Please, please don’t walk into any martial art school thinking you already know it all. If you’ve had other training, that is fantastic! Anyone who already has the basic concepts is well ahead of the game. But, guess what? Every school and program is different. What took you two months to earn a yellow belt there, might take you a year here, or vice versa. That kick? It might have a slight variation in this school. The way you bow, the commands, and the overall philosophy may be completely different. No teacher wants to hear “I already know that.” “I learned it this way.” “My Sensei said….”
And, if you are a new martial artist, just be humble. Just be honest. You don’t know anything yet and you’ve got nothing to prove.
2. Making Assumptions
You know what they say about assuming things. Let’s just say, it’s not a good idea.
If you really want to know what a program or school offers, ask them right up front. If it’s a black belt in two years that you want, don’t get angry while going through the program if you are more than two years in and still have a long way to go and you never asked.
Don’t assume you are guaranteed a black belt. Just putting in hours doesn’t cut it. There is skill, technique, dedication and performance involved.
Don’t assume your school is the best, your style is the most comprehensive, or that other martial artists are any different from you. Discussed in some of my other blogs, this borders on disrespect.
3. Not Practicing
You call yourself a martial artist. You go to class. Do you practice?
I’ve heard excuses ranging from “there is not enough room in my house” to “I’m too tired” to “I can just practice in class.” I understand, really I do. I’m right there with you and agree with all of these excuses. I still take action, though. On any given day, I might be practicing a kata in my living room or in the driveway or before or after class or during break. I know that I have a long way to go to be where I want to be in my art.
Not practicing is going to set you behind. You will come to class still struggling with the skills that have already been taught. Your proficiency level will lag. If you don’t get to test when you want, this might be the reason why. I can tell if you practice when you come to class. No practice, no improvement.
4. Hitting Full Force in Practice
Some styles wear a lot of fighting protection and go full force. In my program we use head-gear and punches and maybe foot gear and while contact can be made it must be controlled. That is why we wait until green belt level. It gives students the opportunity to learn the control and precision they need to spar in this manner.
For me, “practice” is about honing those strong sparring skills by repetition and you can only gain repetition by having opportunities to spar and practice all your skills. Hitting full force in practice is not allowed and if done, the student is pulled. We are not a competition school so we focus on the skills to fight and point sparring.
I understand that each school has a different philosophy. When I see our seasoned students fighting in class, I know that they have what they need to defend or fight back and that is what is important to me. Other styles have other methods and they are all acceptable, if monitored and coached well.
5. Not drinking enough water
Taking a strenuous martial art class without drinking enough water is a no-no. You are probably going to sweat, work your muscles, stretch and strengthen, use different body parts, and exert energy. Drink water to nourish what you lose in the work-out. Even a few sips of water on a break can make a huge difference in how you feel during your training. If you are in a high aerobic type martial art training, you must drink water to stay focused and strong.
Feeling sluggish? This may be why.
6. Working with the same partner all the time
We do a lot of partner drills. Students want to partner with the same people over and over. It becomes comfortable for them. They know what to expect with this partner. This partner is the same size, has the same skill set, has been training just as long.
This is a martial art mistake because life is not comfortable. If someone attacks you or gets in your face, chances are he is not going to be the same size or have anything in common with you. Working with people who are more or less trained than you, bigger or smaller, or the opposite sex will not only push you to train harder because these new partners are going to test you as they learn themselves.
In some cases, that common partner is a great idea, but not every time. See what the unexpected feels like.
7. Not stretching or warming up
I start each class with a warm up and a stretch. After stretching we do some sit ups or push ups, then general skills drills. All this warming up gets the body ready for the more demanding technique work.
Whatever martial art you practice or teach, a stretch or warm up gets the juices flowing. It is the transition between just walking in the door of the school a little tired to giving 100%. It brings you from stillness to activity in a matter of minutes and gives your muscles a chance to prepare. Hopefully, it will eliminate potential injuries, too.
8. Not getting enough sleep
Try, try, try to get enough sleep. Learning a martial art can zap your energy at times. Struggling with fatigue is a sure way to forget what you’ve learned, have difficulty paying attention in class, and diminish the power you need for your skills. Not just for your martial art, but for your everyday activities and commitments, try to get the amount of sleep that is right for you.
I just perused Jamie Clubb’s book, “Mordred’s Victory & Other Martial Mutterings.”
If you want to read a book that causes you to ponder, question, and investigate the broad variables of martial arts, then Jamie Clubb’s book fits the bill. Don’t expect to agree with everything Jamie says. He is going to shake up some of your core martial art beliefs.
Jamie begins his book with a reference to the epic medieval poem, Le Morte d’Arthurv, where King Arthur battles his treacherous son, Mordred, who has tried to usurp his throne; a tale he uses as a comparison to the two types of fighters in our modern world today.
In my opinion, however, the more relevant tale is that of the very studious and curious martial arts enthusiast, Jamie Clubb.
Jamie began his life in a traveling circus and grew up in a business that trained and supplied animals to the media industry. Later, in his exploration of his martial art interest, he created the UK’s first extreme professional wrestling production using martial arts as its theme.
Jamie’s circus life, along with his lifelong robust martial arts study and practice, give him an unwavering voice. For instance, he started to recognize self-protection ideas as a specialized approach to martial arts, as he transitioned from circus life into martial artist and writer. His thoughts on training children, though criticized by martial arts communities, were approved by anti-bullying experts.
His opinions are steadfast and worthy of consideration.
The book is separated into four sections that explore Jamie’s belief system: martial mutterings; self-protection; reality training for children; and training: fit for a purpose. Each section explores Jamie’s fascination with martial arts history, culture, and diversity, and reveals his opinions on such topics as combat sports, competition, street-fighting techniques, handling opponents, and using voice as a weapon. He integrates many lessons from his experiences with the animal kingdom such as the defensive warning sounds, like a kiai, and taking cover as a natural response, which is a perspective not readily seen elsewhere.
Jamie’s reflections on grappling and MMA are a bit contentious in today’s world and anything contentious usually draws the reader to contemplate his own values and opinions. I’d say Jamie Clubb provides you with that opportunity, and more.
To pull his final thoughts together, Jamie explores the core martial arts beliefs and values of respect, awareness, courage, discipline, and open-mindedness. His biggest strength is the blend of his life experiences with his martial art training, and that is how he defines his beliefs and theories.
I want to thank Jamie for allowing me the opportunity to reflect on some of his musings. Digging deep into his life-long lessons and sharing a strong, opinionated basis for martial arts conjecture, is Jamie’s excellent purpose. I assure you, you will have a lot to think about when you are done reading “Mordred’s Victory & Other Martial Mutterings.”
I was going to start by writing how martial arts are not for everyone, but that would be sarcasm. I think there are enough different martial art styles in the world for everyone to find something that is meaningful and purposeful. I know all the standard reasons why most choose to not practice. Time, responsibilities, commitments, fear, worry, and lack of self-confidence come to mind.
I understand it all. I battle the same on a daily basis. Can I fit practice in today? What else do I have to finish? Can I really do this? These are all the questions that capture the thoughts of the martial art non-believer.
My sarcasm can easily roll into a jaunt about how martial arts are only for those who wish to pursue personal excellence, inner peace, confidence, potential, defense, and fitness. Sarcasm aside, I’m not sure anyone can deny the practical and creative benefits mentioned in this list. So, I say to the person who is interested in learning a martial art, but allows excuses to diminish his desire, stop waiting. If you are a believer in the benefits, it’s time to hop on board.
