Monday, March 31, 2014

Humble Pie - Asking for support for advanced training


I can't believe it's been almost a year since I last posted. I can't even begin to explain how many things have changed. Denver is awesome, but it's been a very stressful last few months. Between October and now I've had maybe 12 - 15 days off in total. I finally was able to go back to being seasonal at Barnes and Noble so I have some time to study for State Board Testing and start really job hunting in April. I am currently in training at a Spa down in Castle Rock, which is really exciting.

I am one month away from finishing school at the Aveda Institute. I will be dual licensed in massage therapy and aesthetics/esthetics. I am working on lining up some jobs, and the good news is that full time employment for massage therapists is around 32 hours a week, or four days. This will give me lots of time to go back to training in the martial arts and drawing. But I digress.

The main reason that I am writing this post is because, as some of my readers know, I made the decision to switch careers because I wasn't really happy in the design industry. I like art, I just don't like doing graphic design and advertising for a living. I didn't feel like I was really making a difference in anyone's life. I wasn't interacting with people or reaching them on a personal level. I know graphic design has the capacity to do this, but I just wasn't feeling fulfilled. I sort of wandered around for a while and considered many other careers, including personal trainer and physical therapist, but I eventually settled on massage therapy. After going to school for massage I can definitely say that I picked the right choice.

I absolutely love getting to make people feel great. The benefits of massage are AMAZING! Better health, better sense of well being, reduced muscle pain, better digestion, relief from stress, tension, anxiety, better mobility and range of motion, etc. Ultimately I've decided I want to specialize more in modalities that allow me to work deep tissue work and to work with athletes and/or very active people. Not that I can't work on anyone, but being around martial artists, cross fitters, LEO, etc. I want to work with people who work with their bodies a lot. Especially after working on the guys at my gym (Axistence Athletics) and seeing how even a few sessions has made a difference for them.

The problem is that deep tissue work can be incredibly hard on a massage therapists' body. Especially for us smaller massage therapists. Even with really good posture and body mechanics I am finding that I can be a little sore at the end of the day. And I only do massage two days a week in school. I'll be doing double once I'm graduated and employed. Many massage therapists have incredibly short careers, lasting between 2 and 5 years before they destroy their shoulders, wrists, or thumbs, from repetitive motion strain. AHHH! This terrifies me! I don't want to be in pain all the time or have life long problems with my shoulders, wrists or thumbs! I want to help people with their pain, stiffness, anxiety, etc and still take care of my body too.

I have really fallen in love with this line of work and would love to be able to do it for years to come. Nick's massage therapist in Oklahoma practices a modality called Ashiatsu. (Which is where I first heard about it). Ashiatsu (Ashi = feet and Atsu = pressure) is where the massage therapist can walk on the client's body and use their feet and their body weight to apply pressure. They get to use their full body weight and gravity to do all of the hard work and it saves the massage therapist's body. When I decided on massage therapy I knew that I wanted to learn this as soon as possible.

Now that I am at the end of my program, I started looking into attending an Ashiatsu class. I was lucky enough to receive the last spot in the April class here in Denver. This is actually the place where this modality was made and I will get to study with the lady who developed it! Here is a Link to the Deep Feet School in case you're curious. So the end of April is going to look like this:

April 22nd - Last classroom day at school
April 23rd - Take the MBLEX (this test lets me get licensed in the state of CO)
April 24th - 27th - Take Ashiatsu barefoot basics and the anterior and side lying class (Missing my last clinic floor day at school to take this class)
April 28th - Graduation

I can get everything all wrapped up at once and hit the ground running once I graduate! There are few hurdles I still have to overcome though. This class if pretty expensive, and I'm a little financially strapped due to being in school and only being able to work part time, I'm having to sign up for all my state testing which is about $400 in testing fees, plus insurance, plus background check and fingerprints, of course my car just died last week and I am having to get a new one; anyone who has even been self employed, especially in massage therapy, knows that it will take a while to build up a clientele, so I might not be making much money at all my first few months out of school. Basically, typical life stuff.

I have had friends in the past who have had really good luck with GoFundMe, so I thought I would try it. I only need to raise about $800-900. The class is $795, which if I could just get that much that would be great! After that there is about $100 or more in supplies I will need to buy before I attend. I even posted reward levels similar to how KickStarter does it, because I want people to know I genuinely appreciate their support. From hand written thank you letters up to a free massage. But when I posted a fundraiser online and linked it on Facebook I got a lot of feedback about people who didn't want to support me through that website, or who were uncomfortable about how much information that website took, etc.

