determine which box (“1" if they haven’t been in that week, “2" if they have), find their card (they are alphabetized), and circle the date (current date is always shown between boxes). With card in hand, the student walks to the appropriate dojo and inserts the card into the “In" box. Then, they take off their shoes, place them on the rack (neatly!), and sit until Sensei instructs them to enter. They may talk with other students as long as it remains at conversation volume. (Some of the most insightful things I’ve heard in my life have come from these free time chats.) When Sensei opens the door, they bow upon entering, and begin warm ups.

 

August 2016 Newsltter 001

 

Fast-forward to the end of class. The Sensei has dismissed them with a bow. The students often congregate around the water cooler (which is uniquely designed for their shorter stature), rehydrating after a strenuous workout. They know water which roams away from the cooler often ends up on the floor, so, they drink it there. Then, they find their shoes, put them on, and wait for their parents to arrive at the door, or, for older students, check outside for them in the parking lot. No younger students may leave without a Sensei or staff member confirming their parent or guardian is visible.

Why offer a rundown of the experience? Because it is a proven process, in place and unchanged for over 30 years. It’s an under-appreciated, but important, aspect of the Mu Do Kai system. I’ve watched it build independence and confidence in numerous students. One, who struggled early on to find their card and circle the date, is now able to do it all, then help new students do the same. They are leading with no coaxing from us. Another liked to toss their shoes where ever they stopped. I watched as mom told the student to put their shoes away neatly, to no avail. After, I asked the student where others put their shoes. “They are all on the rack.” Bingo. I followed-up, “so where do you think your shoes should go?” “On the rack.” Those shoes aren’t a tripping hazard anymore.

No matter your thought process, having a predictable and consistent series of steps is comforting. It gives students of any age the chance to “be their own boss” and relish the knowledge that they “got it all right”. I’ve also worked with individuals challenged by OCD. It is easy for them to get caught in a loop, never finishing any one task, and becoming frustrated in themselves. Watching them settle into our predictable process, you can see their satisfaction as step 1, 2, 3, and 4 are all completed. What took them 5 minutes to complete when they first started training is now done in less than one. And their parents have commented how that confidence carried into other areas of their life.

When you hear someone talk about “personal growth” and “learning responsibility”, this is that principle in action. Inside the dojo, students learn physical discipline (getting their body to move in efficient and powerful ways) and emotional focus (emptying their mind of distractions to pay attention to the task at hand). Outside the dojo, these ideas are reinforced through actions you can easily replicate in school, work, or anywhere. You may not do Pinan Nidan (Gold belt kata) when at work or school, but might you need to locate a sheet of paper and place it in a specific box, or organize an item of clothing where someone else wants it?

The skills you gain at the University Karate Center are life-changing, and I’m not
exaggerating. So come on in, learn the process, and enjoy a class!

© 2016 Sensei Joseph Winn

 


 

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