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.

3 Day Growth

An interesting thing the other day; John Will was doing the BJJ rounds at schools in Sydney last weekend.  I promised I would keep my end of the bargain and found him good coffee; it was really good coffee. 

It happened like this.  Running short of time to get to Rick Spain’s school, I stopped at the first available parking spot outside a coffee shop in Chippendale.  It was the best coffee we had ever tasted!  Wow!  I told John the trick is to make sure the barista has a 3 day stubble – these type of guys , perhaps a little feral, have time to go and do a barista course.  We congratulated everyone in that shop by shaking their hands with John picking up a coffee bag to take home.

When I spoke to John, the next day, he said it was the worse coffee he had ever tasted and perhaps I was right about the 3 day stubble.  The truth is it's not just the coffee, there are many considerations to take into account – the barista, coffee blend, grinder, coffee maker, how it is brewed etc.

What makes a good martial arts school is not based on one thing.  Good martial arts instructors are really passionate about their martial arts and students, just as baristas are passionate about their coffee and customers.  Another thing comes to mind; one person may teach a particular technique or theme exceptionally well over others because it is the little ingredients or qualities that make that person an expert in that area.   Seminars put on by John Will and Richard Norton cannot be duplicated by others just like John could not duplicate that barista.  I just don’t know about the 3 day stubble for martial arts instructors, though.

Make no Mistake About it

Actuallyy it's ok to make mistakes – it's all part of the process of learning.  Sometimes it’s good to remind students that martial arts teachers, can get a little emotional in front of the class, but for all good reason.  It’s because they care and want the students to learn and get results, which is their form of gratification.  On the other hand, if they didn’t care, they would probably ‘turn a blind eye’ to the things you do wrong, and that’s not good teaching.

As a young student I always looked forward to see if my Instructor would notice me in the classroom.  Being corrected showed that my instructor cared.  In a way it was disappointing when I didn’t mess up because my Instructor would just move onto the next person.  In a weird sort of way I wanted to make mistakes, just so somebody can show me what to do.  

But students need to learn to be their own teachers by trying to solve the little obstacles that stand in the way of reaching their target or next level.  What better way to learn and progress by trying to sort things out yourself.  A teacher is like the driving instructor next to you in the passenger seat observing and correcting your mistakes but you are actually in control of the vehicle.  With experience you become more independent; this will happen with the help of the Teacher.  Make no mistake about it.

Getting Things Done

What I was thinking today is that you can get a lot of things done in a day with the correct mindset.  Tim and John came over this morning to pick up my trophies and medals (from my prize fighting days) and take to the school.  We then went and picked up a drink fridge, organised by Peter (Mr Strongman), from his house and took it to the school and then battled our way up the stairs to the dojo.  That was a real test for the four of us but 'she' now sets off the decor.  We dusted all the trophies and placed them on display (they look good near the drink fridge). 

 After a bit of rest at home, I had finished off the Black Belt Leadership manual, then got the lawnmower out and chopped up the grass.  I also got to see a couple of 2 X 'Two and a Half Men' repeats and here i am now doing a blog.  There was more but I won't bore you any further with other stuff.  The point is not to stagnate and use excuses for not getting things done.  Call it the mindset of a martial artist.  There's one more to add to that mindset.  Young Jake Mountford turned up to training yesterday with his foot in a walking boot and crutches.  I managed to get a picture of him in the back of the room.  Good mindset, this one.

The Countdown

 After all these years we are only 9 days from a full time centre which can now accommodate a number of martial arts and classes.  Our main drive was a professional cente for our students, and we have been searching for a premises, over the last 3 months, which would be suitable, affordable and close enough from the Belmore location.  We have done well considering only 800 metres away from the Belmore South Public School which has been operating there over the last 22 years. 

This centre is for all Budoshinkai students and the best compliment you can give to us is recommend our school to others.  Victor, John, Tim and I have been working extremely hard behind the scenes, and I should mention a special thanks to George Asimakopoulos, and his son, Peter (Senior Brown Belt), for coming down and giving us a hand today.

Many other martial arts instructors are astounded with the set up of the new place and wish they could also have two training areas.  This place is going to be good and there are many things to come out of this.  The countdown has already commenced; we move in Tuesday 8/2/11.  There will be a grand opening (date TBA) in which Kyoshi Richard Norton will be down here for, includng a stack of other Martial Arts Masters from all styles, so it is going to be a big one.