Saturday, March 24, 2007

Our strongest asset in training

I have found that my strongest asset when I train in karate is to find my inner motivation, and flow with it.

I was walking past an aerobics group a few days ago, and I stopped to watch them doing their class. The karate-ka in my recognized the hint of various stances, and techniques as they were moving their arms and legs. I thought to myself, "if they understood the potential of their movements, they would be able to train it to a different level, and might be able to use it in self defense ( If they had to ) Ah.. but that is not their goal. They chose to spend an hour moving their bodies to build up a sweat, lose weight, build muscle, and increase their cardio-vascular output."

This realization brought me to think about what our goal would be when taking a karate class. What is the main goal of a karate club? I believe that it would depend on the philosophy of the Sensei. Although every Sensei contains more than one goal within them, you will find that they tend to centralize in their philosophy. Some Sensei are looking to create the next World Champion in their art. Their club centers on tournament fighting, and getting the gold medals. Some Sensei are looking to investigate into the deeper levels of their art, and understand the techniques at a higher, and higher level. Some Sensei just enjoy training in the art, and create a family atmosphere. Some Sensei are more centered on teaching "street" defense, so that a person could honestly protect themselves if placed in a dangerous position such as a police officer.

Just as there are different teaching philosophies, there are different reasons that students will take martial arts. For some, it is to gain in health, balance, and flexibility. For others, it might be to become the next World Champion. Some people take karate for pleasure.. they just enjoy doing this activity as a hobby. Some want to learn self defense.

I think that all of these reasons are great.. because they can combine the benefits of physical activity with learning various movements that might come in handy one day. The most important thing is to find what motivates me, because once I've understood what it is that I want from my training, I can arrange my energies into that direction. It would not work for me to train under a Sensei that is centered on creating a World Champion, if I am looking for learning street self defense. This is when I should start looking for a Sensei that lives, and teaches the same philosophy as mine. I believe that matching the type of teaching to my goals helps me stay motivated in my art.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

1 week later

It's hard to believe that my last posting was 7 days ago, it sure didn't feel like 7 days. I've been running around so much that each day overlapped with the next.

I've achieved a great many things this week. I learned CPR, and received certification. I attended my daughter's theatre performance. I solidified the Bassai Sho kata in my mind. I completed the "Respect in Sports" program, and received certification. I comforted my youngest son through a bout with the flu. I organized, and implemented a 25th Anniversary for my Kyokushin dojo.

Karate-wize.. I showed up to class last night to find out that my Sensei was still at seminar, and that I'd be teaching the beginner class. I can't explain the happy feeling that this gives within me. I really enjoy teaching. It doesn't matter what I'm teaching either. I love to teach. I'm just as happy teaching my daughter how to tie her shoes as I am teaching a young child how to do a front kick.

I decided to focus the class on the aspect of hip rotation.. and voila.. I put the students through a series of exercises to help them realize where their hips are when they move in front stance, and why. By the panting breathing, and smiles on their faces at the end of class, I assumed that they had learned something, and had enjoyed doing so. ( I could be kidding myself.. ha ha ha)

Perhaps the enjoyment that I receive when I teach comes from watching visual improvement in my student's understanding, and ability. I received much satisfaction as I saw a big difference in the classes hip rotation by the end of the class. Perhaps it's seeing that "AHA" look in their eyes, as a light of realization turns on, and they rejoice in a new found skill.

I know that I feel proud that I have contributed just a little bit into the future of the Martial art that I love. Who knows? Maybe one day, one of these students will be faced with a challenge that requires hip rotation to create power, and they will automatically do it.

Either way, It was nice to be able to teach the beginner's class. I know that I enjoyed myself. :-)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Self defense for little children

I just recently experienced something in my family that has me contemplating the whole "bully in the playground" experiences that children have had to survive for so long.

My young 10 year old daughter was walking home at lunchtime with her 9 year old sister, and 7 year old brother. Suddenly, one of the other students of the school runs up behind the three in a panic asking for help because she was being chased by a group of girls intent to "beat her up".

My 10 year old looked around and accessed the situation. She saw one girl chasing towards them, another girl waiting at the lights to ambush, and a group of three girls closing down on them on the other side of the street.

When these "bullies" saw that their victim had reached my children, they stopped their attack, and started walking away, but keeping an eye on the victim to see if my daughter was going to help or not.

My daughter took charge of the situation, and invited this girl to come to our house, and phone her parents. All the way home, she watched to see if the bullies were going to follow. However, the bullies had gone home.

The victim arrived safely to my home, and was able to phone her dad, and be picked up.

My daughter asked me "Mom? I know the lead bully's Mom.. She is a nice lady. Why is this girl acting like such an awful person? I just can't see how a nice Mom like that could teach her daughter to be such a bully."

As I tried to explain an answer to my daughter, I understood something about bullying from the depths of me. We all have the potential to be a "bully" to another person. Our society exists on "control and power", sometimes we are the follower, sometimes we are the leader. Many times, we see a potential chance to usurp control over others that really isn't ours to have. We may not always act out in a physical way. Sometimes our bullying is just the way that we speak, or act towards a person which makes them feel demeaned, and psychologically attacked. Physical damage ( like a bruise) will heal over time, but psychological damage could affect us far into the future. We may not even be aware of what we are doing. In fact, we might even have the best intentions as we bully others.

Take a Sensei who is instructing class. Let's say she notices that one student is having problems with their down block. The Sensei puts on a severe tone, calls out the student by name, and proceeds not only to correct that one default, but to list all of the various weaknesses that this student has in their technique ending with the words "What's wrong with you??? You call that karate? You might as well be ball room dancing!"

In my eyes, this scenario didn't help the student learn how to improve, or how to look for solutions. Instead, it focused on how the student is inadequate, and unteachable. It demeaned the student's efforts to learn, and offered no hope for success. It is a form of "bullying" a child into progress. In my experience, improvement does not happen from shame, hopelessness, and rebuke. A student needs to feel like there is a chance that they may be able to achieve this with continued effort.

How can we be aware that we are being bullies? Well.. I'd say that we'd have to look at our behaviour honestly and ask ourselves. Would I want to be treated this way? Would I want my children treated this way? Would I act like this if I was being videotaped? Suddenly, by putting on outside eyes, we realize the honesty of our words, and actions, and we can choose a different behaviour.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sorry that I dropped off the face of the earth..

It's been insane around here, let me fill you in:

1. Oldest daughter's piano recital.
2. Middle daughter still doing theatre lessons.
3. Middle daughter attending special choir practices for a big City event involving an orchestra.
4. Foster daughter's dance recital.
5. Middle daughter's belt rank test. She has been asking for me to help her practice each day.
6. Nephew moved out of his apartment and needed help to get it all clean in one day.
7. My Kyokushin dojo is celebrating it's 25th Anniversay in a few weeks. I'm running around organizing, purchasing, and preparing.
8. I have received a position lately from my Shotokan Sensei which involves much running around, contacting people, taking various courses, and such. More will be revealed in time.. right now everything is "hush, hush."

To be honest, I do not have time to go grocery shopping.. we have been scrounging up meals from whatever cans, and frozen foods that I can unearth in my cupboards, and freezer. It's all positive stress.. but man.. oh man... I need a vacation.

Once all the dust has settled I promise that I will be back, and typing out my thoughts, and experiences to share with you.