Search This Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012: Year of the Water Dragon

Water Dragons – Years 1952 and 2012

Water calms the Dragon’s fire. Water Dragons are able to see things from other points of view. They don’t have the need to always be right. Their decisions, if well-researched, are usually better since they allow other’s to become involved.  (from

2011 was a great year. We had a wonderful year of new classes added to our martial arts studio's offerings, students made outstanding accomplishments inside and outside of the Kwoon, lessons learned from struggles as well as successes.

As we move into 2012, the year of the water dragon, let's take heed of what the "personality" is for a person of the Water Dragon sign.....and let's try to employ the concepts this year.  We are all entitled to our own opinion, but to truly be open minded is to be able to see things from other points of view. This is not to say that we have to "believe" in anyone else's point of vew, but rather to understand *why* or *how* others have come to their point of view.

Some people have the standing of "Well, I see where your opinion comes from, but I don't have to respect it". This type of thinking keeps our minds struggling to always be right and keeping others wrong. True, you don't have to believe or even like the other person's opinions, but at least having respect that others have as much right to believe in what they believe as you do.....that's what I'm talking about.

I'm guessing that some people will have their own opinions about this blog post...and I welcome them. :)

“Adult dragons are,astute,powerful,and sure of their strength. ”
Ciruelo Cabral,
The Book of the Dragon

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A fun time had by all at the 4th Annual Bullwhip Demo/workshop at SANCA

On December 27th I had the opportunity to work with wonderful bullwhip artists John Leonetti (Actor, cinematographer ,director and lifelong whip artist) , Louie Foxx (Professional magician, comedian, whip artist, whipmaker and all around cool dude), and Will Morgan (whipmaker/whip artist and son of famous whipmaker David Morgan).

We did a bullwhip demo/short workshop at the Seattle School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts (SANCA), located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle.  It was a fun evening of discussion and hands-on learning, covering topics such as: History of the whip, whip types, whip anatomy, caring for a whip, whip safety and ettiquette. Each of us did a short demo, then the audience members broke up into groups to learn the basic cattlemans crack.

It was a fun evening! Not only did I get to work with some of the best in the business, but I reconnected with two previous martial arts students who study or work at SANCA! Many thanks to John, Will, and Louie for inviting me out. Would love to join them again next year if possible!

Go to the album link to see some photos that I took from the event:

Here's some video that I took, also: that Louie took....

For those of you who might be interested in learning to crack a whip, my studio holds a free monthly practice group that meets every 3rd Sunday of each month at 5 pm. Beginners always welcome! More info here (3rd entry from the top) :

I'd also like to do a shameless plug for Louie Foxx.....if you're looking for wonderful entertainment for all ages (kids love his shows!), check out his site at . Great for birthday parties, fundraiser performances, school functions....any event where fun and engaging entertainment for kids is desired. Don't forget that he does shows for the grownups too!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Partner work: Equal responsibility, maximum benefit

Image license from

In pretty much all martial arts, students are expected to do partner exercises. These exercises may be in the form of drills, self defense practice, forms practice, calisthenics, academic work, etc.

As martial arts teachers, I'm sure you'get had this happen at least once (especially in kids classes) say "Grab a training partner!", and kids scramble to be with their best buddy, often running across the floor to get their favorite buddy even when there is another child standing right next to them. Or, maybe a duo ends up talking about what they fed their hamsters that day, instead of practicing the drill you gave them. These things can happen in adult classes as well.

Situations such as these are not necessarily a result of poor teaching. (when such situations happened at my school I often wondered what I was doing wrong). Instead, it might be simply that the participants do not understand the purpose of partner work.

So then, what is the purpose of partner work? Obviously, it is used to practice techniques against an "opponent". But it is more than that. As a student, when you work with a partner or small group, you have a wonderful opportunity to learn in a way different from solo training. Here are some things to consider:

1) You are responsible for your partner's learning.
Just because you might be better than your partner doesn't mean you should constantly remind them of that. Partners must share equal responsibility for each other's learning. Working with a partner doesn't mean doing your own thing while your partner happens to stand near you.

2) Challenge yourself while doing partner work.
If you are a higher rank working with a lower rank, this doesn't mean you can "lower your standards". Work at the lower ranks level, yes! But don't lower the standards of your own movement. Try your best to provide as best of an example as you can. If working on something very "simple" to you, then challenge yourself to execute as good of form and structure as you can.  If you are a lower rank working with an upper rank, try your best but don't over-think things or become over-critical of yourself. You are not "holding your partner back", he/she is learning just as much as you are. Try to bump your comfort zone up a notch when working with a higher rank, by maybe lowering your stance, trying to up your speed a tad bit, etc. etc.

3) Don't become impatient with each other.
This holds especially true with teachers who demonstrate things while using another student. When you, the teacher, demonstrate with a student, you are doing partner work! Maybe your demonstration partner might react to your strikes a bit differently than what you feel is "normal', or they might make a slight mistake that messes up your flow. You MUST be patient and remember that you too, were once in their shoes. Allow your partners to figure things out as you nudge them along with guidance if need be, and allow mistakes from your partner and most importantly, yourself.

4) Feedback and communication is important.
Many lower ranks assume that they should keep their mouths shut and blindly follow the senior student, if they happen to be working with a senior. Feedback is just as useful for those upper ranks as with lower ranks! If you're working on a joint lock and your partner isn't quite locking it in, go ahead and politely say that it doesn't feel locked in. After all, if you don't say anything, your partner will assume that they are doing it right when they are not. Learn to give positive feedback without becoming "preachy". Nothing is more annoying than partners who appear to talk about everything they know about a particular technique.

5) Regardless of seniority, remember that you and your partner are working toward the same goal.
Whether it is sparring, grappling, push hands, etc.....keep your Ego out of the partner work. Sure, you might be the same rank, but when you start thinking you're "better", there's the possibility that your actions will show it. Then what, all your partner will learn is that you think you're better, or uncontrolled, or impatient, etc.

6) Try to grab training partners of all types....don't stick with just one body type or your best buddy.
Challenge yourself! While its so much easier to work with your best buddy or someone your own height and body type, you will learn a lot by working with varied people. Grab the person standing right next to you. If you happen to be standing next to someone, and you take a look at them and walk away to be with your best buddy, you just showed a huge amount of disregard and disrespect to that person.


Remember, partner work is an activity that your teacher trusts you with. If you are not ready to work with a partner, you teacher will tell you. Don't take it personally if the teacher has you practicing basic maneuvers solo while everyone is practicing with a partner. As I said before, partner work is an activity that requires both people to be responsible for their partner's learning for that period of time. If your teacher needs you to practice your basics for a bit before allowing you to work with a partner, then know that your teacher is simply getting you ready for the other "fun stuff". 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Guide for martial Arts parents: 10 things martial arts instructors want parents to know...

As martial arts instructors, we teach all sorts of age ranges. If your school teaches kids, then its important that we teach patience, value of hard work, goal setting, etc. However we must not forget to educate the parents as well.

Unless a parent already has martial arts experience, many parents get their children into martial arts not knowing what it is about....that is what this primer is for.

"10 things Martial Arts instructors want parents to know"

(I will be speaking in terms of my school....)

1. Please use the proper term for the class. I teach Kung Fu, not Karate. While I also carry a black belt ranking in Karate, this class is Kung Fu. If they are cross training in another one of put classes, please use the proper term for the other class(es) well.

2. As stated on your class agreement, please call or email of you child can't make it to class. Just as you would call your child's school when he/she is ill, do notify us as we are a school as well. We plan classes with your child's attendance in mind, and we will need to adjust our class plans accordingly.

3. We  have belt ranks to show a child's progress and to teach the progression to children. Most importantly it teaches children that goals must be worked toward, and that success must be earned, promotion is a privilege (not a right). We didn't make up this ranking has been around for a LONG time. We charge a fee for exams not to make "more money", but to basically pay for that nice belt your child is now wearing. If we have to bring in other teachers and masters to be on the exam board, it helps pay their travel. We make serious decisions about who gets to be on the promotion list, it is not some random name-out-of-a-hat. If you don't wish for your child to be promoted, then my school needs to know BEFORE the fact, not after I put the belt around their waist. However, consider that it is your child that is taking the class, so please consider their wishes as well.

