Some Reminders and a bit of Blatant Self-Promotion

A couple reminders:

1. Promotion ceremony for the kids will be tonight at 6pm.  Don’t expect trumpets or anything…we’re just handing out certificates and such.  Followed by lots of push-ups!

2. The monthly Kobudo class lead by Scott Schweitzer is this Friday from 7-9pm.  I’m not a Kobudo guy myself (only so many hours in the day!) but the reports I hear are that people really enjoy this class.  If you enjoy Okinawan/Japanese martial arts it’s good to at least be exposed to some of the traditional weapons training.  It’s the 2nd Friday of every month.

Scott Schweitzer teaching Bo

3. I’ll be in Kansas City, MO the weekend of June 11&12, teaching a seminar at the Blue River Martial Arts Club.  Details here.  If you know anyone in the area that might be interested, please let them know!

My friend Eric Parsons of Blue River Martial Arts Club was kind enough (or foolish enough…remains to be seen!) to extend me an invitation.  I met Eric at the Crossing the Pond seminar last year and had the pleasure of training with him in several of the sessions.  Good times.

One thing that impresses me about Eric is that he’s open and confident enough to invite other instructors to his school.  Not so many teachers are comfortable doing that, but I think it’s a mark of a great instructor.  The guys that understand they don’t know everything, and are confident enough to admit it, are the ones you should train with (in my humble opinion).

Me, Eric Parsons, and Rory Miller. "Crossing the Pond" seminar in Seattle, 2010.

Earlier this year Eric hosted Nicholas Yang (of YMMA fame) for a seminar on Chinese arts, and in October he’s hosting Iain Abernethy (of, well, Iain Abernethy fame) to cover what looks like LOTS of kata material.  By itself that’s a pretty good line-up, so I (of no particular fame whatsoever) feel pretty honored to be included.

Those who attend in June should also come to Iain’s seminar in October if you have the chance.  There will be some cross-over between his material and mine (we’re both teaching Karate after-all), but I think they will be fundamentally different seminars.  I’ve been following Iain’s stuff for quite some time…our emphasis might be a little different, but I believe the things we do are very complementary.  This is perhaps over-simplifying, but one way I look at it is this: 1. how to train to make you move/hit/throw better, and 2. what to do to stop the other guy from hurting you.  I’ll cover both, and I’m sure Iain will too, but my sense is that my focus will be more on 1, and his will be more on 2.  (And apologies to Iain if I’m misrepresenting his material!)

In any event, both of ‘em will be bone-crunchingly fun, so don’t miss either one!

Eric Parsons on the receiving end of a very big headache, courtesy of Iain Abernethy. "Crossing the Pond" seminar, Seattle, 2010.

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Kids Test Last Weekend

As the title implies, we had a kids test last weekend (and yes, I’m just getting to writing about it now!)

I was very pleased with their performance.  Technical skill varies of course, and there are always things to improve.  But with kids, my biggest concern is that they TRY hard.  Some people are natural martial artists and pick things up very easily, but what inspires me most are those students that put their best effort into the practice, regardless of how “good” their performance is.  The talented person may still be technically better (at least in the short-term), but those that try the hardest are the ones that most put a smile on my face.  And generally speaking, those people are the ones that go the farthest in the long run.  This is one of those dojo concepts that applies to everything outside the dojo (it’s a pretty basic point but I’m compelled to point it out).

Their level of effort really showed, and I could not be more pleased!

Unlike our adult test requirements, which are differentiated by the class (Aikido, Jujutsu, etc.), the requirements for the kids are a bit, shall we say, nebulous.  Our kids program is very strong in that it integrates a lot of the techniques and skills from the different arts we offer adults (this was by design, but also simply from a functional standpoint we have instructors from different disciplines teaching the kids).  This exposes the kids to a far wider range of skills and options, which is great as I think it’s paramount to be well-rounded.  However, as with any design/plan/decision, there are good and bad sides.  The downside is that it makes creating well-defined and sensible testing criteria more difficult.  Yes, it’s easy just to throw a bunch of skills on a list and then teach to the test, but it’s a lot harder to integrate them into a well-designed curriculum where each skill builds on the other, while at the same time taking into account different ages and skill levels of children as well as the time necessary to cover all the requirements.  Not to mention the fact that not all the instructors are cross-trained in multiple arts to know all the skills and see the big picture!  This stuff isn’t as easy as it looks (well, at least I HOPE it looks easy!)

