Enjoy the Journey!

I trust that you are enjoying your martial arts journey. I have enjoyed writing this blog that started from a family conversation, okay several, about karate. We all just celebrated Thanksgiving and a few of us had karate conversations again around the table. I am thankful for readers of this blog. I am grateful to my teacher, Sensei Steve, for teaching us such excellent karate.

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Sensei Glen and Sensei Steve

In thinking about our karate journey, our Sensei is a mentor to us giving us direction daily in class on how to handle ourselves in different situations. Our responsibility is the easiest, which is to show up for class. Okay, you might say, “I have done that this week.” I just worked with some of our black belt candidates on polishing their technique. They have been showing up for class for years and still had not worked on the small areas that make the techniques effective, such as how to grab or throw or even how to spin and kick.

 

I am reminded that we need to practice prior to class so we can polish what we learned in class. We worked through all of this with them and Sensei Mae is working with the same group and will likely have some comments as well.

The lessons we have learned as students of karate have had a profound impact on my life and that of my family. For a while I traveled internationally as a part of my job. I now know that going to another country is no more or less dangerous than going to the grocery store. The confidence that I received from my training in self-defense, being aware of situations and how to best win a fight (by avoiding it!) were ones that made the journey to another culture less daunting. In finding that new place to visit, I was drawn into the culture more quickly as karate has us in another culture already. A new culture was not as big of a deal as it would have been if we had not been studying karate and involving ourselves into karate as a new undertaking already.

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Daya working the bo staff in India

Was I concerned traveling? Of course I was. I have also been intimidated at local locations. It is no different the world over. One of my international trips brought me closer to my friends when I needed to practice with a bo staff. It is hard to explain a bo staff to someone without a context. I was so pleased when they arranged for one and that we found a place to practice. Practicing with a group of my friends in a park was also exciting as they wanted to see what all was done with this weapon and the others I had brought with me to practice.

I did not need to use any of my karate skills while traveling internationally. I was confident and more aware of what I was doing and where I was going. I thought about how I would handle a group of people or avoid them when I saw them coming. I tried to travel in a group, when possible, so I was less of a target.

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Sensei Glen bo staff in India

All of this thinking goes back to the basics of my martial arts training. I did not want to ever look like a victim walking on the streets. When we traveled to San Francisco this summer and took the public transportation, we applied the same lessons and enjoyed the challenge of keeping safe.

I have a lot to be thankful for in my karate journey. As we approach the end of the year, are you looking at what you can accomplish? Do you have a plan?

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving! See you in the dojo soon.

 

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Do You Have What it Takes?

Do you have what it takes? I read a story recently about Muggsy Bogues, the shortest man, at 5 feet 3 inches, to play basketball in the NBA, where he played for 14 years. This is a league where the average player is 6 feet 7 inches tall. How do you overcome that disadvantage? A high achiever chooses to do uncommon things. They actually practice and work on overcoming obstacles to winning.

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Are you ready to climb the ladder of success?

When our sensei asks black belt candidates how long they are practicing for the black belt test on a daily basis, we could predict the success or failure rate from the student responses.  The successful candidates put the time in each day to make a difference in their karate career. One of the reasons they practiced daily was their strong desire to succeed and pass the test.

When it was time for my test, I was not satisfied with remaining a brown belt, especially when my daughter, Sensei Mae, was already a black belt. I had a fire within me to work hard and not miss the opportunity to succeed on the test. In addition, I was much older than many of my classmates and I did not have the luxury of failing and becoming a long-term brown belt. No, I wanted to pass this test and the next. My desire was high; I found opportunities in my day that I had not ever considered. I made some sacrifices to concentrate on this one goal. I wanted to reach my black belt potential and fulfill my dream of becoming a black belt.

The effectiveness of your desire and training plan will determine your likely chance of doing well at a tournament or passing your belt test. What matters is how strongly your reasons are for achieving a goal. That is what will drive you to complete that goal. To determine if you have what it takes, find your desire level on the chart. If you have a high desire you are much more likely to meet the goal.

Desire-type

Last week was the Commonwealth of Kentucky AAU karate tournament, held at our dojo. The tournament was a big success for those who participated in the event. People that have reached the gold medal in this tournament did not get there by chance. They did not put “common” or “going through the motion” effort into their achievements. These athletes did uncommon things that you may not see. They practiced and worked in a way that their competitors did not. They put in the effort to make themselves distinguished. And they had a high desire to succeed.

Muggsy Bogues had a high desire to succeed, despite his height disadvantage. He loved to play basketball and learned early on that he had to disrupt the play of taller players and make them not even want to dribble the ball near him. He practiced a lot and worked on his game daily.  How is your desire to succeed? Are you focused in on the goals that will achieve success for you today and in the future?

See you at the dojo soon.

Progress by Avoiding These 5 Mistakes

The secret to move from up from white belt is to show up at class consistently. The next thing you will want to know is how do I obtain my black belt? Of course for that you need a plan, a good teacher and commitment to a goal. Each dojo is different and has different colors for their belts. As you advance to the (generally) higher and darker colored belts, the plan is what we can help with the most on Let’s Talk Karate.

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Let’s go over that plan

My friend has come for a few weeks as a new karate student and is really enjoying his white belt experience. It has been good for him to get out and take out some frustrations that are best not left in the house. As a white belt, all the training he is receiving is fundamental knowledge. It has been good for me to see again what it means to be a brand new student of karate. Our sensei has a plan for all students, the number of expected weeks between belts, the skills, weapons and kata required. Besides regularly attending classes, the element that got our family to move up from white belt was a plan. Do you have a plan for the coming year on your next steps for your training plan? Now is time to think about next year.