From a woman’s perspective, there can be fear based on lack of awareness or understanding. Martial arts sound like something difficult, unattainable, and perhaps even manly. What woman, unless some kind of professional fighter, wants to be seen as aggressive, physical, or potentially violent in a defensive situation? What woman wants to compromise femininity for the sake of a fighting art? What woman wants to bellow loud noises, crack a board, or stand up against an aggressor? I have a simple answer. Martial arts are for every woman. None of what is mentioned here captures what martial arts really offer.
Large, small, outgoing, shy, young, old, or anywhere in between, martial arts offers every woman opportunities, survival skills, betterment, and most importantly, a new vision of herself. Everyone starts at the beginning and builds upon the basics. Martial arts and self-defense both offer women something they never had before, the tools to defend. Defense, in real life, may not be pretty, but without the tools to defend, her chance of escape, or even survival, are minimized. That sounds like a good reason to learn to me. She may outwardly seem like a non-believer, when in reality, all she needs is a little coaxing to get her over the hump and into class.
What about guys? What do they gain from martial arts? They are already strong, burly, or masculine. Martial arts will help them discover who they really are inside, and allow them to push themselves, Yes, they will learn how to fight better, and become internally abundant and prosperous. Martial arts are physical, but they teach the best lesson that calms the male ego, learning to fight so you don’t have to fight.
This means that guys will learn how to fight and how to defend, but more importantly, how to avoid the attack or remove himself from it, as the first course of action. They teach humility and decision making that relies not on emotion, but on deflecting an impending crisis.
Years ago, a male friend of mine asked our instructor a question. He asked what he should do if he was in his car, and someone pulled a gun on him through an open window. He was expecting some great defense, maybe something that involved taking the gun from the assailant and then punching him through the window, or something a television drama would show. The instructor just looked at him and said, “Don’t ever put yourself in that situation.” Sometimes, the male ego and imagination are more powerful than they need to be. Martial arts help control where, and when, a martial art should ever be used.
Kids are the best believers of all! They are open-minded, and believe unless they are told not to, or until they prove it wrong. One story in my upcoming book, The Martial Arts Woman, mentions how young girls are able to do knuckle push ups as a warm up to a martial art class, because they were never told they couldn’t do them. In later years, if they never did a knuckle push up before, they physically have a difficult time doing one because they never trained their mind, or body, to realize that it was possible. The younger set of girls, who naturally believed, just followed along in class and did them without any trepidation.
Kids who practice in my pre-skills classes, ages 4 to 6, perform their version of martial arts, and believe me, I’m always excited and amazed when they pay attention and execute a command with a smile. The key to these young believers is making it fun through learning. They are accepting and believing. They see Ninja Turtles and other symbols of youthful, playful martial artists, and want to be the same.
Then there are the rest of us, aren’t there? We are the true believers, and those who have put in a few years. We practice diligently, both physically or mentally, and have joined the unspoken, unwritten, lifelong martial art club, no holds barred. We continually try to find ways to kick it up a notch. We teach, train, write, compete, or a combination thereof. There is, in fact, no other comparable activity we would rather do.
That is not to say we are believers all of the time. Sometimes, we must face the fact that our martial art situation needs adjusting, or we need to be flexible in our approach, but we always strive to find a way to continue. That’s the believer in us.
The martial art non-believer has a lot to learn. What martial arts teaches is not so much about technique and skill, although those are necessary and important. Rather, martial arts provide a plan on how to live. They teach perseverance, and how to apply patience and humility to our lives. They remind us that we are powerful and have unlimited and untapped potential. They help us focus and funnel energy.
The most important, highly sought after reason why martial arts are so important, though (drum roll please!), is that they help you believe in a much more important topic than fighting, defense, skills, or any other martial art technique. They help you believe…in you.
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There are many different styles and many different reasons why people practice martial arts. If we were all the same, it would be boring and monotonous. Having the opportunity to meet others who engage in different styles, and participate in seminars or workshops that use different skill sets, is an exciting way to learn more about the immense world of martial arts. What you know can help me in my practice, and vice versa.
Let’s explore these truths a little further.
1. There Are Many Reasons for Practicing
There is no set reason why you should practice a martial art. Many learn to curb weight issues, get into better shape, and to keep active and fit. Some learn because they want a better chance to escape or defend if attacked. Still, others are motivated by the popular influence of Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Cynthia Rothrock, Don Wilson, and the other amazing action actors they see in movies and on television.
Recently I received a message from a woman who described herself to me as “fat.” She wondered if she could learn a martial art. Unless you are a celebrity, it is unlikely that you have a perfect body. The truth is, martial arts don’t care how you look.
Every reason is worthwhile. Martial arts promote self-discovery, no matter the exact reasons for learning. In the end, everyone comes to a similar conclusion. Martial arts improve focus and strength, and empower the mind, body & spirit.
2. Traditional v. Modern Concepts
I practice traditional Korean martial arts. They are not, however, the only martial arts out there. We cannot act as if there is only one martial art in the world, or that certain ones are better than others. The truth is, other styles exist, whether we like it or not.
What is the real purpose of martial arts in today’s world? Are they a defense system, a fighting art, or an art form?
It all depends on the application, your perspective, and what you hope to learn. MMA, BJJ, and other grappling styles are more contemporary than Karate or TaeKwon-Do. In my classes we do some of the ground attacks and defenses because they are good to know. I can still be a traditional martial artist and explore different ideas in more modern styles.
The biggest truth here is that we can all learn from each other. That does not mean that we have to become proficient in every style, or understand every concept, but it does mean that learning concepts in other styles with which you are not familiar can help to improve your overall knowledge and experience in martial arts.
3. Men and Women
This topic is one of controversy and drama, at times. Is one gender better than the other? Each gender is different, but not necessarily better or worse. I think women are still trying to pave the way for their martial art practices, while men have been aligned in their systems for a while. Some women still struggle with being treated equally, whether that means sexism or lack of opportunities. Women are still fairly new to martial arts based on the history of martial arts over the course of time.
Skill-wise, I have seen women and men of incredible athleticism. I’ve seen both defend, fight, and perform. I do not think I ever use gender as the deciding factor on who is better or worse. Based on skill sets, you will find that both genders have areas of strengths and weaknesses.
The truth about this is that we have a passion and interest in something that we can all share together, and from which we can all build better life-long habits. We are all students in the arts, men or women, and nothing can ever diminish or change that. There is no men v. women, only men and women.
What are your truths about martial arts? I suppose you have a laundry list full. Do they make you feel happier? Do you feel more fit? More able to defend yourself? Do you enjoy the competition, the camaraderie, and the instruction? Do you like the continual self-improvement, the opportunities to advance in rank, or the ability to slow life down and decrease stress through your practice? These are your truths.
Why you practice is totally up to you. What style you like, and for how long you train, are also up to you. Respecting other martial artists and other styles, again, are up to you. Martial arts are whatever you choose to allow them to be in your life. They have many different applications, and that is okay, because we can all learn from each other. There is one truth that we all know for certain. It is awesome to be a martial artist!
The Martial Arts Woman book shares the stories and insights of more than twenty-five women in the martial arts, and how they apply martial arts to their lives.
