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Types of Martial Arts for Kids pt 2

A little while back I did a post on some of the popular forms of martial arts, you can find that here:

http://www.innovativema.ca/929/types-of-martial-arts-for-children/

And this time I want to expand on that a little.

As it is not just the styles that have a wide range of things, but the way people train does as well.

You could take two martial arts styles and not have a single overlapping technique between them.  Some are based around punching and kicking, others don’t use punches or kicks at all.

The same goes for training methods which can also vary greatly.

In the same way that not a single “style” of martial arts is best for everyone across the board, the same goes for training methods and school culture.

Some places will almost resemble military drill practice… and there is a reason for that.  A lot of “modern” arts where implemented as military training.  Or rather pre-military training, a way to get youth mentally and physically prepared to join the military.  This was one of the stated aims of the Dai-Nippon Butokai (Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society) until it was disbanded at the end of WW2 as a result of the allied forces conditions to disband all military organizations.

As for us, we are less drill line like and our culture is much more based in creativity and dynamic problem solving.

We don’t do forms or kata, and we try to base our teaching methods more on modern sport science and child psychology.

At the end of the day I think the program that is going to work the best for any given kid is the program they enjoy the most.  We all learn best when we are having fun, we all learn best when what we are doing is something that interests us.  As parents / adults in kids lives sometimes they need a little push to keep going, motivation in anything tends to peak and valley, often in sync with plateaus that need pushed through.

So what do we do?  We practice techniques that are age and skill appropriate… and then we play.  If we are working on takedowns we will play a game (or “drill” if you prefer) that lets the kids try and take each other down.  We will use games that are designed to teach them balance and off balancing, games that are designed to teach them to advance position. We will use games that emphasis teamwork, strategy, conditioning.

With the younger kids we will even use games designed to teach them to resist the urge to run around when they are supposed to stay in place. We will have games that are designed to not just give them techniques, but teach taking turns and co-operating.

Fitness, teamwork, sportsmanship, confidence, leadership, balance, etc.  These things always progress the fastest through dynamic experiences and “play”, not through rehearsed patterns and pre-set responses.

Have your child come “play” with us, it can make a world of difference :)

 

Happy St. Patricks Day! – Irish Martial Arts?

Happy St. Patricks Day everyone!

Did you know that Ireland is the home to several types of martial arts?

Most people are familliar with Irelands reputation for bare-knuckle boxing.  

At this point bare knuckle boxing has become almost a caricature of Irish culture thanks in part to that Notre Dame leprechaun.

Bare knuckle boxing tended to take on some distinctive characteristics from modern boxing, without the gloves to protect your hands both offence and defence have to change a little to keep your hands in tact until the end of the match.

Especially considering that a lot of bare knuckle matches could go on for a very long time…

 

But Ireland is also the home of a form of wrestling called “Collar and Elbow” which was done both with a jacket similar to Judo and without one.  This style utilized a lot of the same sort of trips, sweeps, submissions and controls as modern Judo and Jiu Jitsu.

Irish wrestling was also very popular in early North America.

Irish collar and elbow wrestling had a influence on other forms of wrestling at the time and it’s influence can still be seen in modern wrestling as well as staged pro-wrestling matches where the collar and elbow tie up is very commonly used to start matches.

 

In addition to the empty handed boxing and wrestling techniques, Irish martial arts include the use of the Shillelagh, or club.  The Shillelagh has become a bit of a symbol of “Irishness” over the years.

In addition to self-defence purposes Irish stick-fighting ended up becoming associated with gang or faction violence and largely faded away by the turn of the 20th century.

 

 

Martial Arts Culture pt 5: Effort and Achievement

Participation trophies get a bad rep, and perhaps rightly so. Participation in itself shouldn’t really be cause for reward. But, it does have one idea right in concept, and that is that winning is not everything, especially with kids.

