Category Archives: Our Philosophy

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 :)

 

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 :)

Martial Arts School Culture pt 2: Who Serves Who?

The next part of culture I want to talk about is who serves who.

In the martial arts it’s not uncommon to put the head of the school or organization up on a pedestal.  They get their picture on the wall, the picture gets bowed too, you aren’t supposed to speak to them unless spoken too.  We even had a guy in the city that had students “volunteering” to go out and build his on temple in the religion he started with him at the top…

This is very contradictory to so much of the traditional values of the martial arts.  “Samurai” translates roughly to “one who serves”, humility has always been a core belief in martial arts from all over the world.

Our goal is to be accessible, human, and to be here to serve your needs, not the other way around.

So if you want to know who the master is at our school is, it’s the students.  The white belts.  The person that just stepped through the door for the first time.  We are here to help you get better, to use our experience to serve you.

And it is our hope that one day many of our students will also be able to serve others by sharing their experience.

In the words of Albert Einstein “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile”

Keep following our blog for more thoughts on our schools culture

Martial Arts School Culture pt 1 – Titles

Martial arts schools all tend to have their own unique culture, just like most places do.  In the martial arts world sometimes things can get a little… “overboard” at times.

We’ve tried to keep our school culture healthy and in the next few articles I want to look at a few pieces of culture and why we choose to do things the way we do.

I guess the first thing to acknowledge is there is no single right way on any of these things.  Just preferences and how they fit into the larger picture of the culture of a school.

The other thing to keep in mind is that martial arts has had a impact on the entertainment industry, but that influence goes both ways.  Some of which are good… others not so much.

So, first topic:  Titles

And boy does the martial arts world love titles.  For a community that stresses the importance of humility some of it seems a little out of place.

In the west we generally had “coach”, “instructor”, etc.  In Japan it would be “sensei”, which isn’t a title as much as a honorific, more like Mr, Ms, Mrs, etc but used towards someone in a higher position.  Teachers, doctors, lawyers and other positions of authority.  Roughly translated as “born before”, or more along the lines of a way to refer to someone who has experience and is passing that along.

Anyways, other languages have similar words (shifu, euro,  sah buh nim, etc)

But at some point in the 50′s / 60′s we started getting some serious title inflation…

I am not “Master Andrew”, never will be.  language plays a part in how we view things, and I am not anyones master.  Just a coach, that’s what I do.  I try to make people better at martial arts.

To put it in context suppose you or your child joined a soccer team and the coach introduced himself as “Grandmaster Joe” and wanted the players to call him that… it would seem a little odd.

Some schools try to keep a “mystic” element to what they do, putting high ranking people as capable of inhuman feats like they are in the movies.  But, we are all just humans, even the most experienced martial artist is still human.  They can’t really run up walls, or blast you with chi from across the room.

Even if someone can be said to have reached a mastery level of skill, calling them “Master Bob” in the martial arts seems as strange as calling a master carpenter “Master Stan”.

The other thing that we have is language related, but also adds some confusion.  For example the term “Professor” gets used in some styles.  In the native language “professor” means teacher, and is used at all levels.  However in English it has a very specific meaning.

Language and context matter, and in English in Canada we have perfectly suitable words.  I suspect people would give me a puzzled look if I used the term “Doctor” a title for teaching martial arts, however in Rome “Doctore” was the term used for the person training gladiators.

It’s sometimes marketing, sometimes ego and sometimes a sort of cultural appropriation.

What makes it more interesting is that when Kung fu went to Japan and karate was formed, it took on Japanese terms.  When Korea was occupied and Karate went into Korea, it took on Korean terms.  When Judo went to Brazil it took on a lot of Portuguese terms.

Yet for some reason in English speaking places we feel using foreign words gives credibility.

Funny little piece of trivia.  In Japanese a front was “Mae Geri”, a side kick being “Yoko geri”, etc.  The word for kick being “geri”, except context matters and on it’s own it does not mean kick, but poop.  Without something in front the word should be “keri”, not “geri”.  So we spent a lot of time practicing our poops until someone informed us of what was getting said :D

For our school we choose to go with first names, or if the child prefers “coach” is also good. Misusing another languages terms is something I’ve seen enough of in the martial arts, and I think it’s a little disrespectful to people that actually speak those languages to be butchering them constantly.

 

 

The Most Important Experience…

One thing I’ve noticed lately is a some parents want to give their kid a wide range of experiences.  Trying a little of everything to see what they like.  This is awesome, kids should experience as much as they can without getting overloaded.

But one thing to be careful of is skipping a very important experience, and that is seeing things through.  Learning what it takes to not just taste a skill, but to get good at it.

Whether it is music, dance, martial arts or pretty much anything.  Most people are, at some point, going to think about and possibly want to quit.

You start something, you get real excited about doing something new and it’s great… but pretty much everyone in anything is going to have a point where they want to stop.

It makes sense, we go through stages in learning.  And different people have a hard time with different stages.

For a lot of people, getting started in the first place is the hardest thing.  That first trip through the door.  If all you do is sample different activities you might get good at starting things, and that is a good skill to have.  But learning to coup with the other stages is just as important.

Once you get started you quickly realize how much you don’t know and how hard it all is at first.  (Conscious incompetence in the 4 stages of learning).  This is the second hurdle to get over.  Showing up and learning a skill, even when it is not going well.  We start playing a instrument with a vision of playing well, or start martial arts with a vision of being able to pull things off.  But it’s hard, it takes time, and in the beginning… everyone doesn’t know what they are doing.

If you can get past the second stage you get to where you know what you are doing, but it doesn’t yet come naturally.  You have to think about it and be deliberate.  (conscious competence) .  At this stage there is a lot of repetition, It’s not as much learning new things as it is making things you know instinct and second nature.   The repetition and frustration with making mistakes when your brain tells you that you know better can get the better of you here.

And finally, you get to where things flow.  Where you can pick up a instrument and freestyle, where you can wrestle and move well instinctively.  Where the real joy of the skill kicks in and creativity and the “art” side of it comes out.  At this stage, for those that make it.  Quitting is a lot less common, it becomes a part of you.

That is a experience worth having, taking a skill to the point of unconscious competence.  No one regrets getting to this stage, but a lot of people wish they had.  The number of people that will say they wished they had kept at playing guitar, or kept at martial arts, or stuck with painting is a very high number.  But finding someone that says “I wish I’d been able to quit years ago when I wanted to” is a lot harder.

A short introduction to something is a good experience, taking a skill to the point of unconscious competence, where it becomes instinct and creativity… that is a truly amazing experience and one worth more then any number of introduction to _____’s.  Give your kids the experience of “Mastery”, and the process of reaching it.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

4stages_learning

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening

It’s really basic stuff, but easy to forget. Teens need a place to belong, and something to belong too. And there is a period in there where it’s sometimes hard to fine. If they don’t find it in a productive and healthy place, it’s easy to find in a unhealthy place.

Kids hit a age where they feel they should be more independent then they are able too, where there is a gap in between being a “kid” and being able to work and gain independence. I think the best thing that can be done at this age is to keep them involved in something outside of school and to help them find a way to feel they bring value to something.

https://mosaicscience.com/story/iceland-prevent-teen-substance-abuse