One of your first actions should be the development of a training plan. A well-developed plan will encourage you to keep showing up and suiting up to progress. It will also clarify the goals you have for the training program.  Here are the five common mistakes to avoid in developing your karate plan of action for next year:

  1. Not honestly reviewing your current year performance. Improvement begins with an accurate evaluation of your baseline performance. Ask yourself these questions
    • What skills or drills did I avoid?
    • What goals did I fail to achieve?
    • What were my greatest strengths during the year?
    • What were my most significant weaknesses during the year?
    • Overall, how do I feel about my karate performance?
  2. Failing to set measurable and time-bound goals. We all set goals, especially at the start of the year, to do things like lose weight or stop some habit. The best goals have two key ingredients; they are measurable and time bound.
    • Measurable goals include items such as I will achieve a (fill in the color) belt. You either do the work for the belt or you do not. It is easy to measure. Or, it could be I will practice my kata twice daily.
    • Time bound means by when…so, by Tuesday I will practice my kata 14 times or by the end of April I will have passed the (fill in the color) belt test or become a (fill in the color) belt.
  3. Failing to set both outcome and process goals. As I explained last week, our dojo has both outcome goals as well as process goals.
    • Getting a belt by specific testing date is an example of an outcome goal.
    • A process goal is something like, having performed 1,000 kicks in January in one class to kick off the New Year. Another process goal is to run kata daily in multiple directions.
  4. Setting goals too high or too low. Your goals should be both challenging and realistic.
    • Setting goals too high generally means you will fall short and be disappointed. You will not likely be the first one to begin a karate program without a proper understanding of the training commitment involved with the program.
    • Setting your goals too low, you may achieve them and at the same time feel dissatisfied. “Karate is so easy—I became a (fill in the color) belt in only one year,” which may not be very challenging.
    • Try to find a “goldilocks” goal, where goal attainment is difficult but possible.
  5. Not modifying your goals when circumstances change. Prior to the black belt test, I had to be out of the country for two weeks. My training goals and daily achievements were not possible with air travel and staying in a foreign country. I modified my training plans and borrowed equipment from my in-country friends to stay on track.

If you would like assistance in working on your training plans for the coming year, please let us know. We are working on our goals for the coming year as well. Our local tournament is this weekend. Try to find one to challenge yourself and see how well your training is going. See you in the dojo soon.

Suit Up, Show Up

To progress, most of what you need is to suit up and show up to the dojo on a consistent basis. If you fail to suit up and show up, your skills become stagnant and you are no longer growing on your karate journey.

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Suit up, show-up consistently!

When we signed up for karate, we looked for three things, probably the same as you:

  1. Location, a dojo near the house
  2. Classes that fit our timing, day of the week and times we could regularly attend
  3. An initial fee and ongoing cost that fit our budget.

As good shoppers, we had the kids attend a week long karate camp in the summer. We were interested in ensuring they could learn and wanted to attend. We also discussed with some of our friends where they sent their kids.

We have stayed suited up and showing up for three main reasons:

  1. We are always learning.
    • Every class we attend at the dojo, we learn something to include in our notebooks or to pass along to others.
    • I helped teach today and learned several great new drills and ways to teach—and I only helped for the first couple of classes.
  2. We have tested our skills and found them excellent.
    • We have both competed in the AAU karate national tournaments and found that the instruction we receive from our sensei at the dojo is equal to or better than other dojos. It is because our competition teams routinely win top honors in competitions that we know how well our instruction methods stand up nationally.
    • We have put the program to the test, and the program has come out on top. Other dojos can also make that claim. See if yours does.
  3. We are growing and progressing in our martial arts journey. I have learned that preparation determines outcomes.
    • We are prepared and follow a planned progression of ever building skills as we advance in the ranks.
    • We believe in showing up and suiting up. Our instructor challenges us each class. I showed up to class consistently as a part of the program to pass the second degree black belt test. The test was more to show to the panel that I paid attention and practiced. Suit up and show up consistently to pass the test.

All of this is to say that if you find yourself in a dojo and you are not consistently learning and growing as well as advancing, you may want to look around for a different instructor in martial arts. My guess is this is a rare occurrence when we are in our first few years of training.

The point about testing our skills is to do so in structured ways, not going out to fight random strangers on the street. Our recommendation is to go to clinics and tournaments. At clinics and tournaments you will be able to see your training in action against students outside of your dojo. In a clinic, you will learn from other masters. I would not say that losing a fight is due to poor teaching. I have lost fights and know I have a very good sensei.  It is looking at the whole work being performed at the dojo.

As a white belt, my son encountered some different fighting skills and lost a few rounds early in a tournament. Was our teaching bad? No it was not. We did not know how much work or effort was needed to become a champion at our first competition. We had never been tested outside of our classmates.  So, the next time we encountered students from the same school we did better and won more rounds as we worked on new skills. On the whole, our dojo students win more than they lose. Of course we have never been 100% in the win column. I lost the gold medal fight in the AAU national tournament. It was my lack of skill and not the coaching from our sensei. It was a close fight, and a loss. I was able to learn from that experience to become a better fighter.

Your preparation does indeed determine what you will achieve from any program, and karate is no exception. You will continue to learn and grow as long as you continue to suit up and show up at the dojo door. See you in the dojo soon.