Even if the ultimate goal is to be the best, winning isn’t everything.  It’s something we can’t control, all we can control is ourself and our own effort.

The thing is, in the long run effort, attitude and persistence will always win over talent when those things aren’t there.

When we have a talented white belt that is great, but, the unfortunate thing is a lot of talented white belts do not follow through to becoming talented black belts.  And a lot of untalented white belts turn out to be very talented black belts.

Attitude, effort and determination decides who gets to reach  high level of skill, because even the most talented white belt is still a white belt.

Martial arts training is not a sprint, but a marathon and who is ahead at the 1 mile mark doesn’t matter as much as who actually finishes the race.  Same as everything in life, effort and persistence will win over the person that got a early lead.

While we will give awards for winning, the awards for attitude  and effort are equally important.  Those are the things that determine long term success.

We can’t control our natural talent, we can’t control our opponents talents, the only thing we can control is the effort we put in, that’s what we should encourage and recognize in kids.

The trouble with machines for strength training…

Pretty much anyone that is serious about fitness will tell you free weights are better then machines, yet machines still take up a huge chunk of gym space.

In one sense they are easier and safer to use, they keep the weight on the track it needs to be on for you, allowing you to safely do the push or the pull without worrying about it slipping, tipping, falling on you or anything else that could injure you if you lose control of it.

The trouble is you train the “big” muscles, but not the stabilization of them, which is very important in injury prevention.

Think of it like upgrading a car, if you hook the car up to a track and increase the engine power all is good and the car flies down the track. But as soon as you take it off that track you are going to be in for a crash as the steering, stabilization and breaks aren’t able to cope with a much more powerful engine.

Machines can have their place, but just because a exercise is safer to do does not mean it is safer for you in the long run. Properly developing stabilization is just as important as developing strength when it comes to safe training.

Martial Arts vs Seasonal Sports

As a martial arts school it might not come as a surprise that we prefer martial arts and other similar pursuits over team sports as a primary pursuit, but perhaps what is not as clear is the reasons.

Year Round

Martial Arts is a year round activity, just as health and fitness should be. Fitness needs to be part of day-to-day life, not a seasonal thing but part of your routine.

The other aspect of this is that in order to reach a high level of skill in anything you need consistency. It can’t be something that you do for 3-4 months of the year, especially as kids. In that time their bodies change so much that by the time the next season starts they will have taken a step backwards from where they should be.

And finally with a big lay off it is very easy to decide not to go back. Seasonal sports participation drops off pretty severely as kids get older and tends to retain mostly only the top tier of players. This makes sense, after not playing a sport for 8 months going back to a team is going mohave some anxiety that comes with it. Not to mention it is no longer part of their routine.

Individual Accomplishment

Martial Arts is a team effort, you can’t train on your own.  You can’t be selfish in training and expect to get far.  You can only get better through the help of your “team”.

But the accomplishments are individual.  When a student earns a belt it is because of their hard work, because of their knowledge and because of their skill.  It is not because they have a couple star players that carried them.  It’s not because the other team choked.  It’s because they did it, on their own.

When the goal of any sport is not really the sport itself, but the fitness, confidence, and other character traits that come from participation this is a big deal.   Every accomplishment they reach is because they did it by themselves.

Clear Goal Setting

There is a path from white to yellow belt and on.  It is very clearly laid out so that they know exactly what they need to do to reach their goals.  The only one in control of their actions to those goals is them.  It doesn’t matter it the team skips practice, or if their goalie quits the team mid season.

Every student is in charge of reaching their own goals, yes, they need their “team” to do it.  But the control over reaching those goals goes to them.

They earn their belts, they are not given to them.  They don’t choose to sign up for “orange belt”, they earn that belt.

Scheduling Freedom

I know from talking to parents one of the hardest things about team sports can be the schedules.  Missing a practice or a game means letting the team down.  You can’t go a different day to “make up” a missed game.

And if it’s not you, it’s someone else on the team missing that causes problems.

