Getting out of a Slump. Sensei Mae’s Five Steps to Happiness

Hi! How’s your week going?

Sensei Mae here. I want to talk about getting out of a slump.

Even though I love karate, sometimes life just takes me away from the dojo.  And when that happens I fall into a slump.

Come on Sensei Mae. Lets get up and kick

Sensei Mae in a slump!

So now I’m getting out. And here’s how you can too.

1) Do something.  My teacher always says “to do something is better than to do nothing”

So get up and do something. Even if it’s just a few kicks, one kata or a few punches, something is always better than nothing.  So right now as you’re reading this get up and do something. I’ll wait. The more you move the better you will feel.

Lets keep kicking

Sensei Mae loves to kick. Just get up and do one thing!

2) I just did some punches and kicks and I feel better. Don’t you?

Remember why you got into karate in the first place. I got into it for self-defense, so that’s what I’m practicing next.

3) Call your karate buddy. Who do you look forward to seeing at karate? Give them a call. Even if you haven’t trained in years just reach out. Just talking about karate is great.  Talking about the fun you had together can rekindle the love you have for this great art.

4) Everyone gets slump. But not everyone overcomes it. The difference between a white belt and a black belt is that a black belt never gave up.  The Black belt comes to class, respects the teaching and diligently practices.  At my dojo, some black belts take breaks and that’s ok.  They come back refreshed and ready for more.  They are some of the most technically accurate and caring black belts.

5) Set new goals, and have a plan to achieve them. Goals are no good without follow up.   My goal is to test for 2nd degree. So I called my karate buddy and I have a plan of attack.


Not time for class to end yet!

What do you mean the dojo is closing? I have more kicking left!

So get out there, practice the art you love.    And then tell me what you did on twitter or Facebook!


Tips for the First Year Student

For a new student at the dojo, the first year can be a busy and exciting time and a fantastic opportunity for personal growth. Here are some suggestions for new students.

Stay calm. New students often put pressure on themselves to perform new skills as some of the more experienced belts are performing them. Don’t panic. Karate veterans understand there is a steep learning curve for new karate students. A more experienced student will lead the way along with the Sensei. They will explain some of the moves that you may have difficulty on and will answer your questions. I know that as I began in karate there was always someone one to two belts above me who could show me just a little something prior to or after class that calmed me down and allowed me to acknowledge to myself that I could learn the kata or self-defense move. Often they wanted the extra practice that came with sharing the technique with me so it was a win-win. Of course new students should know that some skills are beyond their current belt level and concentrate on the material at hand for their belt and time in the program.

Paul good front stance

Show up on time with a smile to class. Attitude and punctuality are two things that every new student can control. Students who are present and pleasant to work with will find that they learn skills faster as others are always willing to share with them. They may even learn some other technique that others at their same belt level are not learning as they were present for the class or were willing to work with an upper belt on an issue they were having with a technique that the student would not normally learn at their belt level.

Be Conscientious. The routine work performed by the new student, such as basic kicks and punches may seem mundane. It is often the foundation of all skills being used in fighting and kata. Like in match if you learn well how to add you can move onto multiplication. In karate if you learn a basic kick and the four parts that will help in all future kicks you will learn during your karate career.

Know your limits. One of the hardest things for new students is to lean when to ask for help. Karate is highly technical and physically demanding. It is unlikely that a new student will have the skills and stamina to get value out of multiple classes in one day. Ultimately, knowing your limits can save you time and energy as you progress in the ranks as well as reducing frustration and misunderstandings.

Keep notes and ask questions. Sensei Mae wrote a great post on this and taking notes and being ready to ask questions on the prior class will help the student as they progress. It is best for new students to obtain a clear understanding of a technique or kata as they work on that technique or kata. Writing it down after class will quickly reveal gaps in your understanding and you have the added benefit of repeating it back to a fellow student or the Sensei to say here is what I wrote is that correct?

Enjoy the experience. You are only a first year student once. Experiences and growth during this first year should be embraced. There is no other time in your karate career when so much knowledge is obtained in such a short period. Think about what you knew of karate prior to walking in the door and what you know today. In addition to the new experiences and learning curve, new students are exposed to a vast array of unique individuals with wonderful backgrounds. Embrace the relationships you develop and the things you are leaning along the way.

See you in class soon.

Is this your Best?

My dad always said to me, “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing correctly.” So, you must know that I did not always complete my work well, as I was reminded often of this saying. In the same way, Steve Jobs asked his employees, “Is this your best?” and as a result got better work and ideas from his workers. To keep pushing myself, I am hearing my dad and Steve Jobs asking that question of me. “Hey Sensei Glen, was that your best class or your best kata?”


