As adults, why do we play scrabble, monopoly or video games?  Apart from the entertainment value and the social aspect of getting together, we do it because we want to see how good can we get when we are up for challenge and even compare ourselves to others.  If we seriously want to get better, we observe others who are good at them.  In a martial arts school the student develops largely with the instructor's guidance.  However, the more keen and forward thniking students always look at the persons who are good at something they might want to learn.  It is just a matter of asking that person which is a compliment to those who have something to offer.

The martial arts school is like a challenging playground of obstacles to develop skill.   I like the idea of students getting in early and working on something.  Socialising before class just drains energy and enthusiasm.  We can learn something from kids who waste no time when they drop in at McDonalds and go straight to the playground.  They see it as a challenge, game and fun. The dojo should be no different.

Don't waste precious time when you're at the school.

Get Technical

An exciting thing about the martial arts is the technical aspects and detail.  Back in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s it was about courage, strength, and toughness but as evolution started doing its thing the martial arts have now become increasingly technical that we are putting aside the much emphasis on that which, back then, was only a drive for a unique class of people that were physically and mentally up for the challenge discouraging many other interested people.

However, everybody to a certain extent has courage, strength and toughness (CST).  Courage is not about being gung ho or being a hero, it is about have the mindset to take on challenges.  Strength is not about brutal strength or how much weight you can lift, it is about the inner strength of your mind and body.  The letter, 'T' can also mean Technical which is an important learning aspect and there is nothing wrong with compensating knowledge with the technical aspects if persons don't possess the physical attributes young people and athletes have. Ultimately, the more technical, the better the martial artists.  The infamous Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master, Helio Gracie who was naturally a weak man, proved that by mastering leverage to beat his stronger opponents.

Learn to pay attention to detail and committing ourselves through our martial arts training is what will get us through the challenges in life.  Parents are always seeking what kind of results could their children expect to achieve from their martial arts training; hopefully, this may explain it.

The Good Old Days?

It’s amazing when friends used to tell me if I would open a school near their home they’d sign up immediately (that's how Olympic champions are born, ha, ha)!  One student ran into friends when we were setting up the new school.  They were excited about the place about what it had to offer and were even more excited the fact they were living across the road.  Needless to say, we did not hear from them.  That resembles some of the people who have been living, all their lives, below the famous historical landmark of Greece (Parthenon) and have never visited it!  I feel sorry for these people.

Sacrificing a little time, effort and travel is an indication of how much you really want something.  It makes it more challenging because of the little sacrifices you have to make. 

The martial arts are constantly growing because of the many of the many valuable components associated with them.  Parents have become aware their children should, at some stage, train in the martial arts.  The kids today are lucky because the parents support them.  My time as a kid was difficult because our parents did not know much about the martial arts so the support was not there.  Each time I got graded I had to run out and buy dye to change the colour of my belt because that was the best I could do at the time.

I had to sacrifice a lot of time, travel and effort in order to get I wanted.  Travel involved 2 buses and a 2 kilometre walk, which took about 1.5 hours each way just to do one training session.  Nowadays, people complain they might get wet from the carpark to the school only a few metres away.  It is hard for me to understand that when I think of the 'good old days'.

Assumption is the mother of all stuff-ups!

 How true is this phrase (although edited)!  I have talked, in many different ways, about how we all need to be reminded after learning a technique not to assume we know it all.  Thus, when instructors, go back to the beginning, people can often go into auto pilot mode and just seem to go through the motions, whereas, they should be looking for more detail and improving on it. 

There is a good way of getting my point across; there can be literally 100’s of little steps that make up a move, especially in Jiu Jitsu.  Assuming there are 100 steps from start to finish in a technique, then it is probable to assume you may pick up 5 steps; that means you have 95 more to go. 

What makes one person better than the other is the amount of extra little steps they know.  So we need to refocus when our minds start to wander off when you see repeats.  Take note especially when somebody else shows it because everyone has a different way of presenting it so you will always pick up something you did not before with the other instructor/person.