In martial arts if you have to miss a class it’s ok, we train 6-days a week and it can be made up if you like.  You don’t let the team down because they are then short their goalie because you where on holidays or had a cold.

Leadership & Starting Skill

One of the other interesting things about martial arts over team sports is you can start at any age and be fine.  Differing skill levels is part of the culture in most classes.  They more experienced students help out the newer ones, which in turn develops their leadership and understanding of the techniques and concepts to a higher level.

Starting a lot of team sports at a later age can be a tricky thing, if everyone else on the team has been playing for 5 years already joining the team as a beginner is a hard thing to do.

Part of what makes a martial arts class work is that the experienced members help the newer ones.  Leadership is a built in feature of the higher level belts.

—–

In the end every kid is different, and every parent needs to make the decisions that they feel best suit their kid.

Sports aren’t their to teach the child to just play the sport.  They are their to teach them confidence, to teach them to keep going when they are tired, to teach them to push themselves, to teach them to work together, to teach them not to give up, etc.

 

Martial Arts Culture pt 5: Kids & “Fighting”

On the surface I suppose it looks like we teach kids how to fight, and indeed I’m sure that’s what some people think about the martial arts.

But we do not.

Martial Arts is not about fighting at all, it is a strategy game played with your body.

Fighting implies violence, and violence has no place in a martial arts class, especially one for children.

We teach them to control situations, to control their emotions when they are in stressful situations, to think rationally and problem solve when they are in a bad situation.

We teach them to be confident and act decisively and with intention and planning. We teach them to protect themselves AND their training partners.

But to say a martial arts school teaches fighting is like saying a debate team teaches screaming matches. Fighting has no place in a martial arts school, it is counter productive to all of our goals.

That said we do teach kids how to control a fight, how to protect themselves in that sort of situation. But we do not teach them “to fight”.

Input => Output – Why do we feel less safe?

I did a similar post a while back here: http://www.innovativema.ca/760/input-output-who-you-spend-time-with-matters/

But this is from a slightly different angle.

Something came up in a discussion in class today, and that was that things are less safe nowadays then they where 20 years ago.  This is a belief a lot of people have… except it’s completely false.

Crime stats have been on a steady decline for over 2 decades now, and a pretty steep one at that.

We’ve seen entire campaigns around “Stranger Danger”, yet stranger abductions are extremely rare. “Police statistics show 25 children of the 46,718 reported missing in 2011 listed as “abducted by stranger.”  More people get hit by lightning in a year then abducted by strangers…

So what gives?

The big difference isn’t that crime has gone up, but our awareness of it has gone up.

Thanks to social media when an event happens it spreads fast and far.  What would have once generated a single article in a paper can now generate thousands and thousands of shares, likes, reposts and get people more emotionally involved then before.

It’s hard to say whether or not it is a good thing or a bad thing, as the ability of stories to go viral and spread fast has resulted in people being found and saved.  But it can skew our perspective on the frequency of these events.

So here is my challenge, let’s make a effort to share the good things as well.  Negative and fear inducing stories spread far faster then stories of a positive nature.  Balance it out, let’s celebrate the > 99% of people that are good people, doing good things.

We are the safest we have been in half a century.  We are more connected to people then ever before.  We have access to more information then ever before.

Let’s spread help and positive messages, not just the negative and fear based ones :)

Martial Arts Culture pt 4: Fitness

We are a martial arts school, and in this industry there is definitely debate about the place of fitness within a martial arts class.

Pretty much every martial arts school advertises it, but not all are going to deliver. Of course some that do send everyone home barely breaking a sweat…

Anyways, fitness in our opinion needs to be a part of what we do. Martial arts at its core is health and self-defence. Both of which are greatly impacted by fitness.

Being in good shape lets you train harder, keeps you healthier and greatly reduces the risk of injury. Any sport that doesn’t incorporate fitness into training it’s athletes is going to have mediocre performance and best, along with a increased injury rate.