Unlike most other martial art books, the reader will catch a glimpse into the brave and empowered woman who dares to be all that she can be. Many of these women had to overcome great societal or personal challenges to break into the men’s world of martial arts. This book will motivate and inspire you to go after your goals in life and to fight through every challenge and defeat every obstacle. The Martial Arts Woman will open your eyes to the power of the human spirit and the martial art mindset that dwells in each of us!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea F. Harkins is a writer, motivator, life coach, martial artist, and public speaker. Her book, The Martial Arts Woman, is now available atthemartialartswoman.storenvy.com.read more
I hate the fact that a martial art is often thought of as a “last resort sport” for kids. Parents walk into a martial art school for the first time and state, “Well, he didn’t excel in team sports very well, so I figured I would let him try a martial art or karate.”
What? Really? Martial arts is your last resort before you give up on your kid’s athleticism?
I understand. Parents like to have their children participate in sports where they can sit in the stands and cheer and yell. “That’s my Johnny!” they exclaim, screaming at the top of their lungs the first time Johnny hits a home run, scores a goal or a touchdown, or makes a three-point shot.
Martial arts have no grandstands, no burgers grilled on the corner of the field, and no cheerleaders. There is no homecoming where star athletes are highlighted, and no real recognition for being an athlete at all, for that matter.
I wish I could dispel the myth that a martial art is not a team sport or is not for real athletes or that it should only be considered when all else fails. Every time one of my younger students enters into our class he is immediately a part of a team environment. He is in a place where he is respected by his peers and where he can practice new techniques in a well-defined group. They high-five each other and welcome new kids to class with a quick hello before they jump in for more learning.
As one of the instructors, I am a trained, experienced, caring coach who teaches, encourages, and shares in a way that is fun and enjoyable, yet strict and disciplined. That is rare to find in youth sports. We earn a small amount of money from the program, which in fact makes us, “professionals.”
I’m not going to bash other sports. My sons were basketball and football players. I love these sports because they love them. But, I should mention that my oldest tore his ACL twice and broke his arm once playing these sports. And along with worries about concussions and strains and sprains, football is really less than ideal for staying healthy. In every day martial art class, I simply don’t see these kinds of injuries taking place. Maybe they happen, but not consistently.
Finally, martial arts are sport-like and require skill and endurance along with discipline, confidence, strength. But above and beyond all that, they are a journey that lasts a life time. They can be practiced through all of your years, young through old. No other sport seems to offer that outstanding benefit. Start young and grow old with a martial art. When you live to an old age you will thank me for that advice.
Last resort? I think not.
2. It’s not utilized enough by other athletes
Thinking about the athletic aspects of martial arts, I hate the fact that martial arts are not used as a form of training more often for athletes who participate in other sports. Having taught my sons some skills, I can see how it has benefited them in other sports. All sports require a commitment and dedication in order to become proficient. The basic stances and use of the body, the push and pull and momentum of movements learned in martial arts, help other athletes excel in whatever sport they are playing.
In basketball, with the ball in your hands and elbows edged out to the side, you must pivot to turn. With a good low center of gravity, you can move around your opponent without him grabbing the ball. In football, the low stances the linemen have to take can all be strengthened through the martial art stances used in forms. The focus and determination of punching a target or kicking an X on the bag helps the mind learn patience and timing, all of which is incredibly important in all sports.
The stretching and calisthenic exercises in a martial art warm up are sometimes the exact same as what I see on the football field during practice, but just are called something different. The bowing out of class is like a huddle that brings the team together and solidifies a winning mindset.
I have heard of some professional athletes learning some martial arts or yoga and how it has helped them. If you’re looking for a way for a child to excel in all sports, I’m claiming right now that martial arts can help.
3. Not enough women try it
I hate that not more women get involved in the martial arts. I’m okay with it being a male dominated activity, but it would be awesome to see some more women give it a go. I know all the fears. I’ve discussed them all before in blogs and podcasts before. All I know is if a woman can go to an aerobics class, take a golf lesson, or try yoga without a prior experience, she can certainly try this, too.
I hate that there are just a few of us ladies who have to carry the weight of promoting the benefits of martial arts to other women. You know my motto, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” It’s not about performing unbelievable stunts. I could never do that! I’m like many other women, a mom, a wife, an aunt, and a daughter. I bet you know others who fit into those categories, and yes, they can learn a martial art.
I’ve been asked a few times what I think about women in the UFC. I admire any woman who is willing to use her competitive edge and endurance, but realistically, we are not all willing to do THAT! Some good, basic martial arts training, however, should do the trick to keep you in shape, give you confidence, up your endurance, give you purpose, help you defend, and make you, well….pretty darn cool.
4. When people quit
Darn it, I just hate when people quit anything, especially a martial art! I know there comes a time for kids when they choose between martial arts and another sport, (see #1 above) and they decide to quit the martial art. I know often adults reach mid-level belt ranks, and they are not interested in pushing through the stuff that warrants practice of more difficult skills. Come on! You’ve made it this far and you are going to quit?
Martial arts taught me that quitters learn nothing, win nothing, and lose everything. If I quit every time I had to face an obstacle, I’m not sure where I’d be today. Divorced? Broke? Unemployed? Starving? I wouldn’t be writing. I wouldn’t be teaching. I wouldn’t have a black belt.
Some people just give up. They give up on their health, they give up on their dreams, and they give up on bettering themselves. This is how you get nowhere in life. This is how you face depression or anxiety or unrest in your life. When you quit once, it snowballs. You quit over and over and end up nowhere near where you thought you’d find yourself. I hear it all the time. This isn’t what I expected in retirement. This isn’t how I thought my life would turn out. This isn’t where I expected to be. I have one question to ask. Did you stay steadfast in your journey? Did you face your obstacles and overcome? Or, did you quit?
Please don’t disappointment me by giving up or quitting anything because it is too difficult or too much trouble; especially if quitting means you are limiting yourself to less than who you should be.
5. Fakes, Frauds, and McDojo’s
I find it hard to believe that there are actually people out there who pose as Masters in the martial arts. I suppose in every profession you can encounter some wacko who takes a good thing and brings it to some unintended extreme. I hate to even give them the courtesy of being addressed in my blog, but I feel it is important that others know that like anything, you should check out your instructors, get references, and if you ever feel uncomfortable, or that something is not quite right, move along. There are plenty of good ones out there.
McDojo’s, if you don’t know, are martial arts schools are concerned primarily with making money, rather than putting their students’ learning first. This infuriates martial arts instructors because it gives martial arts a bad name. A good instructor can make money teaching, in my book, as long as the students come first. If you see students being awarded black belts in the speed of light, something is not right. And for the rest of the instructors who award them after a suitable amount of training, it almost makes us look bad for making our students wait to earn every single inch of the thick black cloth that gets wrapped around their waist.
Fake, fraud, or McDojo, check it out before you get started. If you get promised a black belt, test frequently, pay large amounts of money to test, or sign up for some crazy contract to learn, beware. If your instructor seems strange in any way whatsoever, then go no further.
No Hate Here
Look, I don’t hate the martial arts at all. I hate that they are labeled a “last resort sport” by parents. I hate that athletes fail to use martial arts as a great basis for training and physical improvement in their sport of choice. I hate that there are not more women of all ages practicing. I hate that when students get to a certain level they would rather give up then finish their dream. Finally, I hate that there are actually frauds out there, and people who use the martial arts in an evil and conniving way.
Martial arts are awesome on many levels, and I hate that they are still not fully recognized for all the benefits that they offer on so many levels, including mind, body, and spirit.
Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone contains martial art reflections, anecdotes, and inspirations that relate to everyday life. It covers topics such as effort, focus, purpose, positivity, betterment, ambition, and more. You can overcome, persevere, and find success in your own life. Read Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone, and be encouraged.
