Sunday, May 22, 2016

The World of Martial Arts is Changing…..

The world of Martial Arts today is not the world of Martial Arts I once knew.  Obviously, as times change our passions, the state of the world, education, jobs, etc… all change.  However, there are core values, core basics, core ethics, etc, that must always be upheld.
It is important to preface this by saying that sport form of Martial Arts is not Martial Arts.  It is one aspect of Martial Arts.  In my journey of Martial Arts, I found myself moving from one Martial Arts school to another and yet another.  This was primarily for two reasons: 

1        1.       The caliber of what is taught and level of knowledge from the Instructors has declined.
2        2.     The core values intrinsic to the martial arts world is disappearing.

Now let’s look at each of these individually. 

The first one…the caliber

Instructors cannot be blamed because over time there has been a decline in how Martial Arts is taught. 

However, it is up to an Instructor to seek out the truth.  An Instructor has to understand every detail of what they are teaching in every aspect.  Are certain techniques logical in self-defense situations or not, is one example of how to process learning/teaching.  Am I teaching situational reality or reality is another example.  

With the change in time, the expectation of students has also declined.  Therefore, curricula have been watered down, to accommodate student desires-- Immediate satisfaction versus patience.  In addition there is a  rise of interest in sports.  Therefore, martial arts schools now focus on the sport aspect of the art as the core component of training and teaching versus the art. 
Another example comes when teach self-defense.  When schools focus only on situational reality set-up as a mode of practicing self-defense, the application of the art is not known to teach/explain it for real life set-ups.

When individuals teach/learn a small component of martial arts, then each generation of students/instructors learn less and teach less.   This causes a decline.  Instructors that think Black Belt is the end cannot accurately teach, because a 1st degree black belt is simply the memorization of techniques learned in the last 2+ years.  To go beyond black belt is when learning to teach and understanding awareness comes.  When there is a need to learn a little bit of this and that from other styles, the need to go to seminars, the need to watch videos, etc, then one must step back and question the drive behind doing this.  What is missing in your training?  What is missing in your curricula?  Why are things missing…

A curriculum is not a bunch of techniques at different levels.  A true curriculum is handed to you.  It is a personal growth that is seen through repetition of technique that changes and evolves in each ranking.  For example, a break fall
        --  lower rank starts by sitting,

                ---- next rank you break fall squatting and continue the break fall from sitting
·            -----next rank, you break fall standing, and you continue the break fall from squatting and sitting.    

      And this process keeps going through black belt.  That is how one grows and learns the application of martial art techniques.

I can’t speculate this to be the situation with every school, but in my transitions from school to school, I have noticed this to be an issue.  I am very picky with my learning because I am an Instructor.  As an Instructor, I have a responsibility.  It is my responsibility to teach my best with a strong curriculum.  I have high standards for my students.  If I limit what I expect from my students, I am not being a good Instructor.  Students can achieve everything I desire if I, the Instructor believes in them and help them build on the basics to grow to their potential if not beyond it. 

The second thing I noticed, the core values….

All too often I receive phone calls of prospective students wanting to learn to fight or wanting to challenge me or other Instructors.  Martial Arts is not that.  I do not learn Martial Arts to learn how to beat up someone.  It is a far greater sense of being.  It is a sense of awareness.  It is a sense of inner peace and constant reflection of self-such that we can constantly grow and be confident in knowing that we can protect ourselves if needed but do not desire the necessity to proclaim it.  

We teach aspects of martial arts that can cause harm and kill if done wrong or without understanding. We cannot teach this without ensuring that students understand respect, discipline, responsibility, and integrity, etc.  The bow to Masters, Instructors, and to each other is a sign of respect.  Bowing when coming into the dojang is a sign of respect- all ego is left at the door.  It is a learning environment. 

Again, in my transition from school to school, I felt that I had to prove myself over and over versus learning.  That is not a proper training environment.  I believe in loyalty.  If I am going to dedicate my time to learn, to practice, to train, I expect my Master and/or Instructor to ensure that I am in a safe environment, and he/she will provide the instruction I need to learn and grow.  It is a two-way street.

