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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Armchair Warriors and Futon Fighters.

A friend of mine suggested a subject for one of my blog posts..... "is YouTube killing regular martial arts classes at bona fide schools?"  I liked the idea, but I want to expand on the idea a bit.

I would say....YouTube doesn't kill martial arts class schools. I am not saying that videos can replace a good instructor and classmates. If done correctly, a school's YouTube videos can recruit more students. Videos can be a good reference for students who are already familiar with a particular art. A good video can be a "video notebook"  if a student learned a form and forgot how to do a transition or forgot the exact angle of a form technique.

The issue here is not "is YouTube decreasing martial arts class attendance". The real issue is "Are video viewers thinking they can learn martial arts from a video, without a real instructor?"

I've met some people that claim to know martial arts, having learned from videos and books. Upon seeing such people display their skill, it is glaringly obvious that they learned from media instead of a good teacher. I've even heard of "practice groups" where members (with no actual experience under an instructor) will get together, watch videos or study books, then gather together to practice, spar, or even bout with swords!

Now, its one thing if you live out in the boondocks somewhere and cannot access a school. I would venture to say that if online videos are all you have, then videos would be a good initial exposure. It is when individuals think their skill is growing just because they've memorized a bunch of techniques or forms from video, that it becomes a "iffy" thing.

I see this a lot at an online discussion forum that I frequent or am a moderater for. "I want to do martial arts, but there are no schools near me. Can anyone help?" Usually, as a service, I'll research the location of schools near the forum member's location....and most times, I'll find schools within 25 miles. When I list these schools on a follow up post, and give hints on what to expect or what gear to purchase if they attend the school,  I hear all sorts of stuff. Here's just a sampling of stuff I've heard, and my responses to them.

- - "I want to do Kendo, not Karate or Tae Kwon Do. The nearest Kendo Dojo is too far from me"
          * It wouldn't hurt to get some training in *any* martial art, be it Karate or Tae Kwon Do. It will allow you to learn about body movement and coordinated technique. Ask the Tae Kwon Do teacher if they offer Kumdo, the Korean equivalent to Japanese Kendo. When you do find a Kendo Dojo, see if you can attend once a week to start. Or ask if they offer private lessons. You won't make progress as quickly, but at least you'd learn something.

-- MMA is the BEST! I want that, not wimpy Chinese stuff" (really, someone posted that)
         *See this post: (link to the post that has the smae comment in the above paragraph... "it wouldn't hurt to get some training in *any* martial art...." And by the way....a round kick in MMA is the same as Kung Fu's. Chinese arts have "Shuai Jiao"....grappling and throwing...and its just as hard pounding as MMA. Please refrain from calling an art "wimpy" until you research it.

-- "What do you mean I gotta spend $300 to $500 on a beginner's set of Kendo equipment? Can't the Dojo just let me borrow theirs?"
         * Wow, really? You really want to do Kendo but not willing to invest in the art? You shouldn't depend on the dojo to give you bogu to "borrow". Bogu should be fit specifically to YOU. Besides, the thought of wearing a Men that a bunch of other people sweated in, doesn't sound like fun.

-- "$65 bucks a month....too expensive. Any dojos that have classes for under $30 per month?"
       *$50 to $150 per month at an established school, is the average tuition fee, depending on how many classes you attend per week. If cost is really an issue, try your local YMCA or see if an established school has sliding scale fees. Offer to work at the Dojo as part of your tuition payment, they might take you up on it if it suits both you and the school"

-- "I want the best art that can kill people quickly, like in the , I don't want some traditional art that won't do anything"
       *You're not going to learn how to kill people from videos. And do you really believe everything you see on

-- "I'm good at following videos, why would I need to pay money to someone to learn what I can easily follow on the video?"
      *A good teacher has gone through rigorous and serious training to be able to become a teacher. They have the experience. Tuition itself doesn't pay the teacher, because really, there's no price you can pay for the teacher's experience. The tuition pays for the facility you're in, and the school's bills. Your tuition helps you be able to be in a place where trained teachers can instruct you. You wouldn't expect to learn open heart surgery online and for free, would you? You NEED a skilled eye (instead of one's own overconfident eyes) to correct your mistakes and be a physical example for you."

-- "I'm learning from a friend of mine who studies . He's done it for 2 years so I trust him"
    * Two years is not enough experience for someone to teach. He's still learning himself, so how can he teach you? If anything, what will happen is that you'll end up just being as good as he can teach. And if he can't teach well, then you're not doing anything except for imitating him.