The Martial Arts Woman shares the stories and insights of more than twenty-five women in the martial arts, and how they apply martial arts to their lives. Unlike most other martial art books, the reader will catch a glimpse into the brave and empowered woman who dares to be all that she can be. Many of these women had to overcome great societal or personal challenges to break into the men’s world of martial arts. This book will motivate and inspire you to go after your goals in life and to fight through every challenge and defeat every obstacle. The Martial Arts Woman will open your eyes to the power of the human spirit and the martial art mindset that dwells in each of us!
Power grows during the difficult moments that consume you, big and small. For all the pain, grief, and lonely times, for all the moments you have questioned yourself or your worth, and for all the times you have worried that you were not good enough, there is, unequivocally and convincingly, power.
Your power is revealed through times of healing. If internal power were easy to achieve, it would mean nothing. Like anything good, it comes in time, and it happens after you are forced to deal with unexpected decisions, unforeseen situations, and abrupt endings.
Like the martial artist who tries repeatedly to perfect a skill, you will find yourself feeling inadequate. You will want these tender moments to pass as soon as possible, yet they take time. Similar to the martial artist who wants perfection in his skills first time around, disappointment and discouragement will prevent achieving success in one fail swoop.
You have to feel it. You have to live it. This is life.
But, power takes time to develop, especially when it emanates from the difficult times, the obstacles, and the fears. It builds momentum as you move through the situations in your life. You realize that you must be resilient. You cannot back down or give up. Some days are more challenging than others, but you begin to put a system into place to attack negativity in your life:
I believe that through martial arts and positivity, we can make the world a better place. As a martial art instructor you make a huge impact in the lives of your students. These options will positively impact your teaching or training.
1. Listen with your heart
To really understand your students, try listening with your heart. You can hear their words and you can hear their breath and their yells. But, can you hear who they are and what they want they want to accomplish? Can you hear the kind of thoughts they have about bravery, fear, accomplishment, or hope?
Students of all ages practice martial arts for different reasons. When you understand the reasons, when you really listen to what their practice is saying about them, you can help them excel and reach their personal success and goals.
Not all students want a black belt. Instead, they desire to defend themselves. They may not want a practical application of martial arts as much as they want personal empowerment. Each has a reason uniquely their own and their reasons deserve to be heard.
One way to listen with your heart, is to provide your students with a new student survey which asks what they desire to learn in class. This does not mean that you will skip any criteria pertinent to your program, but simply that you understand their motives and their participation.
What if a student says he is bullied? What if he is shy? What if he was pushed into taking the class because of his parents? What is a woman feels inadequate? What if she is afraid of everything? What if a guy does not know how to fight? What if he has been abused along the way? Some want to try something new, overcome an obstacle, or learn because it has always looked interesting. Isn’t it worth listening to their reasons?
To understand what your students want from their training is listening with your heart. Do not change your teaching style, your instruction, or your way of doing things. Just know that the students learning from you believe that some kind of magic can happen from their training.
And, it can.
2. The Greatest Change
The greatest change that can take place in a martial art class is often to the student who has little coordination, confidence, or stamina. This is the awkward, shy student who keeps to himself, has no self-confidence, and stares at his feet all the time.
While you may initially believe that this student is not suited for martial arts, or is the most challenging to teach, the opposite is generally true. Often, they become the best students because they want nothing more than to change.
That is, after all, why they are there. The very reason they join martial arts is to become the version of themselves that they have always wanted to be. They are tired of being ridiculed and bullied, tired of suffering at the hands of others, and tired of not liking who they see when the look in the mirror.
They were brave enough to come to class. Do not let them down. Your most difficult job is to make sure they are not overlooked and that they do not fall through the cracks.
Take note of those who need training the most. They are vulnerable and they are easy targets outside the martial art school. Within the walls of the school, you can help them learn what they need to know. With help they will find inner strength and a personal conviction to self-betterment.
Being an instructor has many rewards when it comes to your students. Those who need it the most need you the most. They are the ones in whom you will always see the greatest change.
3. Practice What You Preach
It is one thing to motivate your students through clear martial art instructions and commands, and quite another to motivate them by practicing alongside them on the training floor. If you want to be a great instructor, practice what you preach. Step out in front of the class and warm up with them. Stretch with them and work the drills and techniques with them.
Show them that the instructor is always the student.
The rewards are not surprising. You will stay in shape. How many times have you seen martial art instructors who have lost their stamina and shape over the years? Teaching takes a lot of time and a lot of preparation, for some. It is easy to get caught up in the role of instructor and all the other demands that come with it.
But, we are not lecturers, we are doers. We are fighters against our own demons. We are champions of our own causes. We have broken through our own barriers.
Show the human side of martial arts. When you train with your students, you remind them that everyone has vulnerabilities, even wise instructors. You are not infallible, so on occasion, you may lose your balance or your timing, or forget the next move in a series or pattern. You know what? That is perfectly fine, because no one can be perfect all of the time. What a great lesson.
You will also cultivate sincere and lasting relationships with your students. They will look up to you as someone who never gives up. They will see that effort, determination, and perseverance actually mean something. In a world where it is so easy to give up, be negative, or fall prey to unhappiness, you will be the reminder that hard work and effort still mean something.
You are the guide, often from the beginning to the end of their martial art journey, but certainly you are the mentor in every single class. So, practice what you preach, and be a part of the class. Be the reminder that everyone is capable of achieving at any age, and at any stage of life.
I hope you are having a fantastic day today! If not, remain hopeful and positive for a better tomorrow. I know you will push through to something better.
I wanted to take a couple of moments to introduce you to my books, as they are an extension and another component of my mission to make the world a better place through martial arts and positivity.
Both books are for everyone. You do not need to be a woman, or a martial artist to enjoy these. They share stories of triumph and stories that inspire. Read more below about each and then pick one up for yourself or as a unique and inspiring gift for someone else.
The Martial Arts Woman book will motivate and inspire you to go after your goals in life, fight through every challenge, and defeat every obstacle. It will open your eyes to the power of the human spirit and the martial art mindset that dwells inside of you.
This book shares the stories and insights of more than twenty-five women in the martial arts and how they have applied martial arts to their lives. Many of these women had to overcome great societal or personal challenges to break into the male dominated world of martial arts.
Unlike most other martial art books, the reader will catch a glimpse into the brave and empowered woman who dares to be all that she can be. You may find yourself asking how you can finally reach your own goals and achieve personal success, as result.
This book contains martial art reflections, anecdotes, and inspirations that relate to everyday life. It covers topics such as effort, focus, purpose, positivity, betterment, ambition, and more. You can overcome, persevere, and find success in your own life. Read Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone, and be encouraged.
Please pick up your copies today, and share this post! You will help me fulfill my mission of making the world a better place through martial arts and positivity. Even better, you WILL BE INSPIRED!
Here are the long links if the quick links above do not work:
VIDEO BLOG! How it all began and how I expanded The Martial Arts Womanas my nickname, to The Martial Arts Woman as a brand, mindset, and positive philosophy on life for everyone.
Enjoy a five minute video about how I began in martial arts, and how I ended up where I am today as a writer, motivator, and martial artist. If you feel so inspired, make sure to pick up a copy of my books, The Martial Arts Woman (https://goo.gl/rTSaJA) or Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone (https://goo.gl/Yco5GF). They are a huge part of my positivity mission!
Thank you for your support and encouragement over the years. It’s been a fascinating journey so far. Let’s all keep working together to make the world a better place.
Oh…and always remember, if I can achieve my goals and dreams, so can you!
