On Being a Black Belt

Becoming a Black Belt is a special event in one’s life.

For each of us it means something different.  What that piece of cloth represents can be vastly different for each person who has made the journey to earn the right to wear it.

We each have a story to tell.  The one thing that we all have in common is the ability to encourage and motivate others to complete, or possibly begin, that same journey of self-discovery.  As a Black Belt you are a leader, whether you wanted to be or not, because you have accomplished something that few people even attempt.  You are a leader by example.

Here is a chance to inspire others to challenge themselves and grow.  Tell us your story.  What has your journey to Black Belt meant to you?  What does your continuing journey as a Black Belt mean to you?  When you look at your belt what do you think?  What does it represent to you?

Tell us your story!

Yes, I have been at this a while!  The journey has meant more to me than the milestones.

The Impact of Life on My Practice

The first 6 days of writing I have focused on the impact my practice has had on my life…

Time to “Flip the Script”!

Are you making the most of yours?

The image above has a meaning far greater than it may appear.  For my Black Belts who have attended Black Belt Camp it is one of those “BIG HAIRY CHALLENGES” that their Instructors like to toss their direction.  It is a GIANT PERSONAL CHALLENGE communicated without a single word.

Let’s see if you can decipher the message without being “told” what it means…

Today’s lesson is one of making life and the practice of the martial arts congruent.  Too often activities like martial arts can become ego-driven, with the student becoming so enamored with themselves and their accomplishments that they stop paying attention to the world around them.

I work every day to make sure this is not the case for myself, and as many of my students as will follow my lead.  My focus is on my community.  I want my first thought of each day to be “How can I, and my school, positively impact our community?”  This focus on others and the desire to help others has always been a part of me and has now become a major focus of our school.

As the day moved along it became obvious that Pilsung ATA Martial Arts is a school with a community-focused mission.  I was having discussions with various people in and out of the school that kept revolving around the concept of helping others first.  Everything from how classes are run to the way in which a student works towards and earns a Black Belt Rank is “colored” by our mission to help our community.  The way we greet students and families and the way we work to make the school a fun and safe place to come and simply “be yourself” is guided by the desire to help others grow stronger and more ready to face the challenges of the world.

It is funny.  I have heard it said more than once, by more than one “expert”, that martial arts schools are businesses and can only be successful if they are run STRICTLY as a BUSINESS.  I guess I am a rebel, but I just don’t buy that line of thinking.  I believe there has to be more to it, that we need to be sure we are making a difference in the lives of those around us in every endeavor – especially our “business”.  For me the martial arts, and teaching them to others, is a way of life.  It is a way for me to make a positive impact in my world.  Sure, I could get caught up in the “busy-ness” of running the business and become like so many others – “dashing about and accomplishing nothing of lasting value”.  I choose a different path, one defined by the values I have held as important in my life even before the arts.

Have you figured it out yet?

What does

Are you making the most of yours?

stand for?

The next time you pass by a grave yard take a second to go in and look at a few grave markers.  They all have this symbol on them… can you find it?  What does it mean on that marker?  What does it represent?  What will it mean when it is put above your final resting place?

Is the meaning starting to become clear?  Is the challenge of that simple “dash” coming into focus?

Learning to Walk

Day 6 of my 100 Days of Writing…

Teaching classes tonight gave me a great opportunity to really appreciate what being involved in the martial arts over the last 17 years has taught me.  I caught myself moving from “basic martial arts” to “basic human motion” teaching.

Over the years I have learned more about how the human body works, how we move and how we generate power (accomplishing work) safely.  The key word being SAFELY.  Looking back at my life before beginning martial arts training and after a few years of dedicated training I realize I have become a safer, healthier person in general.  I am more capable of safely accomplishing even the newest and most physical of activities now, at nearly 40 years of age, than I was at 20!  I am more flexible (yes, I could still stand to be even more so!), stronger, better balanced and more coordinated.

I am also more aware of movement, situational dangers and how to position myself for maximum efficiency and safety in every activity.  I realized all of this as I taught a student why we walk as we do, using opposing motion in our arms and legs.  (Just try and walk by swing your Right Arm forward as you step with your Right Foot!) As we discussed this and other motions that we routinely work on in class that seem “counter-intuitive” it became obvious that my current state of “safe movement” had come from the knowledge I had gained, one step at a time in my training.