So I promptly took it down. At this point I honestly feel really strange and awkward about the whole thing. I feel bad asking for money. Like, I have that sinking feeling of "Why, God did I even post that? Why did I think it was a good idea? Can't I just take it back?" I feel pathetic and I feel really bad for posting it, I should have just kept my mouth shut and tried to figure out how to pay for it on my own. It's a humbling feeling, having to ask for help.

I was talking to a good friend Indi about it this evening. ( Check out her stuff! --> Indi's Business Facebook and her Webcomic: Dissolution. Indi is a huge inspiration to me because she took the leap I've been really afraid to take for a long time. She jumped in with both feet, quit her job, and started making a living as an artist by doing comic books and fan art. I really admire her for that and hope to do the same someday when Nick and I start our own business.)

Anyway, she mentioned that she remembered it feeling awkward and uncomfortable when she was running her KickStarter campaign to get her comic printed. The feeling I have now is definitely an icky feeling, but I also remember being able to back her project. I've backed several of my friend's projects and other projects on KickStarter over the last two or three years and it's a really wonderful feeling. I get so excited when I can donate money to someone to help them reach their goal and get their book published or their movie made or their board game manufactured. It's something I will continue to do as long as I can. Even if it's just a few dollars here and there, it really makes a difference for those people trying to achieve their dream. So Indi suggested I type up a blog post with my story so she could link it to some of her friends since some people might be willing to donate via PayPal or send a check in the mail. You never know until you ask. And everyone has to start somewhere, right?

So I have done just that. I still want to send people hand written thank you notes, drawings, and give free massages to people who donate to help me go to this class to show my appreciation. Obviously the massages are a little harder because I know people all over the country and all over the world, but the offer still stands. But I don't expect people to just give me money, I want to do something in return for them if I at all possible.

If you are interested in helping me get to this class so I continue to help make martial artists and non-martial artists alike feel relaxed and pain free for years to come, please let me know. I would be incredibly, genuinely, and sincerely thankful.

You can e-mail me at Tiffani.Sahara(a)  or send a donation via paypal using that e-mail address. (Please note that my name is spelled with an "i" and not a "y" at the end, so if your phone/computer auto corrects the spelling and you don't change it back, it will go to the wrong place)

Thank you for reading and I'll be sure to post something more soon. I have had a few ideas for posts I've been wanting to get written up, I just haven't had time to do it yet. @.@

<3  - Tiff

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Know Thyself. Also, progress!

I think it can be very important and eye opening for people to know their strengths, weaknesses, and personality types. Sometimes knowing a little bit about yourself can help you understand your behavior, find the best job suited for you, help you navigate difficult situations, understand and/or overcome your weaknesses, and more.

I have compiled some personality tests and strengths finders that I have found to be generally well accepted and accurate. Have fun, take them, see what you learn. I posted my results just for fun. You will have gotten to know Samurai Girl just a little bit better after this post. Lucky you. :รพ

Myers Briggs or Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) - pretty much everyone has heard of the Myers Briggs personality test. There are 16 different personality types according to four different behavioral indicators. Extrovert vs. Introvert, Sensing vs. Intuitive, Feeling vs. Thinking, and Judging vs Perception. Based on a series of questions the test is designed to determine which side of the spectrum you are on the four dynamics and give you your type, which is usually abbreviated with one letter from each type. For example, I'm an INFJ, which stands for Introvert Intuitive Feeling Judgement. and Wikipedia have good breakdowns of the types and their descriptions. You can take the Myers Briggs Personality Test here ALWAYS go with your first response/initial reaction when answering these types of yes-no or multiple choice questions.

My Results: INFJ is the rarest of types, usually accounted as being between 1–3% of the population.

INFJs are conscientious and value-driven. They seek meaning in relationships, ideas, and events, with an eye toward better understanding themselves and others. Using their intuitive skills, they develop a clear and confident vision, which they then set out to execute, aiming to better the lives of others. Like their INTJ counterparts, INFJs regard problems as opportunities to design and implement creative solutions.
INFJs have been mistaken for extroverts, as they tend to possess multiple personalities due to their complex inner life; however, they are true introverts. INFJs are private individuals who prefer to exercise their influence behind the scenes. Though they are very independent, INFJs are intensely interested in the well-being of others. INFJs prefer one-on-one relationships to large groups. Sensitive and complex, they are adept at understanding complicated issues and driven to resolve differences in a cooperative and creative manner.
INFJs have a rich, vivid inner life that they may be reluctant to share with those around them. Nevertheless, they are congenial in their interactions and perceptive of the emotions of others. Generally well liked by their peers, they may often be considered close friends and confidants by most other types; however, they are guarded in expressing their own feelings, especially to new people, and tend to establish close relationships slowly. INFJs tend to be easily hurt, though they may not reveal it (except to their closest companions). INFJs may "silently withdraw as a way of setting limits" rather than expressing their wounded feelings—a behavior that may leave others confused and upset.
INFJs tend to be sensitive, quiet leaders with a great depth of personality. They are intricately, deeply woven, mysterious, highly complex, and often puzzling, even to themselves. They have an orderly view toward the world but are internally arranged in a complex way that only they can understand. Abstract in communicating, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. With a natural affinity for art, INFJs tend to be creative and easily inspired, yet they may also do well in the sciences, aided by their intuition.