Many people look at martial arts and see fighting. Yes, fighting or sparring are a part of martial arts. Truly, they are a defense system where you learn to fight back if you must. The training is important. What would you do if you were thrust into a situation beyond your control and needed to survive? Martial arts give you the basis for saving your life.
Martial art training reaches far beyond the defense scenarios I mentioned above. The mind, body, spirit components combine to make martial arts one of the most comprehensive “life systems” there is. They are a tool for powerful living. Most importantly, the mindset can be developed by all, even non-martial artists. It simply revolves around understanding that you are capable of more than you realize.
I never wanted to be a martial artist when I was growing up. It just happened in my late twenties. As I practiced the physical techniques, I started to realize how much I had shortchanged myself. I never thought I was an empowered woman, that I was creative and athletic, or that I could make a difference in the lives of others through positivity. I’m so thankful that my martial art practice opened my eyes.
Forging through self-imposed limitations and striving for personal excellence in martial arts literally changed my life. Through martial arts, I began writing (another passion), speaking, encouraging, and sharing. It was all built upon my personal martial art experiences.
I truly enjoy learning to protect myself, working out, practicing, and engaging in martial arts. That is only half of what I love about martial arts, though. The other piece is how I have changed through my years of practice, and how I have grown into the type of person I used to admire in others, and that is a person who is not afraid to make a positive difference.
Whether you are a martial artist or not, the lesson is applicable and valuable to you and can change your life forever. You see, there is no secret to your personal greatness other than this amazing realization:
You do not need to limit yourself, unless the sky is your limit.
When I was living in Florida, I often practiced martial arts in my front yard. There is something very calming about kicking under a pretty blue sky, or performing some diligent, choreographed martial art moves in the fresh air. Somehow, even though it was just outside my front door, I felt worlds away from everything else. I turned inward to focus on who I was, and who I wanted to be.
I dressed the part, too, even though I was at home. I put on my uniform pants, a comfortable shirt, but left the shoes behind. Even though the paved driveway was rather smooth, it was still dirty, but that did not really bother me. I wanted to feel the curl of my toes while stretching my leg out for a kick, and grasp the ground with the sole of my other foot.
It’s all about balance isn’t it? Martial art balance, life
Who am I in the world of martial arts? Where do I stand in the spectrum? Am I worthy to indulge in circles where some of the best martial artists in the world frequent? Do I have what it takes to stand out? Am I successful? I have nothing to brag about. I am still trying to get better and learn more.
These are all questions I continuously ask myself on my martial art journey. Every day when I wake up, I feel like I am starting all over again. I attempt to practice what I preach, maintain balance in my life, be a role model, and cultivate a good martial art mindset. It is difficult to live up to my own high standards!
It is all about perspective, isn’t it? My non-martial arts friends think I am interesting. The men that I know find it fascinating that their female friend is a black belt. The women around me wonder how martial arts may have changed their lives if they had tried. There is something worthy to be said about who I am. I am no master, but simply a continual white belt.
The best role models for me are the ones who do not feel the need to boast and whose humility is intact. You can see their inspiration, they do not need to talk about it. You can smell their sweat. You can feel their determination. You can hear their breath. You can taste their passion. There is an aura and an excellence that surrounds them. I am sure that you can think of a few of your own role models who fit this mold.
I have met many incredible people along the way who have offered great advice about martial arts or life, but chose to remain anonymous because their message, not their belt stripes, martial art lineage, or experience, mattered more to them than recognition.
The best martial artists and the most profound role models are made up of layers. The first and most important layer is humility of the mind, body, and spirit. Like an onion, when you peel away each layer of this type of role model, you will find humility in the center, followed by layers of experience, hard work, caring, commitment, and dedication.
Every great martial artist had a humble beginning. The first day of class is a great example. The new martial artist has nothing upon which to rely. He is vulnerable and of little significance as a martial artist, until he proves himself. Humility on day one carried through to every daily life is a good reminder to be sincerely grateful for those from whom you have learned.
Have you ever written a bio? It is one way of exposing the layers that make up who you are, and an interesting way to examine your strengths, highlight your experiences, and add credibility to your life, profession, or martial art.
During this review of your personal accomplishments, you will realize how far you have come from when you first began. You can carefully unfold the years and the experiences. The tricky part about writing a good bio is remaining genuine and true to the person you are, and not providing every detail, but sharing the highlights.
This self-assessment allows you to reflect on what have you have done to make a difference in someone’s life or to bring about a positive change. These accomplishments have true merit and they are the accomplishments of a humble and positive person. You can proclaim greatness, but it does not mean anything if others cannot see your greatness.
A humble spirit does not mean that you should not accept awards and gifts as a martial artist. To feel appreciated is a humble lesson in itself. Share your good news and allow others to give you credit for hard work, diligence, and effort you have exerted. Trophies, awards, and certificates are wonderful ways to be appreciated. The other rewards that carry significant weight are simply the people with whom you share your knowledge, skills, and talents.
There are many awesome martial artists in the world, however, who teach classes every day and have no forum or venue for receiving awards. They are as well-trained as any other, but teach or work out in small towns across the country. They may not know what it feels like to be nominated for an award or be a recipient of a trophy. That does not matter to them because their reward is the opportunity to return to the martial art class and teach over and over and over again.
Being humble in mind, body and spirit is a challenge, but
I always wanted to help other people achieve, live better, and learn more about themselves. When I started teaching a martial art, it was my chance to do just that.
After I earned my first degree black belt, my husband and I reached out to the community to fill a need for students who could not afford to pay for classes. We stumbled upon a community center in the midst of a troubled neighborhood, where crime and social breakdown were inherent. It was a place where martial arts could really make a difference.
Martial arts gave these kids and their families the confidence to strive for something better, and a way to help protect themselves. It offered them a safe place and a makeshift family who cared about them. In fact, when a teenage brother and sister lost their caregiver grandfather, we nearly adopted them just before one of their own family members finally stepped forward. You could say our impact on them was as strong as their impact on us.
We taught there for seven years, longer than most of the employees stayed on staff. People would come and go, but we remained steadfast in our mission until we began to start our own family. We got better as teachers. During those years, we honed our skills and our talents. We learned how to relate to students and meet their needs. We understood their dilemmas and felt their heartaches and worries. And, we taught with passion because of it. It gave us the basis for our current program and explains why our relationships with our students and their families hold more value to us than any money we could ever make from teaching.
In 1995, the local newspaper took my picture teaching the children because the reporter thought it was newsworthy. They saw me as someone who wanted to teach just to help others. So, right under a big headline about murder, a large picture of me graced the page.
These children lived a difficult life, but in many ways they were just the same as the kids we teach today. When a child comes to class for the first time, he is either very excited or very scared. Either way, it is important to calm him down and help him learn to control his excitement or fear and mold it into something useful. Over time, he changes. It’s gradual. One day he no longer bounces up and down while waiting in line. He controls his desire to distract other students, and he begins to listen. Wow! He’s a martial art student, and a good one at that. Teaching him has made a difference, and that is the biggest reward ever.
Adults are different. They come to class with age-old baggage and preconceived notions about what they expect to learn and what they think they can do. Some are anxious to earn a belt, others are just happy to not fall over when they execute a kick. Either way, teaching adults is exciting because they are willing to try, and try hard. All their energy and all their desire to learn comes crashing out even if they are quiet, shy, or introverted.
Children and adults both overcome personal obstacles, shake the hand of challenge, and learn more about themselves when they practice a martial art. In all of my years of teaching, however, it was those seven consecutive years in that troubled neighborhood that taught me the most.