These lessons had all been learned the same way I had learned to walk as a young child, through trial and error, determined effort and most of all – naturally.  Another lesson also became more clear… that the most important lessons, those that have formed the way in which I continue to learn today, have come from my martial arts training.  Through the ongoing practice I have developed a “patience for learning”, discovering that it doesn’t happen all at once and is best done slowly, one small step at a time.

Mr. Myers

Life… The ultimate exercise in sparring

This past weekend was Pilsung’s Annual Black Belt Camp.  It was either our 8th or 9th… we are still doing some research to figure out when we held our first!

It just so happened that the camp fell on the first three days of my 100 Days of Writing Challenge.  The camp was fertile ground for reflection on how my study of the martial arts has changed the way I live.

DAY#1: 

Day number one was our “outbound” day.  We spent the day getting the school ready to be left empty for 2 days, our gear ready to support 15 other people out in the woods for 2 days and our students ready to go.  It also provided a great snapshot of how different people approach preparing for major undertakings and how those methods are mirrored in their sparring.

I found myself relaxing and taking each task in stride, not getting overly worried or harried by the hustle and bustle around me.  My approach had been preplanned, I had thought through the steps I needed to take and the order of importance in advance.  I knew that I would not have time to do much of the work until the final day so I had spent time through out the week mentally rehearsing my day.  I had even put time into planning for “emergencies” and making sure that there was a “Plan B” for those times where the original plan seemed to be falling apart.

As I gave this preparation method more thought I realized it had come from how I have prepared for some of my recent efforts to test for new Rank and how I prepare for sparring matches.  I mentally rehearse my plan, my tactics, the strategy that I feel will best end in a positive result.  In some cases I have found myself limited in the amount of time I could spend on the mats and would rely on mental rehearsal to get ready for major events.

Day#2:

Perspective was the word of the day.  It could be found in every aspect of every activity we participated in today.

Again, the sparring metaphor jumped out at me as the day progressed.  We talked about communications and how what works in one instance may not work so well in another because the person we are communicating with does not have the same skills or perspective we do.  We often refer to sparring as “having a conversation” when we test, making sure both people in the match have a chance to show their skills. The trick is that we often find ourselves over extending or not doing enough to showcase our own abilities because our perception of what is happening in the match is different than that of our training partner.  Worse yet, the judge’s perspective of what is happening is totally different than either of the sparring partners.  In one short exchange of techniques and movements three distinct stories are told and three very different concepts of performance are created.

Learning to spar at a high level and be able to not only show my skills, but show those of my partner as well has giving me the ability to see the same action from different perspectives.  This ability has transferred into my life through my communication skills.  I am not always successful, but I do try to see the other person’s perspective.  I approach the communications process as a sparring match in which I want both parties to “win”.  This approach has most certainly not always been the case!  I used to verbally spar to win, at all costs.  Age, and a few beat-downs in and out of the ring, have taught me a better way to approach communications.

Day#3:

Camp wrap up and return home.

The “Lesson of the Day” was easily discerned, starting the night before.  Timing was to become a major issue and opportunity in the very same situation.

In sparring we learn three different types of timing.  Timing to generate power (useful, efficient motion to accomplish work), Timing to create Harmony (flowing and blending with one’s partner) and Timing to create advantage (disrupting and redirecting an attack).  As our Saturday wound down and we were laying final plans for how to wrap up everything on Sunday morning our “hosts” dropped a little bit of bad news on us.  We were going to have to adapt to their “timing” and move up our plans a bit (like 2 hours) to accommodate their needs.  Let’s just say that did not settle well with our Camp Staff as we rearranged our plans.

What ended up happening worked well.  Sunday went very well and camp ended on a high note for all.  We were required to practice all three forms of timing to get there.  We harnessed “power timing” to realign our breakfast preparations and were still able to enjoy a fabulous campfire breakfast to close out camp.  We were able to “harmonize” with the Host’s timing and create a sense of urgency that made the clean up and pack out go that much quicker and more smoothly than it has in years past.  And, we were able to renegotiate a bit of the timing that had been “given” to us and create more space and time for our needs by being able to show that their concerns were not nearly as large with us as they might be with other less courteous and respectful groups.  We were able to “redirect” their concern and the force behind their desire for us to clear out of our cabin 2 hours ahead of our original schedule.