What I can learn from this: Not everyone feels things as intensely as I do, so I need to give myself a safe space and time to express and feel emotions accordingly. Large group settings are not where I am a viking, and that is ok; it also probably wouldn't hurt to express to people that I am an introvert and/or that I am uncomfortable and need a moment to get some air instead of just withdrawing quietly or disappearing. This can help avoid confusion and hurt feelings. I need creativity and meaning in my world to feel content and I need to be solving problems to feel successful.

As a side note I find it pretty interesting to note that some of my closest friends are INTJs or ENTJs. We're very close in some ideas and behaviors except for the emotional aspects. I'm the 'feeler' of my group as it were, which also makes it very easy for me to be guilt tripped and/or emotionally manipulated, which I need to watch out for. 

Gallup Strengths Finder  -  This test you do have to pay for, but I think to take the test it is probably $10. It is really good at assessing your strengths. This is meant more to help direct you in the work force to allow you to find a good job and a good position for you, but understanding your strengths and drives can also greatly help you understand your behaviors in your personal life as well. It can also show you your weaknesses and give you tips on areas of improvement or things to look for. There are 34 total strengths and taking the test will give you your top five. Here is the direct link to the gallup strengths finder quiz purchase page. 

My results were:
Input, Learner, Responsibility, Restorative, and Empathy. These roughly break down like the following

Input - loves collecting knowledge and information
Learner - loves to learn
Responsibility - has an inherent need to take responsibility and be responsible for my actions, etc.
Restorative - has an inherent need to fix things, especially my own mistakes. (I think this goes hand in hand with Responsibility. It makes sense I have both, really.)
Empathy - can intuitively understand the feelings and the needs of others and sympathize. 

Equilibria Personality Type -  I like this test a little more than the straight up single color personality profiles because it gives you a dual color result rather than just "blue" or "yellow". This test is free and can be taken on the Equilibria website.

My Results Were:

Blue/Red - The Doing Relater

I am an industrious person who focuses on goals and proceeds full speed ahead. I am willing to be supportive of others if it helps me achieve my objectives. I do have a genuine desire to complete tasks from start to finish, preferably by myself.
I am highly focused and sometimes forget to ask or seek other people's opinions. I have a tendency to say 'I' instead of 'we.’
I am competitive and find it difficult to delegate tasks and jobs.
My tendencies include:
  • I dislike being told what to do or when or how to do something
  • I am reluctant to change what I think or how I feel
  • I will only delegate tasks when absolutely necessary
  • I like to make sure that production is completed on schedule
  • I depend a lot on plans for action and follow up routines
  • I become tenacious and even more anxious when under pressure
My Potential Limiters:
With tasks: Because I am so focused, I could benefit by broadening my perspectives. I need to learn to be effective outside my comfort zone by considering different points of view and finding other ways to achieve my goals. All too often, I am in the 'either / or' mode in my decision making and need to practice flexibility.
With people: I must start to show confidence in others by delegating and giving people tasks that will be fulfilling for them. I can also benefit by creating more free time and space in my life, as well as generally appreciating and tolerating differences among people.
  • I should ask others to share their ideas on how to accomplish tasks and how to satisfy their needs and expectations.
  • I should be more genuinely open with others by revealing my feelings and addressing theirs.
  • I should be less afraid to seek guidance or ask for help.

What I can learn:  I think that a lot of the quiz's recommendations for me to basically open up to people more stem from my introvertedness. After discussing my personality type with my mom, I discovered that I actually started life as an extrovert and through a lot of bullying and bad teacher experiences throughout the course of my childhood I withdrew, grew a shell, and turned into an introvert. It's interesting that my initial reactions to it being suggested is to scoff and think "But you don't know what people are really like!" Which means I probably do need to work on opening up a little more. It's not that I'm not genuine or sincere with people that I don't know well, it's just that I'm very guarded and initially distrustful. I need to be more soft when it comes to dealing with others.