Is this your best?

Are you now asking that question of yourself?  In order to improve and give our best, we first need to know where we are. To be the “best” at anything, we need to know the standard we are comparing. Competitors in the Olympics know that they are the best when they win the gold medal. This is true for us even when gold medals are not given out during a regular class. When we give our best for ourselves, we can answer that question, “Yes, that was my best today.”

Glen Sarah and John National Champs!

Yes, that was my best today. National AAU Champions 2013.

We all come to karate as white belts. I freely admit that I almost always compare myself to others. It is something I do to see how I fit in with the other students. As white belts, we soon find out where we are in the ranks of other belts. I am still amazed at what other people in class have learned to do. They know all the moves in the kata I am struggling to learn.  The benefit for my competitive self is that it made the seemingly impossible task appear possible. In karate it is very rewarding to get our first colored belt. At that point we know where we are in our learning journey. We have white belt as a baseline and we sometimes say, “Well, that is a white belt kick, so I should know that kick.”

So, when we are asked, “Is this your best?” we need to remember our best in context. Our best kata may be our only kata. As a white belt, my best kata was my only kata. I was proud of my ability to perform it and did it well for a white belt. In context, the answer to the question can only be given if we know how you have been trained and then practiced that training.  Our senseis have spent hours teaching us and going over material they have long ago learned.

For some of us, we leave the dojo and move right into other areas and have lost our edge in learning the move we were just taught. We have not learned, practiced and re-learned the kata. We often skip the practice part as we are too busy. We learn and re-learn the kata.

In order to demonstrate that this is our best, we need to have time to practice and polish the rough spots in our kata. When we look at a map and see the “you are here” spot, we know where we are.  In that way we know which way to move to get to our destination. When we practice, I can imagine a “your kata is here” mark, and it is only when we continue to practice that we get to our best. Can we become our best without practice?

I agree that we can become better just by regularly showing up at the dojo and going through the floor drills and exercises. I have seen students and have at times been the student who just showed up. As you already know, with that approach we do get better due to the repetition. And we never really become our best with this approach.

Is there a better way? My thought is yes. The answer to the question, “Is this your best?” may be yes at all levels as the best for a beginner is unsatisfactory for the intermediate level. The better question for us to ask of ourselves is, “Are you satisfied with this being your best?” I believe this is why my dad always said to me, “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing correctly.” We should still show up and be present even if we have not had time to work on all of our moves. Of course we are looking to set aside time during the week to practice outside of class. How about you? Do you ever ask yourself “?”

Looking forward to seeing you in class soon and hearing you say, “This is my best.”


Bully Talk

In white belt class we were teaching the kids the introductory self-defense techniques. These techniques all end with Sensei’s trademark phrase “Stop! Leave me alone!” As we were teaching the kids these techniques, one of the boys told us that he had a bully in his second grade class. It just came out as we were encouraging them to speak up when they finish the technique. We were quick to pick up on what our white belt was saying and everyone got a water break.


Of course after class the other sensei present spoke to the kids involved and their parents as I worked on getting the next class warmed up.  We help change lives at the dojo, and this is just one way it is accomplished. The sensei who spoke to the parents initially got into karate to deal with personal abuse issues. Her husband got into karate as he was bullied in school.  Of course, stopping a bully is not the only reason people join karate. I have been fascinated by the martial arts since I saw the television show Kung Fu.

The parents, on hearing for the first time about a bully in their child’s second grade school room, were shocked. The kid confessed that this is the second year that the bullying activity had taken place. The local school district indicates that bullying is “Repeated, conscious, willful and deliberate intent, direct or indirect, to physically or psychologically intimidate or distress someone else; physical, social, or verbal actions or intimidation toward another person with negative intent.”

After an initial group kicking drill with the entire next class, the other sensei brought us all together to share the story of the white belts and to encourage anyone else who is potentially being bullied to speak up. As with many things in life, this was not our original lesson plan.

I will long remember the surprise we all felt at learning about the bullying situation. We were all proud of how the dojo used a simple lesson to assist the community. The self-defense techniques are a good start for all of us. Avoiding a fight by walking on the other side of the street or avoiding the shady areas of town are all good starts. In schools we cannot avoid other students. And,  as we grow-up we also find that we cannot always avoid bullies.

Thank you, sensei, for teaching us confidence and improving our ability to speak and stand up for ourselves in our life situations. How about you? Do you walk taller or speak up more knowing some elements of self-defense? I believe I have more confidence as a result of learning the self-defense taught in class.

If you know of someone being bullied, please speak up and tell someone. You do not need to wait until you are in a dojo learning to defend yourself prior to stopping a bully. See you in class soon.