Are You Selfish Enough?

On a recent flight, the flight attendant started the safety briefing by insisting we should be selfish in order to assist others. You have heard the same speech if you have been on a flight anytime in the last 20 years. The announcement says the following when discussing oxygen: “If you are traveling with children, or are seated next to someone who needs assistance, place the mask on yourself first, then offer assistance.” We take it as a matter of course that we need to help ourselves in this situation so we can offer assistance. Does this apply anywhere else in our lives?

Tie On

In order to help others we first need to work on ourselves.

If we only care for others and not for ourselves, we may think we are doing well. We would do well to heed the flight attendant’s advice to take care of ourselves first and then offer assistance. I was teaching class last Saturday, and a fellow black belt stepped in with his black belt son to the dojo and offered me a break. I did not think I needed the break; I am strong!  I went to bed early the night before and was up early and ate a great breakfast. It turned out that the brief rest was much needed and appreciated, once I stepped off of the floor for a few minutes. The rest was important and restored the energy I needed for the last two classes of the day. My fellow black belts are currently in training on leading classes and have done so periodically over the course of several months. The students were in good hands. The lesson here is that my fellow black bets took care of their time and training so they could help others with theirs. Their teaching one class was a win for me and for the students.

When was the last time you thought about your role in helping yourself?

  1. With proper rest and recovery, you can learn a new kata or routine. Your mind is fresh and ready to tackle any new karate challenge.
  2. Daily practice of karate keeps your mind sharp and you in shape for the times when the skills are needed. As a side bonus, if you look like you are in good shape you are less likely to be harassed by bad guys who prey on those who are weaker.
  3. Once you know the drills and have practiced them, you are then able to assist others or become the role model for the dojo. It is only when we know the material that we are able to teach the material or to model the behavior asked for in class.

We have all heard the maxim made popular by Ben Franklin, “early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Is Ben Franklin also saying for us to be selfish? Yes, I believe he is talking about us as individuals needing to take care of ourselves first. Several studies on sleep back up Ben Franklin’s claim about early to bed and early rising. We have also discussed the importance of rest and sleep. Proper rest and nutrition are keys to being healthy. Taking a “train ourselves first” attitude will enable us to be the role model our dojo is looking for in all of us. What about you—are you being selfish enough with your training and your time?

See you in the dojo soon!

How Taking a Day Off Will Improve Your Karate

I can just hear it now. “Sensei Glen, it is so enjoyable for me to go to class each and every day and I just have to keep active and cannot miss a day of working out.” I have said the same to my teacher as well. Connecting with my karate family at the dojo gives me a place to talk to like-minded people and does help me deal with daily stress. I am always making new friends at the dojo. Yes, I encourage you to come often to the dojo. The main point is to take the time needed to build stamina for classes at your belt level.

Glen Last Day at Fido

The picture in today’s blog is of me on one of my last days in the office as I have retired from corporate life. I did not go into work every day and I am sure you took vacation as well from your job or school. The goals of these vacations are to relax, reconnect, and rejuvenate ourselves so we can come back to our jobs and continue to be productive.

  • Part of our karate training is a continuous build up to black belt and once at the black belt level to continue to improve through consistent training.
  • Beginners and exercise enthusiasts (could be me) sometimes forget that our bodies naturally need rest and recovery.
  • A consistent pattern of training will push you to your goals with proper resting in-between. If you are planning on taking off one or two days from training per week, the results will be good. If you train for a month non-stop, as I have, and then stop for a month, the re-start is harder on your body than the consistency of the training.

Sensei Glen, how do we reconcile a day off with Funakoshi Precept #11: “Karate is like boiling water, if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool.” Here is how, we do need a day off once in a while. We are still committing to consistently training. The benefits from that training require 1-2 days off per week to keep improving.

In my training plan, we look to a few fundamental principles to keep us at our best. Here are the top three reasons to take a day off from training.

  1. Rest between practices is a key to growth in strength training. We need to listen to our bodies when we exercise.
    • Karate can place relatively high stress on the body. Think back to our last kick class. We could go up and back on the floor and not stop the activity. We are better off walking back to the starting position and having a moment of recovery and to bring our heart rate back down.
    • The same principle of an interval between activities applies to our overall active schedule.
    • For our children at the dojo who are still growing and developing, too much of anything, even karate, is likely to result in injury, burnout, or poor performance.
    • We need to take a day of rest. In the Bible, Genesis 2:2 says that God rested on the seventh day.
    • Failing to rest at regular intervals, I need to force myself to take the weekly 1-2 days off from working out, which can mean all the benefits I am hoping to achieve from my hard work is counterproductive without the day off. I have seen it in myself that my performance actually decreased when I do not take a day to recover.
    • Just prior to the black belt test, I had a slightly pulled calf muscle. Nothing was going to stop me from testing. I did have to take a few days off from training and had to re-think how to train. I ended up in a pool practicing no impact kicking and katas. My kicking and kata looked better on the test due to the rest and alternate training then they would have if I had just followed through on the initial, non-stop training plan.
  2. The proper amount of rest or sleep is critical; this is the rejuvenation process
  3. Coming to class on a regular basis allows us to reconnect with our fellow martial artists and create the family of support many of us are looking for to keep us sharp.

As some of you know, our blog is designed to improve the lives of those who come to the blog using lessons learned from the dojo. I was recently teaching an adult class with and a new yellow belt asked where the main sensei was.

  • Apparently, we had not met, and our main sensei had never been absent from any of his classes.
  • I introduced myself as this was prior to class and his next question was “So, is class cancelled?” “Of course not” was the answer.
  • As a result of the question, I had the good fortune of meeting a new friend and was able to teach some really good lessons at class.

My challenge for you is to sketch out your week and find the intervals when you are not training. When you adopt this new schedule of less than seven days of training you will find that your performance will actually improve. Put a comment below and let us know your intention as well as how the new training went.

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: http://www.espn.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/32692/study-stanford-players-need-more-sleep

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!

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See you in class soon.