Well, there you have it. I encourage you to take time for introspection and reflection.

As I've mentioned before I haven't been posting regularly because I've been having some difficulty with finding direction and motivation in life. Nick and I have had some pretty involved conversations lately regarding this and I feel like we've finally broken some ground. Understanding what it is that drives me, what I respond well to, and what I don't, has been instrumental in helping me get out of my slump.

Oklahoma has been a difficult learning experience for me, but I'm glad that I moved down. I've had some really good experiences and Nick has helped me through a lot. On the whole though I am really looking forward to moving forward in my life and tackling the next thing.

The move to back to Colorado will be a great reset. (For both Nick and I) I'm looking forward to going back to school. I've decided to become a Massage Therapist, which will allow me some freedom with my schedule once I am able to work on my own, and this can later be incorporated into Nick's martial arts school if desired. It's a quick 9 months and then I'll be done with school and into the work force.

There are several excellent martial arts schools (and people) to study with in Colorado, which both Nick and I are looking forward to.

Colorado is a healthier state and it will be much more enjoyable to be in the great outdoors, hiking and camping in the mountains, etc, instead of dealing with the extreme heat, humidity and allergies of Oklahoma.

To name just a few of the things we are looking forward to.

Hopefully I should be back into the swing of things fairly quickly and can get back to posting good Martial Arts, Health, Fitness, and Violence related posts again in the near future. Thanks for bearing with me, this last year has been especially difficult, but I feel like things are finally looking up and moving forward. I feel very positive and uplifted for the first time in a long time. Like a great weight has (finally) been lifted off my back.

Wishing you all the best,

Samurai Girl

P.S. if anyone has any particularly good suggestions for places to study at (or at least visit) in Colorado I would be happy to hear them. We are going to be in the Denver area. Currently on our list is Nippon Kan Aikido (also Domo), I think Nick is going to at least check out Bob Orlando's school in Lakewood, and hopefully we can also get down to visit Marc MacYoung's school in Castle Rock before too long as well. Other suggestions are welcome in the comments below. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bullying isn't just for kids

Bullying. How does bullying make it's way onto a martial arts and fitness blog? Why?

Bullying is a lot more prevalent then we think. We often think it's just something that happens on the school playground, or in the locker room. The big guy picks on the smaller weaker guy. That's how life is, we're told. That's why many kids join Martial Arts to begin with. I don't want to be picked on anymore. I want to defend myself.

I don't want to cover playground bullying, or even whether kids who learn martial arts should really use that to defend themselves and to 'show the bully whatfor'. That's a whole 'nother can of worms I'm not even remotely prepared to deal with right now.

Bullying does not stop when you graduate high school. Adults bully each other all the time. I think adults are sneakier about it though. Adults use different tactics than just straight up name calling and pushing the other person into the mud, or dumping them in a trash can, or stuffing them in a locker.

Physical bullying still exists in the adult realm, but I think most adults tend to shift towards more emotional and metal bullying. Guilt tripping for example. I would define bullying as using negative words and/or actions to attempt to illicit a certain specific emotional or physical response from someone else (I.E. to control them).

I'll be totally honest. I have family members that do this. It's HORRIBLE. One very common label for this type of behavior is 'co-dependency'. Mental Health of America defines it as "It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive." They say it is common in families with drug and alcohol addiction, but this certainly doesn't always have to be the case. Mainly, what it boils down to, is you are dealing with people who will use their anger, bad attitudes, tempers, emotions, guilt trips, etc. to try to control you and get you to behave a certain way. This can happen in the work place, in relationships, in families, etc.

I definitely don't want to go into diagnosis of this, and not everyone who gets angry is a co-dependent person. I'm only using this as one example, because I think a lot of adults, especially in today's society of instant gratification and narcissism, exhibit at one time or another at least one of the signs or behaviors that would be classified as co-dependent. In my opinion: anyone who treats you like crap to get something from you or to make themselves feel better is a bully, no matter how they do it.

This is an especially important issue to me right now because I am in a situation where I have to deal with people who behave irrationally and who use their explosive anger and bad attitude to bully others into doing what they want or into getting their way. People are often afraid to stand up to the bully because they feel ramifications of doing so far outweigh just being quiet, giving in, and letting them have their way. It might be a close friend or loved one, which makes it even harder to deal with. Especially when the bully is such a bully that having a rational conversation or a calm discussion is out of the question.

