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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.
 
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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).
 
 
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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.
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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.
 
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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.

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(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.
 
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(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.
 
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(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.
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(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.
 
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(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.
 
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(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.

“Martial Arts and Courage”


September 2017


• Courage is largely a result of confidence. Becoming a Black Belt requires courage. There is no substitute for the confidence you gain from working out and training in martial arts everyday.
• Be brave. You can develop courage if you acknowledge your fear and then press on with your purpose. Be bold and welcome challenges. It is said that “fortune favors the bold”. A failure to achieve a specific goal is only a defeat when we don’t learn from the experience.
• There are no shortcuts to success in martial arts. Success in martial arts, as in life, comes only through hard work and dedication to achieving our goals. Worthwhile accomplishments in martial arts are difficult. It takes courage to avoid what may sometimes seem like a shortcut to success.

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• To be a good martial artist, you must be willing to give a 100% effort all of the time.
• Welcome situations which provide opportunities to perform under pressure. Only under pressure can you really demonstrate courage. A true martial artist delivers when the pressure is on.
• Remain calm in adverse or hostile circumstances, and your courage will grow. Courage and confidence will inspire you to a level of achievement you didn’t think possible as long as you stay calm.
• Courage is a quality possessed by Black Belt martial artists. It’s the quality that drives us to give that something extra when it seems like we can’t give anymore. It allows us to perform at our best, even when, in our mind, only perfection will lead to success.
• Courage is a measure of our heart, and inner strength. If we meet an opponent who may be bigger and stronger, our inner strength and our heart can combine as courage to give us the winning edge.
• We do not need to be intimidated by the prospect of failure. Courage gives us the confidence to do what it takes to be a winner. When faced with difficult tasks in life, bring the power of a courageous attitude to bear and they will surely yield.
• Courage is the quality that you can carry throughout your daily life that will give you the confidence to be compassionate towards others and at peace with yourself.