Search This Blog

Monday, June 22, 2009

Laughter...the always available medicine....

"Laughter is the best medicine", as the old saying goes. Thanks to Reader's Digest, here's a link to 13 funny cartoons to kick off the Summer:

Funny cartoons to start the Summer, by Readers Digest

Let's take a little time out of our busy schedules, every day, to laugh and find the humor in the world around us. Of course, don't laugh at someone else's expense, nor taunt anyone for fun. Remember that humor can be found in many ways, from hilariously obvious sight gags to subtle word play.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Quote of the day

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self confidence"
-Robert Frost

So easy a quote to read and nod at.....sometimes so hard to follow. Many times, anyone that says something that might be contrary to what you believe or what you think you know, results in anger or disdain for that other person, or it may cause you to doubt your knowledge. In most cases, we lose our tempers because our pride is slightly bumped by someone that doesn't agree with us or accept our own supposed "universal truth".

As Bruce Lee once said "My truth is not your truth". The view of what truth is, is relative.

Each day, try to listen to others without a discriminatory ear.....because when you do, you're not really listening at all. You'd merely be thinking of ways to defend your "truth".....that's not listening!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How to frustrate your Martial Arts Coach

A few weeks ago, my friend Wim Demeere posted a great blog article "How to piss off your training partner".

I loved his 3 part series on it. As someone who's had training partners that did the very same things mentioned in Wim's blog, I was amused to read about it. Granted, I think, that such behavior is "part of the learning process" for some people.

So, it prompted me to write about "How to frustrate (or piss off) your Martial Arts Coach". I'm not going to include breaches of ettiquete (based on a school's own code of ethics), because this blog post would go on and on if I did so. Instead, I'd like to present a few generic "breaches of polite common sense" that would probably (if not most certainly) piss off your Coach, Sensei, Sifu, Sabomnim, etc.

Demand that the teacher promote you:
Okay, so its perfectly okay to want to be promoted, if that is one of the things that motivates you. The idea is, to meet certain requirements to be eligible for promotion, whether it be a certain number of Kata, learning specific fighting concepts, etc. However also, higher promotions also may be based on marked improvement. Sorry, I'm not going to promote you just because you learned three required Kata in one week, that you need for (let's say...) purple belt. If you're doing them at yellow belt skill, and you've been corrected time and again by me or your Seniors, don't meet me in my office and say "Ya know, I think you should test me for my purple belt, 'cuz I know all the purple forms". You'll most likely get a long look then a chuckle from me, and then me asking you "Since your opinion of your skill is much more correct than mine, would you mind testing yourself for purple belt?"

Interrupt the Coach to coach the students:
Want a stern look from your coach? Then loudly interrupt your coach while they're teaching a technique to the class. I've seen this at seminars sometimes:

Coach: " let's move on to another variation of the you'll sweep out the foot at this angle, while...."

KnowItAll: (loudly cutting off coach) "....but be sure ya don't sweep above the heel, or they might fall on yer ankle.."

You might get stern looks from several students as well. Hooray! More people listening to you and the point you're trying to make! Yay! Those students will sure want to be your partner to practice what you know so well! Not bad for a first year student! Awesome!!

Sarcasm aside.....if you want to stay in a seminar or class....keep the interruptions to yourself. Note your observations in your notebook for your learning purposes, but refrain from rudely cutting the coach in the future.

Pay your class fee late, but date the check for an earlier date, *while we're watching you write the check*:

We, as martial arts teachers, understand that things happen...emergency car repairs, medical bills, unexpected expenses, etc. We will likely give you wiggle room if you notify us of your hardship. But if you just let tuition due date go by a week or two, then write the check in front of the staff for the earlier due date, it probably won't fly, because we all train our staff in the secret martial system of "knowing what today's date is".

Make disrespectful remarks about other martial arts:
Its okay to be proud of your art....but refrain from making bad remarks about other martial systems while you're in class. As teachers, what makes us think that you *wouldn't* make bad comments about us if you decide to study somewhere else? Besides, you not only make yourself look like an arrogant, opinionated oaf, you might make the rest of the school look the same as well.

Jump in front of the coach to ask a question while they're working one on one with another student:
Plain and simple....wait your turn, raise your hand. Our peripheral vision isn't *that* bad. We'll see you, we promise.

Keep in mind, that this is all written in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. In no way do I recommend that martial arts students follow these mentioned steps to see if they can piss off their teachers......

To any and all martial arts teachers and coaches out there, feel free to comment and add your two cents. In upcoming part 2, we'll discuss "Coaches/Teachers: How to irritate your students and get them to quit".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Did you ever wonder? "Why are high school or college graduations called "Commencement" ceremonies? Commencement means "beginning", right?

So true that is! When I was in High School I thought it was weird that graduation was called "commencement Exercises", if we were ending our stint in High School. Why wasn't it called "Final" ceremonies, or simply just "graduation"?

As the word "commence" implies, it is a new start....a new beginning. After High School, your world changes dramatically with increased homework load, moving away from home (if applicable), working a job while going to school, sleepless study nights, parties you wish you probably didn't go to, and all the things that make you realize you're trying to figure out how to be an adult. You're no longer the big man on campus or the popularity a freshman in college it can be a bit overwhelming for the 1st few months. You realize that coursework is sooo much harder and requires much more of your time. You realize that the professor probably doesn't care that you skipped his class for the past 3 mornings, he isn't going to track you down. But you'll find your grades slipping fast in that class if you don't get back on the ball. For High schoolers, its a jump from semi independence to self reliance...after all, although you had your car and your buddies, places to go, people to see, you still had to ask you parents for money. Now, you have to work if you want to eat. Your parents will probably make sure you've got your textbooks and your tuition is payed, but you'd better find your own money for gas, pizza, soda, entertainment, etc.