You'll notice that comments such as those listed above, are comments that really mean:
"I want free martial arts training and I don't want to travel"
"I don't want to invest in the gear and accessories...I just want to learn the cool stuff."
"I want to be able to fight and possibly kill people, but I don't want to work for it"

If you really want to learn martial arts, find a way or a means to do so....and be ready for some hard work and even eating some humble pie. Videos and books are great tools for your training, but not a replacement. Once you've practiced a long time at one martial art, you'll find that your understanding of another martial art is easier to grasp, but even then, videos and books should be used as reference, not replacement for good instruction. you might even find that when you get into another art, you'll be working just as hard as your other art.

So in a nutshell, it is not the video sites out there that are preventing people from attending real martial arts classes. It is the attitudes of the viewers. They *think* they can learn from videos. And 9 times out of 10, one's perception of their own skill is greater than their actual skill. If you want You can't get good at any martial art without hard work and possibly taking a few lumps.

If you want to study martial arts and become good at it, don't settle for being an "armchair warrior" or a "futon fighter".

See this Yahoo! question and answer session for more comments about this very subject:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Can't vs. Won't

Teaching very young children martial arts can sometimes be a challenge....not only must instructors make each activity in class an age-appropriate activity, but we must also be open to a child's attention span, mood changes and learn how to deal with mood swings in a firm yet caring manner. However, the benefit of teaching children, is the many lessons you will learn for yourself while you teach them. :)

One day in my "Tiny Tigers" class (3 to 4 year old kids), we were doing a drill called "pop-up". When a child's name is called, they are to "pop-up" from a seated position and do 2 reps of whatever movement they were taught earlier in the class. After a few rounds, one of the children "Jack", did not pop up when his name was called.

"Jack, aren't you going to pop up and show us your great front kick?"

Jack flopped backwards onto his back as a couple of other kids giggled. "I can't...." he said as his voice trailed off.

"I think you can..." I replied. "You do so well on your front kick. Wouldn't you like to show how strong your front kick is?"

"I can't do it...." Jack said. His voice was a touch shy of being a whine, but he didn't whine.

"Why not, Jack?" I asked.

".....'Cuz I can't...". Jack's father urged "C'mon buddy, you can do it".

"But I can't". Jack said. Odd. Jack was always so good at his front kicks. He started to squirm around on his back, just as little children do as they awaken from a short nap. "I can't do it.".

So as to keep the class going, I asked "Okay, that's fine. But do you remember what you have to do when you are not participating?"

"Uh huh....I sit next to mommy or daddy quiet and not talk...."

"What else?" I asked.

"I gotta ask to join the class when I'm ready..."

"That's right, now go sit down quietly".

After another few minutes of the pop up game, I gave all the kids a short break to get some water. As the kids clamored to their bags to get their water, I saw Jack on the corner of the floor, doing side kicks. I grinned....I thought that maybe Jack just needed a break and now he's back on task.

"Jack! That's a really cool side kick! Can you show me your front kick as cool as your side kick?"

He flopped to the ground. "I can't" he said. I tried to help him up, but he flopped more, make himself heavier.

I reminded him, "Jack, if you cannot participate today, you'll have to go home with Daddy and not do Martial Arts today...."

"But I wanna stay..." He protested.

"Well, sit here a few minutes and we'll see if you can stay on task in a bit", I answered.

After break was over, I got out the "big kids" kicking shield for side kick practice. "Okay! Time for side kicks!, everybody ready for side kicks?"

"Yes Sifu!!" the class shouted. Including Jack. He shouted "Yes Sifu" too.  I cocked my head and gave him a grin.

"Jack, what do you say?"

"Uh....Sifu, I'm ready now.  Can I come in?"

Jack's father grinned "Go on, and listen to Sifu"

Jack did great for his side kicks....they were pretty strong too! He also did great with his inward blocks and evasive techniques for the rest of class.

As I reflected on the class afterward, I realized that Jack had probably reached an important milestone....the ability to recognize that he can make choices for himself. It wasn't that Jack *couldn't* do front kicks... it was just that he *chose* not to do them. I don't know if he just didn't feel strong at them that day, or if he just didn't find them interesting , but he made the choice not to do them. The only thing was, he didn't quite know the difference between the words "Can't" and "Won't". He didn't quite understand that the word "can't" didn't indicate a physical inability (he's done front kicks before), he said "can't" because he simply didn't *want* to do front kicks. Although he made choices that day based on "acceptance" and "refusal", he simply didn't have the concept of what "won't" meant, or what "refusal" meant.

