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…)
What do Taichi and Jiu-jitsu have in common? No, this isn’t a joke and no, I’m not crazy. When you look past the surface images of elderly people doing slow-moving patterns, there are many fundamentals that are alike. And not just with Jiu-jitsu, but many other martial arts styles as well, as many students discovered at the Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists camp I recently attended. At one of the classes I took when I attended this year’s PAWMA camp, Sifu Debbie Leung, instructor at Chinese Healing & Movement Arts, related some of the fundamental principles guiding the practice of Taichi (a.k.a.- Taiji). She didn’t simply teach us a pattern from her style. She had all the students choose a particular sequence from their styles then we applied each Taichi principle to that move.
When it comes to seminars, this type of format in which the instructor teaches concepts from their style in ways that are applicable for a variety of styles, is one I love. This makes the concepts more relevant the students’ own styles, allowing the students to take that concept home and continue using what they learned. I usually try to teach principle-based seminars myself as described in my blog post, My Approach to Teaching Martial Arts Seminars. (more…)
Putting yourself in the public eye, whether it’s as a sports competitor, martial arts instructor, writer, actor, film producer, etc, is a bold move for any person. What you create or impart is a representation of who you are, your knowledge, talent, efforts, and skills. The more people you touch, the bigger your potential impact on the world around you. Being in the public eye puts you in a position where you can have great power, but simultaneously puts you in a position of great vulnerability. For people to see you, you have to rise above the crowds. In doing so, it makes it easier for them to throw rocks. (more…)
I have always been hesitant to offer martial arts training for really young children. I’ve baulked at the idea of “Tiny Tigers” or “Little Dragons” programs in the past, based on the idea that the martial arts are too subtle and complex that there is no way a young child can really learn them effectively. And I still believe this. That being said, there are other ways to introduce the martial arts to young children in a manner that is more appropriate for their current level of physical, mental, emotional and social development.
A few months ago Steve Hiscoe Shihan showed me his Ready-Set-Kiai program for young children that introduces some basic concepts of martial arts training, but with a stronger emphasis on teaching fundamental movements skills that all children of that age should be learning so they can participate in sports and develop confidence using their bodies, with a strategic balance of basic martial arts skills that helps them to more seamlessly transition into more complicated martial arts skills later in their development. The program is based around 8 specific skills, which are introduced in more basic forms then built upon with more difficult versions as they master them. (more…)
Everyone has different reasons for joining a martial arts school beyond learning the skills being taught. Some want to improve their fitness. Others want to meet new people. Some just want to get out and try new things. Others want an adrenaline rush.
At our dojo, we like to create opportunities to expand our students’ horizons by doing different types of activities outside the dojo together. This past weekend a group of us took part in “Run for Your Lives,” a zombie-infested 5k obstacle race. We put together a team of people who have trained at our dojo and completed the race together. We also played the roles of “Jiu-jitsu zombies” for some of the later races, when runners came face to face with our “undead dojo” many paused to re-group and psyche themselves up to make the run through our group, making the zombie experience that much more entertaining.
Yesterday, I held a brown belt test for two students at my dojo. One of them had been training with me pretty much since I first started teaching in the Vancouver area, just over 7 years. The other had started less than 2 years ago, having come to the dojo already holding a black belt, with 9 years of training in another style of Japanese Jiu-jitsu having studied on the east coast. I am happy to announce that both students passed, but there is so much more to it than their test results.
After the test, the student who had trained with me since the beginning presented me a gift he made himself, which you can see in the photo below. When he presented it to me, he gave a short speech. It was along these lines: “When I first started training it was to learn self-defense, but I gained so much more. Training with you gave me the confidence to go after my dreams.” One of his dreams was to work in law enforcement and now he works as a BC sheriff, as represented in the gift he made, which I’ll be hanging prominently at the entrance to our mat area. I couldn’t help but tear up at this meaningful gesture.
When students start to adopt leadership roles in their martial arts school, they often worry about whether or not people will take them seriously, unsure of how to carry themselves in such a way as to engender respect and trust. They naturally look to their instructors’ examples to learn how to carry themselves as an instructor. For many, this is a mistake. I’m not suggesting that instructors can’t be helpful as a role model, but they shouldn’t simply look at their teaching style and the way they address students for modelling. Instead, they should be looking at the spirit behind a confident instructor’s actions.
Behind every truly confident martial arts instructor, there are a number of characteristics that define them that go beyond the mechanics of how they run a class. Below are 5 that I’ve noted in the many excellent instructors from whom I’ve had the pleasure of learning. (more…)
Martial arts seminars have unique characteristics that differentiate them from standard ongoing classes in a school or club atmosphere. They are usually not your own students who will benefit from building on the knowledge base you offer over time. They may not even be from the same style as you, or even the same martial art. As such, I take a different approach to teaching them so that students make the most of the experience.
A martial arts friend and colleague of mine sent me an email yesterday to wish my happy Mother’s Day. He said, “This may seem weird, but I wanted to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. Not sure if you think about it this way, but you are truly a mother to your dojo.” It was the nicest thing I heard all week.
A little over a week ago, a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu school owner wrote a blog post openly discussing his frustrations that women don’t seem to stick with their training. This sentiment is not uncommon in the martial arts world, which is largely dominated by men. There was some backlash from the female martial arts blogger community at some of the comments that he made, and questions were raised as to whether he really was doing right by the women who come through his doors. I’m not looking to further that discussion, because the only women who can make any such claims either way are those who train at his dojo, and frankly, I believe the instructor who wrote the post genuinely wants to do his best to develop female students. Rather than writing a “he said-she said” style response post, I’d like to offer my own insights from my experience of being a female martial arts instructor who has been in the industry for 20 years. (more…)