This past week, I travelled to Chicago where I had the privilege of teaching and training at the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation‘s annual “Special Training Camp.” This event is similar to the one that a sister organization, PAWMA (Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists), offers annually, which I taught and trained at in Oregon last fall. It was an incredible experience that was fun, interesting and educational, but also supportive and inspiring. (Photo below shows the training area, capable of handling 8 classes running simultaneously.)
Over a lifetime, we learn a lot of different skills, some are practical, like typing, cooking, and car maintenance, ones that we expect to use on an ongoing basis throughout our lives. Others are ones that we simply enjoy with minimal “practical” value beyond the way they make us feel, like visual arts, performance arts, or various sports like golf or tennis.
Whatever the skill, we only have so much time to dedicate to our various pursuits. As such, we sometimes settle for what we consider an “acceptable” level of skill to get by. When we reach this point, we either consider ourselves to be good enough at the skill that we’ll be able to call upon it when needed. Many people do this for skills such as bike riding or swimming. Or we’re happy enough to continue enjoying the activity at that level without feeling the need to stretch ourselves to keep improving our ability. This is often the case with inter-sports like softball or sports that people only occasionally enjoy like golf or skiing. We don’t necessarily want to increase our level of ability to perform at more competitive levels. We just want to be good enough to be able to do them enjoyably in a certain context. (more…)
In modern Western society, we’re taught from a young age to set goals for ourselves and to work toward them until they’re achieved. You see this in our schools, in which there is more value placed on the marks students earned than on what they have actually learned and retained. We focus on this in sports in which the results of games or matches are what receive praise or denigration. The problem with this goal-oriented focus is that it doesn’t necessarily give you better results, and it makes the entire experience less engaging and fun. This can be especially true in one’s training in the martial arts.
Sooner or later, everyone who takes up a martial art over a long period of time will come up against some sort of mental block. They’ll come across some technique that they understand logically, and there is no physical impediment to doing it, but for some reason or another can’t seem to make their body do the technique in question. It can be incredibly frustrating, especially if the technique is seemingly simple and the majority of people have no trouble at all doing it. This feeling is exacerbated the longer the block exists, so it’s important not to sweep them under the carpet and avoid them. (more…)
My father once said this to me and it still rings true. My father had originally wanted a son when my sister was born, but he enjoyed raising a daughter so much that by the time my mother was pregnant with me, he wanted a second one. He got the best of both worlds. He got me.
I had always been a bit of a tomboy, but when I started doing physical activities as a child, my mother wanted to put me into dance. Soccer, was also introduced to my life as a summer activity. As a young child, I didn’t really know what I wanted or what was expected of me in my involvement in these activities. I just thought they were things I was supposed to do, like school. I was never all that great in either, nor did I have a fantastic time with them. I never really felt like I fit into those activities, but I kept doing them until I turned 12. (more…)
It’s hard to know what a young child would enjoy as a physical activity. If you’re lucky, he or she may have expressed a fascination with something they have seen on TV or through their family and friends, but more often than not, parents have to go through a period of trial and error to find the right fit. Here are few tips for finding the right activity:
- Talk to your child. If your child is younger, introduce a few different options that you think they might enjoy through video. YouTube can be handy for this. Ask them what they think. If your child is older, encourage them to actively take part in the decision-making process letting them choose for themselves from activities you can afford and are location friendly for you.
- Start small. If a school or program has the option to do a trial class, give it a shot and see how it goes. If your child is young, it’s a good idea to be there with them to help ease separation anxiety if the teacher allows it. If there is no trial class, try to start them off with a shorter term commitment. If all goes well, you can go for longer terms.
Did you ever see that episode of Seinfeld in which George manages to curry favour at his office and in his life by saying something during a meeting that gets a good reaction then leaving the room immediately after? The theory was that if he stayed around long enough he might say something stupid that counteracts the earlier effect, which then leaves a bad lingering impression of him. I’ve taken the liberty of providing a clip from that show below. While taken to a ridiculous extreme, there is research in psychology to support this theory.
The truth is that the way something ends is more likely to be remembered, even if the entire experience the whole way through gave an opposite impression. There is a great TED talk (see below) that goes into more detail about this. This concept is important for martial arts instructors to remember. (more…)
I heard this quote recently and thought about how very relevant it was to the martial arts. It is, of course, relevant in all spheres of life, but as a martial artist, it’s hard not to see the many ways it applies to what we do. Here are a few of the ways I thought about:
Sharpening Your Sword
In Jiu-jitsu, we train in a variety of different skills, including hand strikes, kicks, throws/takedowns, breakfalls, ground techniques, and more. Over time, students start to discover that they have more of an affinity for certain spheres of training, while observing more challenges in others. While it’s good to make the most of your natural talents, it’s equally important not to ignore one’s weaknesses. From a self-defense point of view, weaknesses can bite you in the ass. As with the metaphor, your sword is useless if you leave gaps when you sharpen it. If you don’t fully explore your weaker areas, you won’t learn how best to compensate for them. And with time, they may not even be weaknesses that require compensation. This attitude also transfers into other areas in life, work, relationships, hobbies, etc. When you adopt this mentality in one thing, it tends to affect other things you do and vice versa. (more…)
After a fantastic bull whip demo at last year’s PAWMA camp, my two students who accompanied me to the event and I were intrigued. Sifu Restita DeJesus (from the Seattle Wushu Centre) took us outside for our own informal bull whip lesson in the parking lot, using whips she had made herself. Some were beautifully made, intricately wrapped with para-cord, but the ones I liked best were the ones she had made using simple items from her local hardware and sports stores. After that, the three of us vowed to make our own whips one day. Last weekend, that day finally came. (more…)
A couple of months back, I was contacted by Martial Herbs to review a couple of their products, their “Martial Herbs Strength” and “Martial Herbs Recovery.” Unfortunately, due to some issues with Canadian Border Services, I only got “Strength” so it is the only one I can review from experience.
The marketing materials for Martial Herbs strength touts high claims such as “enhanced cellular signalling for swifter movement and response,” “optimized hydration through vital electrolytes” to help you “train harder and longer”, “rapid reduction of free radicals to stave off muscle fatigue and soreness.” It costs £22 (UK currency) for a bottle of 60 tablets, of which they recommend taking a general rule, I have a healthy scepticism when it comes to gimmicky products like this, but I have an open enough mind to try the things before taking a stance. I took Martial Herbs Strength, 1 every day until I finish the bottle. (more…)