We, as adults, sometimes do this as well. However, as adults, we should be able to understand the difference between "not being able" / "not knowing how", and "not wanting to".  The lines between our choices aren't quite as blurred as they are when we were children. However, when we say "Can't", we tend to apply the word to our lack of understanding of something or to when we feel we're not up to par with our own expectations or expectations of others. Before you blurt out the word "Can't", do a quick mental note of why you "can't". Is it that you just aren't skilled enough? Is it that you don't understand? Is it that you're not trusting your judgment? Is your intuition telling you to hold off till later? Do you feel that you'll be embarrassed if you don't look good in the eyes of others?

No matter what the reason, get to know what that reason is before your say "can't".  Yes, it is your choice to engage or not....but try not to use the word "can't" when you really mean "I choose not to", "I'm not interested", or "I'm not quite up to par yet". Choose the words that accurately reflect your position. The word "Can't", for many of us big kids, can easily turn into a convenient excuse if we don't check ourselves.

Want to know how to get "Can't" to turn into "Can"? Its simple.....try.. Everyone is capable of "can", albeit at a lesser degree than our expectations. To meet those expectations, we just have to keep plugging along.

I have to disagree with Yoda on his quote "Do or do not, there is no try". "Try" does mean a path to "do", assuming that we're committed to the task. Not everyone is born as a Jedi Knight, after all. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A favorite fable from the Philippines, "The upo plant"

Image via Wikipedia
When I was a child, I remember hearing fables that taught moral lessons. Many of these stories were very amusing, but taught great lessons, such as the stories of "Juan Tamad" (Lazy John), which describe the consequences of laziness or making too many excuses. The following fable, however, has always been a favorite:

The Upo Plant *

Once upon a time a wild specie of the upo plant grew in the garden of Tandang Teban. When the old man saw the growing plant, he carefully entwined the stem around a small bamboo post to make a trellis for the plant.

The plant did not like the idea of the old man. It wanted to grow freely like any other plant. So the plant talked to the wind.

"Mang Hangin! Magkaibigan tayo, di ba2? Look at me," the plant pleaded. "I am a mere slave of Mang1 Teban. I need your help. I want to grow freely like the grasses and the plants around me. Look at the banana, the rose, the sampaguita3, and the other plants in this yard. They are free. So my friend, I beg you to blow hard and loosen the tie around my body till it breaks."

"Your request is not just," replied the wind, "but if that is what you like, I will do what you please." So the wind blew hard. It blew hard some more, thus breaking the knot around the body of the upo.

"Thank you," said the upo gratefully. The vine then crawled freely on the ground.

Just then a dog that was looking for a piece of bone came along. The dog stepped heavily on the small vines and was able to find the bone. In taking the bone away, the dog also carried a part of the vine to a far distance. The poor plant not only became short; every part of it was damaged.

When Tandang Teban visited his upo plant next morning, he saw the poor state of the plant. At once he tied the plant to a thin bamboo post. The plant drew a deep sigh of relief.

After a few days, Mang Teban arranged a trellis for the upo to sling its vines on. The plant blossomed. The leaves gave shade while the flowers and fruits gave joy to those who saw them.

One time the wind blew hard and played with the leaves of the upo. The plant requested the wind to blow softly so that the plant would not fall down.

"When you were still maliit, you asked me to set you free from the bamboo post so you may crawl freely on the ground," the wind replied. "Now you request me to spare you. YOu sound funny indeed."

"I had an unforgettable experience," said the upo. "I know now that all creatures have their own ways of living on earth. Experience is the best teacher."


* Upo is a common gourd vegetable in the Philippines, that if left to grow, can reach very large sizes. The dried shells of the gourd may be fashioned into utensils, bowls, flutes, and smoking pipes, just to name a few uses. I still enjoy upo in the hearty "pinakbet" stew whenever the local Asian store has it in stock. Especially delicious in Filipino fish stews. :)

1. "Mang" is considered a contraction of the respectful title "Manong", which is formally used as a title for older male relatives. (for women, the title is "Manang"). Nowadays, "Mang" is commonly used in place of the word "Mister", especially in reference to those who are older.

