Your 5 Keys to a Good Class

We all have specific interests that led us to sign up for karate lessons. It may have been a cool movie or television show we saw where martial arts were on display.  We know that we have had a good class when we discuss any aspect of it the next day. I know for our family, good classes were discussed at dinner for a week. We walked away from class with new knowledge or an appreciation of a technique from a particular class. That always gets me to thinking, what are the elements of a really good class?

Class Fun

Sensei Glen about to teach a fun striking drill.

My karate journey began when my son asked me to join class. My thought was that when a teenager asks you to join, you join, and my advice is to take them up on the task. Step out of the comfort zone.

  • I grew up watching David Carradine in the TV show Kung Fu. I wanted to practice karate as a kid. Maybe for you it was the karate kid.
  • As a dad, I thought the days of training were long over and I still joined and am so happy that I took the chance on myself.
    • As I get older I have come to realize that no one else thinks about what you do or how you dress. Do not worry about that—I may blog more on that in the future.
    • Do what you think is right.
  • On our journey to black belt we had many favorite classes.
    • Most of these were classes that we were ready for and did not realize we were ready for the learning.
    • We were often pushed out of our comfort zone by a new kata or technique. Looking back, the most difficult kata is always the next one you learn.

Your top 5 keys to a good class:

  1. Take notes–a good class is one you have to record in your notebook.
  2. Be open to learning a new skill or technique. We do not always know when our studies are at the point to learn the next technique. We have to be ready to step out of what we know to grasp new concepts and ideas.
  3. Be prepared to have fun, not joking, just be ready to enjoy the moment and having a smile on your face.
  4. Put your full effort into the class. Why hold back? Class is the time find out how hard you can kick or punch. Who cares about anyone else? Leave your thoughts of the outside world at the door when you bow and enter the dojo.
  5. Pay attention. Watch the sensei and the other students. Model the teacher’s behavior and be respectful.
  6. A bonus point—make coming to class a continuous practice. Not practicing or sharpening the skills will allow the skills you worked hard to perfect to decay and die. A lifetime habit allows you to maintain the results you worked so hard to achieve.

Our challenge this week is to have fun in class. No matter the topic taught, embrace the teaching and have fun with it. Go all in with your attitude and your participation. Last week I told the class they were not yet having enough fun with their kata. They not only stepped up the fun, they performed better on the kata.

This is the last week for our survey. Please help us improve. We would like to get your feedback on how we are meeting your needs. Please take 3 minutes and complete the Let’s Talk Karate user survey by following this link:

Thank you in advance for your valuable input.

See you in class soon.



George Washington Can Improve Your Karate Today

Happy Independence Day! George Washington, founder of our country and general of the American Revolutionary war, is the leading martial figure from our American history.  Many of the stories we know about Washington and the Revolutionary War are ones with the army fighting against a superiorly trained force with bravery. George Washington employed one of the rules taught in our dojo on day number 1 of self-defense class: the best fight is the one avoided. Many times in the early part of the war, a battle was avoided as the British had superior numbers and the Americans came at a time advantageous for their victory.

GW- Metroplitan Museum of Art

George Washington from the metropolitan Museum of Art.

Like some of you, I have relatives that served in the revolutionary war. They were not trained warriors. They were farmers and people that worked with their neighbors for a living. I can only imagine that George Washington looked on his new soldiers, or white belts as we would call them, and wondered what it would take to train that group.

When we visited Valley Forge, our family was fascinated to learn about the great history of the revolutionary army at that time and location. As you remember the story, it was a time when almost all hope was lost. Yes, we all remember some stories about the winter and lack of food. Seeing firsthand the huts that housed the soldiers was moving. We have a hard time imagining how so many soldiers were together in one bunk house trying to stay warm and fit for duty.

Like all great senseis, General Washington was always learning and open to new ideas and methods. That winter the army needed to fix its problems with training and discipline.  In February 1778, the Baron von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge as a new volunteer from Prussia. Von Steuben formed the first American version of the drill, teaching the fundamentals of warfare to the Americans at a time when it was most needed.

At Valley Forge, the soldiers learned the fundamentals of the way to be an army and had the confidence that came from mastering a fundamental technique.  Von Steuben was in part responsible for the success of the army after Valley Forge as a result of the fundamentals he taught.  Think about how you learned your first punch. We teach, as it does in our book recommendation, how to form first a fist and then throw a punch.