That’s a bit of thinking out loud.  😉  I know that lots of folks are interested in seeing documented test criteria, so I’m just sharing my thought process on it.  Suffice to say I’ve been thinking about several different options…and in keeping with what NWMA is doing in general, I think we’re going to come up with something unique.  So…parents stay tuned!

I’d like to offer a thank you to all the kids instructors.  Unfortunately some of them couldn’t be there due to travel, but they all had a hand in bringing the kids up to speed.  Being there week in and week out is just part of what we do, but it is a sacrifice of time and effort, for no pay other than personal satisfaction, so I want to express my gratitude to them!  Also, special thanks to Eric for running some extra class sessions, and to both Eric and Craig for helping oversee the test (most particularly since I was late thanks to an early morning business meeting!*)

And as always, special thanks to you parents for being so supportive to our program.  We can’t do it without you.

*Odd how it only strikes me right NOW how sad it is that I actually have to schedule early Saturday morning business meetings.  What can I say?  It seemed reasonable at the time.

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Sakura Matsuri Picture Highlights – 2011

Earlier this month the annual Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom) Japanese Cultural Festival was held in Seattle Center.  This marked the 8th year that Northwest Martial Arts performed Aikido for the festival.

For last few years, the martial arts demonstrations have been held in smaller auditoriums, which naturally limited attendance.  It was great to be back in the food court this year…all the more fun with a big crowd watching!

The lighting was also a lot better for pictures…

Introductions. From the look on some of the faces I think Craig just made a joke.

Austin throws Susan...

...and Susan returns the favor. That's what he gets for picking on her.

Ryan, I know it's fun to sweep the mat with Robert, but most of us just use a broom.

Watch for low-flying children.

Jesse looks like he won't quite clear the kid-pile, but he did easily. These pictures often look like the kids in the pile are talking...I like to imagine them discussing stock picks or the laws of thermodynamics.

Robert performs a perfect landing from Austin's throw. I like how this picture got Robert right before landing, but it would have been much cooler if he had waved to the camera.

This attack does have a Japanese name, but we seldom use it. Somebody once labeled it "Crazy Woman with Steak-knife" and as much as I want to I just can't bring myself to call it anything else.

Chile attacking at full-steam! Colten remained calm though and easily performed the throw.

Craig throwing me from a kick. The mats at Sakura Matsuri are very thick and cushy, which makes it very difficult to move well (and very easy to break toes). I appreciate a cushy mat for this throw however.

Amanda performing "Ki Bridge". This is my favorite picture of the lot.

Me performing jo kata. I look serious here but usually I have a smile on my face when I hit people.

Clifton, stop trying to smack the kids! Minjy does a great job avoiding the blow.

Randori is a type of free-form practice; in this case Craig is avoiding/throwing multiple attackers. It's hard to capture on film, but this one's not bad.

Bowing together: the most difficult part of a demo!

As always, thanks to the Sakura Matsuri people for having us, thanks to the performers for a job well done, and thanks to the parents for all your support!

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Kiai for self-defense…and other things

Here’s an interesting article by Al Peasland regarding the use of Kiai.  I particularly like the part near the end about being able to flip your switch.  In the past I’ve spoken about this in class – we have to be able to switch into decisive and ferocious action at will if we’re forced to defend ourselves.  To some people this comes naturally; others have to work at it (and it can be trained).

Al also notes something that usually isn’t discussed in martial arts classes: that the switch has to be turned back off.  This is no different from putting a firearm back on safe once hostilities are over.  I think the reason that it isn’t discussed much is probably because for most people, it’s a lot easier to turn the aggression switch off than it is to turn it on in the first place.  It still bears repeating though, because I think for those to whom aggression is natural, it may not be so obvious that they need to go back on safe immediately after hostilities.  I also imagine that it comes harder for naturally aggressive people.

I don’t think that all martial concepts can be applied to everyday life, but I know this one can…the mental switch can and should be applied often.  Rory Miller talked about this very thing in his Conflict Communications seminar we hosted a few weeks ago.  If you need to de-escalate a tense situation (whether it’s potentially violent, or if it’s a low-level spat between co-workers) you have to de-escalate yourself first.

Bad moods are a perfect example where the switch can be applied to non-violent situations.  As compared to real violent encounters, the stakes involved with bad moods aren’t as high.  However, over the course of a relationship or a lifetime, bad moods (yours or others) can absolutely be ruinous to your quality of life.  And while most people won’t encounter serious violence, everyone has to deal with moody behavior.

