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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A lesson from the TinyTribes Kung Fu class....

Today, in my TinyTribes class (3, 4, & 5 year old children), it was "300 Day". Their goal was to stay focused, alert, and participative in 100 punches (from a horse stance), 100 jumping jack, and 100 instep kicks. I told them "If you all participated and did *all* the techniques, you can say you did 300 things in 30 minutes!
Granted, there were a few interruptions, like "Sifu.....last time at the daycare, I got my toenail painted...." (amazing how kicks can bring up memories like that!). But, they did all the techniques! Instead of doing 100 punches straightaway, we did set of 10 on each exercise....always pointing out how close we were getting to 300 techniques.
So far, I've had many comments come in, like "Wow! They did that?" or "300 things for the tots! In 30 minutes?? Wow! Quite the achievement!" Yes, it IS quite the achievement for tots. grownups can do great achievements like that too. As adults, shouldn't we be able to do such things? Let's take a lesson from our little ones....
  • Perception: The kids had actually no clue what the concept of "100" or "300" meant. They knew it was a number, they knew it was a lot of numbers, but they didn't let the numbers interfere with what they knew they could do. They didn't think it was going to be difficult at all. For them, its was "just punching", "just kicking", and "just jumping". As adults, if we think "100 pushups",  we think of the repititions, the tired sore muscles, and the possibility of not meeting the goal. Don't let the numbers nag you, they're just numbers!
  • Initiative: When the tots just stood there watching others, they were reminded that standing there watching others wasn't the same as participating. If they didn't do all ten of say....a set of 10 punches, they would have to choose to take the initiative to"make up" the punches after everyone else was done with their own punches, or sit out and not meet the goal (an award ribbon). I see this sometimes, in group situations where adults must work together for a project. Sometimes, a group might have a few individuals that will allow the rest of the group to do the work, or not submit ideas or feedback for fear of being ridiculed or just being shy....but they're not afraid to take credit for being on the group that made the project a success. Don't be afraid to jump in to those cooperative group projects.....after all, the very worst that could happen is that your idea is not used. That's okay! Try not to be the wallflower that has the rest of the group do your part of the work.
  • Set the goal in your mind so that you can see it, hold it, smell it, taste it, etc.: I displayed the award ribbons during the class so the kids could see what they could take home and show their parents and be proud of. I allowed them to hold them for a few seconds, then stated that if they are successfull, I would "autograph" their ribbons so they knew how special their achievement was. They were sooooo excited.
  • Be realistic: One of the kids said "I can do a a bajillion of the jumping jacks all at once!!"  Remember, the kids had no concept of 100, 1,000, or even a bajillion. So of course, they knew they could do it. However, after class, I said, "How about a one-thousand day? That's like doing what we did today, 10 more times!!". Then, they said "Wow, that's a lot!"    As grownups, its great if we think we can do anything, but be realistic in your goals. Set your goals in steps....that way, you won't be disappointed when your ultimate goal isn't met after only a mere few weeks.
"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step"!
- Lao Tzu

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lessons from an injured back....

Last Wednesday, I threw my back out. I'm embarassed to admit it....but I did it....get this....doing TAI CHI.

Okay, okay, before you all throw up your hands and say "Well, there goes that idea out the window! I wanted to learn something that allows for self-reflection and relaxation and stuff, but she threw out her back!"

Yes...I know....its kind of like setting up a skiing lesson with someone, then learning later that he/she can't teach you your first lesson because they broke their leg on the slopes. Hahahaha!

But.....if anything has been learned from this, I'd like to share my findings with you, my friends and students.

