Category Archives: Our Philosophy

Practice what you want to be able to do… and don’t always colour within the lines

This seems obvious, but it isn’t always as obvious as we believe.

In order to get good at something, we have to practice it.  This is a fundamental concept when you look at study and learning skills in anything.

I was always a very practical learner, I learnt things by doing them.  I got good at math, computers, (and martial arts :))… things where you did things and solved problems.  I had a harder time in subjects that required more memorization.  Names, dates, terminology… those tests didn’t go as well.

After school and getting involved in teaching, both in Martial arts and post secondary, I think I figured out why.  I didn’t study for those right.

I could memorize things well enough, if they where things I was interested in.  But when it came to studying things I wasn’t interested in and had to memorize it didn’t happen.

Anyways, the trouble is if you want to be able to remember things you have to practice remembering them.  Seems simple, yet high school me re-read the same text over and forgot it all by the next day anyways.

This is why flash cards work really well in things where you have to remember information.  They force you to practice recalling the information, which makes it easier to recall.  Practicing reading the same information will make you better at reading it… but not always recalling it.

The same thing applies in the martial arts.  If I want to teach you to get good at taking someone down that is resisting, I need to get you to practice doing so.  Static drilling makes static drilling better, and that is important in developing technique.  But to truly get good at something to where you can do it live, you have to practice doing it live.

This is also something that sometimes is lacking in martial arts schools.  The goal becomes appearance rather then function, classes get run like military drill practices to keep things looking crisp and clean…  Creativity and learning to do things live looks messy at times, it is something that comes out of chaos.

It’s the difference between using a app that you scribble your finger in to paint a picture by filling in the area and it won’t colour on the outside of the lines anyways vs freehand drawing.

Sometimes we need to colour within the lines, it’s easier to get something that looks good that way.  It teaches us a isolated aspect of the whole, and is a good way to learn about important concepts.  But, in order to learn real skill and be able to freestyle we have to practice free styling, and sometimes it will look like scribbles.  :D

What is a Submission?

One of the key concepts in martial arts is the idea of a “submission”, a point where one person taps out conceding the match.

This concept has been around for a long time, it is documented right back to ancient wrestling and pankration in Greece.  The means have varied in different times and places.  Raising 2 fingers, saying uncle, tapping out, etc.  But the idea has always been the same.

In a match one person places the other in a situation where they are forced to concede, recognizing that they are caught in a position where they would end up seriously injured if the match where a real fight.

Basically the “checkmate” of the martial arts.

Most people are familiar with the concept, it’s been getting used in Pro-Wrestling for years as a carry over from when the matches where not scripted.  UFC is now a household name as well.

But yet there is still some confusion around exactly what is going on.

A tap out is not one person giving up because something hurts.  It is one person giving up because they are in a position where they could be hurt.

When a person taps out due to being caught in a arm bar it is not because there arm is in excruciating pain, it is because they recognize that they are in a position where their opponent could cause serious injury to their arm if the fight where real.

Generally waiting until your arm is hurting to tap out is a terrible idea and will lead to damaged joints pretty quickly.

Of course pro-wrestling plays things up… but they are acting, not really trying to cause pain or injury.  And in professional MMA fighters will at times try to hold off on tapping out longer and sometimes to the point where they are doing damage to their joint, but they are professionals with a lot of money and their career on the line.

For the rest of us, that should never be the case.    We tap out because we recognize we lost, not because we are in pain or already hurt.

Why is the receiver the one that is responsible to surrender?  Martial Arts is a funny thing, it is an activity that both builds confidence and teaches humility when done right.  In the process of getting good, you have to surrender 1000′s of matches to people bigger, smaller, older, younger, stronger, weaker and every thing else.    Everyone gets caught sometimes, and everyone has to be willing to admit that they where physically defeated by anyone else on the mat if they get caught.

This is something I see as a huge benefit to building character over styles where all the scoring is done by a ref or judges.  Scoring points for hits which is fuzzy in the best situations too easily leaves the humility part lacking and the confidence turns to cockiness.  When you tap out it’s not a bad ref call, you lost, and you admit it.

Martial Arts Culture pt 6 – Language

Language in martial arts gyms is a funny thing. For us, we speak English, and we train in English, and there is a reason.

Over the years I’ve seen and been guilty of some terrible misuses of language during my training. Coming originally from a Karate background my decision to teach in English came, oddly enough, after taking a Japanese language course.

So let’s start with some examples:

First, a obvious one, and one that I mentioned in a previous post on titles. “Sensei”, in western schools this is treated as a title meaning martial arts instructor. But it’s not a title, it’s a honorific term. It is used to refer to teachers, as well as anyone in a position of authority. So if you’re talking to your lawyer, it would be appropriate. If you are a 20 year old karate instructor teaching a lawyer, you’d probably be using it towards them, not the other way around. A person would also never introduce themselves as “Sensei Andrew”, or put it on a business card (which gets done over here all the time), it’s something others use towards you. There are teaching titles in Japan… “Sensei” is not one of them.

And now a funny one: In Japanese “Mae Geri” roughly means front kick, “Yoko Geri” side kick, “Mawashi geri” is a young kick and so on. So “Geri” means kick, pretty obvious. Except it’s not. “Geri” means diarrhea. “Keri” means kick, unless it comes after another word, then it becomes “geri”.

I’m not sure why in the west we like to try and use… and end up misusing foreign language as a part of training. I imagine some feel it gives their training some sense of authenticity. But without context it is so incredibly easy to misuse language in a way which I think is disrespectful to native speakers, especially when we teach it as part of classes.

The other thing to keep in mind is this didn’t really happen with the countries of origin for those systems.  Karate used Japanese, not Chinese when the Okinawans imported things.  When Koreans learnt karate during the occupation they went back to Korea and taught using Korean and renamed everything.  (Granted Korea was pretty anti-Japanese in general at that time.)

Some things have names in a language that don’t really have a direct translation or a name in English.  In those cases it makes sense to import the word, and thats what is generally done outside of martial arts.  “Sushi” is still “Sushi”, we don’t really have a English word for it.  It makes sense to use “Sushi” instead of inventing a new one.  But even when we go to a Japanese restaurant most of us still call “rice”, “rice” because we do.

Anyways, one more, “Osu” and I’ll leave this one to a link: http://www.karatebyjesse.com/meaning-oss-osu-japanese/ the amount of “Osu-ing” that goes on in some places is almost silly, using it as a general word for everything possible and thinking it is respectful. It’s a “low class” word, and IMO has little place in a educational environment.

Anyways, we speak English.  Hopefully we are able to get that language right.  :)

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.

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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