Teaching underprivileged kids for seven years was amazing. Just a while ago, the young boy in that newspaper photo above, who I almost adopted, contacted me and we reconnected. When he called he asked if I remembered him. “Of course I do, I almost adopted you,” I said. He said, “I know.”
You never know the impact you will make in someone’s life or how things will circle around again when you do something for someone else.
Keep pushing through! You are making a difference.
Courage. It is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that there are very few occasions when we actually use it in our own lives anymore. What about it? Do we have even one inch of courage lurking inside?
Courage refers to overcoming something that frightens you. Whatever your fears, they need to be attacked and overcome, and martial arts and positivity are both tools that work to help you overcome your fears and find your courage.
Your bravery and valor is reflected in how you speak and act. Through physical, mental, and spiritual enrichment, you transform that which seems impossible to a reality. You move from disbelief to belief. Your courage molds you and allows you to make a positive difference in the world.
If these are not courageous and brave transformations, then I don’t know what are.
A martial art is one of the few remaining traditions that still depends on courage as a practical experience. A martial artist needs the courage to step forth and try something new, to reach physical goals, and to fortify their mind.
How a martial art brings about physical courage is very simple. You must step out of the box from day one. Walking into your first class you do not know what to expect. You take the first step by just showing up. Most people have an element of fear, anxiety, or excitement about trying a martial art. Using courage they begin their journey.
Physical courage entails trying to overcome the fears you have about your physical being. I have always had difficulty with certain jump kicks or spin kicks. I thought I would be judged based on my lack of perfection. Yet, I still worked to the best of my ability. I had to have the courage to try to become better.
I realized that no one can be proficient and perfect at every single thing, and that is what physical courage taught me. You suck it up and do what you can and giving up is never an option.
By being brave enough to try something new or to practice what is not comfortable or familiar, you slowly overcome self-doubt and fears. Once you realize that you have that kind of courage, you can apply it to other aspects of life. The little fears that creep up in your mind are pushed aside, and you use all your courage to break through that which stands in your way.
Mental courage is a big part of martial arts. Courage grows when confidence soars. I like to use board breaks as an example. They require physical and mental courage. Technique alone will not do the trick if you do not believe in yourself. When you combine any good technique with mental courage, you succeed.
As it suggests, “mental” courage involves pushing through barriers in your mind, such as transposing “I cannot” into “I can.” This takes mental courage because you are re-programming your mind. Major change often throws you off-balance and requires you to realign again. If you have a strong mindset, you will always rebound only to become stronger.
Mental courage increases as you learn a martial art because you eventually let go of your mental barriers and instead start to embrace and implement new beliefs about yourself and the world.
Like physical and mental courage, spiritual courage also involves overcoming a fear, stepping over a boundary, or breaking a barrier. While a martial art is physical, you must use the power of your mind to push through fears and self-doubts. Physical and mental courage are not enough. Spiritual courage must be engaged, and it is the trickiest of all.
What does your martial art mean to you? How do you take the physical and mental parts of it and apply them to your life, your personal beliefs, how you act, and what you say? Your martial art spirituality infiltrates your very core as a person. Integrity, dedication, and perseverance are some tenets of spirituality, but it runs much deeper.
Some martial artists openly share their religious philosophies or incorporate them into their martial art, which takes courage. Their courage allows them not to worry about what others will think or say about their belief that their spiritual reflections make them stronger as martial artists. Other martial artists practice meditation, reflection, journal writing, or sharing thoughts and beliefs with others as an outreach.
Whatever spirituality you apply extends far beyond your physical and mental journey into a space within your heart and soul. It takes courage because looking inward highlights your weaknesses, but that is not a bad thing. This allows you to strengthen that which is weak.
When you apply spirituality to your life and your martial art, you cannot gloss over fears that dwell inside of you. Your spiritual courage allows you accept the good and the bad, which points you in the direction of improvement.
You may not consider yourself a “courageous” person, but I am here to tell you that you have already surpassed courage a thousand times over, but never realized it. Pushing yourself physically when not knowing what to expect, learning to alter the course of your mind to positivity, and digging deep into your own psyche through your practice are probably some of the most courageous actions you will ever take.
Wherever you are in your current martial art journey or your life journey, don’t sell yourself short. You have the gift of courage whenever you want it. I guess it all depends on if you want it.
On your first day of martial art class, you know nothing. You cannot hide that you know nothing. Everyone there knows that you no nothing. You worry about knowing nothing.
It is probably not the most confident day in your life. You might be excited to be there, but confident? It is difficult to be confident when you are in unknown territory.
The good news is that your first day is the beginning of your path to the most amazing journey that will eventually connect you with your own personal sense of physical, mental, and spiritual confidence.
My first martial art class felt crazy! Black belts were practicing jump kicks. Another group was breaking boards. My first thought was “No, I cannot do that,” which was my lack of confidence speaking.
However, I did not give up. I returned and in time, I learned more about myself than I ever expected. When you have a clear opportunity for self-improvement, your confidence will unfold.
On day one, you cannot achieve balance, but miraculously the next time you apply what you learned and stand on one foot, extending a kick without much effort. One day you hurt your foot kicking the bag, the next you feel the comfort and mobility of a solid kick against the bag’s surface because you learned the proper form.
These are very small but important steps to improvement. Like learning a new language, you know when something clicks in your mind and feels right. The mental “language” of martial arts takes a while to learn, just like any language. It will happen.
The physical skills develop before the mental skills and they all translate into real life. Take the use of breath, for example. In your physical practice, you recognize your breathing patterns and when and how they assist you. I use many quick breaths in certain situations for the endurance I need, or slow-paced breathing to relax through a stretch. This is the application of breath to the martial art practice.
These approaches to martial art physical development become quite mind-boggling! I used the same martial art breathing patterns during natural childbirth for three of my children to overcome the pain of childbirth. I use breathing principles to relax when I am stressed out and need to re-group. I listen to my breath when I need to be more mindful, appreciative, and content in the moment. I am physically and mentally devoted to my breathing, which brings me peace of mind, acceptance, and confidence.
I have a place, my martial art mindset, where I can turn when times get tough, when I am scared or unsure, or when I need to remind myself of the positive attributes of my life. I can practice the physical and the mental aspects to relieve the burdens that weigh on my mind to cultivate a positive approach to life. Mental and physical confidence work hand in hand to make me a better martial artist and a better person.
Spiritual confidence also exists in martial art practice. This aspect of confidence is very personal. While others can see your confidence and even witness your mental intensity, the spiritual is hidden deeper.
What is a spirituality? One common definition is that it centers on the deepest values and meanings by which an individual lives. If a martial art is just physical, or even a combination of physical and mental, it may still lack spirituality. Those who wish to attain the spirituality of martial arts seek a better understanding of who they are and their place in the world.
Martial art spirituality does not have to be a replacement for a religious philosophy. It can have a spiritual component of its own. Often I write stories of how I overcame certain situations using a “martial art mindset.” In reality, this mindset is simply a spiritual concept that allows me to believe there is a guiding force outside of myself that pushes me through. It does not replace my religious beliefs, but enhances them.
I think of martial art spirituality as a swirling wind that continually flows around my physical and mental practice. It holds all of the various attributes of my martial art in a sphere and I stand in the center. Clearly, there is a metaphysical approach to it.
Martial arts develop spirituality because they push you beyond your boundaries and stretch your imagination. Somewhere, within that process, you grow spiritually and enhance your life by letting go of some of your self-imposed controls and accept that there may be something greater working in your favor. It is not a component every martial artist accepts or feels, but for those that do, it makes a great impact on their perspective.
