Thursday, December 8, 2016

Nipaipo by Aimee Sell (Kata Champion)

I am not terribly familiar with this Kata but it is well performed none-the-less. This Karateka shows excellent Kime (Focus).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Reading Suggestions

A friend and former student of mine is studying Karate again. He wants to make sure that his study includes the proper analysis and application of Kata. To facilitate this the list of reading suggestions I have included below will be an excellent place to start. I would recommend these to anyone that wishes to better understand the martial arts in what I believe is their right context. 

Understanding Kata:
Building Skills/Tactics/Strategies:
These are just some of the books I have in my collection and the nice part is that many of these authors continue to produce high-quality works. I would recommend the majority of the books published by YMAA as they are always great quality. 

Another option will be to purchase the dvds and other video offers by these individuals. This by no means an exhaustive list of the great material that is out there. These are just a few of my favorites.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or additional suggestions to add to this list. 


Sunday, November 15, 2015

To the people of Paris

My deepest sympathies go out to the people of Paris.

There are plenty of profound points made by some very eloquent people in the world. I echo the sentiments that encompass the desire for justice. I also pray for the sheep dogs, may they be vigilant and safe.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Always a Student First

Back to Basics

First, I have recently set aside my rank again to start over as a beginner in an Aikido school here in Denver. Some of my Aiki skills are a bit rusty so I am very happy to be back on the mat and working on them. I am not sure how long I will stay with the school, but for now things are going very well.

After the introduction class is over in mid-November I will join the general class and I am eager to see how these classes are structured differently than the beginning classes. More time is spent on weapons, which I enjoy immensely, and I am very happy to be fine tuning some skills I have not worked on in a while. 

I can still see a few concepts inherent to Aikido that bother me. Things like footwork that can sometimes be overly complicated for example. However, understanding timing and how to control the balance of an opponent. Those skills are very good and something that I appreciate this opportunity to practice. I will try to post some of my observations from class in the coming weeks. 

New Opportunity

Second, I am going to be meeting with some of the members of a gym my wife and I have worked with for a couple of years now. I will have the opportunity to work with someone that I understand has some great experience in the martial arts. I sincerely hope he is open to the opportunity and I also hope I can allow myself to be open to it as well. If the two of us can come to an agreement, and the gym agrees to our proposal, there is a good chance I will be teaching classes again by the end of the year. I do enjoy teaching so I am very hopeful that we can make this work out.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Clifton Strengthsfinder

So, years ago I took some classes on leadership and part of the program included taking a variety of tests geared toward self-discovery. The goal was to help us determine how to use our skills, personality, and ultimately our strengths to be the best leader possible.

One of the tests we took was the Clifton StrengthsFinder. The themes I got back made a lot of sense to me and I have since then investigated if they work for me. I can definitely see where each of them resonates with me. My wife and a good friend of mine have also taken the test and they too got results that match what I believe their strengths are too.

Here are mine:

  1. Input - People with strong Input talents are inquisitive. They always want to know more. They crave information. They like to collect certain things, such as ideas, books, memorabilia, quotations, or facts.
  2. Activator - People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.
  3. Focus - People who are especially talented in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through, and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.
  4. Learner - People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
  5. Communication - People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.
Despite the fact that these are my strengths and therefore things I do well naturally. I can also tell that these things are also themes I should focus on to make me happy and to feel productive. I seem to be the most satisfied with my day when I engage a few of these themes and work on their associated skills. For example, looking up a word of the day helps me with Input, Learner, and Communication all at once. Which is why I also think I am enjoying learning languages such as Korean while I am here on business. 

I feel more productive as a Activator by not being forced to wait for things. Some things I must be patient to achieve but I have loads of other projects I can be working on in the mean time. That helps me greatly with the impatience that seems to be inherent to people with this theme. 

Like any test, it is not perfect. I am sure there are things that are not black and white or do not fit perfectly. No more than the Myers-Briggs or Jung tests do. But all these things form pieces to a puzzle that I feel rarely gets examined.