How do we deal with that? What is the best way to handle people in our lives who behave like this?

While this a martial arts blog and sometimes we feel the best and most satisfying way would be to give them a good swift punch in the mouth, this is unfortunately illegal and probably not the best use of our martial skills, no matter how desperately we want to believe otherwise.

Instead, we must learn a 'Kung Fu of the Mind and Mouth' as it were. If you cannot remove the person from your life (because sometimes that is the healthiest thing), then you need to learn to deal with them.

[Also, just a quick disclaimer, I'm OBVIOUSLY not a counselor or psychologist, so please don't take this as gospel. This is just what I have seen and learned and experienced in my own life.]

First, and this can be very, VERY hard depending on your personality type, don't let them control your emotions. Don't let them guilt trip you or belittle you or yell at you. They will try. A large part of their identity revolves around making you feel a certain way. They will not give that up easily. You can either remove yourself from the situation immediately, or wait until they are finished and then tell them you will come back when they are willing to treat you with decency. Then follow through on that. I know this sounds incredibly crass, but it can be like training a dog. Your presence and attention is a reward, it's what they want. So when they do something hurtful, you take the reward away. You remove yourself from the equation. When you remove yourself every time the bad behavior is presented, they will (hopefully) pick up on that and begin to realize that by trying to use their angry outbursts or guilt trips to control you, they are only succeeding in making you go away. If they want you to be around, they need to stop. Most importantly, DON'T OWN THEIR BEHAVIOR! Their guilt trip is NOT YOUR FAULT. The only person you have control over is you, and their emotional happiness is not, and should not, be dependent on YOU, no matter how much they want to convince you otherwise.

This can take some serious courage and can be very difficult. But once you have the right mind set and can follow through you now have strong Kung Fu of the Mind.

Since I was a kid I believed having strong Kung Fu of Mouth was a matter of being able to come up with a witty come back fast enough, or have a large enough repertoire of names and insults so that you didn't run out before you opponent did. My dad is a master at this type of word war, so naturally I thought that was how it had to be done. Since I did not feel smart enough to have good come backs nor was I sure enough of the depth of my bad name dictionary, I very rarely, if even, engaged in 'Verbal Kung Fu'. I only very recently discovered the real and best way to be strong in Verbal Kung Fu to be true.

I was talking with a close friend over the weekend and the discussion of how to handle this type of bullying behavior came up.

He said "Don't sink to their level or play their game. You never explain or argue."

"Why?" I asked, "Because you can end up explaining yourself into a corner or perpetuating the argument?" I now realize I was thinking like a fighter, wanting to play the game; not like a warrior who wants to end the conflict.

"You never explain yourself to an inferior. In human social dominance, superiors do not explain themselves. You only argue with equals." This is sort of a part of the mental Kung Fu in my opinion. Prepping yourself with the proper mindset to handle a confrontation. It goes back to the body language and being able to fight an opponent with out even touching them, which Mr. Wilder covered at his most recent seminar. (See... the dots are coming together.) "If you start explaining yourself, you're automatically acting like the junior or less confident person." He went on to explain, "If you have to say anything, say the truth."

It kind of dawned on me at that moment, it's not about witty come backs or name calling. All you need to do is recognize the truth, and if necessary, say it. The truth can hurt more than anything in the world, especially if it is contrary to people's self image which they have built for themselves. (Miller talks about this in Meditations on Violence.)

Our discussion probably seems a little bit cold and even heartless. However, at a certain point, you may have to put on a different mind set to get you through. (Miller also talks about this. I think he refers to it as 'plastic mind', being able to change your mind set in order to survive a conflict.) Someone who treats other's badly to make themselves feel better is NOT a superior person.

The other thing you can do is try to steer the conversation. I had one family member who was very negative about my move to Oklahoma. Every time I talked to this family member I tried to keep control of the conversation, I was positive and I talked about only the good things that were going on in my life. It took some time—several months—but eventually, they got over it and quit trying to make me feel bad for making the decision I made.

There is a tremendous amount of body language and controlling other people with your actions, something as simple as where you stand when you talk to them, or how fast you answer a text message, that I don't understand. Probably because I just don't think about it. I'm not even really sure I want to understand it, the whole subject kind of makes me uncomfortable.

