The other night I was having a conversation over wings with a few of our students. We were discussing the different martial arts instructors they have been exposed to at the dojo during guest instructor seminars. The topic of one’s personal intensity came up in the context of how intense overall the various instructors were. It got me to thinking about my own intensity and how I use it in training, teaching and life in general.
Intensity may not be the perfect word to describe what I talking about here. When I say intensity, I mean that fire you draw on when you are dealing with heightened circumstances. If you train in the martial arts, you may have already experienced it at some point, whether that was during a belt test, sparring or some form of intense training circle. This mental state is basically the controlled use of adrenaline. While in this state, your surroundings are more clear. Your attitude is more serious, more focused. You’re not thinking about all the steps before taking an action, you just act on the instincts you’ve developed for yourself. (more…)
When I first saw the Always “Like a Girl” campaign a few months ago (see ad below), I was impressed. They really captured an idea that’s been very important to me in my life. I remember the often used insult among the boys, saying that so-and-so ran, threw, kicked, swung, etc, “like a girl.” From my experience, no one said it to girls as an insult, it was mainly said to other boys (though I realize this also happens). But the fact that it was said as an insult suggested that girls aren’t physically capable and that being “feminine” meant not being good at sports. So as girls started to go through puberty and started wanting the attention of the boys, many started to act in a way that they were socialized into believing was feminine, shunning sports and presenting themselves in a way that was more dainty and helpless. It wasn’t all girls, but many were clearly conflicted.
In a recent blog comment, I was asked to put together a recommended reading list for martial arts instructors. This list is far from extensive, but it covers a number of books I’ve read in the past year that have helped me better understand the psychology of the teaching process, which I applied to teaching martial arts. These aren’t directed specifically at martial arts instructors, but teachers in general. They are more about understanding the learning process and applying it to teaching strategies, not lists of exercises, drills and games. They have been incredibly useful to me to help me get inside my students minds, and to help them on a more personal level with their development. Without further ado, here’s the list. (more…)
It is often said that people fail to pursue their dreams because they fear failure. They fear that if they try and don’t succeed, they’ll confirm their worse fears; that they never had it in them to begin with. As such, people only make meagre efforts, if any at all, citing various reasons for their lack of trying, not enough time, too many other commitments, etc. They never really give themselves the option of success. With that, they can always look back and believe that they had it in them, but it just wasn’t meant to be. They can hang on to the shadow of a dream. (more…)
While I was in New Zealand to teach seminars, I had the pleasure of doing some training with Jules Robson Sensei. One of the topics we spent a lot of time on was breakfalls, as you can see in the photo on the right taken at his dojo. He posited that many martial artists train their breakfalls in a more performance oriented way. By this I mean that the uke being thrown has full control over their balance and structure allowing them to get more leap and spring so as to enjoy greater control over one’s fall. When well trained, these falls and rolls look quite beautiful, but when applied as a response to a throw, it’s a beautiful lie.
Toward the end of every year, I take time to appreciate all the great things that happened throughout the year. This year, I figured I’d write a blog post to this effect and take stock of the highlights of my life in the martial arts and in my stunt career.
1. Becoming an International Martial Arts Instructor. Over the past year or so, my role as a seminar instructor has ballooned. Thanks to the publicity gained from publishing my book, When the Fight Goes to the Ground last year with Tuttle Publishing, I started taking my teaching skills on the road a lot more. After teaching at the PAWMA (Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists) camp last year, I received further invitations to teach down south. I taught at and attended my first NWMAF (National Women’s Martial Arts Federation) training camp, and was invited back to teach at PAWMA camp again in the fall. Furthermore, I was invited to teach at Wright Fight Concepts in New Egypt, New Jersey, once in the winter and then again in the fall. I also taught at a school in North Bay, ON, having been invited there by some fantastic instructors I met at the NWMAF camp, as well as a school in Seattle, thanks to some friends I met at PAWMA camp. This is, of course, all in addition to my annual teaching gigs at the Canadian Jiu-jitsu Union Winter and Summer Camps, which are always such a pleasure. And I’m finishing my year airborne en route to New Zealand where I’ve been invited to teach multiple seminars.
In my women’s self-defense class, I always go over the concept of weapons of opportunity. This is the use of items on your person or in your surroundings as opportunity allows in the context of defending against an attack. Professor Sylvain, founder of Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, always liked to use the example of using a grocery can with a can of beans in it. A person on their way to their car carrying this item could swing it using the can to strike an assailant. The person isn’t carrying it for that person, they just happened to use it that way because it was a convenient way to defend themselves at that moment.
At our dojo, we make room in our lesson schedule for “alternative curriculum” classes. Sometimes we use these classes to play with techniques not usually featured in our students’ curriculum, either because it’s more advanced or because we’re working on our usual techniques in an unconventional way. And sometimes we go completely outside what we usually teach to play with different concepts or techniques that the instructors want to explore to keep things interesting and to continue our development. Like with any creative endeavour, you can get inspiration for your martial arts training and teaching from a wide variety of sources. Here are just a few that have served to inspire me. (more…)
Oftentimes when students first start training in a martial art, they feel unsure of themselves and lack confidence in the application of their techniques, even when they start developing some skill in them. This can manifest as startled expressions, diminutive postures and questioning looks toward instructors or more senior students. This is entirely understandable, but it has a negative impact on the application of techniques and can also hurt their general awareness of their surroundings.
I was recently working with a student like this who is getting ready to go for their yellow belt. The student has gained enough skill to do most of their techniques without having to consciously remember them, but is timid in their application in the way I described above. I gave this student one of the most important lessons in terms of attitude when first starting out: “Fake it till you make it.” (more…)
About 6 weeks ago, I sprained my left ring finger. No, I didn’t do it training in anything martial arts related. I managed to catch it mid jump while doing squat jumps on my stairs. It has been an annoying recovery process, having had to scale back in a wide variety of physical activities as it healed, but a couple of weeks ago, it was starting to get well enough that I was willing to try pushing it a little. A couple of Sundays ago, I went climbing at the climbing gym. (more…)