4. I have taken many classes in subjects that relates to what I do and have undergone over 30 years of countless hours of training...please don't dismiss my position as something like a summer camp counselor or recreation leader.  I've studied many things in order to be a good martial Arts teacher.... psychology, accounting, business, philosophy, taken classes in teaching strategies, I take workshops and research many things, study first aid, CPR, and most of all I continue to be a student .....i don't just sit on my laurels as a "Master" The hours you don't see me, I'm practicing hard with my own teachers and putting in sweat and effort to become a better artist and teacher for your child. In many respects, I carry the equivalent of Doctorate degrees....teaching martial Arts is something not all martial artists can do....just because they can do, doesn't mean they can teach well. My goal is to be the best I can at both, to be able to do it well and teach it well.

5. I don't teach martial Arts to make a fast buck. I teach because I love the martial arts and I believe that the self discipline, confidence, and skills of martial arts will continue to be a part of a child's life long after they quit classes. While there are schools out there that charge exorbitant fees....have you noticed that my studio is not 5000 square feet, that I don't have locker rooms, showers, a lounge, and a fancy pro shop? Tuition fees, exam fees, workshop fees, etc pay the rent for our humble studio so that students have a safe place to train.

6. We are an "acceptance" school....we don't take every person off the street. This is why we have the intro trial allows the visitor to see if our classes are a fit for what they're looking for, and allows us to see if the visitor is a match for the school. If a visitor has a bad attitude, is cocky or overbearing, they might not be accepted. We've turned away people, but we've always made good references for them to other schools. Doesn't matter if someone offers a large sum of money...if their attitude is negative, demanding (telling me what to teach them, when and how), or boastful, they will he shown the door. I've turned down a $1000 check for a private lessons because the person had a very bad attitude. It's all about the atmosphere of my school and the comfort of my students.

7. On the subject of testing, please don't demand that I test your child or ask when you will test for a rank. You will be notified personally if you or your child is ready to undergo a rank exam. If ready for ranking, then you're ready, if not, you're not.....and we'll let you know. Please leave the decision to the experts. And even if you have previous martial arts experience, allow the chief instructors to make the decisions.

8. We welcome applause and encouragement from parents if watching classes. But please, please please try NOT to correct your child....leave that to the teachers. By shouting across the training area, you take your child's attention away from the trained instructors. Please don't walk onto the floor to change your child's foot placement or posture. We understand that you want your child to do well, but please understand that a child's knowledge kinesthetic sense takes some time to develop. We are happy that you're interested in martial Arts for your child....we have classes where parents can work out with their are welcome to do class with us on those days, however even then please leave the teaching to the teachers.

9. If you want your child to learn discipline, then please don't be shocked and tell Timmy to stand up if I put Timmy is a one-minute timeout in horse stance for pushing Johnny to floor in order to be the first in line. If little Johnny makes little Jane cry by not sharing an apparatus, I will have Johnny apologize out loud to Jane and give Johnny 5 to 10 pushups....please don't tell him that he doesn't have to do pushups. The words Please, Thank You, Yes Ma'am, No Ma'am, Yes Sir, etc take priority in the class terminology. We teach kids that "self discipline is doing what is right even when no one is looking." We are trying to enhance similar tenets that you may have at your own home, not take over the discipline.

10. Lastly, please don't use my martial arts class as discipline at your home. Try not to enforce a "horse stance" if they don't clean their will only undermine the real class. Do not threaten to take away martial Arts classes if they do something wrong....if they don't attend class how can they learn that their teacher supports your discipline?  Do not use me or the other teachers as a threat (If you don't clean your room I'll tell Sifu!).

Communication is they say, "it takes a village". Communicate with your child's martial Arts is a team effort. Sometimes you might find some statements or rules sort of odd, or that you might initiatially disagree with some rules. Before you form an opinion, be sure to get information and facts before making assumptions about school procedures. This is for the smooth workings of your child's class.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Beat stagnancy in its tracks

"When you're green you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot" - Ray Kroc

(Part 2 of a 4 part series about the internal (mental, emotional, spiritual) aspects of martial arts and self improvement.)

We all hit a stagnant phase in our martial arts training. That feeling of almost being "bored" in our art. This feeling of stagnancy may manifest as a "lack of interest", a feeling of not feeling motivated, or feeling as if things remain the same even if you try hard.

Someone asked me once some years back, "Wow, 30 years studying martial do you do it for that long? Doesn't it get old?"

"Old? Not really...." I responded. "I guess I got lucky enough to find something else fun and exciting to play with in my martial arts all this time..."

To best explain why I chose to keep going in the martial arts, beyond the "hobby" phase, I'd like you try this simple visualization/meditation:

From the standpoint of being a martial artist in the present time, ask yourself, "Why did I get into martial arts in the first place?" (insert any long term activity here if you're not a martial artist).  How long ago was it? Did you get into it because you saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Did your parents get you into it to learn about fitness and self discipline? Whatever the reason, think back to that time. What was your first lesson like? Try to remember as many moments of that lesson..... Were you excited at the prospect of learning "ancient fighting moves"? Did you start dreaming of using a staff like that one Ninja turtle? (I forgot which one had the staff!).

Now think about one time where you realized you really "got" a particular technique. Allow yourself to feel that sense of satisfaction and pride in yourself that you "did it". Allow yourself to feel that "reward" of being able to do that same new move again, and again. The trick now is, to find ways to bring that sense of excitement back....otherwise, things might start to be "same old, same old"..

Most times, we grow out it, or something piques our interest enough to get back on the bandwagon and go "gung ho" into the training again. 
If you find yourself hitting a stagnant period of your practice, ask yourself "am I really 'training' or am I merely practicing at a comfortable level?" If someone is practicing the same Kata over and over again, it can get a bit monotonous if you don't approach your training with a mindset that motivates you to find a new twist to the Kata or the finding a way to apply the Kata in a way that improves other facets of your training.

For example, let's take the basic Kata or routine from your art. Do it once, as best as you can. Okay, looks great...but how to improve? How about putting a new weapon in your hand, one you haven't worked with before. I taught a basic Eskrima class to people who had little or no weapons experience, and the addition of an apparatus really brings one's awareness back into the form...instead of just "doing the Kara", now you have to think again! Puts a different spin on the same Kata!

Try doing your kata slow. I mean really slow, with stances lower than you normally would. At my school we call this "low and slow" training. The trick here is to not cheat by making the transitions between movements too quickly....instead think of making the pace consistently slow throughout the form. Your legs in the low stances might remind you they are working. :) You might find your balance a little off, or that you might lose your place in the form a time or two. This "tai chi" type of training can aid in keeping your awareness in each movement.

Sparring: Let your imagination drum up different ways to approach sparring. How about sparring one handed? Maybe not allowing kicks with one leg? How about adding the "push hands" or "chi Sao" sticky hands exercise to your drills? There are many possibilities!

Let your creativity go wild in finding different ways to train your self defense, sparring, forma and fitness. Creativity is one way to beat stagnancy! I would love my readers to share their own methods and ideas for fun alternative training drills and activities.....please post!

Aware mind and Thinking mind in martial arts and other experiences....

This is part 3 of a series about the 'internal' aspects of martial arts training. Its nothing mystical...its simply the mental and emotional components we have that help or hinder our training and motivation. :)

Thinking, or more precisely identification with thinking, gives rise to and maintains the ego, which, in our Western society in particular, is out of control. It believes it is real and tries hard to maintain its supremacy. Negative states of mind, such as anger, resentment, fear, envy, and jealousy, are products of the ego.
                                                                                                                     - Eckhart Tolle

I was talking to someone about the meditation practice that I open to the public each month. I invited him to a session and he said "I'm not very good at it, I can't get my mind to shut off, I keep thinking."

"That's why its called 'practice'. Its not called a 'meditation master' class." I replied.

"I don't know how you guys do it..." he said. "I just can't get my mind to shut off".

"Its not about shutting off your thoughts....Its about not dwelling on them or passing judgments based on them. If you're not thinking, you're dead." I said. "But...we tend to over-think a lot of times. Meditation balances us out a bit, and allows us to to be open, honest, and aware. Its just sitting and experiencing each moment as it comes without judgement and without goal. Its a quiet awareness....not not overactive thinking. You could benefit from the should try it out".