In order for Martial Artists to grow completely, they must understand the core values such that they understand the responsibility behind the knowledge.  That too is why loyalty is important.  Masters and Instructors do not only teach the curricula.  They create an environment in which every student feels they can grow because the atmosphere is respectful, fun, and safe.

I see a martial arts school like a family.  This is a place where students look out for each other.  Where Masters and Instructors are individuals that become mentors/guides to help a student on their journey.  Masters/Instructors do not say here is your journey; we help guide you on a journey that is formed through training and is unique to you that never ends.

It is my goal to bring ethics and good curriculum back to the world of martial arts.  I want my students to understand the complete art so they can see their growth and learn the beauty of martial arts in its complete form.  I believe that they can achieve the goals that the Grand Masters expected of their students when the arts first began.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ethics of Martial Arts...Why we Keep Searching

I have been training in Martial Arts since I was 18.  Being a female in the martial arts world is not easy let alone with the mindset/atmospheres displayed in the martial arts field currently.

I was searching for a martial art school to train at for a very long time…. Why may you ask?  Because I know what I wanted in a martial arts school and more importantly, my Master/Instructor.  My rankings were not as important to me as my personal growth.

Time and time again, I was put up against the same situations.

This is what I encountered:

Students immediately go into techniques that cannot be performed initially.  Why?
  •      The strength was not built to match the needs for the technique.
  •     There is a process to learning techniques.  You must learn basics first before transitioning.  It is like building a house, you start with a base and move your way up.  If you skip any parts, the house falls apart, or in martial arts, you get hurt or can't perform the technique.

Of, course, I left.  I am here to learn, to learn beyond techniques.

  •  I am thankful to say that I have not had many injuries due to my Martial Arts training.  This is because of me personally going with sparring partners that I knew would not intentionally hurt me or did not have an ego and a sense of "I need to win attitude."  Now think of that statement….
    • Should you as a student go to class fearful of getting hurt by your partner? 
    • Should you as a student go to class thinking how you should change the way you train to ensure your safety?

Again, I left, my safety is paramount, but so is having fun and learning.

And this topic leads to the next thing I encountered.

Ethics and Respect in a Martial Arts School

Going to a martial arts school is now conceptualized as the following or have the following characteristics (just to name a few):
  • I want to learn how to fight
  • I challenge you to a fight
  • Ego before learning
  • Talking over Masters, Instructors, Higher Level Students
  • Changing on the mats versus in the bathroom
  • Talking during class
  • Coming late/not asking permission
  •  No structure
     These are just a few things but if this is in a school, it no longer embodies the philosophy and teachings of  Martial Arts.  Martial Arts is a never ending learning process.   It is about awareness but more importantly Martial Arts is about respect.  Respect for the Master, Instructor, and fellow students.  There should not be an ego in a learning atmosphere.  Training in Martial Arts is not learning how to fight.   Also, ethics/norms/guidelines/codes of conduct cannot have the expectation to be followed if the Master/Instructors do not embody it.  Action speaks louder than words. If those at the top don't follow their own guidelines than how can you expect those following you to follow them

`     In addition, codes of conduct, rules, guidelines cannot be put in place with an expectation of a following when it was never present before. One has already created an environment which is not to say that it can't be changed; it is simply to note that it will take a while to change what has become intrinsic in the culture of the school.  Remember, that the codes of conduct, etc, is intrinsic to the martial arts.  If the respect-the ethics are not present, then injuries happen, challenging each other, feelings of being unsafe, etc….

The real question is the Why.  Why aren't these guidelines present.  Why do we have a lack of regard.  Why?

So again, I left.  I don’t need to prove myself on the mats, I want to learn and grow, physically and mentally without worrying about being challenged or feeling the need to challenge others.

THE WHY!!!!!