Martial arts are often equated with the phrase, “mind, body, and spirit” because they allow an individual to explore all three. I may not be able to physically practice my martial art every day, but I can practice it mentally and spiritually without the need for floor space, changing into a uniform, or any significant commitment of time. I cannot explain how you can find your own spiritual confidence, other than to say that you should be open to listening and exploring this dimension of your practice.
Continue to grow your physical, mental, and spiritual confidence. Mature into the great martial artist you are meant to be. White belt or black, you have a long way to go. There is no such thing as knowing “everything.” The difference for me is that I have had a journey that allowed me to develop my physical, mental, and spiritual side.
That first day of class way back when represented the truth all along. In the beginning and in the end, I still know nothing and in many respects that is much better than knowing everything.
As instructors, we often think about teaching in the context of how it benefits our students. We help them understand how to protect themselves, defend and escape.
Through their training, they begin to improve in many ways. Their confidence soars, and they see changes in themselves that they never expected. These reflect some of the exceptional benefits that students discern through their training, thanks to their instructors.
Do not be fooled, though. Students are not the only ones who reap great benefits. Martial art instructors gain just as much from teaching as students do from learning.
A great benefit to teaching is the opportunity to keep in shape. The best way to keep engaged as an instructor is to work out with the class. You will improve flexibility and strengthen yourself, while sharing your great martial art talents with others. Do not offer commands, but demonstrate how and why techniques work. This is a great teaching approach which will always keep you engaged.
When I warm up with the class, it prepares me to work out for the rest of the class. There may be times when you need to work twice as hard as your students to demonstrate or assist them, which in turn will keep you fit and healthy.
If you actively participate in the classes you teach, your students will appreciate you and want to practice because they see you as a role model and leader. Until recently, I was teaching five martial art classes a week, which were five chances per week for me to keep myself in shape.
Teaching always gives you the opportunity to continually improve and reinforce your own skill sets.
WAY OF LIFE
Once you have a few years of teaching under your belt, a martial art becomes much more than your attendance at a class that you teach or a series of techniques.
Instead, it becomes a way of life.
Teaching is a unique experience. It becomes such a part of who you are from the outside in that you cannot separate it from how you live your life. For me, martial arts are a part of my daily life, my family, my way of thinking. I practice, write, and share about it.
Martial art instructors create a presence in the community. You will stand out because of your desire to help others learn. You solidify the importance of martial arts in the world through the changes you help others create in their own lives.
This way of life feels good. It is a great commitment and a great accomplishment. Knowing that you are doing something that positively affects others for years to come, makes all your effort and dedication worth it.
You may notice that my reasons for teaching a martial art and the benefits I have discussed do not necessarily include compensation or making money. Do not get me wrong. It is incredible to get paid for a passion. I personally hope to earn money from my passion of martial art teaching and writing because it is a lot of challenging work and effort. School owners deserve every penny and more as long as their hearts are in the right places.
Martial arts and life are parallel spheres in many respects. What works in one often works in the other. Both require bravery and decision-making.
Being brave enough to learn a great kick and then perform it in front of a lot of people can take a lot of work and effort. And, for the martial artist who is not all that outgoing in personality, it can be a real breakthrough of empowerment.
First, that martial artist has to trust that they can accomplish this task. They must train, practice, and eventually be prepared to execute the task in front of others. It takes some momentum to go from not knowing to fully understanding, and from no experience to demonstrating in front of others. It is a great accomplishment for that martial artist.
Life is no different. Like the martial artist in the example above, it all starts with a decision. The martial artist decided to engage in martial arts, then to learn that kick, then to accept the challenge of getting good enough to demo it.
What about you? Is there a decision lurking? How many times have you simply decided not to do something because of the limitations you have placed upon yourself? I did it myself recently. I decided I was too old to go for a particular new goal.
Why? Why should I think that age is a deterrent to being the person I want to be? Because I allow that to infiltrate my thoughts and I start to believe it. That is a mistake. Negativity will never get me anywhere. So, I decided that I will stop using excuses and just go for it.
It is pretty simple, really. What do you want to do? Do it!
It all starts with the courage to say yes to yourself. Begin to believe in it, even love it. Allow yourself to feel excited at the new challenge. Know that today you may not fully understand how to do it, but after you continue on the journey for a while, you will find yourself stronger and more accomplished.
Martial artist or not, there are more opportunities in life than we will ever have time to accomplish, yet we so often limit ourselves to not doing any! Just pick one. Often you can build on a new start in ways that you never imagined. The only barriers are often in your mind.
I reminded myself that I’m not too old for new beginnings or to do anything I want to do. Certainly there are people older than me who have achieved or found success later in life. There are many who lead positive, powerful, and lead exciting lives because they continually embrace opportunities.
What about you? What have you been putting off because of some excuse that really isn’t an excuse? Sure, you may need to begin small or with baby steps, depending on your situation. But, that is a beginning and everything starts at the beginning.
Let’s all practice some kind of kick today – like kicking the negative thoughts away – and then we can get started on a new adventure. It’s never too late to work on your dreams and goals.
Imagine if you could take your physical strength and kick it up a notch by adding in a few other ingredients to the mix. Wouldn’t that be an awesome combination? That’s exactly what I did and I’m about to share the secret behind this explosive life-power that I’ve discovered from my martial art.
When you think about martial art strength, it is often physical strength that comes to mind. Pick any martial art movie and you see it. Look at any martial art poster or motivational picture and you notice it. The physical empowerment of the martial artist is often depicted in media as a physically strong person.
While physical strength is an excellent byproduct of martial arts and a great personal goal, there are a couple of other strengths that produce martial art power. What are these amazing strengths? What more can you possibly strengthen if not the physical self?
How about the mind and soul? The mental and spiritual? If you allow it, these creative and personal strengths can infiltrate your life through your mastery of martial arts.
Physical strength can wane. It all depends on how many times you practice per week and if you supplement your practices with weight training. What if suddenly you cannot practice due to illness or issues or commitments? The physical strength can diminish until you continue physical training again.
Mental and spiritual strength in the martial arts are completely different from physical strength. You may call them a lifestyle or a mindset. You can always keep strong in these areas, no matter your physical health. They do not fluctuate depending on training times or how many days you spend on the mat or the gym. Once cultivated they are there to stay. Combine them with physical strength and you have an explosive combination.
When you combine your martial art mental power and your spiritual growth with your physical strength, it is a trio of power. Even if the physical falls behind, the two remaining strengths offer you all the defense you will need against life’s daily struggles, or even the biggest personal battles and challenges that you might face.
I’ve experienced many personal obstacles and battles. I know that while I pushed through and persevered, most would have given up. They would have walked away, or said to themselves, “That is too big an obstacle for me to fight.”
Whatever dire situations you face and whatever destruction has funneled its way into your life, never forget that you have choices. The first decision to make is how you are going to face the obstacles. Will you use your spiritual and mental strength?
I often remind myself that if I can achieve a black belt, then later a second degree (while pregnant), then I can persevere through anything. If these strengths could relentlessly guide my path in martial arts, then they can lead me in life, too. The mental and spiritual strengths are difficult to develop, but as you achieve proficiency in martial arts, you recognize that you are reaching higher ground.
Think about each martial art struggle you have faced. There was a day when you could not perform a certain skill or didn’t understand a concept. But, you didn’t give up. Over time you figured it out or practiced it enough that it finally made sense. That perseverance and stick-to-it attitude is mental strength.