I  haven't seen him at a practice yet.

So, what's the difference between the Awareness mind and the Thinking mind, anyway? I'm just going to present my view, based on experiences so far.....pardon me if I ramble.

Awareness is a 'moving stillness' moves from one moment to the next, not dwelling on the material from a previous moment, nor judging the moment or material. Our thinking mind can become judgmental or try to convince us that we can predict the future *based on past experiences". There's a catch to this "future prediction"....if your experiences with something are what you consider as "bad", then there is the possibility that you will "expect" the same if a similar experience happens.

Awareness is now, not the future or supposed possibilities. Awareness allows us to recognize and experience the world around us, whereas thought can give us the ability to change how we view the experiences. Awareness is acknowledging each moment and living each moment as it comes without trying to control, prove or disprove.

Thoughts are largely comprised of things we've remembered, imagination, even "pictures" and words. However, the thinking mind tends to bring out the judgmental sides of us. For example, consider the "Vulcans" of the "Star Trek" series.....Logic was a revered trait, and everything was based on this "thinking mind" and logic. It is possible to become obsessive with the thinking mind, logic and reason,... that it affects our ability to feel emotions fully. Some may turn overtly to the thinking and logical mind to avoid past emotions that were painful, or to maintain a sense of "control".

I'm not saying that logic and reason will turn you into Mr. Spock. We all need logic and reason to experience the world in many degrees. However, if we get stuck in logic and become overdependent and obsessive with it, it can probably prevent us from getting "full" experiences.
So, how can we use awareness in our martial arts training? Well, one good exercise is to feel your body as you practice a form or Kata. Feel each stance as you move....check your stance without looking down at it....does it feel correct? If not, correct it the best way you can, based on what you perceive a "correct" stance to be. If you don't know if it is correct or not, ask your teacher. If you make a mistake, don't concern yourself with "did Sensei see that?" or "I'll never get this right"....that negative self talk is your THINKING mind being judgmental. As we practice awareness in our martial arts training, we must be honest with ourselves. If we try to control everything and pay attention to every little thing, that is not awareness....that is merely the need to control. Its as if you impose your opinion on everybody else while saying you will hear others...., that is not awareness, that is still the need to be controlling. Its hard for us to let go....many people see this as "giving up control" or "relinquishing one's power" or even "giving in to delusions".

Awareness, however, is not expecting or waiting for things to happen. In my martial arts classes, we say the "awareness is the most important aspect of training". However many students assume that it means "paying attention to what is going on around us....and most times, they associate this awareness exercise with an exercise we do called "circle drill", where people in a circle randomly "attack" the person in the middle of the circle, who in turn has to defend himself/herself. In this type of attention, the attacks are already expected....the defender just has to react. Is it still awareness? Depends on how you approach the exercise.

Ever meet a martial artist or athlete that instantly knows what needs to be adjusted in their movement or technique? Those people have great body awareness. Ever see a beginner or intermediate martial artist be corrected by the teacher in class, only to repeat the same mistake over and over? Its not that they are necessarily "uncoordinated", its just that they need more practice at being aware and present in their own is common for beginners to concentrate so much on the outside form of the techniques, trying to get their fist to go this way and their legs to go that way.....and that can prevent the inner awareness from paying attention. This is expected. Practice is the key.

I tell my students all the time about how our minds can trip us up by being tricked by our own need to be in control.....and many have found that the harder they grasp on to control of their goals, the lesser grip they have on the process of getting to the goal. And some have found that if they get too logical and scientific with their martial arts, the less it makes sense and the less intuitive their reaction times are. When I say "stop thinking so hard", I'm often met with a blank look.

Again.....I'm not saying that logic, reason, and the thinking mind are bad. I'm not saying that at all (Did some of the judgmental minds think so??). As I said earlier...."Thought" is part of the content of awareness, and thought allows us to reflect...which in turn, allows us to grow intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. Overthink, and you override the process of turning thought to intuition. Many people make the choice to not listen to their intuition or "follow their heart" because they believe that thinking with intuition or emotions only leads to heartbreak. I disagree. Whatever negative things that happen when you follow your gut, has nothing to do with you following your gut! If something doesn't go your way, its usually because you still tried to impose your control over the event or person. That's not following awareness of intuition.

I've taught students who are very concerned about the "science" of martial arts"...the exactness of perfect parries, the perfect stance, etc. To a certain extent, as martial artists we must embrace the science, but allow awareness.of "now" to develop into "intuition". Let's face it....when the crap hit the fan during a physical confrontation, the assailant won't give a hoot about how good your grasp of martial "science" is. You have to pay attention to "right now" if you want to fight effectively.

 I know other's views might be different, I've even been accused of having "negative" views of the overly logical bunch. I'm not looking for judgement or being told I'm wrong or be honest, I don't much concern myself with what anyone else thinks . (And I don't mean that in a mean way....I'm just saying that comments that come from people who feel the need to argue or to prove their point, don't bother me). When the judgmental minds start balking, they really aren't listening. Its kind of hard to listen when you are holding on to listening yourself think,and grasping so tightly to maintain control of your reality.

I'd be interested in hearing your views on Aware-Mind vs. Thinking Mind. Remember judgments! :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Academic knowledge, experiential wisdom

*This is part 4 of a series about the internal (emotional, spiritual, mental, etc) aspects of learning martial arts. *

In an earlier blog post, "Is it knowledge, or just your opinion?", I spoke about surface knowledge and actual internalized knowledge. Now I'd like to post thought about "experiential wisdom"....something gained when you truly know and understand something. Experiential wisdom is gained in any subject, but in this case I'll be speaking about martial Arts.

If you're a martial arts teacher, you've met them before...the people who talk more about what they know instead of having skill that matches all that information. When you invite them on the floor, they politely decline, or they have an attitude that screams "inflated perception of one's own abilities."

Memorizing techniques and retaining academic information is great....but I'm a believer that people shouldn't say that they know something unless they've worked at it for a long while and has explored as many aspects of it.....otherwise, its merely thin opinion, not knowledge. True knowledge of a subject can't be gained by merely reading books or scouring the have to practice it, explore it, feel it.....and all the while keeping an open mind that allows for other variations of information to be considered for your learning. Most of all, you have to give that new found knowledge time to integrate with your experience. It is this time, as well as absorbing the knowledge and experience, that eventually turns into experiental wisdom. The thing to remember is to allow time and practice.

Too many times however, in martial arts, some choose to consider themselves experts at something when they have little experience. Give it time....give it energy and commitment. Accept that you don't know it all and stay motivated to gain actual experience.

Wisdom awaits....what will you discover in the meantime?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is it knowledge, or just your opinion?

Part 1 of a series on internal aspects of martial arts and self improvement....

Have you ever noticed, that the most opinionated people tend to rant, complain and find fault the fastest? While those who are truly knowledgeable make their points known, but not point fingers and look down their noses at others?

I call the behavior of complainers and know-it-alls, the "attempt to control Universal knowledge".

I get youngsters visiting my studio a lot, many times with previous Karate or Tae Kwon Do experience....usually around 3 to 6 months. When they take their intro lessons at my school, sometimes I'll be interrupted with "Karate does it like THIS..." Or "That's easy, I already know dragon stance...." (when in fact they have never done it before).

So why do young kids blurt things out like that? Adults in the martial arts know that if they interrupted the teacher, they'd get a bunch of pushups. But even if the kids knew this, it doesn't stop them. Why not?

Because there's that point in childhood where everything is about them and what they know...for many youngsters, their world is the world everybody else experiences. This mode of perception could be at 2 years old, could extend all through teenage years. I know some adults that still think their perceived world is the only true world. :)  kidding aside, if kids are exposed to only one thing, one activity, one facet, without seeing the variations, they believe that is exactly what everyone knows....a "universal knowledge". They're not trying to be rude, they just assume everything is Karate.

