Karate and Taekwondo for Kids: Just Another Sport?

Today, I’d like to take a look at what makes karate and taekwondo for kids different from other sports.

I played outdoor and indoor soccer for 5 years. The last 3 of those years, I also did martial arts. Ultimately, I quit soccer in favor of martial arts. I’ve now been doing martial arts for 13 years and have no intention of quitting. Looking back, there were a lot of reasons I quit soccer.

Aside from being fed up with team drama, my biggest reason for following the martial path was that in martial arts, my achievement was a direct result of how much effort and practice I put in. I was the only one who was responsible for the outcome. Effort and practice were choices that I had to make, and my most important opponent was myself.

Certainly, martial arts, as a fitness activity, utilize a very wide range of physical skills: a variety of muscle groups, balance, coordination, flexibility, speed, strength/power, precision, endurance and burst energy training. And you can’t put a price on self-defense skills and the confidence that comes with knowing you can protect yourself and others.

What really makes martial arts unique is our attention to character-building. Continue reading

Monday Memo: Purely Physical

My goal today is just to highlight some muscles that martial artists use a lot (and sometimes neglect to stretch/strengthen). There’s plenty of information on the web about how to stretch or strengthen any muscle you want, so I’m just going to highlight what we use them for.

Bottoms of the feet: The plantar fascia take a beating, not only from stepping, jumping, and kicking, but also from gripping the floor in your stances. Stretch or massage the muscles at the end of the day and you’ll be surprised at how much tension is released.

Achilles tendon: This tendon is used in walking, running, and jumping, and also to flex the foot into correct position for many kicks. It is also a common one for injury, so be sure to stretch it whenever you exercise. Continue reading

Weekly Update: 1/14-1/19

All classes are on a normal schedule this week, including Saturday. The Arnis Seminar will take place this Saturday. You can sign up anytime. There will still be regular class from 10-11am Saturday! We hope to see you there for class.

Uniform Reminder: Please wear your belt, uniform pants and jacket. You may wear a plain, school logo, or other martial arts t-shirt. T-shirts must be tucked in. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure all of these items are clean and packed. We know the dojo is sometimes chilly in the winter, so students are welcome to wear appropriate footwear (sneakers) and a lightweight jacket until the building warms up.

Weekly Challenge: Practice side kicks every day this week, focusing on good foot position. Keep those toes down and pulled back!

Sensei has declared two New Year’s goals for all NWSMA students: improving chamber hand and pull back hands, and consistently keeping knees over toes in front stances. Keep this in mind when you practice at home.

Finally, a shout out to our Karate blue and purple belts for their great effort in class this week! You guys are looking better and better every day, keep up the hard work!

Monday Musing: Learning Plateaus

You’ve probably hit a plateau before. You learn learn learn, get kind of good at what you know, then your progress evens out instead of continuing to climb. You don’t feel like you’re improving, and you may even feel bored.

This is a perfectly natural part of learning anything, and it’s a tricky stage to get through. Martial arts aren’t easy, and when students feel they aren’t improving as quickly, they often quit instead of sticking with it.

Of course, I’d advise anyone who hits a plateau to keep going. There is value in continuing to do the same old blocks, kicks, and strikes. Meaningful repetition, particularly in combat arts, builds habits and eventually instincts. This takes a long time, and most of us aren’t perfect. As Sensei often says, “Practice makes permanent; only perfect practice makes perfect.”

My second piece of advice for getting out of a plateau: Continue reading

Weekly Update: 1/7-1/12

Class on Wed the 9th is cancelled for a Mason event, but all other classes are on a normal schedule this week.

Weekly Challenge: Think about the phrase, “Everything you do is a choice.” Share your thoughts here or in class.

Sensei has declared two New Year’s goals for all NWSMA students: improving chamber hand and pull back hands, and consistently keeping knees over toes in front stances. Keep this in mind when you practice at home.

Two more weeks until the Arnis Seminar on January 19th. Please make sure to sign up with Sensei. There will still be regular class from 10-11am that day.

The Read-a-thon ends January 31st. Keep reading! Bring in your mid-year report cards for a grade check, and you might get a patch for your uniform.

Weekly Update 12/31-1/5

Happy New Year!

Mon the 31st is on special schedule: there is only 1 class, starting at 4pm and ending sometime after 5pm. The rest of the week, Wed, Thurs, Fri, and Sat, will all be on a normal schedule.