2. Roughly translates as ""Mister Wind! We are friends, aren't we?"

3. The "Sampaguita" is the national flower of the Philippines.  My mother used to tell my sister and I about the beauty of the flower, and how the scent of a Sampaguita field can be smelled for miles . Mom told us that oil made from the flowers is used as a rub for headaches and migraines, and that the flower is used for Jasmine tea in China. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Make way! Make way for the King!": How to deal with conceited people

We've all met people like this at least once. The types of people that think they're "all that". The ones that think the world revolves around them. The people that assume others are in their service. The people that revel in the knowledge that they're handsome, beautiful, smart, tough, or powerful. The people that make it very much obvious that you should feel blessed to be in their wonderful presence. 

My friend told me a story about an incident at her apartment where another resident parked a junker car in my friend's assigned parking space. My friend left a note in the resident's mailbox....not a rude note, but one that asked very nicely for the resident to move the car so that she could park in her own assigned spot. This is where the proverbial sh*t hit the fan. The resident called the police and made a fuss about my friend threatening her, demanding my friend be arrested, and other ridiculous claims.

My friend is the type of person that doesn't like to cause or deal with conflict. so this is a hard situation as the other woman taunts her with phrases like "I'm not moving my car, what are you going do about it?" and "Its not over yet, Bitch". It has gotten to the point where my friend peeks out her door before leaving her own apartment, afraid that the other woman is waiting around, to taunt her more. The other resident has even gone so far as to rally other neighbors on her side, by padding the story, making my friend out to be the evil one. They gather around and laugh at my friend as she tries to find a place to park her car. They make it known that they're in control, and that everything works on their terms.

After hearing my friend's story, I was saddened. I too was there many times, tiptoeing around people not to cause conflict. I knew what it was like to have my self respect shattered to the point where I actually thought I was less than what I really was. I thought about how I allowed it to happen, and though about the hard work I put into patching my confidence and self respect. "You shouldn't have to live like this...." I asked my friend. "Where's the apartment manager in all this?"

"I don't know. I think I'm just going to move to another apartment. I think she waits for me every day to let me know there's nothing I can do about it...." she replied.

"...But then you'll let her take more of your power if you move..." I said.

She looked at me in a puzzled look. "This woman knows you're avoiding her." I added. "She knows she's got people on her side....she doesn't care that her side of the story is all lies. She's an energy-hog, and it seems that she thrives on the knowledge that she has power. But, the power isn't hers....its YOURS. She's taken your personal power. And, the more you feed it with your fear, with your checking if she's out there before you leave for work, when you avoid eye contact with her and rush away, you give her more power....and, feel more and more drained in the process".

Being that my friend is humble and non-aggressive, I continued with this comment: "I'm not talking about you turning into a hard-shelled "don't mess with me" person,... that's not what I mean about "power" here. Any amount of self-respect, confidence, and feelings of security you have, that's your power. You've allowed her to take a lot of it.....trick is, to gain it back."

"...But how do I not give it away? How can I get it back from this arrogant conniving lady?" my friend asked.

 In a nutshell, this is what I suggested, to deal with self-absorbed energy hogs:
  • Establish your boundaries. Know just how far energy hogs can approach before you start feeling that your space is being infringed upon. When they cross that boundary, it is time to nicely, but firmly, remind them not to "walk on the grass". Don't make the boundary too big, or you'll appear stand-offish. Don't make the boundary too small either, because you'll feel all the negativity, arrogance, and self-absorbed behavior in a big rush, and you'll get overwhelmed.
  • When your boundaries are breached, stand firm. Many times, a person who doesn't like conflicts, will allow their boundaries to be infringed upon, just so that the other person doesn't get angry. Well, where does that leave you? It leaves you frustrated and angry, and hiding these emotions just to avoid conflict, is not healthy for your emotional self. Mentally keep your boundaries at a clear line, and try not to convince yourself that making your boundary "smaller" makes you "braver".
  • Know that most arrogant people are looking for attention to be on them...regardless if it is positive or negative attention. This is where they feel powerful....they feel empowered by their ability to generate attention. There may or may not have self esteem issues, or they might feel that something is missing in their personal or emotional lives. Regardless of the reason, it is attention they seek. Know that there is some type of underlying reason why they are the way they are.
  • Don't settle for being in the shadow of their self-made pedestal. Allow yourself to be their equal. This doesn't mean to be as conceited as they are, but as long as you abdicate your position to a much lower one, they will drain more and more of your personal power. Know that they are people too....albeit overly egotistical people. This will level the playing field a little bit.
  • Keep calm and keep your attention on your own well being. If you give attention to these types of self-absorbed people, you'll place less attention on your own needs, thereby, "giving away your power". If you get angry, this is what some energy hogs thrive upon.
  • Let trusted people know of your concerns, especially if the arrogant person is making you fearful. It may sound counter-productive, as having other people know about the situation will give more "attention" to the arrogant energy-hog. But, having other people support you is helpful. Be sure to not follow the energy-hog's behavior by not padding your story and sticking to the facts.
  • Keep your circle of influence a positive one. Your "circle of influence" is our network of people that are upbeat, positive, good listeners, and willing to share positive information in areas of personal life, workplace, etc. These are people that support and respect your personality, likes, dislikes, etc. If you have more "good influence" and less "bad influence" (in this case, an arrogant, petty, and vengeful neighbor), then hopefully, the bad influence will take a backseat to the the positive influences.
  • Know that its okay to stand your ground. You don't permission from the energy-hog anyone to stand your ground and do what is necessary to keep your personal power. For every time you don't stand your ground to prevent conflict, you give away more of your personal power.
  • As well as personal and emotional space, keep your energetic space (on more of an aesthetic and metaphysical note): Keep your energetic "bubble" as confident and "warm" as you can. Your energetic space is one that is yours alone, and you're the only one that can make the choices as to who enters your space and contributes to it. Continue to be focused on your own well being, and allow your energetic space be a part of your safe-haven....protect it ardently.

Remember that no matter what the conceited person thinks of you, only you know the truth about how you really are. Try not to allow the conceited person to drain you of your self respect and don't allow their self-inflated egos to destroy your well being.

My friend now is confident, that if she does move from her apartment, that its based on  her own decision, instead of being forced out by an arrogant bully.  I only hope, that her personal power continues to be gained back from the bully, and continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"What's in it for me"?- -Self absorption: Saturated in your own junk.....

Leave Ego aside. If we are too self absorbed, 
we become like a wick saturated in our own oil,
yet not letting others light the lamp.
This results in functional, yet useless lamp.

Okay, I'll admit....I've been guilty of "self absorption". We all are self absorbed to some degree or another. Thinking about our own needs and desires is a motivating factor to keep us plugging along and going forward with our goals and aspirations. This is good! If we lose that sense of self-importance that motivates us, we would sit around and become stagnant.  However sometimes we all go through phases where the self-absorption begins to turn too severe selfishness. When we forget about everything else and make the world revolve around us, we miss out on a lot of things.

During a self-reflection after one of my usual meditation sessions a few months ago, I came upon the realization that a period of time had been based around my self-absorption, instead of what I really *am*.  Common thoughts in my head during this time were "What's in it for ME?" "How do I benefit?" "What do I get if I do this or that?".  I found myself getting frustrated or impatient when things weren't happening fast enough.

As I arose from my meditation bench, I asked myself several things:
1.What do I truly enjoy in life and with other people?
2. What exactly are the needs, goals, and desires that I need for myself?Whtat do I feel is "missing"?
3. What do I consider as "reward"? Will the world end if I don't get the exact rewards I seek?
4. Can I still be able to share with others, and still attend to my needs, goals, and desires?  

Do you find yourself frequently asking things like "What's in it for me?", "How will this benefit me? What can I get if I agree to that?".  Granted, I run a business and I "should" be asking these questions to benefit my business. But I'm not talking about finding ways to market my business or finding opportunities for the benefit of my business. I'm talking about doing things merely for the benefit of my Ego. I'm talking about manifesting things only if we're guaranteed some type of reward, money, or recognition. I'm talking about only paying attention to activities or people only if they have a role in benefitting our Ego and personal gains.  

Let's ask ourselves.....When was the last time we manifested something wonderful for *other people* other than ourselves? When was the last time we enjoyed helping others without the expectation of reward? When was the last time we willingly gave your time instead of feeling that we wasted it? When was the last time we accepted a long line at the bank or something breaking down instead of getting upset that the world isn't doing our bidding at the time we demand it? When was the last time we asked how the other person was doing before talking about our own things?