I had one new 4 year old tell me I needed to get karate belts. "we wear sashes to show our belt rank" I said.   "yeah, but...but. but you should get belts so everyone knows what belt you are." Heh heh!  The child didn't hear what I said....instead made sure I knew the right way to do things. :)

Ever notice too, that the word "you" is used a lot by those who feel the need to prove their point? More "you" refererences than "I" references....usually in pointing out others supposed faults..."You need to do this", "you need to do that."....many times this phrase is used by "academic masters" not true, "knowledge earned though toil-sweat-and-struggle" masters. Hint, teachers....try saying 'that skill needs....(insert points), and here are tips for you in practice"....this allows students to feel a GAIN, not a sense of incompetence when you say something like "you NEED to relax!" They know they 'need' to, but since they know they're not there yet (otherwise you wouldn't be saying "you need to...") , it can make them feel that they're missing something. Just goes to show that just because you know, doesn't mean you can do. Just because you can do, doesn't mean you can teach.

Problem is, sometimes people don't grow out of that mode of thinking. People assume everyone should think like they do, and they look down upon anyone that doesn't think as they do. They make general assumptions, even going so far as to label others with their opinionated "truths".  Personally, I'm getting tired of seeing constant flame wars about which martial arts is best, religion vs. Athiesm, people thinking they're smarter than others, labeling others as stupid or delusional, Tai Chi style arguments, the best way to make a pie, etc etc......In the end no one gives a hoot about how smart you *think* you are or how good you *think* you are....a Get a grip on Ego and the need to be right, people.

. Someone once tried to tell me who I was as a person, what I thought, and what my beliefs were......WRONG WRONG and WRONG. (yup and the words "you you and you" were used a lot)..... It was all based on opinion, not true knowledge about me as a person or an attempt to try and understand my core beliefs. I didn't believe exactly as they did, and therefore I'm black sheep....something they themselves despised being tagged as. Go figure. It is said that knowledge is power.....but be careful that your don't rely on it as your sole support. That would be like relying solely on your pocketknife for self defense, and not going to Martial arts class because hey, you have a knife right? Don't need anymore of that antiquated martial arts stuff. Get that knife taken away from you or get frozen by adrenaline dump....NOW WHAT? You should realize that the knife is a tool in your toolbox of self defense or combat one tool will match every job. So the next time you think about being a blowhard, ask "Is this true knowledge or just my opinion based on my biases?"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: "Beyond Human--Claiming the Power and Magic of your limitless self"

I wrote an editorial review of the book "Beyond Human--Claiming the Power and Magic of your limitless self" by Jaden Rose Phoenix, because I believe that the concepts and insights in this book would be great for martial artists. This book goes beyond run-of-the-mill "self help" books (and I've read a lot of books in the genre), allows the reader an opportunity to feel comfortable in moving the veil of human Ego aside, and take a deep look inside.

Want to move beyond fear, self doubt, and other roadblocks that prevent you from attaining goals? Then is MindBodySpirit book is a wonderful place to learn ways to "get out of your head" and into personal successes.

Don't worry, reading this book won't make people think you're weird or a spacy "woo-woo" New Ager. This fear is what prevents many from reading books like this..... however, Jaden takes the jargon, mystery and "guru mythos" out of it, and explains techniques to make positive shifts away from our control-freak-expectation oriented brain barriers. In my opinion, many of us (if not all of us) program our own thought patterns into belief systems, and hold so tightly onto these patterns that sometimes we work too hard to fulfill our self-made feels good to be "right", doesn't it? But sometimes we want to be "right" all the time and we'll fight tooth and nail to prove ourselves right. Jaden's techniques help guide people out of this self-programming and Ego feeding, and onto success. As Jaden points out... "fear is simply an illusion".

Many of our stumbling blocks to success are based on fear. We've all probably seen the saying: "Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real", right? Well, many people, when they hear this, become motivated to move beyond fear, however they will ignore the fear in a vain attempt at courage.....but this doesn't solve the issues as to WHY you fear situations, people, or things. Nor does it address HOW to move beyond it.  Jaden's book moves you through finding your way through fear, and to a "point of Power".

Its a quick read, entertaining, and the exercises Jaden presents are easy...with no experience in meditation or any other "consciousness practices" required. Give it a look!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Middle age: Crisis or celebration? For me, a celebration!

I'll be turning 45 this month. Yes, not often do women give away their age, but I'm okay with it. :)

What exactly is the "mid-life crisis" that people so often speak of? Is it where people ask themselves "Am I where I hoped I would be?", "Well damn it, I should be at *this* goal but I'm not, now what?". Is it a realization that we're not as nimble as when we were 20?

Whatever it is, I don't see middle age as a crisis. I see it as a celebration, for me at least. Each year is a celebration, because I wasn't even supposed to be here, actually.....

I was born prematurely, at 6 months. Being that technology for premature baby care in hospitals was still very new at the time, I had to be airlifted from the small hospital in the outskirts of Seattle where I was born, to University Hospital in greater Seattle, where their new wing for premature births had just opened, with all the latest medical technology of mid 1960's. The doctors whisked me away from my mother after I was born, trying to keep my tiny lungs from collapsing and to keep my heart beating. According to Mom, I started to come out breech, then the doctor tried to turn me around, then my foot kicked out (hmmm, sign to be a martial artist?), but they finally turned me around. I did not cry at birth, and my appearance made the doctors realize they'd better do something quick. My Mom says that I fit in the palm of the doctor's hand. Wow, hard for me to imagine!

After being airlifted to University Hospital, I was kept in intensive care for 3 months in an incubator, hooked up to breathing tubes and lines stuck into my arms. According to my Mom, several other preemies were in the same room in other incubators...another 6 month old, and a couple 7 month olds. They passed away a few days later. My parents started to freak out....they didn't even name me yet, because they weren't sure if I was going to make it either. My Mom remembers... "When I would see you with all those tubes sticking out, I would always feel faint!" A small hole in my heart was something that the doctors debated about operating on, being cautious as they didn't know if I'd survive the operation. But apparently, the hole closed up on its own and I started to breathe on my own.

After staying in the hospital till "full term", Mom and Dad finally got to take me home. There's a picture my Mom has of my homecoming, and I still ask my Mom to this day "Wow, that was me? I was soooo tiny!" I definitely wasn't the same size as most newborns when they come home.

What's funny, is that I was told by friends that I "change" as the days come nearer to each birthday. Sometimes this "change" might be "spaciness", sometimes incredible changes in temperament, sometimes even changes in "energy". I used to scoff at it, convinced it was all in their heads. But, oddly, as I think back, I remember many occasions *after* my birthday where out of the blue I'd "hear" odd noises like muffled voices, doors opening and closing..."feel" odd sensations like being picked up, hands on me, being cold (even in the middle of summer!), the feeling of being short of breath....and sometimes, I'll pick up the distictive odors of iodine, alcohol, and "new carpet" out of the blue (I still don't understand the new carpet smell!) ! Some have theorized that somehow I "remember" some parts of my months in the hospital, but I honestly don't remember anything specific! Would these changes in temperament and odd sensations be a result of my body "remembering" the trauma?

My Mom has always said "There's a reason why you lived through that, even though those other older babies-bless their souls-did not". To this day I still wonder what the reason is, but I'm guessing the path I've chosen to take has led to me several things: Sharing with others, following my passions, experiencing the many lessons of Love, Happiness, even Anger (and other less than savory emotions), and feeling joy for even the littlest of things. If this is what being "alive" is, and if this is the reason I'm here, then I hope for at least another 45 years.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mob mentality: Vancouver, what happened?

Last night, Downtown Vancouver BC erupted in violence and looting after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup final. Story here: (thanks to Brian King for the link)

I must say....I AM SO DISAPPOINTED. When we had riots here in Seattle in 1992 about the Rodney King verdicts ( , it was sort of understandable. I was still disappointed in our city back then, about the lack of emotional control that the citiziens of our city displayed. But, I have a few words for Vancouver:

 A GAME! JUST A GAME!Let me reiterate....I'm not disappointed at Vancouver as a city. I'm disappointed at the citizens that CHOSE to throw a temper tantrum just because their team didn't win. I'm disappointed in the women that crashed through stores and stole Coach bags and stole makeup and clothes. I disapointed in the people that didn't care that there were people that just wanted to get out of the riot area. We'd expect this type of behavior from 4 year olds that don't get what they want.....but grown adults. Come on.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I'm better than that and spout fortune cookie wisdom. I'm not going to sit here and type about how badly those riot mongers acted and try to give counsel and advice as to how the violence can be "controlled", nor will I spout off about "Its not about if you win or lose, its about how you play the game". You know why? Because we are HUMAN.