So, the test is not free. It costs $10 to take but it does come with a report that tells you how to engage your themes and learn to use them. So, if you have ever taken this test, what are your themes? If not, it is well worth the investment in yourself.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Intentions and Results

By Nick and Tiffani Guinn

"One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than by their results." - Milton Friedman.

How many times do we begin working on a project or program where the results differ from what we expect? Or a set of policies are designed for our company to help us understand how to handle our hiring practices. However, these outdated and ineffective policies do not work and are only around because they were DESIGNED to do A and consequences B, C, and D are totally ignored as they were not the intention. Could be the person that designed the policy is too far removed from the results to fully understand the results and doesn't think changes need to be made.

This sort of thing happens in our personal and professional lives all too often. But we hold on to our intentions like they are gold and discard the results as unrelated. After all, they do not support the conclusion we wanted or expected. Never mind that those results might tell us a great deal about where we went wrong or how we might aide in improving on our process.

Having a clear goal or intention is critical for success to be possible. Paying close attention to the results and adjusting policy based on those results is equally important.

The quote from Mr. Friedman is an excellent re-focusing tool. Something that should be used to drive the changes needed to improve the outcomes we want. In our personal lives an individual working toward improving their fitness will be much more successful adjusting his plan to fit the results. The same exercise plan based on intentions might work well for someone that is 100 pounds overweight but that food and exercise plan are not likely to get the desired results when the person gets down to only 10 or 20 pounds to lose.

For business or government policy, the intention is important but if they policy does not achieve the desired results, we cannot bury our head in the sand. Examine the results of your efforts with a blank slate. Trying not to seek the expected results only but also how to analyze the unexpected results for their applicability to your future work.

Any intention or goal should drive the work forward and help to maintain focus. In the end, the results should be used to help us understand the effectiveness of our efforts.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The one-sided nature of martial arts training...What?

So I saw this line in a recent well-known magazine article suggesting a type of cross-training.
"it will remove the internal imbalances brought on by the one-sided nature of martial arts training"
This quote is referring to the physical part of martial arts training. So to avoid conflict or point fingers I am not going to tell you where the line comes from because that is not the point of this post. The point of the post is, however, to point out that if you are training in the martial arts and your training regime leads to this type of result, things being anatomically one-sided. You are doing it wrong!

Several of my instructors have taught me repeatedly about the need for balanced training across the Sagittal plane of the body. (This is the plane that divides us in half right down the middle.)

If we practice a punch from the left side, we in turn practice the same punch from the right side as well. If there is an imbalance on one side or the other we would also increase the number of repetitions on the weak side to get it "caught up". For a weak left side Gyaku Zuki or Reverse Punch for example, we perform 10 punches on the right during training and then 20 on the left side till we feel the imbalance is reduced.  internal feedback from the the coordination or power generation issues we were experiencing.

Imbalances in the body are normally not brought on by a good training program. There are many texts that discuss the positive effects of a good program on the body. When recruiting soldiers in Japan around the time of World War II the Japanese government noted the impressive symmetry of the Karateka they recruited from Okinawa. A symmetry that is not entirely natural in most people since we have a dominate side and favor it in daily life.

To fix this in training, a beginner should be able to rely on their instructor to point out imbalanced in the body during training. A good instructor will help their student balance those issues throughout training. Later on a more advanced student should be able to feel the difference during training. That may sound like hocus-pocus but if you have ever been involved in athletics of any kind you know what I am referring to here. It is a kind of internal feedback loop. You just know when something feels wrong. Even for an advanced student it is a good idea to occasionally seek feedback from an instructor or fellow student.

In the end, if this statement is even remotely true and you are training in a program that does have you training to imbalance, change it up. It is time to reorganize. I am a firm believer in cross-training  but it should be used to strength a good program. The difference put simply is this:

Good program is 1. Lets say that cross training is also a 1. That means that 1+1=2 and both programs are moving us forward toward being stronger overall.

Bad martial arts program is a -1 and then cross training is a 1 still. -1+1=0. We do not make much progress in a program that requires we add training to fix problems in other parts of our training.

For anyone who reads this, I don't want to know who does this so do not post names please but how common is this problem? Please feel free to add a comment if you have seen this or if this is a marketing gimmick to sell cross training programs.