Martial arts have watered down:
  • Decline of Instructors who have gone through a system to understand an art and be able to teach it.
  • No curricula or not a good one.
  • No growth beyond techniques
  • Misinterpretation of situation reality versus reality
  • Misinterpretation of what Martial Arts is and what to expect

See, Martial Arts is a never-ending study of an art.  It is about constant self-reflection and growth.  That growth is more mental than the physical (the techniques).  The aspiration to achieve a black belt is truly just the tip of the iceberg.  Think of the growth of martial arts like a baby.  See the colored belt rankings are the points where the Instructors are holding you until you are able to crawl/walk.  The Black Belts is where you begin to run and explore! The Mastery level is are where you are on your own, to learn, grow, and to face the world.  To stop at Black Belt continues a watered down Martial Arts.  A 1st Dan Instructors are teaching with little knowledge of how to expand a student’s desires of learning beyond techniques, thereby causing a loss of interest or a curriculum with tons of techniques but with no understanding to application/awareness.  Growing the mind is what the advanced learning involves.  How does it intertwine. 

Now self-defense versus sport.  Situation reality versus reality.  The following sums it up.

Sport requires guidelines.  Sport and the Art are not the same.  Sport and Self-Defense are not the same.  Yet, they are used interchangeably.  Think of this scenario:

A person can knock you out or kill you in 3 seconds.  Why would you attempt to do a butterfly kick, a triangle, a complicated wrist release, or anything that would involve a defensive motion that lasts longer than 3 seconds.  The goal should be run, and if you are in a position that you can’t run, then quick actions to help you escape.  (ie: poke the eyes, hit the groin, pull the ear, hit the ear drums, etc…)  

Remember, martial art sport should always be based on safety and mutual respect. ie sportsmanship. Just because you make a sport more violent doesn't make that sport more realistic to self-defense. Preservation of self against an attacker in life and death situation is another level of being that is not a situation one should ever be in (Master Stout).”
Sadly, techniques are situational-they are not reality.  The mindset of a person who is ready to kill or harm you is not a situation role played in most martial art classes in this day and age.  However, we misinterpret certain arts as a great way to learn self-defense.  What I ask of you is to put yourself in a situation- imagine it and apply that self-defense and see if those techniques/positions are really what you want or should do.

Again, I left, because I cannot be part of something that stipulates that you can protect yourself with these techniques…because when you envision an attack and the technique… it isn’t applicable. 


As a student I don’t just want to learn techniques.  I won’t grow mentally, spiritually, and physically and be balanced.  I want to achieve the highest possible stature in Martial Arts and I don’t need a ranking to prove it, I just need to train under a Master/Instructor who can take me there because he/she has gone through the process themselves.  I don’t want to train at a school where I am challenged all the time.   Lastly, there has to be integrity to what I learn.  Yes, I can learn technique, but I also want to grow mentally.  Yes, I can also learn technique, but it shouldn’t be conveyed as a way to protect me if it really can't.  Yes, I want to learn technique, but I also need the applications, the art behind the technique.

 As an Instructor, I find it my responsibility to help others be aware of what they should look for in a school and what to expect, such that they don’t have to go 10 years searching to be on this beautiful journey, we call martial arts.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Watered down…. The Black Belt.

You can beat up people…

You can kick ass…

I want to learn how to fight…

I challenge you to a fight…

Does any of this sound familiar?

 Sadly, children now days are inundated with violence, whether it be through an increase of playing violent video games or seeing violent shows. 

Martial Arts is slowly being seen as a means to beat up people-or learn how to fight.  However, it is much more than that.  On another note, some think that certain styles are not beneficial to self-defense.  Let’s break this down.

Martial Arts is first and foremost about respect and integrity within the movements executed and between the individuals executing them.  When all you do is to teach how to fight, then you are creating just that: fighters with no respect- no integrity- that can potentially hurt another individual because they do not understand the respect that is required with the responsibility of their rankings.   That integrity is slowly being lost with the rise of violence in media and a lack of understanding of martial arts.

Now, in Martial A`rts, most learn the sports aspects of the art.  The art, is not taught either because the Instructor did not learn it or the sports aspect is the focus.  Now you take this scenario and teach students under one of the aforementioned situations and then the student opens up a school… the system is watered down further. 

The sport aspect of martial arts, of course, cannot be deemed as applicable in self-defense.  Why?  There are too many rules and guidelines.  In self-defense, there are no rules.  Having said this, then why is it that we cannot differentiate this concept when looking at the arts?  Because we are sadly seeing more and more of a watered down martial arts, irrespective of style.  If an Instructor only attempts to go to Black Belt and begin to teach they have only begun to understand martial arts.  On the same accord, a sports focus of martial arts only teaches to a certain.  But if we see only watered down and sports focused martial arts, then of course a person will not know that there is so much more to the art.  They do no know what more to look for. 