Anger is a secondary emotion. In the case of the Canucks loss, the fan's own disappointment (sadness?) played a big factor. Can you imagine?...after all the buildup of the Canucks making it to the finals, and playing on home turf....can you imagine wanting the victory so badly on your own turf that you could literally taste it? Then being soundly defeated on your turf? I'd be disappointed too! We're human and yes its natural to feel that disappointment.

But what separates rioters from those who can just move on, is how we process that disappointment. It is common for anger to rear its ugly head and cause us to want to inflict the same hurt and disappointment on someone else, or in this case, to destroy the streets of downtown Vancouver. The mob mentality is so easy to get sucked into. All it takes is just a few other people to do what you only think of doing....and if you see others doing it, then it tends to trick our brains into thinking that you now "have permission" to do the same ("if they can do it so can I"). There's a lot of news footage of people standing near burning cars and throwing you think they actually thought about the video proof that could land them in jail? Of course not....the only thing that mattered was letting loose of that anger about losing the Stanley Cup.

I'm sure that most of the people that were involved in the looting and violence, would never start such actions on their own. "Strength in numbers". But come on Vancouver brothers and sisters....looting is STEALING for gosh sakes. Vandalism is vandalism, doesn't matter that the Canucks lost and you think its okay that trashing the streets is justified.

This is why I practice martial allows me to remind myself to keep concentration on myself as well as everybody else. Having been a victim of my own anger and fury, I know how it can affect my critical thinking, problem solving skills, and awareness. I've said and done things out of anger that I've regretted ....and I know that I might give in to anger again. But I can only hope that I can recognized myself when I get to the fury point and "check myself before I wreck myself".

Is "mob mentality" necessarily a bad thing? Not really....depends on what type of mob mentality we're talking about. If a group of people are thinking positively and working toward a good goal, then people call it "Group Support". But if the group is feeding anger to each other, then we tend to call it "mob mentality". But in the end, the group thinking and the cohesiveness of the group is the same....they're both "mob mentality"....but its just a matter of what mentality we choose.

Positive Mob for me, please. :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Passing on a wonderful blog post from a good friend....

My friend, Jaden Rose Phoenix, of Alchemy Wisdom, posted this wonderful blog post on the subject of "Ego vs. Heart". I just wanted to share it with all of you. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Don't you know who I am??"

"None of our men are "experts." We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the "expert" state of mind a great number of things become impossible." ~Henry Ford, Sr.

We've all met self-proclaimed "experts" in martial arts or other activities at one time or another. Have you noticed that some of these "experts" might look down their noses at you because you're not quite at their lofty level? Sure, as "experts" they gain success in whatever they do, but many times some end up having their staff do the things that make things happen, while taking the credit of the accomplishments.

Now, I'm not against anyone requiring assistants to move forward in their fact, I think it is necessary to delegate tasks to those willing to assist. However, when we get to a point where we proclaim ourselves as "experts" or "masters", there comes a risk of forgetting all there is left to learn.

"Well, my students call me 'master'", you might say. "Should I ask that they NOT call me by the title?" That's fine. Their willingness to address you as "Master" is their expression of acknowledgment of your time and experience in (insert martial art or activity here). If you've been formally promoted to the title, you've earned it....much like a Doctorate degree (and the title "Doctor" is fitting in that case). However, if you proclaim yourself as a Master, and carry yourself as if you were royalty, saying "What, you don't know who I am??", then your Ego is going to trip you up someday.

What I find amusing, is when people introduce themselves as "Master so-and-so", regardless if it is at a martial arts function or not. What I find doubly amusing, is when people introduce themselves as "Master so-and-so" when meeting a well known and widely recognized Master. "Title-dropping", I call it. Many bona-fide experts do not call themselves "Master", nor do they consider themselves such. The individuals that always strive for learning and growing (regardless of time and experience in the field), are the ones that students are lucky to study under.

Keep the Egos in check. When others give you the honor of choosing to call you "Master", I believe one should acknowledge the honor and move on....knowing then that you've still got a long road ahead.
Train hard, be well! Gassho.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Are you a "Teacher", or a "Coach"?

Those of us that have taught martial arts for a long time, know that teaching or coaching people isn't as easy as we thought it would be when we were still a student. We also are aware that Teachers can be coaches, and vice versa. But is there a difference between being a "teacher" and being a "coach?". I'd like to sound off with my views, and I welcome my reader's views as well:

Teachers are mentors, of sorts. They commit a sincere personal interest in you progress, act as a role model, gives you advice and shares their past and present personal experiences throughout your progress. Students know you have an expectation of them, and they trust that you'll guide them.Good teachers know that they have a big responsibility to their student and know that it is a two-way street.....As the teacher teaches, they too learn as well. As the student learns, they too teach the teacher.

Let's compare teachers to...let's say... theatrical directors. Teachers set the stage for the students, teaches them the script and performance, handles rehearsals, and motivates the students into realizing that EVERY day is "opening day".

The term "coach" is sometimes used to even the scales between student and the more experienced coach. In martial arts, many students tend to see the "space" between themselves and the "Master" as a very vast area, whereas the space between a coach and student is a bit less. That's not to say that coaches are "less than" a teacher, because teachers can be very effective coaches as well (and they should be!). The coach tends to focus on your performance, and students may find themselves shouldering the responsibility of performance more, as the coach fine tunes, gives advice, and constructive criticism.

While the Teacher teaches the gamut of "who what when where how why", the coach makes the student responsible for applying those facets into performance.

In my opinion, these responsibilities are interchangeable, so a good teacher should be both the Mentor and Coach. What do my readers think? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Food Highlight: Guyabano (Soursop)

The Guyabano has long been used in the Philippines and other parts of the world as a food and medicine. With a prickly appearance on the outside, and a wonderful flavor on the inside, this "wonder fruit" is high in carbohydrates, with considerable amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Potassium and dietary fiber. Guyabano is known to be low in cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium.

Independent clinical studies have shown that guyabano extracts are effective in killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact, suggesting that it might have less adverse effects than regular chemotherapy (which kills healthy reproducing cells as well as cancer cells, which results in hair loss, fatigue, and nausea). However, for some reason, no double-blind clinical tests or trials have been executed as of yet.

Having been raised on natural remedies and the use of herbs and foods for health, I remember my father adding Guyabano to Ginataan* for a delicious dessert, or eating it fresh. With its spiky rind, its a prehistoric looking thing, which made it a fun fruit to eat. Filipinos use the leaves by boiling into a decoction that is used as a tea to help reduce fevers, leaves in a bath help with reducing fever or used in a hot foot soak to relieve foot swelling and pain. Crushed leaves can be applied as a type of compress for rheumatism or skin afflictions such a eczema.

The seeds, by the way, can be crushed and boiled to make a natural bedbugs and mites killer. Just spray onto linens and let dry, then wash the linens. Spray liberally onto mattresses, being sure to spray into the box spring as well. No odors or harmful residues like chemical insecticides.

Medicinal and home uses aside....give Soursop a try. Try it in a refreshing blended bubble tea, Ginataan* (yum!), or even in fried Guyababo (yes, I know fried *anything* can be bad for you, but a little treat every now and then wouldn't hurt, right?)

Fried Guyabano--easy to make!
--Peel Guyabano, slice into pieces and discard the seeds (or use for the bedbugs/mites spray)
-- Dip the pieces in beaten egg & water mixture then dip into flour (some people add cinnamon).
-- Fry in light oil on both sides till brown. Some people like to sprinkle a bit of cinnamon or brown sugar on top, or serve with a splash of honey.

I hope you like Guyabano/soursop!