  • Don't go full board into an activity you haven't done in a few weeks: Take your time warming up into it, then building up again. I hadn't gone to my Master's Taiji class because of having to make appointments or teach here at my studio because my assistant was out of town. When I did get to class, we happened to do class "backwards". The fast forms first (Old Frame 2, broadsword), Push Hands, then Old Frame 1. I was so excited to get "back into the groove" that I did too much, at too fast a speed.
  • Its amazing just how much of daily activities involve your back!: I went Downtown to the City Municipal Building the next day, not walking all that well from the pain in my back and hip, tried opening the big door and fell to the sidewalk as a sharp, stabbing pain overtook me. Lucky for me, a gentleman was just coming out as I opened the door....he picked me up, asking "Oh my God, are you okay, Ma'am?". He even pushed on the revolving door for me so I didn't have to push it myself. Thank you, dear gentleman! Driving the car was painful, sitting was painful. I couldn't even lift my leg to kick or punch. Breathing.....breathing hurt too, believe it or not.
  • Don't be afraid of asking your support team for help....don't let pride or self reliance prevent your healing:  I've always liked to demonstrate martial arts techniques on my own, and to get right into the middle of the class and correct people as they practiced......and I wasn't able to do that. If I dropped something, I couldn't pick it up. I took a deep breath (as painful as it was!) and asked my students "Can you get that for me?", "John, please demonstrate the proper stance in move 12", "Andrew, please lead warmups", "Class, please team up with a high ranked partner and practice together, high ranks, please coach your juniors". Granted, this is really how a good martial arts studio should be ran, but as much as I ask the help of my assistants, I love to move and work myself! It was hard to be reliant on others during my injury.
  • If people offer to assist you, accept the generosity graciously! What do you often hear when someone asks someone else "Need a hand with that?".   You might hear "No, thank you, I got it". I've found that people will usually ask you if they can help *because they WANT to*. Its an honor to have someone offer their time and assistance. Accept the assistance and pay it forward later.
  • Listen to your body and your intuition: As I grow older, I realize that I don't bounce back after workouts or injuries as fast as I did when I was 20 years old. As this realization reminds me of my aching joints and muscles, I see I must listen to my body. The "No pain, no gain" adage needs to take a hike now. There are jumps and kicks my intuition tells me "NOT" to do, and I've ditched my intuition many times as of late, and have paid the price. This back injury was the Universe's way of telling me to SLOW DOWN.
  • It takes a village..... Just as it "takes a village" to raise a child, it takes a village to grow up responsibly and healthily, and to grow older as well. Just as I mentioned a few paragraphs back, don't be afraid to enlist your "village". It doesn't mean you are means you are smart.
Well, my back is doing a little better now, 6 days later....but I know the pain and muscle guarding has referred into my neck. Whatever I've done in the past few months to contribute to throwing my back out and with neck pain/migraines, I'm going to have to figure out what it is and be consistent in my wellness options. I have a great team of students, friends, chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist, etc that I know are on my side, and it feels good to know that I have a support team. My hope, is that I too, become (or are already) a part of other people's support teams!

Friday, April 9, 2010

"What, ref, are ya blind??"

Easy enough of a concept, but I'm still finding this out: In order to really "see", you should be "looking". We see what we want, and tend to ignore what could be an obvious happening, all in the attempt to "see" what we personally prefer.

I meet people with "selective awareness" all the time. Sporting events, martial arts tournaments, martial arts classes, healing methods, etc. Name an activity, and of course you'll see people that are staunch supporters and fans of what they do or like.

Whatever the thing we support or activity we do, I'm a believer myself of the "whatever floats your boat" stream of thought, so long as "you don't try so hard to sink my boat, and to stop thinking your boat is bigger, faster, has more sails, has better engine, or whatever else."

It is our own thought process that makes something interesting, enjoyable, and full of positive results. It is also our thoughts that make something dull, lackluster, and full of negative results. We will tend to see things in the way we'd prefer them to be....we will tend to gain results from things we prefer to believe in. That's fine. We all do that......

...But, let's all get of our high horses, shall we? Yes, that includes me...and includes you too.

I've heard lots of things.....Karate is better than Kung Fu, MMA is better than Karate, this method of healing gets better results than that method, this religion is better than that religion.....all because we've developed something over the evolution of humans.......

"Personal opinion".

Ironic....that my opinion is that everything boils down to opinion....hahahaha!

"Personal opinion" can also make success. Or make failure....

Recently at a tournament, i heard several spectator shout "What are you, Blind?" as we officials were calling points for a sparring match. Parents are looking for points *their* child makes, ignoring obvious point the other child makes. What made it ridiculous, was that some parents were making the other kid's clean point to the midsection, a sloppy slap to their own kid's arm. Hello! All 3 of us judges saw the other kid make a clean punch to your child's midsection....and controlled too. Meanwhile their own kid was kicking *really* hard and made the other kid cry after a particularily hard roundhouse kick to the stomach. "What! That kid is faking! He's not hurt! That was a clean point! New judges! Get new judges! My kid deserves that point not a contact warning! Wimp judges"

Yep....that's what can go on at martial arts tournaments sometimes. But I can't really blame those blowhard parents. They want their child to win so badly, that all they see is their child's victory......meanwhile, they don't see how embarassed their child is of the shouting his parents are doing at the sidelines, nor do they see they are coming across as opinionated and obviously hoping the other child will lose the match. No sportsmanship there. The desire the support their child was a good thing....their opinion of what it took to win, was not a good thing.

You know who the good sports are in any sport? The people that truly understand what getting good at their sport is all about. The good sports are the ones that are thankful there are other people that play the sport in order for tournaments to happen. They're the ones that learn from mistakes instead of blaming the winning team for cheating in a fair and square match.

As I said earlier..."Whatever floats your boat, people." Enjoy the sailing and don't sink mine. Besides, regardless if you have a cool boat while I have a mere kayak, I could easily just put mine on a carrier on top of my car and away I go....., while you have to go through the trouble of putting your big boat on a big trailer with a pickup just to drag it anywhere.

Learn well, Train well,