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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.

Shiaii a BIG Success

Our Dojo tournament was a big success with all of the participants showing their martial arts skills to the best of their ability.

All awards were made taking age and belt rank into consideration as well as performance.

Basics: 1st Riley, 2nd Joshua, 3rd Ryan Ortega

Weapons Kata: Grand Champion Jorge, 1st Nikkhil, 1st Shany, 2nd Ioana, 3rd Nico

Kata: Super Grand Champions Shany and Jorge, Grand Champions Nikkhil, Ioana and Shivam,

1st Nico, Krishna, Olivia and Carmen, 2nd Ryan Fisher, Cal, Ryan Ortega and Leila, 3rd Trevis

Sparring: Super Grand Champions Ryan Fisher, Jorge and Calvin, Grand Champions Krishna, Cal and Ioana,

1st Trevis and Carmen, 2nd Shany, Nico, Nikkhil and Shivam


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Special FREE Self Defense Seminar for Children and their Parents on Saturday March 24th Noon-1:30 pm


This will be a class for kids aged 6-14 and their parents to attend together, plus you can invite your friends and their parents. The class will focus on techniques, strategies and tactics for dealing with bully issues, defense against abduction and survival drills for challenging situations. Despite the serious nature of “self defense” for kids, the class will be fun as well as informative. New students and established members of our Dojo are all invited to participate. Dress code is Karate gi or sportswear.

Training for Self Mastery

February 2018
“Everything that has been achieved is merely a preliminary exercise for the achievements to come, and no one-not even one who has reached perfection-can say he has reached the end.” This quote from Eugene Herrigel touches on an important theme for martial arts students. The experience of perfection, or completeness in martial arts, often only occurs after many years of practice and thousands of repetitious movements. Sometimes, however, it can be experienced by a complete beginner. Herrigel wrote “Zen in the Art of Archery,” and years ago I remember taking a girlfriend to practice archery with me. I showed her how to draw the bow and loose the arrow. Her first shot went straight to the center of the target, the gold. I was thrilled, as she was, at the experience of everything going “just right.” The moment was complete, perfect. Of course, this joy of the novice at a flash of perfection, while wonderful, does not mean that mastery has been achieved. Mastery requires consistent high level performance over time.

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(Jo Ellen rehearses an elbow strike to the chin with Sensei Meyer)

Repetition often leads students to feel bored. Getting just as excited about a punch or kick on the twentieth repetition, as you were on the first attempt is often difficult. Repeating the move for the five hundredth time is often a rote performance, containing little of the zest, intensity and quality necessary to achieve perfection. Yet, only after many thousands of such excellent repetitions can the move become so smooth, relaxed, reflexive and energized that it feels perfect.
Within the Mudokai curriculum, I have done my best to disguise the repetitions. I have placed the fundamental exercises into different contexts at each belt level, in order that the students may see them with fresh eyes. I understand that new gold belts usually think that when they can roughly get through Pinan Nidan, that they “know” the Kata. These students find it incomprehensible that a Black Belt student, having been many times a champion, is performing the same Kata now, as she attempts to win her next title, as she was when she won her first. What is more, she is getting the most out of it now, and performing at the highest level. For Black Belts, this is the way to mastery, not just of karate, but of themselves.


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(Shiaii winners with trophies)

Remember, knowledge is the result of combining the correct information, with correct practice, over time. A while ago I read Chuck Norris’ book The Secret Power Within. I have met Chuck on several occasions and found him very likable. He did not seem particularly scholarly, although I have always been impressed with his achievements as a martial artist. The book is excellent and probably much easier reading than most of my newsletter articles. I recommend it to all students and parents as a work of quality from a contemporary American Karate Master. Sometimes just a glimpse of perfection can be sufficient inspiration for us to pursue knowledge. Chuck’s book provides “Zen solutions for real problems” in a very “reader- friendly” way.

Shihan Robert H. Mason © 2018

Developing a Winning Mind-Set

January 2018


When we are learning anything it is fundamentally important to develop a winning mind-set. While it is often assumed that “superior ability” is a key to success, over thirty years of research has indicated that an overemphasis on “talent” or “intellect”, along with the implication that these are fixed, innate traits, leave students feeling fearful of challenges, vulnerable to failure and unmotivated to learn. All of the research indicates that our abilities are not fixed and can be developed and improved upon throughout our lives. Even geniuses and the most talented people have to work hard and persevere to accomplish their goals. What we endeavor to teach students at the Dojo, is the “growth mind-set” that asserts that abilities are developed, intelligence is malleable and that, with persistent hard work, skills will improve and problems can be solved. In short, students of Mudokai learn how to learn, and develop the learning skills that will enable them to use this mind-set to utilize hard work and their love of learning to work towards success in all of their endeavors.


When people have a “fixed mind-set”, they get upset every time that they make an error. They “feel dumb” perhaps because they could not perform the move the Sensei showed them. This attitude leads to a lowering of self-esteem and will likely be reflected in their job, at home, or at school in the case of young students. One of the benefits of training in Mudokai is that we can address this issue directly. All students are encouraged to see the acquisition of skills and techniques as something everyone can learn. Our curriculum is designed so that all new beginners will be able to learn the blocks strikes and kicks through the process of instruction, practice, correction and improved practice. As students achieve higher ranks and learn more advanced skills they realize more and more that, just as they can improve their balance, flexibility, strength, agility and fitness through persistent effort, that same effort applied to their job or their schoolwork will allow them to improve their skills in those areas.  A major consequence of the development of a “growth mind-set” is improved confidence. When we realize that we can learn anything we set our mind to, and achieve results by virtue of hard work and effort, we see any errors we make as useful feedback that will allow us to hone our skills. We see the development of new skills as a challenge, to meet with energy and enthusiasm. Because Mudokai training is so technically specific, the Sensei can offer praise for the students accomplishments at every stage of the development of each new skill. By focusing students on the actions that lead to success we can foster motivation and confidence.


One of the challenges that we face as we grow older is the maintenance of our “growth mind-set”. Sometimes a major setback in any area of our life can lead us to become discouraged and depressed. It is not hard to notice when this has happened to a person because they will demonstrate the symptoms of the “fixed mind-set”. They will ruminate about failures and denigrate their skills with statements like “I’ve never had good balance” or “I can’t do this, I give up”. To meet this challenge the Sensei will address the mind-set by breaking down a technique into the steps that will lead to success, while reassuring the student that struggling with the challenges posed by learning a new skill are an important part of the fun we can have as we practice that skill. Learning stimulates neural connectivity in the brain at all ages.

© Shihan Robert H. Mason 2018