Also, let's listen to any situation, listen to how many times  the word "I" comes into thoughts. If we find ourselves always asking "What's in it for me??", acknowledge it and think about your next step. Think outside your box and see things from the outside looking in. Think about the other person and/or their situation as well.  I'm not saying that we should sell oursevles short....on the contrary.... I'm just saying "Get your Ego out of the equation". Or...."Get your head out of your...." Well, you get the picture.

Although I never outwardly and rudely asked out loud "What's in it for me?" whenever situations or opportunities arose, I did find myself thinking it a lot. Things became motivating factors only if there was reward. For a bit of time, I lost a little bit of who I really was and I didn't notice I was doing it.  I decided to re-invest my time in doing what I enjoy and sharing with others....all the while still attending to my needs and goals. I remembered that giving away my time was not necessarily "wasting" it. I remembered that the world wouldn't end if I didn't get rewards all the time. I remembered the joys of knowing that great people are blessings in our midst, not merely network spokes on the benefit hub.

We all can benefit from toning down our self-absorption.......You might be surprised that when we give ourselves for the greater good of others, the benefits we seek show up on their own.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pom-Poms and Positive Purpose....

All of us has "cheerleaders" for ourselves and our group of sub-personalities.....but, do your cheerleaders motivate YOU to play at your best, or do the cheers prompt you to boo the other team?

I remember going to Football and Basketball games in High School. As a member of the marching band, we attended the games to provide music for half-time and to accompany the cheerleaders in the "fight songs". The cheerleaders were so peppy....I wondered how those gals ever mustered up the energy to do all shouting and jumping and dancing for hours.

I remember our crowds at games shouting cheers along with our cheer squad, and our band would blare out the "Charge!" tune, our fight songs and other tunes to motivate our teams to play hard and win big. During basketball games, our band would frequently blare our horns and pound the drums with the opposing team was at the free-throw line, hoping the noise would make the opposing team "brick" a shot. Our band would sometimes play the "neener-neener" tune when the other team would miss a shot or if the other team missed a touchdown pass. We would boo the other team if they celebrated a goal, or we would call the referees "blind" if a call was made against our team. If we werere winning, we'd gloat and make it known.....if we were losing, we were sometimes brutal to the other team.

But, on hindsight, you know what I noticed? The cheerleaders themselves NEVER boo'd the other team. They never prompted us to make noise to mess up a free thow, they NEVER prompted us to curse the other team or other coach. They just led cheers to motivate OUR team. When our teams scored, the cheerleaders cheered, if the other team scored, they would just shout "That's alright! Bring it back!". Meanwhile, the rest of us non-cheerleaders would curse, throw things, and do everything short of wishing a lightning strike on the opposing team, just so we would win. All that negative behavior never changed the fact that the other team was focused and playing well. In fact, all our cursing and shouting at the other team took away the important element....cheering on our OWN team.  The cheer squad sometimes told us to be nice, but we were being the die-hard fans that wanted victory just the same, and we continued to boo the other team. In the end, our favorite team, the football team, ended up winning one game of the season, in what was dubbed the "Basement Bowl". One game for the season. Wow. What a disappointment.


Whether it is martial arts, your career, or whatever other activity you'd like to "win", we all have "cheer squads"....those inner voices that keep us moving toward our goal, those motivating factors that keep us plugging on and going forward. However, be sure to check your attitude at the door! If you're doing well, then celebrate! However don't place blame on other people or make excuses for your shortcomings or perceive failures. Just concentrate on playing well and playing hard! Accept a loss, and learn what you need to do to make the next "game" successful. Remember, each time a losing team gets upset and places blame and animosity toward the the winning team, the losing team just sits there wallowing in "we suck, we need to win next time!", while the other team is back in practice sessions, getting better and perfecting their play.

Let your cheerleaders motivate you, but don't use them as an excuse to blast the other team. Alright, team, get out there and GO!!!

Let me hear you yell Go Go!
Let me hear you yell Fight Fight!
Let me hear you yell Win Win!
Let me hear you yell Go, fight, win!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Physical Conditioning & Emotional Conditioning


"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom." - Victor Frankl

I attended a recent 4 day seminar with Grandmaster Chen Zhenglei, hosted by my teacher, Sifu Yijiao Hong. During the 4 days of training, most of us who attend all 4 days had sore legs from the stance work. Some of us (myself included) even had soreness in the shoulders and torso. On the final day of the seminar, Master Chen asked "Are you sore? Legs sore?" The class chuckled, and we all took a quick mental note of how our bodies felt. Many of us groaned at our sore quadriceps, and joked that we should "finally admit it" we said, "Yes, Laoshi!". Byron, our leader for warmups, asked Master Chen, "Laoshi, what shall we do for the leg pain?" Grandmaster smiled, and said "PRACTICE MORE!"