Our challenge for you, as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, is: Are you practicing, or drilling, the fundamentals so you can call on them when needed?

Please help us improve. We would like to get your feedback on how we are meeting your needs. Please take 3 minutes and complete the Let’s Talk Karate user survey by following this link:

Thank you in advance for your valuable input.

See you in class soon.



Is Sleeping the Key to Great Karate?

Prior to my most recent karate test, I made sure I had a good night’s sleep. As I am sure you know, common advice prior to taking a test is to get plenty of rest the night before the big event. That general wisdom got me thinking about sleep and the impact on athletic performance. Several studies have shown the benefits of a good night’s sleep related to improved athletic performance.  A sleep study was run on the NCAA men’s basketball team from Stanford University and showed improved athletic results for the entire team. Here is a link to the ESPN article:

Image result for pictures of sleep study patients

Sample sleep study room

I have a habit about when I go to bed each evening. You may be thinking, only when I was a child did I have a bed time. My experience is different in that I am better prepared for the day when I hit my regular bed time. I am more focused and alert with a regular schedule. I generally get up a few minutes prior to the alarm clock. We are an interesting society that uses an alarm clock to set a wake-up process versus allowing the sunlight in our rooms to wake us up. Of course we could always reverse the process and set an alarm to go off at night to get us to our bedroom and get ready for bed.

Prior to the black belt test, I took a few minutes after warming up and stretching to shut my eyes and concentrate on the moves for kicking and striking as well as the katas I would perform. That focus really assisted. I also had a good night’s sleep and slept in prior to driving to the test site. This practice of a good night’s sleep did improve my karate result as I kicked higher and was more relaxed during the test than I had been during the pre-test the week prior.

Karate is like any other sport. We work on coaching the fundamental techniques and practicing them. As our team prepares for the AAU national tournament in another week, should Sensei Mae, one of the instructors, focus in on sleeping as one of the key target areas for improvement in the skills? I believe the answer is yes. We should always practice like we plan to perform.

It is easy to get excited prior to a big event.

  • A consistent sleep pattern designed to maximize performance will relieve some of the pressure for performing on the big stage.
  • Maintaining that sleep pattern is no different the night prior to the tournament. Perfect practice makes perfect.
  • I believe that the regular pattern of sleep has led to improved results for me when taking the karate tests, as the sleep the night before is just an extension of my normal pattern.

If we get up in the morning refreshed, we can exercise harder and with less effort and that will lead to us meeting our goals. Also, a proper sleep pattern may even lead to proper weight maintenance. Web MD has an interesting article on sleep and weight loss. The two elements are related. The article stated that being overtired leads to poor eating decisions. “Plus, when you’re overtired, your brain‘s reward centers rev up, looking for something that feels good. So while you might be able to squash comfort food cravings when you’re well-rested, your sleep-deprived brain may have trouble saying no to a second slice of cake.”

Here is a conclusion from The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players study: “The results of this study strongly suggest that the less frequently considered approach of extending total sleep time may perhaps be the one with the most potential for positive impact on athletic performance. For an athlete to reach optimal performance, an accurate knowledge of one’s nightly sleep requirement and obtaining this amount should be considered integral factors in an athlete’s daily training regimen.”

So, our challenge for all of you is to measure your sleep for the next week. Once you find that pattern, let us know in the comment section below. My goal nightly is 8 hours and I achieve that on a fairly consistent basis.

If you are competing in the upcoming AAU national championship, consider an extension of your sleep to maximize your potential performance while competing, and best wishes for success at the national tournament!

Please help us improve. We would like to get your feedback on how we are meeting your needs. Please take 3 minutes and complete the Let’s Talk Karate user survey by following this link:

Thank you in advance for your valuable input.

See you in class soon.



Making Karate Practice Fun

Happy Father’s Day! One of the many lessons I learned from my dad was how important it was to plan for fun. Cool thought and follow-up from my childhood. I trust you are planning for fun when you practice; I know that I am.

Glen and Dad 2006

Happy Father’s Day!

