Benefits of Yoga for Martial Artists

If yoga had belts, I would be wearing white. I started yoga around May/June of 2013, 1-2 times a week. So I’m not a yoga expert. Yet.

With 14 years of dedication, my martial arts practice is already a lifestyle. In the true martial arts tradition, I am always looking for ways to become better. And I’m finding that yoga is a great parallel path.

tree pose

Tree pose: growing to new heights, whether in martial arts, yoga, or in life.

I started out wanting to share the benefits yoga has brought to my martial arts practice. It turned into a 4-part article exploring how yoga is helping me with:

  • Breath
  • Alignment
  • Flexibility/Pain Management
  • Anatomy

This is part 1. Read on to find out what I’ve discovered (so far) on my yoga journey! Continue reading

Martial Arts Meditation – Why Do It?

What is the purpose of opening meditation?

Beginning of test, martial arts meditation

Clearing the mind.

Many martial arts classes, especially traditional ones, begin with an opening “martial arts meditation.” During this time, students are asked to close their eyes and try to clear their minds. Its nothing crazy, and it’s not even inherently religious (unless you want it to be).

So, why do we do it?

Well, there are lots of reasons! Here’s a list:

  • Martial arts meditation helps you deliberately separate training time from rest of daily activities.

  • Martial arts meditation helps you enter a martial arts class with an open mind and a blank slate.

  • Martial arts meditation helps you to take a momentary pause from the pace and stress of life.

  • Martial arts meditation helps you to cultivate focus and a strong “martial spirit.”

But let’s talk about the “why” you should do all those things!!!  Continue reading

“What You Do, You Become:” My Teaching Philosophy by Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei/YDN Caitlin doing her form at a tournament.

Sensei/YDN Caitlin doing her form at a tournament.

Good teaching requires intention. Really, that’s not so different from what is required to be truly good at martial arts.

But there’s so much more to martial arts than kicking and punching. (And I know you’ve heard that before, so let me explain!)

My name is Caitlin. At NWSMA, I’m known as Sensei Caitlin. I’ve been teaching martial arts for nearly as long as I’ve been doing them. At the time of the writing, that’s about 15 ½ years.

I believe that the word “skills” covers more than just kicking, blocking, and punching. More than sparring or forms. Interpersonal skills, or lifeskills, like how to get along with classmates, how to resolve conflicts, and how to talk to adults are among some of the many skills children learn as they grow up.

To be successful in life, ALL children must learn these lifeskills. The skills include: how to focus, how to Continue reading

Kata for Focus: Helping Children with ADD/ADHD?


White belts working on punches.

White belts working on punches.

As parents, educators, and mentors, we all have times where we wish a certain kiddo had a little more, well, FOCUS!

Focus is a particularly salient problem for children who are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Countless anecdotes will tell you that martial arts are good for kids (& adults) with ADD/ADHD.

But no one really knows WHY martial arts help work to control ADD/ADHD.

But as someone who’s been teaching martial arts for over 15 years, I have some thoughts. For one thing, it is well known that ALL children focus better in school when they are given ample opportunities for vigorous exercise! Vigorous exercise also contributes greatly to physical health. Martial arts certainly covers that category!

But in my opinion, there is something else. Traditional martial arts are different because they include something called forms, sets of movements that are memorized and performed. The difficulty level usually increases with rank, and forms are evaluated as part of a student passing from belt to belt.

So, what is it about forms that help cultivate skills for focusing–not just for ADD/ADHD kids, but ALL children? Continue reading

3 Ways Martial Arts Supports Lifelong Learning (Martial Arts for Homeschoolers)


Martial arts for homeschoolers? It’s not as unusual as you might think!

Actually, TONS of current and past NWSMA students are homeschoolers. This made me think: what is it about martial arts that appeals to homeschooled kids (and parents)?

There’s the obvious:

  • Martial arts is AWESOME! (Yeah, we hear it all the time)
  • Martial arts is a mind-body discipline. Students use both mind and body to learn, while developing and channeling a strong spirit.
  • Martial arts is year-round, and provides opportunities for longer-lasting friendships with classmates than seasonal team sports.
  • Martial arts is a traditional art, on the same level as music, theater, dance, and other folk & performance arts.

After conversations with some of our homeschool parents, what it really comes down to is that they believe martial arts supports the development of lifelong learners.

Click “more” to see my 3 reasons why martial arts supports this goal! Continue reading

A (Student-Generated) List of Ways to Show Effort in Class


I was cleaning out files, and I found an exercise I had my classes do about a year ago.

I sat the class down and explained that I wasn’t inside their heads. I couldn’t tell what they were thinking, unless they told me with words or acted a certain way.

We broke out into groups. I gave each group a sheet of paper and assigned a scribe. Together, the group created a list of “Ways to Show Effort in Class.”  Continue reading

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Martial Arts


Maybe you’re new to martial arts. Maybe, you’re a long-term student and you’ve hit a plateau.

Either way, my 3 tips for getting the most out of your martial arts class will help you reflect on the process. Are you really doing what it takes to get the most out of your martial arts class?

And what does it really take to get good? Get better? Get past the plateau in your training?

Ultimately, the control is in your hands. You need patience, goals, and mental presence in class. Click “read more” to find out why!

Continue reading

Lifeskills: Martial Arts, Patience, Willpower

Black belts

Here’s the latest in my 2015 Lifeskills series. In a series of blogs, I’ll examine which skills are cultivated by martial arts OTHER THAN kicking and punching. Skills like resilience, patience, and performing under pressure, which can help anyone in other areas of their life.

The Marshmellow Test is a Stanford study which showed that the ability to resist temptation, even at a young age, had far-reaching effects on everything from grades to salary.

To put it simply, patience matters.

So what does martial arts have to do with being patient?

Patience, grasshopper. Click the “more” tag to find out! Continue reading

Lifeskills: Martial Arts and Balance (literally, figuratively)

balance 4

Howdy, folks! Here’s another entry in my 2015 blog series on “Lifeskills.” In other words, what are the skills that we teach our martial arts students that transfer over and apply to other areas in life?

  • Respect, performance skills, confidence, resilience, leadership, balance, the ability to handle pressure, etc. ALL of these can be used ANY time to meet school, work, and life goals.

Today, I’m going to talk about martial arts balance. Literally. Figuratively. Click that “more” link!

Continue reading