A great lesson. I guess we were expecting a response akin to Qigong healing or stretching, but Grandmaster told us plain and simply: "Practice more". Upon telling my massage practitioner about this amusing exchange, my therapist said "Yes, it allows for the lactic acid to get flushed out, but its the cool down exercises after the workout that are important."  1  

As it turns out, Tai Chi can help increase muscle endurance because of its slow and controlled movements that activate the slow twitch muscles. 2  Do a Tai Chi workout, then not do it again for days or weeks in the same fashion, and you lose the benefits and get sore all over again. The long term practice is where we gain the benefits. After all, it is not the *techniques* themselves that cause the soreness, it is the body's reaction to the exercise. If we're not conditioned to a hard workout, of course out bodies will balk and be sore.

As I was on the massage table at my therapist's office, I realized that this lesson applies to not just our physical conditioning, but our emotional conditioning as well.  If we were to consider emotions such as anger, greed, frustration, worthlessness, etc, as "Pain", then we could, theoretically, apply Grandmaster's lesson to our emotional lives. 

We will use "anger" as an example. Anger is a secondary emotion, and  is for some, a knee-jerk reaction to some other "primary" emotion (disappointment, embarassment, feeling pressured, etc). Often, it may a reaction to the primary emotion of  "fear", or the anger might stem from an emotional need or desire that has not yet been fulfilled. If we acknowledge what the primary emotion is, and ask ourselves what we can control about the situation (if we're feeling out of control of it), and what our options are, we can think a bit more clearly about the situation and decide whether or not the anger is worth expending energy on. When we can think clearly, we can carry on .

Most people will one of three things when confronted by negative emotion: Run from the stimulus, tackle it head on (i.e. feel the anger and act upon it), or go around it to move forward. Some people would say that options 1 and 2 are negative responses, and the 3rd is the best choice. However there are some things to consider:
  • If you're going to run, don't run backward. Try not to delve into you past and make this current situation a repeat of a long gone past experience. Take time off to cool off, then get back to the situation and address it with a clear head.
  • If you're going to tackle it, don't tackle it all at once. Get angry will not change the situation, and we all are too familiar with the blindness that anger brings. Remember, in order to move a boulder from your path, you have to chip away at it with the right tool.....a paper clip isn't going to do the job, you must have a pick-axe or similar tool. With a clear head, you can better choose the right tools.
  • If you go around it, be sure you aren't just avoiding it. If you just go around it and leaving the "obstacle" there, it will still be there. Acknowledge the "obstacle", observe it as you go around and take mental notes as to how you can clear the path. After all, if you leave the obstacle, then you leave it for someone lazy does that sound?
Remember, in the case of anger, it is not situations or words that make us angry, it is our reaction to them. For some,  emotions are based on past experiences. Some people tend to attach a situation that similar to a past experience, and react with an outburst exactly as they did during the past experience. Many times, these outbursts will be out of context with the current situation, but the pattern happens anyway.

So, how do deal with these  negative patterns and thought processes? PRACTICE MORE. Stay with the situation, let it play out while you acknowledge your primary emotion to the situation or try to figure out what similar past experience is making your negative reaction happen. It takes PRACTICE. 

Anger, despite it negative connotation, does have its good is a mechanism for survival....the body's response is to fill the body with the energy to deal with a "fight or flight" situation. Its a mechanism that evolved so that we, as primitive humans in eons past, could use to defend ourselves or our tribes. But if we use it out of context, we sure would look silly wielding our clubs against a wild animal that isn't even there!

Practice more. Stick with it. As Grandmaster says, it will condition your body and make things easier. Increase your emotional endurance. Even the most healthy body with great physical endurance, will not be useful if our emotion endurance is weak.

And by the way....did I mention....we should practice more.

And before I forget.....don't forget to practice more.   :)

1. Forum thread on "active recovery:
2. Tai Chi or jogging for lower body conditioning:

Monday, September 6, 2010