I think knowing your personality type can help you understand your behavior patterns a lot. I may do an article about that in the future. I'm an introvert who tends to avoid public situations and people in general. Nick says a lot of how I experience the world goes on in my head. I generally don't interact with people if I can help it, and so I don't people watch. Those few people who I am comfortable enough to be myself around I trust so implicitly I don't spend a lot (or any) time thinking about my body language or behavior. I have picked up on the fact that when I am in a new place or around new people my body language is very closed off and guarded. Generally though I don't pay much attention to it, or how other people's body language effects me. But I know there is a wealth of secret knowledge regarding all of this unspoken communication between people. (and, dare I say... an arsenal of weapons in knowing how to manipulate that.) It may be worth looking into.

I'm getting off topic, which means I probably need to wrap up before my train of thought meanders too far off course.

The point is, and Wilder covered this at the seminar too, to do everything you can to tip the scales in your favor. Read the story of Miyamoto Musashi vs. Sasaki Kojiro. Musashi showed up late, with the sun to his back, refused to let Kojiro's taunting affect him, possibly even goaded him into it, and then when Kojiro was so mad he just rushed into battle Musashi killed him with a boat oar he crafted into a Bokken so he would have a weapon with a longer reach. He did everything he could to tip the scales in his favor.

We have to do the same thing. We cannot fight bullies on their terms. We have to fight them on ours, and we have to do it in a way that is smarter and safer. We need to understand how (and sometimes why) bullies are being bullies and then craft our weapons to have just a bit longer reach, face them with the sun to our backs, and don't let their emotional abuse get to you. Fight like a Samurai and may your mental and verbal Kung Fu be strong.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Coping with Stress

I did a post about this before, but I wanted to revisit the topic. My mom came down to visit this weekend and she is having an incredibly stressful time in her job right now. She's been having horrible migraines that last for days as well as gastrointestinal discomfort. She said she was going to the doctor on Monday about it. I told her she was stressed and she needed a massage. Mom called me today and said that the doctor told her, "It's very likely stress related, get a massage and/or try some yoga." That's right mom, the Tiffani knows best, so this article is for you. (And anyone else who is dealing with a tremendous amount of stress in their life)

Last time I covered some of the effects stress can have on your body and briefly went over some ways to deal with that, but I want to go a little more in depth on how to handle stress as opposed to just listing all the terrible things it can do to your body.

First it's very important to identify the sources of stress in your life. If it is something you can't avoid (in my mom's case it's her job) then you should try to work on limiting unnecessary stress. (By the way mom, time to find a new job.) Here are some things you can do to help with limiting your stress. (This website does a great job of explaining them)


  • Learn to say NO.
  • Avoid people who stress you out.
  • Make your environment comfortable and reduce sources of anxiety
  • Express your emotions instead of bottling them up
  • Be willing to compromise and let some things go
  • Attempt to maintain good time management, but not to the point it stresses you out more.
  • Look at the big picture
  • Focus on the positive
  • If you're a perfectionist, try not to be so hard on yourself
  • Realize there are things you can't control, and don't try to control them
  • Try to find the silver lining
  • Learn to forgive (yourself and others)
  • Share your feelings