Sunday the 30th is Breakfast at the Mason Hall. Bring your appetite!

Weekly Challenge: Look back at your 2012 goals to see what you’ve accomplished this year. Write down your 2013 goals and put them in a safe and visible location.

The Arnis Seminar is coming up on January 19th, so please be paying attention to your Arnis requirements. You can go over them in your head or get your parents’ permission before you use sticks at home.

Reminder to all students: YOU are responsible for practicing outside of class. If you don’t have a lot of space in your house, you can visualize in your head. We can help you with anything on your requirements sheet, so don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need answers.

Weekly Update 12/24-12/29

Happy Holidays to all of our students, their families, and friends who view this site!

We at NWSMA expect our students to put family first, especially during the holidays. However, we will still be open for class Mon, Thurs, Fri, and Sat this week, just for those of you who can’t get enough! Remember that Wed is cancelled this week.

Weekly Challenge: Please begin thinking about your 2013 goals. Also, please read over your Arnis requirements sheet and get practicing, because…

Arnis Seminar with our special guest instructor will take place Saturday, January 19th. The cost is not covered by regular tuition, and the price for the seminar is $20/person. Please sign up with Sensei in advance.

There will be two 2-hour seminars. The first will be 11:00am-1:00pm for students who hold the rank of white, yellow, or green belt in Arnis. The second will be from 1:30pm-3:30pm for students who hold the rank of blue belt and above in Arnis. (Remember that your Arnis requirements sheet is labeled with the belt color you will TEST for next, not the belt you currently HOLD).

There will be pizza available for lunch in between the two seminars for the usual price of $5/person.

December 30th is Breakfast at the Mason Hall from 9-11am. Support our landlords and treat yourself to a tasty Sunday morning breakfast cooked by someone else!

Stay warm~

Tuesday Thought: Translating Goals into Action

New Year’s is coming, and so are the resolutions. We at NWSMA prefer to use “goals” instead of the word “resolutions,” because we believe that “resolutions” are easily broken the first time your priorities change.

We like the idea that goals are things to be achieved and worked towards. I’d like to invite all our students to start thinking about their 2013 goals.

But just setting a goal isn’t always good enough.

You have to know how to get there.

In martial arts, this is pretty easy. Your goal is to make it to black belt. First you test for yellow belt, then orange or green, and so on until black. (Well, maybe not easy, but you have the steps laid out for you).

For other goals, such as “getting in shape” or “saving money,” you might need to make a more concrete plan.

As you set your goals, Continue reading

Weekly Update: 12/17-12/22

This week’s schedule is normal on Mon, Thurs, and Fri. Wed and Sat are cancelled. All Wednesday classes are cancelled for the rest of December. The schedule is also available on Facebook.

Remaining December cancellations: 19, 22, 26. Only 1 class, 4-5 pm, December 31st.

Weekly Challenge: Karate students, practice one Kihon and one Pinan kata every day this week. Tae Kwon Do students, practice two forms below your current rank every day this week. Everyone, please start thinking about your goals for 2013.

Read-a-thon is still in progress, so keep turning those pages!

Weather Policy Reminder: If school is cancelled for the Stanwood-Camano public schools due to inclement weather, class will also be cancelled at NWSMA. If you’re not sure, you are welcome to call Sensei.

Thanks to everyone who donated to the food and toy drives these past two months. If you have anything left to donate, please take it directly to the Stanwood food bank.

December 30th is breakfast at the Mason Hall from 9-11am.

Musing: Comfort Zones

A couple days ago, I went to another nearby dojo. The owner knows my instructor and is gracious enough to allow me drop in and train occasionally. I believe, as a black belt especially, it’s important for me to step out of my comfort zone, broaden my knowledge with other perspectives, and train with a wide variety of people (sizes and skills).

This time around he offered to let me teach. Having never taught outside my own school before, and since the class was 50% adult, accepting his offer was definitely going beyond my comfort zone.

I’m always struck by how much learning takes place when we move ourselves beyond what is comfortable and usual. Needless to say, I learned a lot about myself and my teaching habits and strengths/weaknesses, and I appreciate being able to see myself through a whole new lens. For his students too, I was a new experience, and I can only hope that the class was as valuable to them as it was to me.

Next time an opportunity arises for you to step outside of your comfort zone, embrace it.