Never make assumptions!

The Choice is Clear

While the combined figures of various ball games (soccer, volleyball, football) may make them the most popular sport in the world, it is only for a short time because kids grow out of it and adults seem to lose interest because of no further use fo the game, apart from fitness.  What they don’t tell you is the average life span in football is far less than in the martial arts!

 Team ball sports (with no disrespect) are always competing with the martial arts because organisers and coaches are always pushing youngsters with their own personal interests and agenda.   As some parents have told me they would rather have their children doing the martial arts because of the many life skills being taught.  One classic example is the ‘bullying’ aspect.   Martial arts instructors are best equipped in this area so I cannot see anybody trying to grass cut us in this area because it would be foolish if they tried.

It is amazing to see the kids in the martial arts grow into good role models.  Adults seem to pick up new skills and confidence making them feel better both mentally and physically.    In my opinion, when it comes to a decision between ball games and martial arts, the choice is clear.

What’s in a Belt?

 Each martial art has its own culture and there are also cultural differences within each school.  There is one distinct feature in BJJ which separates it to other martial arts and that is the grading system.  Grades within BJJ are slow and cannot be asked for nor can they be predicted when anyone may get one.  However, this seems to be acceptable amongst the students which would not work in most other martial arts.  The only exception is the Black Belt, which in most systems, shares the same philosophy as any of the BJJ grades. 

I believe the difference is because BJJ is a lot more difficult to learn and there are probably more bad days than good days which can knock you back a couple of pegs back each time resulting in no one wanting to rush to the next grade.  It's quite the norm students to just sit on the one grade for a very long time with no complaints.  Those who have high expectations or make unrealistic demands tend to disappoint themselves and will eventually just give it up.  Perseverance is the name in this game.  It is not uncommon to see people earning a Black Belt in BJJ after12 years.  Ed O’Neil (star of Modern Family or Married with Children) earned his after 14 years training!

Whilst in Karate we do not need to share the same grading system (with the exception of the Black Belt), it is however a great philosophy to think about when we become complacent with Karate gradings.  I remember one Master’s famous words in regards to grades, ‘those who ask shall not receive.’

‘bully for you!’

Bullying has become has become the most talked about subject, worldwide, over the last couple of weeks as a result of the recent youtube posting of a bully being slammed onto his back in a Sydney school playground.  Bullying is real and it is not just confined to schools; we actually have an 'Anti-bullying' policy in the Police Force which indicates this sort of thing can happen in any environment.  Most parents will not be aware if their child is a bully or is being bullied.  Children are far less likely to report it because they don't know whether they should or shouldn't so the problem can go undetected for many years and accumulate irrepairable psychological damage.  I can relate to a couple of incidents in my younger days as a bully victim.

In primary school, I was getting bullied by one particular boy and I thought, one day, I would go straight to the Principal and report him.  The Principal told me to call that bully to his office (which was stupid but I did it anyway)  and he got severely caned.  As he came out he looked like he was going to attack me but instead he shook my hand.  Maybe, he thought he deserved it.

Another time, I was being bullied by several persons which started off with a push and a shove in the playground.  Every day at lunch time, walking in formation, they would gather around and try to provoke me.  One day, enough was enough, and I unleashed myself onto them all.  They never bothered me again, it was over!  That was they way I handled those situations because that is all I knew back then.  Now we have more informed solutions to choose from.

Even if the parents become aware of their children being bullied, what are they to do?  From a martial arts point of view, the solutions have to be based on both oral and physical skills they attain from their training; Instructors have a lot of influence over their students so it makes sense for them to be facilitators of this programme.  In other words, a DIY kit (do it yourself).  Remember, parents are not going to be around for their kids especially when they grow up; they need to learn to handle bullies from an early age because bullying can continue in the adult years in any environment.