*Ginataan: Typically a thick dessert "soup" made with thick coconut milk, taro, jackfruit, sweet potato and tapioca pearls. Other fruits are added to taste. Great served hot on cool days, or served cold with a splash of sweet evaporated milk on hot days. Ginataan is also a word sometimes referred to *anything* cooked in coconut milk.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Throwing out the myths of....Meditation

While meditation practice is commonplace in my Tai Chi classes, I've been slow in implementing it into my Wushu and Kung Fu classes. Not because I don't think it is beneficial (I believe meditation is HIGHLY beneficial), but because I didn't think it was something my hardcore Wushu and Kung Fu classes *wanted*.

I know, I know....."teach what you feel is important for the arts, not just what the students want" you might be saying. However, many things popped up into my head, such as "What if the students think I'm trying to 'convert' them to some modality of belief?", "What if they think its too 'woo woo' or 'new agey'?", "How would I convince the die-hard 'kick ass and take names' students that love an intense workout, that meditation is as good for their body as the physical workouts?"

Truth is, I thought too much about what I thought the students *didn't think they wanted* as opposed to *what I know will be beneficial to their training!

So, much as the exercises, sweat, and toil are important to your physical fitness, meditation is just as important to your mental fitness as well. So, lets debunk some common meditation myths that might be holding you back from this great activity:

Myth 1: I have to be flexible enough to sit in lotus position for long periods:
Although some methods of practice do use the lotus position, you don't have to worry about tying yourself in knots to meditate. Meditation can be done while standing ("zhan zhuang"), sitting in a chair, while moving (as in Tai Chi), or even laying down (however, sleep usually happens after a while!). You can even "meditate" while doing your forms!

Myth 2: Meditation is solely a religious thing:
Sorry to bust your balloon, but it is not. While members in systems such as Zen Buddhism utilize meditation as a part of their practice, meditation itself is NOT solely a religious practice. While some people use the phrase "contemplative meditation" in reference to "prayer", that's just how their particular belief system might label it. However, not all meditation is prayer, so everyone...including Athiests, can benefit from meditation.

Myth 3: Meditation is all about chanting Mantras and putting my fingers together in odd ways:
The use of Mantras and Mudras are just but a few methods that people use while meditating, but are not used as the standard rule for all. Remember, there are many ways to meditate.

Myth 4: Meditation will allow me to get into altered states or give me special powers:
If your only goal in meditation is to get into altered states (much like with the use of drugs) or to attain super powers, then you're missing the point of meditation. To fixate on a goal too much, will take away the benefits if you get stressed out about not meeting a goal. While your mind may give you the sensation of floating, you're not flying. While you might see colors or images, unless you've already taken a drug, you won't "trip out". Does meditation change your brainwaves, though? YES. Scientific studies have shown that the brain undergoes changes from Beta (wakeful) waves to Alpha (relaxed physical and mental state) , and with some practitioners, to Theta (a state of very deep relaxation).

Myth 5: Meditation's goal is true enlightenment and connection to the Universe:
This is where many people think meditation is too "woo woo" or "new agey". Again, if you fixate on the goal of enlightenment you're being too goal oriented and will most likely become frustrated when enlightenment doesn't come (besides, how do you recognize it? Do you wake up one day and just say "Wow, I'm enlightened! I know the Truth!!"). One of my teachers once told me, that people tend to see others as "enlightened"....the enlightened person just goes on about his/her business, never bragging they've reached enlightenment. Any knowledge they have, is simply knowledge, and is normal to the "enlightened" person, not some big, fame-producing thing. So, apparently, if you say you're enlightened, you're really not, its just your Ego talking. Recognizing that you've reached one of many "A-ha!" moments is one of the perks of meditation....enlightenment comes when it comes.

Myth 6: I have to train myself to think of absolutely nothing to meditate:
Your brain will naturally form thoughts.....some you don't acknowledge, and many you do acknowledge. These thoughts are a natural result of our biases, beliefs, upbringing, experiences, expectations, emotions, etc. Many people mistake non-committal meditation as "thinking of nothing". In fact, when we say "clear your mind", we mean "don't attach to your thoughts, fears, concerns, etc". Acknowledge a thought, don't hold onto it, and let it go. Ever watch a DVD and think "Oh! Rewind that! I want to see that again!"?? That's what we do in our minds, many times a day......we hold on to a particular "scene" and replay it, sometimes over and over. Meditation is the opposite....we just watch the whole DVD without rewinding and without getting stuck on any one particular scene.

So...What IS meditation, anyway? It is a form of awareness. Some methods use mantras to focus their minds, some use relaxing music, some sit in silence, some may practice while walking and paying attention to the ground beneath their feet and how their body feels during movement, some may focus on the sound and sensation of their breathing.....there are so many ways to bring a relaxed state of awareness to the body. If you feel sleepy after meditation, then you just weren't "aware". While meditation does help the body relax (which is conducive to sleep), if you are sleepy after meditation then you were merely just going to sleep, not meditating. :)

The benefits are wonderful....less stress,more relaxation, refreshed mental state, broader outlook on personal problems, etc ....although I must point out, these are benefits to the practice, NOT the goal of the practice.

However, for those of you that are dead set on having a "goal" in meditation.....the only goal I can think of, is *well deserved time for yourself* !

I'd love to hear from the readers....Please add your thoughts about other myths of meditation, how your meditate, etc! Looking forward to hearing from you.


Brainwaves and meditation: (Science Daily)

Meditation research, scientific findings: 

Scientific American:

International Journal of Psychophysiology: Study- "Effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on brain functioning and stress reactivity in college students" of TM on brain functioning and stress in students.pdf         Alternate link:

Header image courtesy of:
Stock Photos from 123RF
Image license purchased by Restita DeJesus

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sorry about tripping into you, I must've stumbled on my own Ego.....

I was watching a video on YouTube about Aikido, and reading some of the comments about the video. "Aikido is fake", "this is lame!",  "No wonder why the guys got beat up, why are they always holding on? Grab something else! so dumb!". Two people got into it over who knew more and arguing about semantics. 

However, nice video, by the way.........

In a way, we all think we're experts "after the fact".....after watching a video or demonstration and then thinking "Pfff...that sucked, I could do way better", "Geez, that person's form sucks!", or "I could beat that guy". Come mean to say you've never at least *thought* it?     Liar Liar pants on fire! 

I've seen people watch other martial artists sparring at a martial arts event, then find everything wrong with someone's techniques or choices. Usually I find this behavior from people in the audience (not other competitors), and sometimes I want to ask them "How long have YOU been training?".  But you have to remember, its relatively easy to be an armchair critique *after* the match....but wait till you're *in* the action, in real time....its a whole different story. They just don't realize that knowing what to do and applying it are two different things.

There's no use in trying to argue with the audience "martial arts master"....they've got it all figured out and will go out of their way to teach anyone that will listen about their superior knowledge. There they are, barking orders at the martial artists in the ring, telling what to do, what techniques to throw, and what weaknesses the opponent has. Some people will even be so bold as to go to the martial arts official and dispute what they thought was a "bad call.

For these people, I often want to tell them to "shut up and sit down", but in their minds, they know what they're talking about and will refuse to see they're being jerks.

Our minds do funny things when we're right in the thick of the takes training to be able to think on your feet under pressure of a tournament, freestyle demonstration or self defense encounters. What we thought we were so better at, all of a sudden goes out the window when a little stress shows up, and we're forced to eat a little humble pie or put our foot in our mouth.

So for order for me to prevent my putting my foot in my mouth, I try to keep my mouth shut and remember that in the end, it doesn't really matter that I think I'm better, smarter, faster, more logical or have more of a grasp on the science behind martial arts.  What matters is that I improve yourself for the sake of improving, and not necessarily to make other people look like "they suck".  I've stumbled over my own Ego and arrogance more than once, and still do sometimes....its just that now I try to not be so biased and try to see the good in everybody's ways of practice.

Besides, the truly confident people won't give a hoot about what I think anyway.  :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who ya gonna call....STRESS BUSTERS!

Even the best of us can have stressful days. That project at work, schoolwork, obligations, too many places to take the kids and not enough hours in a day, being pressured by your supervisor, stressing out about finals.....there's a lot of stuff that can tax our patience.