Traditionally fitness in the martial arts was pretty simple and crude. Pushups, sit-ups and squats… pretty standard fair for the time period that martial arts really started growing in North America. The trouble is our understanding of fitness training has evolved greatly since then, and while coaches in a lot of other sports generally receive training in fitness aspects as well martial arts has had a “traditional” leaning that left it less receptive to change.

It’s not enough that a work out is hard, making a workout hard is easy. It needs to serve a bigger function and get a result.

The truth is the fitness industry has made massive advancements in recent years, and this can be of great benefit to the martial arts.

We’ve spent a lot of time (and a lot of money) working with and learning from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the world to develop our fitness component, and we are very proud of the results it gets for our members :)

Martial Arts Culture pt 3: Parent’s Nights

At first glance you might wonder why we do all the events we do for kids.  Such as our “Parent’s Night” events, Saturday evening parties from 6:30-10:30pm.

Part of any activity, for kids and adults is the social aspect.  Making new friends, having fun and socializing.

One of the key things in building confidence and anti-bullying is having more then one “circle” when it comes to friends.

Adults tend to make there own events, going out for a bite after work or a class, office parties, etc.  Kids need social events tied to their activities as well in order to build friendships, meet new people and gain confidence when it comes to group environment.

At school they have regular “parties”, they have recess, lunch break, etc.  Lots of opportunities to engage in with other children.

Evening classes should be no different.  While getting in shape, learning martial arts and getting all the benefits that come from the classes is very important, making friends and playing is as well.

That, plus they are a lot of fun :)

Carb Free, Fat Free….

One of the subjects we talked about at yesterdays workshop was nutrition, and diet fads.

Let’s start with Fat Free.

In the mid 70′s heart disease was a big problem.  So after some research the issue was found to be too much fat in peoples diet.  This is when the recommendation to eat less fat started, so what happened?

Heart disease went down, but people got fat.

The trouble was removing the fat from foods makes them taste bland, so to keep those foods in production since that’s what everyone wanted we got fat-free versions that replaced the fat with sugars (carbs) to get them tasting good again.

So now we’ve realized that carbs are what makes people fat, so those have become the new enemy for dieters.

The trouble wasn’t “fats” though, it was certain types of fats.  Fats are a required part of your diet, they are a necessity in your body absorbing certain vitamins and provide long term energy as your body processes them slower then carbs.

That said, their is a difference between cooking food in bacon fat vs Olive Oil (Also a fat).  Omega-3, Omega-6… things foods are now advertising as containing are fats.

Anyways, carbs are the same.  We need them.  There is something called a ketogenic diet which is basically carb free and can cause a lot of weight loss…. calling it a healthy way to eat however…

What has really caused us trouble is the high amount of processed food we eat.  And, coincidentally a lot of that processed food is carb based.

Broccoli, bananas, apples, carrots… those are carbs.  Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are as well.

If you want a decent way of looking at carbs and whether they are good or bad the “GI Index” is a good place to start.

It measures how fast your body absorbs a specific food.  If you absorb it too fast your blood sugar spikes causing your body to release insulin.  Insulin combines with blood sugar to store it as body fat and get your blood sugar back down.

With some processed foods it spikes it faster then we are really meant to deal with, insulin is released in high levels storing it and then your blood sugar falls bellow where it should be.  When your blood sugar gets low your brain gives you a craving for sweet foods to get it back up.  End result is weight gain.

Food should be plant or animal, thats what we are designed to eat.  The farther it gets processed away from that the worse it likely is for you.

To close here is a very simple rule to judge if you should eat something.  If it is mostly carbohydrate, but no fibre, it’s probably a bad idea.  Fibre and sugars are almost always food together in nature, unless the fibre is removed in processing.  Fibre helps your body regulate the speed it absorbs sugars, without it things get absorbed faster then they should.