Here is the part I REALLY wanted to focus on. I have stress... I am hurting and I feel miserable from my stress, what can I do!?
  • Take a walk
    • Sometimes just getting out of the house and away from everything for a minute will help clear your head. I often find if I am stressed that physical work helps me to kind of shut my brain off from all the things I am worrying about. If I am walking or working out or doing yard work I tend to zone out and focus on my task as opposed to obsessing over whatever is bothering me.
  • Spend some time in nature
    • Spending some time just sitting in the sun and listening to the birds or wind in the trees can be very relaxing. Sunshine provides us with much needed vitamin D and it is, in general, very good for your mental health. (There is a type of depression called S.A.D. which is Seasonal Affective Disorder. This most commonly happens during winter months when there is less sunlight and can be treated by photo-therapy and U.V. lights. Just goes to show sunshine is important!)
  • Call a good/trusted friend
    • Sometimes talking to someone who you love and trust, who is willing to just listen and let you vent, can make you feel worlds better. It really helps to get all that anxiety out and express it in a healthy way. 
  • Go work out
    • This is along the same lines as physical activity for me. I only focus on the work out. Sometimes stress or anger can fuel a very intesive work out. It's a great way to get some of that anxious energy out of your body and you will usually feel exhausted but satisfied at the end.
  • Keep a journal and vent in it
    • For people who don't like venting or talking to other people as much, keeping a journal can be a great way to get all of those negative emotions out. By putting them down on paper you are getting them out of your head and not keeping them bottled up. You can write whatever you want in the journal, scribble up the pages, and get all that stress and frustration out in a safe way without worrying about 'bringing someone else down'. (Even though your friends are happy to listen and support you and they love you, sometimes it's just hard to talk to people.)
  • Take a long hot bath
    • Aaaaaaaaaaah, So relaxing. Just don't fall asleep in the tub.
  • Light scented candles or other aromatherapy
    • Just having some nice smells around the house can be great. Especially when coupled with a hot bath or with your massage. For those of your who scoff at thinking just smelling something can help you feel better, there is some scientific evidence that it really does work. If you're interested The Mayo Clinic offers a brief explanation on aromatherapy and this site explains a little more how it actually works.
  • Drink a hot beverage, like teas or hot chocolates. (Maybe not Coffee as it has a lot of caffeine).
    • Sometimes holding something warm in your hands can make you feel safe and relaxed. And teas and hot chocolates are yummy. Just make sure you're staying away from things with high volumes of sugar and caffeine as that can have the opposite effect of what we are trying to achieve.
  • Pet an animal.
    • Scientific studies have shown that petting an animal significantly lowers your blood pressure and reduces stress and depression. There are lots of programs now that will take dogs, cats, and even rabbits into retirement communities and hospitals for people to pet. If you don't have a pet you can always go to your local shelter and spend some time loving on the animals there.
  • Spend time on a hobby away from electronics,
    • I have found (and I am probably going to get a lot of crap for this) that hobbies involving electronics, like video games, don't do a great job of alieviating stress. It has been my observation that they provide more of an escape then a stress relief as they can be very intense and mentally taxing. When I play a video game, I get very wrapped up in it and when I finish after playing for an extended period of time I feel tired and anxious. Gamers will probably deny it, and don't get me wrong, I LOVE video games, but I don't think they're the BEST source of stress relief. Especially if you like first person shooters and play online, it can be frustrating and irritating when you die over and over or can't get past a certain point in the game, etc etc. Then you wind up even more stressed out than you started with. (although there are some really cool games like Flower that can be relaxing in their own way) In today's world with everything so inundated with electronics and instant updates, try getting away from that and going back to basics. Paint, draw, garden, build models, read, write, fish, hike, bike, haiku, sudoko, jigsaw puzzle, the possibilities are nearly limitless!
  • Get a massage
    • I set this in bold because massages are AMAZING. I could go on and on about all the awesome benefits of getting a massage. They help your muscles relax, increase blood flow, release stored toxins so your body can flush them, and all kinds of other wholesome goodness. They're awesome. Get one. And drink lots and lots of water when you're done.
  • Learn or practice meditation or yoga 
    • Meditation can help you focus your mind and clear away distractions. It can be calming and can help you find your center when you are feeling frazzled or overwhelmed. Yoga is a great work out that incorporates stretching, breathing and meditation. It's pretty sweet stuff.
  • Listen to some upbeat music
    • Music can have a huge affect on your mood. If you are stressed or down, don't listen to heavy metal screamo music. Listen to something light and positive to help bolster your good mood and positive attitude.
  • Watch a comedy movie
    • Laughter is undoubtedly one of the best medicines out there. Look up a funny video on you tube, watch your favorite silly movie, talk to people who make you laugh. Laughing releases endorphins into your body and can make you feel great.
  • Dare I say it... this last one... intended for mature audiences only. You'll have to highlight the text to read it. Otherwise, move along and don't be offended. ^_^
    • Have an orgasm. That's right. I said it. Get frisky with your partner or your favorite toy. If you think laughing releases a lot of endorphins into your brain... it's marginal compared to what your body gets after you have an orgasm. Enough said.

In my last article I talked about setting a healthy lifestyle which included eating good whole foods, making time for exercise, reduced caffeine and sugar intake, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. It can take some work to get these habits established if you don't already do a lot of these things, but the benefits are well worth it.

So now, everyone go get a massage and feel better. (Especially you mom!) 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Seminars and Rank

It seems I keep coming back to this topic...

Last month I attended the Wilder Seminar. It was great. By now, in our region, it seems like we get mostly the same 10 to 15 people at the seminars, so to me it seems almost like a family by this point. Which is really cool! It's a much better experience then when I attended my first seminar almost two years ago as a white belt, which I posted about previously. (You can that blog post if you are interested)  I didn't mention in my review that there was a white belt there! He was new! I remember when he showed up thinking "Hey! Cool! Another white belt! Welcome to the family of those of us who know!" I made sure to go introduce myself. I was really just excited and thought it was great to see someone who is just starting their martial arts journey get to start it out on the right foot without having to wade through all the bull shit (excuse my language) that is out there.

After the seminar was over there was a discussion about seminars and rank. It was mentioned that perhaps lower ranking belts shouldn't be allowed to attend seminars, because the instructor isn't able to cover more advanced material with non-black belts present.

I wasn't really sure how I felt about this. I chewed on it for a while. Nick and I discussed it at length on our drive home in which I discovered I was actually kind of upset about the remark. I decided I am in disagreement with this opinion, and here is why:

The Black Belt ranking is completely arbitrary. I say this because there are some schools who will give you a black belt in two years and some schools in which it takes up to ten years to earn a black belt. Students may be going to classes the same amount of days a week and same amount of time in each school, but the time it takes to get to black belt is still different. Different schools and different instructors have different criteria for ranking and demand different levels of competency to progress. So... you  might have someone walk in who is a black belt who has been doing martial arts for two or three years. And you may have someone show up who is a green belt (or whatever mid rank color your system uses) who has been doing martial arts for five to seven years. There is no way you can ask the student who has been practicing for seven years to sit out while someone who has only been practicing for two years can participate because they are a black belt and it is therefore assumed that they have more knowledge, control, experience, and are more able to handle the difficult or advanced material.

In addition these attendees usually come from all across the style spectrum. At these seminars we have people from different two schools of Shotokan Karate, people from Goju Ryu Karate, people from Aikijutsu, people from TaeKwonDo backgrounds, and people with Judo backgrounds; sometimes people with backgrounds in more than one of the above. Someone from TaeKwonDo isn't going to know the same kata as someone from an Aikijutsu background, who isn't going to know any of the kata from a karate background. Even though the line between all martial arts can be blurred to the point of indistinction, not everyone is walking into the seminar with the same knowledge, EVEN if they are ALL black belts.

Now, I'll be fair and play the devil's advocate here. When I helped Nick design his rank sheets we arranged the requirements in such a way that the more dangerous and more difficult techniques were required and primarily taught to the upper ranking students. I can understand that it would be frustrating to have a white belt present and to have to try to cover the basics or things that they haven't yet learned in order to explain more in depth material, or being hesitant to work with them on more advanced techniques because you don't want them to hurt you. I DO understand and acknowledge those concerns.

However, who is to say a black belt FOR CERTAIN understands everything they are assumed to know? Maybe it's even more dangerous to NOT have any lower ranking belts present, because it is just assumed everyone in the room will know what is going on and no one wants to ask for clarification or help fear of looking stupid? I still have a tendency, because I feel that the black belt rank is arbitrary, to try to stick pretty close to working with Nick at seminars because there is a part of me that still doesn't totally trust the other black belts in the room not to hurt me either. Maybe that's pretty snide of me, but you have no way of knowing anything for certain when working with people you only see once or twice a year at a seminar. No offense seminar peoples, I love you all, but I still have trouble over coming my hang ups.

What to do, what to do? I feel that, If you really want to work on or cover techniques that are so advanced that any rank lower than a black belt should not be working on it, and you don't want to bother with explaining basics, or dealing with people who haven't studied the same style as you, then you need make a seminar that is SPECIFICALLY designed for people who practice Style X who have obtained at least rank Z or studied for Y number of years. It is not open to the general public. I'm perfectly OK with this. Awesome! More power to you! I don't really think it's being elitist even. It's just an advanced level seminar for people who practice a specific style. Cool. I fully acknowledge I am not qualified to attend your seminar and do not feel discriminated against in the slightest. (Although it might end of fostering an elitist attitude if people aren't careful, and I'm sure someone out there would be petty enough to throw a fit about not being allowed into a seminar they are not qualified to attend, but oh well.)

I do think that the Wilder and the the Abernethy type seminars are more of a general education type of seminar. Here is some REALLY cool stuff you can do with Martial Arts, we want you to take it home and incorporate it into your school and your style however you see fit. I think it's GREAT to have lower ranking students at these seminars because even if they can't utilize or haven't learned everything yet, they are getting some of the pieces to the puzzle that they can think about and plug in as they progress in their training. They are there because they are interested and they want to learn. Cool!

Let's foster that and encourage them. Try to remember what it felt like to be that rank. Did the upper belts you knew look down their nose at you? Could you pick up on the fact that they were irritated that you were there watching and learning? Were they mad that you asked questions because you couldn't understand something? Or were they excited to help you on your journey? Did they welcome questions? Did they get excited when they showed you something knew? Did they celebrate with you when you understood or grasped something for the first time or had a 'light-bulb moment'? Even if you had the former type of instructors or sempai, wouldn't you have rather had the latter?

Just some food for thought.