I don’t believe we have control over our emotions (nor do I think we should try).  I do believe we absolutely have control over our actions and behaviors.  We take showers to avoid inflicting our body odor on others.  Why should inflicting bad moods on someone else be any different?  Think about friends, family, or co-workers…do you find that you want to spend more time or less with those who are consistently in a bad mood?  If you are a moody person, do you think you provide more joy to others, or more grief?  If it’s the latter, don’t you think you should work on changing that behavior?

Just because it is difficult is no reason to abdicate that responsibility.

I haven’t thought about using Kiai in terms of changing behavior in non-martial situations, but it’s a useful thought (thanks Al!).  Now I’m not recommending yelling at the top of your lungs to get out of a bad mood, most particularly in public!  But maybe a quiet Kiai (in your head please!) can help: focusing all your intent and energy on the positive, pasting a smile on your face even if you don’t feel like it (fake it ’til you make it), choosing behaviors in the moment that are positive or productive in some way.  Nothing works 100% of the time, but maybe a good Kiai to reset your attitude will help more often than not.

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Conflict Communication Articles

Attended the Conflict Communication seminar with Rory Miller yesterday.  Brain is far too tired to write intelligently about it though.

Lots of good material, a great turn-out, old friends and some new ones.  And Rory was his usual entertaining and informative self.

Yes, this is a pretty lame write-up for a great seminar.  But hey, today is a day of rest!  Give me a break.

Rory and Marc MacYoung have set up a new site for their program.  I’ve only read a bit of it so far, but it looks like a good primer for the seminar material.  De-escalation, avoiding violence, active listening, better communication with co-workers and family…it’s worth checking out.  Go here.

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Commentary on Internet Bully Video

I considered writing something about this, but Al Peasland beat me to it.  And why struggle with the words when someone has already done such a fine job?

Al does a great job of analyzing what happened and using this as an instructive tool.  Yes, it’s just a junior high confrontation, but the dynamics are little different from many adult situations.  (Perhaps I should say they are childish situations, just with adult actors.)  Anyway, as they say, read the whole thing here.

I met Al at a seminar last summer.  He’s an excellent teacher and a class act.  If he’s ever back in the states and you have the opportunity to train with him, you should do so.  And if you have time, check out his website.  Good reading.

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Another Plug for ConCom – 3/26/11

So here’s another plug for Rory Millers Conflict Communication seminar on March 26.

Everyone that practices martial arts does it for different reasons.  I do it mainly because I enjoy it, but I’m also serious about self-protection – this stuff has to WORK.  Having fun is fine, but if it doesn’t work then martial arts isn’t worth much in my opinion.  The things we practice here at NWMA do work, and we pride ourselves on that.

That said, I’m pretty sure that everyone agrees with me that it’s best if we never have to actually use these techniques on another person.  Martial art skills are a lot like home insurance.  If your house catches fire, you’re glad you have the insurance…but you’d really prefer that your house doesn’t burn down.  (Well, most of us anyway.  Some people like beating up others, and some people like to commit insurance fraud.  I’ll quit stretching the metaphor now…)

Anyway…my point here is that the information in the Conflict Communications seminar can help you recognize and avoid a conflict in the first place.  It’s great to be able to throw a good punch.  Greater still never to have to.  And if this is as fundamental as Rory thinks it is, it even applies to avoiding lower level conflict at home and at work.  Imagine being able to more consistently communicate and avoid confrontations in your marriage.  Isn’t that worth $95 and an afternoon of your time?

Managing human relationships is a skill.  It’s not just talent that’s handed out to the gifted few.  It’s a skill that can be developed, and it can improve your life.

I’ll let Rory speak for himself:

Marc [MacYoung - he developed it with Rory] and I are still a little in awe
of what we have here.  Marc has taken to calling it the Rosetta Stone of
Violence.  I don't think he's far off.  I try not to get too excited and
sound like either a fanboy or a hard sell advertiser but I think we've 
put into words the framework for almost all, maybe all human conflict.  
And the weird part is it's easy.  It's like teaching fish about water.
Humans have lived in these dynamics so long that they don't see them.
In the same way I imagine fish don't see water.  Once the fish learns to
see it, many things start to make sense.

Information and sign-up is here:

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