In comparison, let's take the transition from high school to college, or from college to grad school, and compare it to martial arts ranking progressions....

My opinion....I think we should call martial arts Black Belt tests "Commencement Exercises". Martial arts know what I mean! Some people think that getting their black belt means they've mastered the art. I too, have seen students attain their black belts, and soon after they're gone, apparently "masters" of the art. Although they know they are not experienced enough nor knowledgeable enough to teach, their demeanor tells me that they're "done, having learned all there is to learn". The sad part is, most times when they leave, they leave at the "apprentice black belt" rank....a rank that is normally not acknowledged by our mainstream upline until *after* 1st degree. In a way, its the point behind the stay and learn much more and someday be recognized by the organization. So, actually, when they leave, they leave not as "full fledged" black belts.

Black belt is merely a stepping stone...a phase that marks "I've gotten really good at my fundamentals". Now, the REAL training and learning begins. The whole journey to the first black belt is meant to be difficult....only then can we take a good hard look at ourselves inwardly. Once we've looked inward, the secrets of the art are so much more visible in our training.

Just as stepping into college from high school can be a big wakeup call, so can that new black belt around our waist. In high school you might have done great in math, but don't get overconfident and cocky in college...the math can be surprising, especially if you don't study because you're so cocky. Same with getting your new black belt. Don't get cocky....or you just might end up hurting yourself just to prove you're a new black belt. (been there....done that!!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Inner workings of Martial Arts

"You may train for a long, long time, but if you merely move your hands & feet and jump up & down like a puppet, learning Karate is not very different from learning to dance. You will never have reached the heart of the matter; your will have failed to grasp the quintessence of Karate-Do." ~Gichin Funakoshi

All Martial Arts instructors must've had this happen to them at least once: A student comes up to you and asks "When will I learn the next form? (or self defense set, etc). As their instructor, you might be tempted to look at them with a raised eyebrow, and say in your best Yoda-like voice: "When you are ready".

Of course, the student already *thinks* they are ready, or they wouldn't have asked in the first place, right? If they've been at your school for some time, its okay that they think they're deserving of something new and novel, right?

Dojo etiquette aside (in the Dojos I've trained in, it was bad manners to ask for a new technique or Kata from the teacher), I don't necessarily see a student's desire for the next Kata, waza, kumite combo, etc, as a breach of ettiquette.....instead I see a student who is setting goals for himself/herself, and knows how to get there. That's great! I tell my students that I like how they're progressing, and how I like to see that they're setting goals for themselves.

But then, I tell them that we teach new material when we see that a student has worked enough to understand the "base" of the Kata (at our school, we call them "Taolu" or simply just "Chuan" (fist), and that they'll get a new Taolu or technique when we deem they're ready. I ask that they "look forward to the surprises when they arrive". I suggest that they practice the movements until there is no thought involved. I once told a class "You should feel the form in your bones, you want to almost feel the emotion of the form. With practice, your form will be you, not merely some set of movements strung together".

However, another thing I teach my students, is that simply knowing the sequence of movements to a particular Taolu, doesn't necessarily mean they've mastered the art as a whole. I'm a firm believer in that Forms are not merely requirements for belt ranks, or merely a cardiovascular exercise or a dusty long-worn tradition. I believe that even in today's evolution of Martial systems, the seemingly "old style" drill of kata, taolu, or whatever you'd like to call it, is a valuable link to not only history, but also a valuable link to all things of BodyMind connections.

Call me "old school" if you'd like, but when I trained in Karate, my Sensei had us practice Kata till the cows came home. Every day, Kata. I do remember as a child, wondering when I'd actually learn how to fight just like in the "Kung Fu" TV series that I so faithfully watched every week. Then we'd do Kumite (sparring).....and I still wondered when I'd learn how to fight. However, when belt tests came, we were required to defend ourselves against the rest of the class, some of them with weapons, some of them without. That's when the "actual fighting" came out. But where it came from, I had no clue! I just remember seeing people attacking, then it would be over and on with the rest of the belt test.

It took many years after my youngster days, years of studying other martial systems, for me to realize that "fighting" is merely a nice batch of extra icing on the big cake of Martial Arts. All of my other teachers required the same.....form practice every day, over and over. Drills practice, over and over. Fighting techniques, sometimes brutal, over and over. My teachers expected "perfect practice", not just plain old practice. My teachers expected that we adhere to good effort in anything, no matter what. I knew that in time, all that effort would someday make sense. There were days I puked in the corner from the effort of class. Days were I couldn't lift my legs, some fainting spells, and lots of contusions. It was only after these many years did I realize that the long journeys down these sometimes bruisy and bloody paths, whittled down everything that wasn't useful to me: arrogance, anger, envy, jealousy, hate, self-loathing, laziness, pretentiousness, discrimination, selfishness, etc etc. I began to get glimpses of what really makes "me".

For so long, I merely "danced" and jumped around "like a puppet". I still do, But I'd like to think, that I can at least catch myself doing so, and get right back to the business of practicing well, not just merely practicing moves. And....not trip over my own two feet!

(However, just for the record, although I see goal setting, confident students when they try to ask me for more forms, our Dojo etiquette is "Do not ask. you'll be taught, don't worry")

Blog transition....

I'll be transitioning my blog entries from "Don't Fight the Tao" from another blog server, to this Blogger site. Please be patient while the transition takes place....the format is going to take a little tweaking, as my Blogger profile was more of a personal one, as opposed to my "martial arts" persona. However, there still will be blog posts of fun, frolic and random silliness!

In the meantime, I'll be posting my latest blog post from my other blog here, later today....

Xie Xie!!