When you are totally focused, thinking of nothing but your technique, and when the world is quietly swirling around you as you practice your martial art, you are experiencing a spiritual strength. It is a part of you that exists somewhere beneath the surface and as it emerges you see yourself in a new light. Competent. Proficient. True.
From one belt to the next you are more confident, self-assured, and you start to believe in your own power. Your martial art spiritual side grows as you start to accept that you are just as good as any other martial artist. You notice that each practitioner has his own weaknesses and no one is perfect, and there is a sense of relief in that. What a revelation! Your mind is now free from the temptation to be like everyone else.
You learn to be yourself, work diligently, and never allow yourself to give up. Your spiritual and mental strength starts to deepen.
As you age, or if you suffer from an illness or setback, physical strength may be difficult to maintain. The spiritual and mental strength, however, will not let you down. While strengthening your body is of upmost importance, working out the mental and spiritual muscles will bring life-long results.
It’s up to you. Will you flex your mental and spiritual muscles? You may not be in the next martial arts movie or on a martial arts poster, but there is one thing is for sure. These strengths are definitely a part of your personal star power and worth exploring.
https://goo.gl/Yco5GF – Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone – This book is a series of reflections to read at your leisure in topics ranging from uniqueness, negativity, mindset, struggles, new beginnings, personal power, beliefs,instincts, and more.
Martial artists often enjoy practicing while looking in the mirror. It helps to identify areas of improvement because they can see where technique or form does not look quite right. I always found looking in the mirror while practicing fascinating because it never matched how I thought I looked.
Have you ever practiced and thought to yourself, “I am finally getting this!” only to watch yourself practice in the mirror and realize that your technique or skill did not look as good as you thought it should? In some of the Kung Fu classes that I took with Sifu German Garcia in the past, I had the chance to look at myself in the mirror while practicing blocking drills. Honestly, I felt like I was doing much better than I appeared in the mirror. The thing is, the mirror does not hide the truth, but without the truth, there is no ability to grow and improve.
The mirror is the point of reference, a moment in time when you realize that you still need a lot of practice. The mirror guides you. The person you see in the mirror wants to succeed and excel. The mirror reveals it all in a new perspective.
Analyzing your skills and weaknesses is part of being a leader. Perhaps you self-lead or you lead others. A martial artist self-leads, while an instructor leads others. Either way, self-assessment is crucial for moving forward in a positive direction and becoming a better student, instructor, and martial artist.
I recently began college for my master’s degree in organizational management. I had to do a self-assessment about some of my communication weaknesses and gaps. It required a long, in-depth look in the mirror. It is amazing what you realize about yourself when you take the time to review where you struggle in communication and how others perceive you.
Life offers many moments of mirror-looking. I certainly appreciate it when the reflection is perfect, but most of the time the mirror reveals an ambitious woman who grabs opportunity when she can, who sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails, but always tries. On some days, she looks tired from all the effort, and on others she seems to shine and sparkle with enthusiasm. This is the ebb and flow of life.
We should all stop for a moment and look in the mirror and analyze more than how our hair looks, or if the outfit we are wearing is appropriate for the situation. We should take a look at what is really going on in our lives. Have we taken the time to share our love, our gifts and talents and our dreams? Have we stepped outside of our own wants and desires for a few moments to help someone else? None of this takes a lot of time, nor does it interfere with following your goals and dreams. In fact, you will learn a lot about yourself in this pursuit of seeing a clearer picture in the mirror.
I love martial arts, especially when my learning makes sense and I see improvement through practice. I enjoy seeing the focus of my approach in the mirror. It is neither good nor bad; just one view that can help me improve my weaknesses so I can find personal happiness and success. If you want to improve in martial arts and in life, take a look in the mirror from a few feet back. Who do you see?
Martial arts parallel life in many ways, from how we treat others, to how we feel about ourselves, and our perspective on the world around us. The best reflection in the mirror is a person who desires to make a positive and powerful change in themselves and the world around them.
https://goo.gl/Yco5GF – Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone – This book is a series of reflections to read at your leisure in topics ranging from uniqueness, negativity, mindset, struggles, new beginnings, personal power, beliefs,instincts, and more.
It might as well have been a trunk of wood of magnificent stature.
I stood there facing two 12 by 12 inch boards a couple of inches thick. I had no idea how quickly my confidence would drain when staring down a couple of pieces of wood.
I was at a my green belt martial art exam, which is a belt level between beginner and black belt. I had done well through most of the test, although hours earlier I faced uncertainty and a lot of anxiety about it. I’ve never been a good test taker. I never realized though, how important facing your fears were until that day.
There was a large audience watching the test. They came to see their friends and family perform and demonstrate all of the cool martial art skills and techniques. For me, it was just me and my husband who were both testing.
At the very end of the test, I was unexpectedly called up by name in front of the crowd. It was a surprise, because just moments earlier I was sitting comfortably on the floor with the rest of my peers, assuming the test was finished and that we had all passed the rigorous challenge. As you know, life often throws you a curve ball when you least expect it.
“Andrea, do a jump front kick, and break these boards,” my instructor stated, holding the two boards together, back to back, directly in front of me. I just looked at the boards and felt my confidence quickly fade. I thought to myself, “I cannot do this!”
I jumped up, and sure enough, my foot bounced off, and the boards did not even bend. The quiet hush of the audience smothered me like sticky failure. During the second attempt, I told myself that my instructor believed in me. Still, I kicked and left two boards completely intact. I know that the audience was holding their breath, in desperate anticipation of what may or may not happen.
This third attempt was all I had left. While my instructor believed in me, I knew there were four words that I needed to say to myself if I wanted to succeed. I turned my back to my instructor and the boards in order to regroup my thoughts. I began to whisper to myself over and over, “I CAN do this!”
I turned back around, jumped, kicked, and smashed through the boards with ease.
The lesson was quickly revealed. This was not about martial arts at all. It was about life. It was about believing in myself. My instructor knew it all along. It was not a test to break boards, but a test to break negative thinking and a test to break self-imposed limits.
Every day, you face the task of crashing through life’s big, thick boards. They come in the shape of obstacles, difficulties, and discouragements. You may think that these negative barriers control you, but the truth is that you can control them. Feeling like a victim or giving up are negative options that will never help you improve or overcome. Staring down the barriers with confidence and a strong belief in yourself, will allow you the opportunity that you need to break through. Push fear and anxiety aside, and instead focus on knowing that life’s unexpected “boards” can be overcome, if you believe.
I readily refer to my green belt board break experience as my “I can do it” story. Every time I face a new obstacle, I remember the moment when I crashed through two boards, which at the time seemed like an impossible task. This moment carries me through and allows me to face each new obstacle with a positive attitude.
Today, think about a time in your life when you persevered or crashed through an insurmountable situation and forever use it as your “I can do it” moment. If you cannot think of one, you can always use my green belt board break story as an example. I’m sure you can feel the tension of the moment and understand how the pressure of performing this break in front of an audience may have felt when I was unexpectedly called up to demonstrate. Then, as I finally crashed through after three attempts, I recognized the true lesson, and this aha moment belongs to all of us.
If you want to live a positive life, you will be required to break through the negative. It may take a few attempts, but that is okay. The important thing to understand is that personal success requires positive action. The most important part of this lesson is that you can start right now to make this powerful change in your life. The first step is to whisper the same four powerful words to yourself that I finally whispered to myself. They will always remind you that you can push through and succeed.
This book shares some of my personal stories about being a woman in martial arts, but more importantly has chapters from more than 25 other women martial artists that explores applying martial arts to life. Some of the stories are amazing and unbelievable. You