Martial Art Instructors begin to learn after the Black Belt.  This is when awareness of self and surroundings start to be understood; this is when understanding how styles coordinate which each other; this is when learning about themselves and how that relates to the art and how to teach.  It is a never-ending self-reflection, growth of awareness, and balance.    When one has not continued his/her learning, how can they help his/her student’s advance their learning?

This lack of growth and learning is why some styles are considered unworthy in self-defense.  For example, let’s look at forms (poomse/kata).  When first learning a form, you see it as a step by step, mundane, repetitive motion, with no understanding to its application.  An Instructor who has gone beyond the Black Belt will know and understand the explanation/application behind the block/punch/kick, etc… and can/will denote the self-defense aspects of the form.  However, when an Instructor has not gone through this process and chooses to teach, one of two things happen.
  1.  The form is taught in the same mundane manner, causing a continued lack of understanding and/or boredom for the Instructor and/or student.
  2. They are no longer taught because it is not understood, meaning that the concept of understanding the full art is gone.

Another example.  Why do we do seminars?  Because there is something empty.  We are still seeking to learn.  But, when an Instructor’s level of understanding hits a threshold and the student desires more which cannot be provided, they go seeking.  This is why having an Instructor with a solid understanding and with a solid curricula is important.

I am not downing the sport form of martial arts as it is exciting to watch and learn.  But one must note that due to the limits placed in sports-they do not define self-defense.  Nor, do they define MartAal arts.  Sports, demo teams, etc are only a small facet to the martial arts. 

Martial Arts is an internal growth that never ends.  For a student to learn it properly, requires a Master/Instructor who has learned it beyond the levels of a Black Belt.  If we continue to accept what just is, then we will lose the integrity that lies within martial arts: The Do-The Way.

You can beat up people…  I don't learn to beat up people.  I learn to be my best.

You can kick ass…  This is not why I train.  I train for my personal growth and awareness.

I want to learn how to fight…  It is not about fighting.  Yin Yang-balance

I challenge you to a fight…  Respect is foremost in Martial Arts.  Humble-integrity

The greatest challenge lies in myself.  To learn everyday.  To do better than yesterday.  To grow.  To be balanced.

Bring integrity back to what we learn.  Learn the art.  Learn The Do-The Way.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Females/Instructors: Open Minded training

Training in martial arts is an intrinsic part of my life.   Being an Instructor/Owner of a school is very important to me.  When we hold this title, it is our responsibility to our students to know and understand that what we teach is accurate and is taught to meet the needs of our students.

As a female instructor I find my position extremely important.  Why?  It is rare to find women engaging in martial arts.  Those that do have taken a step of courage, either because they desire a competitive lifestyle, seek to learn self-defense, a good exercise, or a mode of self-empowerment.  For any of the aforementioned reasons, or even those not mentioned, it is of utmost importance that females understand what they are learning to be accurate and realistically feasible in a real-life situation.  What you learn in class, is not self-defense: it is situational reality. 

Alternatively, as a student you must know that it is equally important to voice when you are uncomfortable or simply ask questions when something does not make sense.  Seek individuals who can support you, if that is a must, but there is no reason to shy away if something is wrong. 

Back to the importance of teaching:

Our students look up to us.  They listen because we are the expert on the topic.  Henceforth, we must make sure that what we profess is not a falsified presentation of confidence, ability, etc, but is simply the truth.  How can this be developed?  Through solid curricula-through lineage of Masters/Instructors.  By having an open mind.

Below are postings of videos to foster thought process to help students learn what would best work for them.  To understand flaws in systems.  What best works for you is not necessarily for everyone else.  But always remember this: if your primary goal is to learn self-defense, then your primary end goal is to escape.  My philosophy in self-defense is that “game plan a” must work; it must be quick, and I must escape.  Sport, of course, is different.    But if you must have a plan b, plan c, then those are precious seconds lost in a self-defense situation when your life is on the line.  Look at these videos as self-defense scenarios... what would work-what would not have worked.  Hear what people have to say.  Have an open mind to expand your learning.