Stress is just our body's way of dealing with changes around us or demands on our body or our time. Some stress is good (Eustress), which is associated with good emotions. For example, getting a new're excited, probably trying hard to keep up with the new information, wondering how you can into the lunch crowd with the employees, trying not to get lost in the new building, etc. Performing in front of an audience for the first time can also be "stressful", but in a good way. Even though we might be nervous at first, it allows us to keep motivated to do a good job in front of the audience and feels great when the job gets done. Eustress is commonly a short term thing when it comes to situations and activities, and the "stress" fades with time and practice in the activity.

However, when the stress is negative (Distress), it can affect our bodies in less than favorable ways. Chronic stress can manifest as anxiety, depression, bursts of anger, decreases our ability to cope, and may lead to physical or mental problems problems (depression, pain, problems with sleep, lack of libido, mental breakdowns, etc). Negative stress may be caused by such things as divorce, death of a loved one, loss of job, money problems, etc. Stress may be exascerbated by oneself by negative talk to oneself, an "all or nothing (perfectionist)" attitude, and decreased self esteem.  If not nipped in the bud, negative stress can turn into a chronic problem and make life difficult. When it gets to the point where making even simple everyday decisions is difficult, then its a sign that the stress has gotten out of hand.

How can we combat the effects of the daily pressures? Just a few suggestions:
  1. Obviously, I'll say... Tai Chi.  :) Tai Chi requires that we become aware of each slow movement. As we focus our attention and energy to the movement and let go of the urge to "get it done already!", we give ourselves the enjoyment of  no deadlines, no perfectionist expectations, no judgment from others, and great exercise.
  2. Meditate: Even 5 minutes of quiet time, where that 5 minutes is all about just "being' instead of "Oh my gosh why am I wasting time when I could be (working, driving, planning, exam cramming, etc)!!" Try not to get into the hype about the "right" method to use to alleviate stress. All methods are beneficial! Try to get some instruction from a qualified teacher on meditation techniques.
  3. Breathe: When we're stressed, we tend to breathe in  a shallow manner. Take about 10 seconds to take deep slow breaths. Come on, that 10 seconds is NOT going to completely ruin your important schedule!
  4. Take breaks: It IS allowed, don't worry. :)  Go outside and walk for a few minutes to clear your head for the next mode of action. Sometimes, just getting out of the immediate area of the area of stress will make a difference.
  5. Take the time to have fun: Do an en activity you some gardening, have a girls-night-out or boys-night-out, go to a comedy club, go dancing, etc. If you're saying "I don't have time to have fun", then you're in a stressful *lifestyle* where you are choosing to keep in the stressful cycle.
  6. Exercise: Any type of exercise. Not only will it benefit your body, it will work off some of that stress.
  7. Know that activities such as these are part of your "YOU" time: It is important to spend some time on YOU, regardless of the deadlines and pressures. I'm not suggesting that you ignore the deadlines, what I'm suggesting is that you block away a little time each day for YOU....not  behind the computer, not worrying about bills or deadlines, not running around like a chicken with your head cut off.  Just 5 to 10 minutes every day (I actually believe in 10 minutes every 3 hours) will make your day so much more bearabel!
There are many more ways to beat stress....I'm interested in hearing your input about what works as a stress-buster. Please post your thoughts here!

Like what you're reading?
Subscribe to this blog and spread the word!

    Great article on how to beat the winter blues....

    Just wanted to share this interesting article forwarded to me from Roxanne McCann of, about 50 natural antidepressants that can help curb the winter blues....

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    4 letter words that are not allowed in my martial arts school.....

    Of course, we wouldn't allow curse words in our martial arts schools, would we? But what about the other 4 letter words that our students sometimes put in their heads, or that we as instructors sometimes use during a class? Words that, if used with a negative mindset, can stall one's progress. Words like...

    Can't: Limiting oneself by resigning to "I can't do it"

    Won't: "Well I can't, so I won't try..."

    Fail: "What if I fail?"

    Fear: "Wow, that's scary, I don't think I do that."

    Self Talk (Okay so its two words. But they're both in 4 letter format!): "Why can't I do this technique yet? Everyone else can, why not me?"

    Need: "Sensei says I *need* to stop looking so floppy with my kicks". (for some people, this can put a sense of value on the word "need", and makes the student feel like they're not accomplishing the "mandatory" skill). While we do expect certain standards, the way students practice those standards can be affected by one's mindset.


    How can we as instructors combat the 4 letter words that are almost just as bad as cussing? By adding in "power words" in our dialogue when correcting the students. Words like...

    And: "That's a great outward block, Timmy. I like how you're trying your best with it! And, now let's stop the block in front of your shoulder, and it will lock in and feel great!". The word "But" separates a sentence into two ideas for a student, such as "That's a great outward block, Timmy, but you need to stop the block in front of your shoulder". This phrase says "My block is okay, but its still wrong."

    Know: "Wow, I know you're coming right along with your kata! You've practiced well to know your kata, will you show it to me?" (notice how the word is used by the instructor to acknowledge the student, and the word is used in the student's experience.). Use this word when you've seen a student work hard at something.

    Gain: "Mary! I noticed that you gained some speed in your hand-drills!" (doesn't matter that Mary's forearm block isn't quite perfected yet, but she got faster with a drill that she struggled with the previous class....acknowledge this!)

    Glad: "I'm glad to see you came a little early to get extra practice before class!"

    Excited: "I'm excited about tonight's class, folks! We've got some great drills that will enhance your kata and strength tonight!" (set the tone of the class....if students are excited, then corrections are very much welcomed)


    Teachers, I'm curious as to what 4 letter words your school's students might be harboring in their heads that might be holding them back, or what 4 letter words you use while teaching.  Also, what "power" words do you like to employ in your teaching? This discussion is open to any teacher, not just martial arts.

    The inner speech, your thoughts, can cause you to be rich or poor,
    loved or unloved,happy or unhappy, attractive or unattractive, powerful or weak. 
    - Ralph Charrell

    In Good Training....

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Primer for Martial Arts student *parents*

    We've all heard of "Soccer moms" or "Little League Dads".....but how about "Martial arts Parents"?

    My previous blog posts addressed tips for the "martial arts newbie" and "New martial arts instructors", then I realized.....what tips would I give to parents of kids that are in martial arts? Well, here you go.....what to look for in a martial arts school for your child, tips, etc. Also, I've included honest points of view from a teacher's perspective.