Both of my parents were teachers which meant we had the whole summer off of school. Back in the old days my dad wrote letters and received answers, maps and information in the mail, and we made our summer vacation plans from that information. The internet had yet to be invented. With some input from all of us, my dad mapped our intended fun vacation day by day and event by event. We even practiced the fun of an overnight event with our pop-up camper to ensure we could use it. These were fun practice sessions for us as we got away for the weekend. Continue reading

Karate over the age of 50?

Sensei Glen here. Yesterday at the gym while I was stretching, one of the ladies also in the stretching area asked me if she was too old for starting karate. I assured her that she was not. She claimed to be 75 years old. I started my journey to black belt at the age of 51. I perform a kicking drill prior to stretching and she had previously asked me about that drill (what are you doing?) as well as the kata that I perform in the gym area in the mornings. This got me thinking about starting karate. I was not too old at the age of 51 to begin my journey to black belt. I told her she was not too old to learn how to defend herself and invited her to class.

Recently, one of our friends from the dojo published on Facebook her story of how she was never athletic and through consistent training took and passed the black belt test. She is six months older than I am and it is great to have a few others at the dojo who are my age and are still coming up through the ranks. I am excited for the company and the dedication shown.

I know as an “older” martial artist I need to pay attention to a proper warm up and stretching routine. Sometimes the kids do not understand why we spend some time warming up and stretching or why people like me often take time after class to ensure we have a proper stretch. When I warm up and stretch as well as cool down and stretch I work on preventing injuries and increasing my speed and flexibility.

Our dojo follows a set pattern on warming up and stretching. We could follow any pattern as long as we work to prevent injuries and promote strength and flexibility. The set pattern of light running (jogging) walking, jumping jacks, sit ups, pushups and squats are designed to engage our muscle groups and get the blood flowing to these areas.

Our Sensei has told us on several occasions that most karate injuries occur due to missed warm-ups and stretching. I have a set practice of including a warm-up for each activity. After the body is warm we can begin to stretch the body. Maximum flexibility comes from stretching. Our son, the black belt, wanted to see how long it would take him at the age of 19 to stretch his thumb to his arm. This is a stretch we often do prior to self-defense training to warm up the hands and wrist. It took him a month of daily work to obtain the stretching goal. It is great to be 19! I still cannot reach my thumb to my arm.

When I began my journey to black belt I did not even think about being “old” in class. We line up by belt and then by age. With my wife and two kids I was the oldest and the four of us sometimes were the only white or yellow belts in class. It was natural and several other students (young and old) were ahead of us in line at the start of class. When I became a black belt we line up by rank and age. I was surprised that I was an older student and jumped to the end of the line next to the second degrees. When our friend became a black belt last year I was no longer at the head of the line for first degrees. Good thing for me I passed my second degree test! Of course we do have a few active second degree students who are older than I am as well.

I did not think about age when I joined the karate classes. I was asked by my son and said yes immediately. I am sure that any other parent of a 15 year old would respond the same way. As we progressed, my age did not make a difference. Karate did work on my conditioning and force me to keep in shape. If we wait until we are in shape or “ready,” we will never join or be ready. Of course the person waiting to attack is not waiting for you to finish your next class.

To go back and answer my friend’s question from the gym, “Am I too old?” I would say, ”No! You are as young as you feel,” and we need to make the most out of the only life we have.

As I think about age, I now realize that I have friends and acquaintances that have Alzheimer’s. I am concerned that I should be doing something in my life to prevent or lower the risk of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association website has some ideas and no solid answers. Most of their ideas are that “Regular physical exercise may be a beneficial strategy to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.”  Karate checks the box for regular exercise. They also state “A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.” Again, karate checks the box by providing social activities in group classes and learning new skills that are a mentally active challenge for young and old alike.

The recommendation from the Alzheimer’s association in their “what can you do now section” says: “While research is not yet conclusive, certain lifestyle choices, such as physical activity and diet, may help support brain health and prevent Alzheimer’s. Many of these lifestyle changes have been shown to lower the risk of other diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s. With few drawbacks and plenty of known benefits, healthy lifestyle choices can improve your health and possibly protect your brain.”

I cannot think of a better endorsement for karate than from the Alzheimer’s Association’s own website. You are not too old to begin your journey to black belt as part of the healthy lifestyle that you want to enjoy.

When did you start your martial arts training? Please let us know in the comment section below. Yes, you should join your kids in karate class. I was glad that I did.  See you in class soon.

BB grad 7-15  _010198 (2)

Black Belt Family