FYI:  some of the links have foul language  (Evolution occurs with any art.  What are your thoughts?)  (learn from your losses)  (Metamoris analysis on results)  (the fight was quick and ended in a stand up 
match…. Hm… why not do the same?  Good for a self-defense or sport approach)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Martial Arts doesn't teach Self-Defense

In response to this article:

Firstly, Martial Arts in this article will be used to reference specific styles like Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, etc.

Martial Arts has been created to have a self-defense focus plus much more: internal peace, physical strength, mental growth, and awareness internally and externally. 

However, generations down Martial Arts has become watered down or have more of a sports perspective.  Let’s analyze this.

Watered Down

Why?  Because there are not enough Instructors who know how to teach beyond the basics or who can teach beyond the basics.  What we forget is that no matter the style, everything before Black Belt is simply memorizing technique.  It is after Black Belt that one learns to teach, apply, be aware, and understand the nuances behind techniques and how they interrelate.  Martial Arts is more about awareness, but if you stop before you can even begin to understand this lesson then the concept of self-defense will not be understood. 

When your teachings come from a student who has yet to achieve a Black Belt then you will always miss a component of your training because that Instructor is still learning to memorize techniques. 

When an Instructor stops his/her learning then what is passed down is cut down further.

End result:  Instructors thinking they know Martial Arts when really there is far greater learning to be achieved.  Students thinking they are learning Martial Arts and can protect themselves when really they are just scratching the surface.

 Sports Martial Arts versus Martial Arts
Sports Martial Arts has become popular through Olympic desire, movies, the desire of competition or by watching UFC/MMA.  However, sports martial arts focuses on simply that-competition.  It is a different caliber of training for the purposes of one end goal to win a match under specific guidelines/rules, etc.  Under that pretense, it is not comparable to a self-defense situation and it should never be promoted to advocate for being a form of self-defense.   

 The article:

Where do I agree and where do I disagree.  I agree that more often than not, I too see a misconception of reality in the Martial Arts arena.  There is something called situational reality and then there is reality.  When we learn just techniques or sport martial arts, post videos of self-defense situations is promoting a false image and a false sense of strength and ability to protect oneself.  Why, because it is situational.   Self-defense involves prevention and immediate techniques to distract and escape.                           

 However Martial Arts, when not watered down, can provide a sense of empowerment and one can learn self-defense when taught and learned correctly.  More importantly, patience is required.

 What can you do as a student?
When learning, ask yourself:  Why are you in specific positions or doing specific techniques?  How would it apply in a self-defense situation? Could it apply in a situation that you can visualize?  Is there something missing in your training-if you are seeking more, then you are probably needing more.

What can you do as an Instructor?
 Have you continued your training?  Can you adapt to every student’s needs?  Do you see the art or the sport as your primarily goal and henceforth how do you promote your style?  Would you use the same techniques in a self-defense situation?

In Summary:

If techniques are the only thing you learn, the concept gained is a false representation that you can defend yourself. Sadly, this is the accepted ideology. Techniques need to be repeated that is how self-defense comes about. Confidence comes in awareness, awareness comes in repetition, repetition comes in years of training.

Learn the truth, teach the truth, and embrace the truth.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My training is stagnant....I have reached a plateau

Feeling stagnant in your training is normal.  There is always a moment where one feels
  • "Why am I not testing?"
  • "Am I testing too fast?"
  •  "Why can’t I get someone in a certain position?"
  • " Why is that person learning it faster than me?"
  • And so much more...

The joy of Martial Arts is that we are learning as a team and as an individual.  Your team consists of the various partners that help you train each day.  However, they are not your competition, you are your own competition. 

Your lineage of Grand Masters, Master, and Instructors and the curricula behind their training is very important to your understanding and growth in the Martial Arts.   When you feel stagnant, it is your Instructor and the knowledge of the curricula that helps you “climb the mountain” so to speak. 