    • Take some time to choose a good school for your child:  Whether the class is held in a community center or a commercial space, take the time to do a little research on the schools in your area. Don't just enroll your child in a class only because "its close to you". While convenience is nice, the closest martial arts school may not be the school your child is attracted to. Remember, these classes are for the *child*....the child should have some say in what style or method they'd like to try out. Call around and ask if you can observe a class, and ask if the school has an "introductory program", a "trial lesson",  or something similar where the child can try out the class with no obligation to join.
    • There are many benefits to martial arts....teamwork, self discipline, critical thinking, fitness, cultural knowledge....the list is almost endless. While many sports are just as fun, there's something about martial arts that only a martial arts practitioner can describe as being "different" than other sports. For me personally, I've formed lifelong bonds with people that have trained alongside me,...that have been through grueling workouts, frustrations, pulled muscles, and self doubts right alongside me....they "understand" me and other martial artists. Granted, these things are possible in other sports....I just can't put into words how  the benefits of martial arts has shaped my life....not just my skill set, but my life.
    • Know that not all schools are the same: While many of the techniques in martial arts are "universal", the teaching methods and the styles themselves are not all similar. Kids gravitate to certain styles based on their personalities and interests....take this into consideration when looking for a school. Again, try not to get your child to join a school just because it is close to your home.....the class should be a match to you *child*, not necessarily to your proximity to your home.
    • Ask if there are different tuition rates based on the number of classes your child attends per week, or if there are cross training discounts if your child studies at different subjects at the school. Some schools will offer different rates based on if your child attends once a week, twice a week, or three times a week, while others may charge a flat fee regardless of how many times the child attends. Some schools offer more than one subject...for example, a school might offer Karate on certain days and grappling on other days. Most schools will offer a discounted tuition price for the second subject if your child chooses to take on a second subject.
    • How are the instructors at teaching those with special needs? If your child has special needs, ask if the school has taught students with similar needs or if they can modify movements to fit your child's needs. Obviously, a kicking movement in a Karate or Kung fu routine may not be possible for a child in a wheelchair, so if the staff can attend to modifying routines and self defense maneuvers to highlight your child's strengths instead of focusing on what the child "can't" do, then that would be a great school for your child.
    • If your child does participate in an introductory session, do realize that the teacher or staff will speak to you about the possibility of your child enrolling as a regular student. I'll be honest, and say that we as martial arts instructors, if we have a commercial space, we run a business as well, and hope to gain clients as much as any other business. However, good schools will not pull a "hard sell" on you.....after all, we're talking about the best interests of your child in these classes, and we're not selling a used car. Have questions or concern ready for the instructor or staff, and don't feel self conscious about asking the questions you might have. The instructor or staff will gladly address your questions or concerns.
    • Month to month, contracts, sliding scale, etc: Some schools will charge their tuition fees on a month to month basis, where you can quit at any time. Some schools will use contracts that may range anywhere from 3 months to a year. Keep in mind that with contracts, you are responsible for paying the balance of the contract, even when your child does not attend. Again, I'll be honest....tuition for a martial arts school is sort of like college pay tuition, but its up to the student to attend classes. In college, if a student skips out on class or doesn't attend class for a week, the college is not liable to refund a day's worth or week's worth of tuition. If money is indeed an issue, ask if the school has sliding scale fees.....many schools do have sliding fees for low-income families. (At my school, we offer pro-rated tuition *only if* a student misses more than 2 classes a month if attending once a week, or will miss more than 4 classes in a month if attending 2 or 3 times per week. We give no refunds for missing class one or two nights due to a cold, school concert, football game, etc.)
    • Pay tuition on time: Its the parent's responsibility to know when tuition is due, not the child's responsibility. Many schools have a late fee for tuition paid after the due date, please respect that. Please don't back date a check when you put remit it late.....schools will generally post a tuition payment based on the date received, not when the check is dated. Usually, schools will give a few days leeway, but if you remit tuition 2 weeks late and back date the check, what example does that set for the child? The staff at martial arts schools will gladly take into consideration any financial difficulties you may have, so if you have an emergency expense or bill and can't pay tuition on time, let the staff know. I'm sure the staff will work something out with you (payment plan, etc), and sometimes even waiving the late fee.
    • Get to know your child's martial arts style and support your child's endeavors: You don't necessarily have to take classes, but at least know the basic information about your child's class. If your child is in a Judo class, please don't use the general term "Karate" for it. If your child's school has periodic "recitals", try to attend them. Watch a class periodically to show your child you support their progress. (of course, ask your child if you can watch. Some children prefer to have their class time as "their" time without parents watching. Respect that if that's what your child wishes). Or, on the ride home, ask something like "You said last week that Sensei might show you more moves of Pinan 4....did you learn new moves today? Can't wait to see the new moves if you want to show me and Dad....". Things like that, show your child you support them in what they do.
    • If your child chooses to quit martial arts classes due to loss of interest or chooses another activity, ask about what made them come to their decision and respect that decision. However, you should accompany your child to tell the teacher that he/she will not be attending classes anymore. This, while it may be sort of a nervous experience for the child, it will teach the child important lessons they can use in their adult life.....such as explaining why they're leaving/quitting a job, to take responsibility for his/her actions, to not just "skip out" and hope no one notices, etc. Support your child. Sometimes, children will lose interest because they feel they're not progressing as fast as they should, or maybe they're feeling awkward that they're not "getting" the moves as quickly as others, or that the class does the same stuff over and over. Discuss this with the instructor....many times, its not "loss of interest"...but instead something the child feels is "missing" from the class. If the instructor is able to take your child's goals into consideration, you might find your child's interest might pick up again. However, if the child chooses not to continue, support that decision and move on to the nest interest. 
    • Consider having your child "earn their keep" as "partial payment" toward their classes.  If your child already receives an allowance from you, you may decide to consider adding on extra chores or special around-the-house jobs once a month for the child to "earn" money to pay for the class. Until your child is old enough to get a part time job, it is you that pays for those classes. Not only does a child feel great about "earning" money for their own class, it teaches a sense of responsibility that they will carry on to adulthood.
    • Okay...the bane of martial arts teachers....Please don't coach from the sidelines: If you are watching a class, coaching from the sidelines. "Bobby! Your LEFT foot!", "Katie, your OTHER hand, no not that one, Sensei said the RIGHT hand!". The teacher and assistants have that covered, thank you. We as teachers understand that you want your child to do well, but if you're shouting at your 4 year old during class, you'll only confuse them. The child will wonder who the "real teacher" is, and it will distract them from fully putting attention on the teacher. I'll be honest and say what teachers sometimes want to say: "Your child's lack of knowing the difference of right and left, is NOT a reflection of you as a parent....its just their learning curve. Let them learn, and allow the teachers to teach." If you have previous martial arts experience, the rule of "no sideline coaching" applies as well.....let the school's staff teach that class, because your Karate experience might not apply to the school's Kung Fu lesson that particular day.
    • Don't be afraid to ask about your child's progress. Periodically ask the teacher how your child is doing. The teacher might suggest that the child take 5 or 10 minutes each day to practice a particular move, or might suggest a few private lessons to get him/her caught up on things needed for an upcoming rank exam. However, try not to dictate to the teacher how to teach your child. Please leave that up to the professional.
    • Address the teachers and assistants by their given titles.  When speaking about class with your child, try to use the titles that the teachers have....Sensei, Sifu, Mr. Smith, etc. This shows your child that you care about what the child is learning. I see parents in the grocery store frequently, and the smiles the kids give their parents when the parent says "Hey Joseph, look who I ran into! Sifu DeJesus!". Besides, it teaches the kids to respect earned titles such as "Doctor", etc. Some kids can actually become confused if a parent addresses the teacher by nickname or first name, and they wonder "Can I call Sensei that when I'm a grownup?"
    Now , I'd like to talk about a subject that might not comfortable to talk about.....If you are sensitive to such matters, I suggest you stop reading, BUT I strongly suggest you read what I have to say.....
    • A subject that is not frequently addressed in martial arts books: What to do if you child mentions something about "inappropriate touching".  I know, its a hard subject to talk about. But I must address it  because it is a subject that most often is NOT talked about. 
      • First I'll talk to the teachers and staff: Remember, as a teacher, assistant, or staff member, you are an adult that has been put in a position of trust. You must not do or say anything that would compromise that position of trust! Plain and simple! If you can't handle that, then don't be a teacher!
      • For Parents: If your child mentions (heaven forbid) something about being touched inappropriately or verbally harassed by school staff or another student, please don't brush it off. Address the issue with the head teacher or school owner, and don't be afraid of looking like the "complaining parent".
        • Keep in mind, however, that some martial arts, such as Judo, JuJitsu, Aikido, etc, will have contact in close proximities between students and sometimes even between teacher and student. Those arts mentioned have techniques that only work in close proximity, such as throws, sweeps, pins, and "tap-out" submission maneuvers. However, martial arts schools teach these techniques appropriately, safely, and in a professional manner. Keep in mind that if your daughter is in a Judo school, that others will be in contact with her while learning to do a throw, sweep or tap-out technique. Your child, who is familiar with the art, *will* know what is appropriate and what is not, what speech is appropriate and what is not, and what situations are comfortable and what are not.
        • Address the complaint with the teacher or school owner  in a factual manner. Don't point fingers, but don't take excuses either......allow yourself to hear rebuttals (if any), then allow your intuition to tell you how to proceed, and face the issue with professionalism. If you feel you should take your child out of the class, then do so. If you feel that you should contact authorities to help you with this matter, then do so.
        • No adult in a position of authority or trust ever has the right to abuse that position of authority or trust. Let your child know that and let your child know that you are there for them should they have *any* concern. Of course, you don't want to scare your children from martial arts, sports or any other extracurricular activies, but that "talk" should be something that should be done anyway, as part of their growth process.
    Whew, that was even uncomfortable for ME to talk about....but I have to put it out there.

    I'd like to hear from other martial arts instructors, as to what tips you'd like to give to new, I mean, "Martial arts" Parents. And from parents, what questions do you have? Your comments are welcomed!

    I highly recommend this book: "Parent's guide to martial arts" :