Yes, there were “hiccups” and things that simply did not go according to plan during camp.  That is life.  Everyone was able to enjoy camp and in some cases the “hiccups” were not even noticed by anyone but those with the “master schedule”.

The practice of the martial arts has certainly made me more resilient and more flexible.  Life’s challenges are seen as just that, challenges to be overcome, not barriers to progress.

Mr. Myers

The beginning of the 100 Days of Living

I recently saw the postings of a gentleman who made a conscious decision to change his life…

He decided that for 100 consecutive days he would journal.  His journal entries would be focused on how his study of martial arts impacted his daily life – and how his daily life impacted his study of the arts.

He later turned those thoughts and observations into a blog.

I believe this is a wonderful idea… and a great experiment.  We all talk about how the martial arts impact our lives, but how many of us are actually fully aware of just how this occurs?  Are we really learning to live a better life through our practice and study of the arts?  Are we letting those lessons sink in… or slip by?

For the next 100 Days I will be keeping a similar journal.  I am not sure I am ready to take the same step my inspiration did and “open up my books” to the world.  Not sure that the material generated would be suitable for sharing.

I challenge you to do the same!  For the next 100 days take a few minutes each night to sit down and put pen to paper.  “Download” the day’s events, your thoughts and how you acted or reacted.  Were your words and actions in line with the teachings of your martial art?  Does your art even speak to this level of “conscious living”?

As always, Yours in the Martial Spirit,  Mr. Myers

Martial Arts Develop Children’s Leadership Skills

Children learn how to be leader when they participate in martial arts.
Children learn how to be leader when they participate in martial arts.

Anyone can learn how to be a leader. Children can develop leadership skills as early as 2 years of age, Psychology Today reported. During preschool years, kids can learn how to delay gratification and communicate nonverbally and with influence. When a child enters elementary school, he or she has the opportunity to lead student projects or serve as a teacher’s helper. Sports, such as martial arts, also tap into kids’ leadership potential, providing students with similar experiences.

Youth sports often help children develop teamwork shills, increase self-confidence and build a competitive nature. All of these traits feed into a successful leader. In martial arts courses, a student could serve as a leader by displaying mastery of the material and showing others how to learn a particular technique. Fellow students may look up to the individual, which encourages a positive feedback loop.

Part of being a leader is having a “can-do” attitude, Kidz​ ‘n Power, a parenting resource, reported. Instead of seeing a task as a problem, he or she sees it as an opportunity to learn. Leaders also prevail and persevere when times are rough. Martial arts courses provide children with the prime space to develop leadership skills

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3 Ways Parents Of Children With Adhd Can Help Their Kids

Children with ADHD often suffer from a lack of self-confidence.
Children with ADHD often suffer from a lack of self-confidence.

Being the parent of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is certainly not easy, and many kids who suffer from the illness lack self-confidence. This is just one of the effects of ADHD, and one that can make it difficult  for children to develop into good students and contributing members of society. It’s important that parents get them on the right track to feeling good about themselves at a young age.

“If they’ve grown up hearing over and over again that they are ‘bad, incapable or even stupid,’ these words hang on to them and they begin to define themselves as such,” Terry Matlen, a psychotherapist and ADHD coach, told PyschCentral.

Instead, children should be surrounded with positive reinforcement, and it is up to parents to make that happen. Below are a few tips to get kids suffering from ADHD feeling confident in themselves:

Talk to children about their strengths
Many kids with ADHD are often extremely caring, kind and funny. Matlen told PyschCentral that parents must highlight these strengths to their children and continue to stress that they are able to bring people joy. The last thing parents want is for their kids with ADHD to withdraw from the family. Highlighting all the things they do well will make it easier for them to want to be more social.

Get children involved with Karate
Karate has long been thought of as a way to improve individuals’ self-esteem. According to a paper written by a student at the Center for Teaching Excellence at the United States Military Academy, this form of physical exercise can enhance mental and psychological feelings, which is perfect for children with ADHD. Practicing Karate gives kids an opportunity to escape from their illness, and truly focus on pushing themselves to excel in their learning of the martial art.

Encourage kids to help others
Children with ADHD can quickly feel better about themselves if they take part in helping those in need. Matlen said activities like charitable work and contributing to fundraising opportunities are surefire ways to boost levels of self-confidence among children. Kids will often feel bad about themselves when their ADHD affects them, but when they are making a difference in the world, it allows them to escape from the illness that plays a role in their daily lives.

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