When you feel stagnant, do not compare yourself to others.   Do better than your personal achievements from today, tomorrow.  Today you did 10 push-ups tomorrow you will do 15.  Today you maintained the top position for 10 seconds tomorrow it will be 30 seconds.  Today John got you in a choke, tomorrow he will not.  Today you kicked waist level, tomorrow you will kick an inch higher.  Set realistic small goals for yourself and seek to achieve them in realistic time frames.  Recognize those milestones in yourself.  Your teammates become your cheering crew!
You have a team and you have your personal growth.   

Lastly, the most important thing to remember when you feel your training is stagnant:
 Believe in yourself and in your training.  If you lose that, you will feel incompetence in the effectiveness of what is taught.  When you believe in yourself 100% and what you have been taught, then stagnation will improve.

Remember learning is an ongoing process.  It never ends.  A Black Belt is not when training stops.  Those who do stop learning at Black Belt do not understand that the growth/the evolving begins at Black Belt and therefore cannot help you evolve for they have not evolved.  Remember, Martial Arts is as much a mental growth as it is a physical growth.

Keep moving forward.  Keep believing in you.  Keep growing.

Black Belt-Where The Learning Begins

Seminars versus Curricula

Learning martial arts does not start with techniques.  Learning martial arts begins with learning respect.  Learning martial arts begins with building a foundation, building strength, and learning the basics.  That is how one evolves their training.

Children and adults learn very differently.  Children are like sponges, they soak it all in and just perform.  Adults take their time, ask questions, etc.  Let's use a candy bar to give a visual representation of how adults versus children learn.  If you hand a candy bar to a child, they just eat it.  If you hand a candy bar to an adult, they read the ingredients, wonder about the calories, the sugar, if they should/should not eat it, etc...

How does this relate to my topic of Seminars vs. Curricula?

If adults ask so many questions in one class, exactly what can be retained in a 1 to 2 hour seminar?

Let's take a 2 hours seminar and break it down.

10 minutes:  Introduction
15-30 minutes:  explain and practice technique #1
15-30 minutes:  explain and practice technique #2 (usually techniques relate)
15-30 minutes:  explain and practice technique #3 (usually techniques relate)

If no time is left, last bit of the seminar is to spar.

If time is left,

15-30 minutes:  explain and practice technique #4 (usually techniques relate)
15-30 minutes:  explain and practice technique #5 (usually techniques relate)

After this point, depending on the dynamic of the participants, another technique may be taught or sparring rounds will begin.  What happens to the questions?  Some may be answered but not all.  How much will be remembered and how about all the details.  Maybe 1 or 2 techniques, sometimes 3?

Now, some may video record the seminar, if allowed.  Others may hand-write notes.  But, the understanding and perfection of a technique requires repetition under an Instructor who is present to consistently correct.  Why?

As adults,

1.  We have questions....
2.  Techniques evolve based on your opponent and what they are giving.   IE:  is the kick low or high, is the top position low or high, is the wrist grab downward, sideways, or upward?

With #1 and #2, where do we go to ask our questions if the techniques are learned at a seminar?

Why do we go to seminars?  Because we keep seeking to grow and learn.  We need and desire more to expand our knowledge and that is AWESOME!  But, we also need guidance-this is how curricula differs.

Curricula allows for a foundation in learning.  Curricula has continuity- there is always more information to help a student grow.  How?  Curricula has already been developed to address the needs of beginner students, intermediate students, advanced students, Instructors, and Masters.

Seminars are not needed when curricula is present, because everything that is needed and desired is in the curricula.  Plus, it addresses questions and individual student needs.  A class will not teach 4-5 techniques.  A class will incorporate trusting each other, respecting each other, creating a safe environment, building strength, and learning 1 to 2 techniques such that you understand them.  If it needs to be repeated, so be it, repeat it-this is how one learns, but the point being, it must be learned through the guidance of an Instructor who has also gone through the curricula at its highest levels.

In Life and in Martial Arts:

Remember, if you choose to cut the paths to reach the destination, the growth is NOT 100%

When you take the time to repeat what you learn multiple times, grow stronger, and learn with patience the growth is not 100%   it is 110%

Practice does not make perfect.  Perfect and patient practice makes perfect.