Monday Musing: The Martial Artist Outside the Dojo

What does a martial artist look like outside the dojo?

This is my question for my youth students this week.

It may seem like it has an obvious answer, but it can sometimes be a challenge to get youth to translate from dojo to home. They know that focus and respect and trying your best is important while they’re in class, but what do those things mean when they argue with their siblings at home or are given a challenging assignment at school?

A true martial artist should look the same inside and outside the dojo.

Outside the dojo, the situations are different. You don’t have to bow to your mom or your boss, or perform forms in order to get an A in math class, but the attitude you should take towards those activities is the same.

General Musings

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.


Arnis Seminar

Thanks to Sabumnim for teaching the Arnis seminar!

We spent a lot of time on empty hand drills in both the beginner and advanced seminars, so the photos mostly show our students practicing joint locks and control holds. Arnis is a self-defense oriented art, and anything you do with a stick also holds empty hand application, hence the focus on empty hand defense.

A few important points from the seminar:

-“It’s all the same.” If it works, it works. Wise words from the Professor (Master Remy Presas).

-There are good and bad martial artists, not good and bad martial arts. Different styles just have different things they focus on or prefer.


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.


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: