Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bunkai-Jutsu Review

Bunkai-Jutsu by Iain Abernethy.     READ THIS BOOK! IT IS AMAZING!!!

Bunkai-Jutsu is amazing. I Devoured this book. With a captial D. This book covers just a little bit of everything, all the best parts, but not quite too much, leaving you wanting just a little bit more, like the sprinkles on a cake.

Ok, seriously. First, I have to say I really like how this book was set up. I really enjoyed the chapter on the history of kata. It was very informative. It's really good to know the history and purpose behind what you study.

From there Abernethy moves on through a logical progressions of tools and techniques you will need to know in order to decipher your kata. He constantly stresses that kata is NOT a dance, it is not meant to be pretty, Kata is designed to beat the shit out of the poor bastard who tries to jump you on your way home from work.

Abernethy gives examples of some of the principles you will use to decipher your kata and there are a large number of pictures in this book to follow along with as well. I think reading the book and using the DVDs as well will give the reader/viewer a better grasp of the material.

There is so much I want to say about this book, all of it positive. I don't have the book on me right now or I would give a better summary of the contents. Suffice it to say that this book should get bumped to the top of your reading list if you haven't already read it. I think between this book and Way of Kata, which gives you a similar perspective but different information on deciphering kata, any Martial Artist will be well on their way to understanding what the Masters really intended to impart to their students when they made the kata. You will be well equipped to sort through a lot of the garbage being taught in many dojos today.

I give Bunkai Jutsu by Iain Abernethy 6 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Its okay to ask for help

This post has nothing to do with Martial Arts.

First and foremost, I want to say that sometimes emotions don't make a lot of sense. They don't always have to. Of course there is usually a reason. I feel _____ because _____. Even so, my mom always told me, emotions are not right or wrong, they just are, you don't have to justify them, its ok to be happy or sad. I largely agree with her. I have had many counselors who have said the same thing.

Second, I want to say that depression in particular doesn't always make a lot of sense. Sometimes you just feel really sad and you don't know why. This is miserable. You feel helpless and sad and overwhelmed. Sometimes you feel guilty for being sad because you think you have nothing to feel sad about. You feel frustrated because of your lack of productivity. You may actually be being productive, but you can't see because you have these lame ass blinders on. You try to focus, you try to be positive and happy. You can't shake it.

Sometimes depression comes with feelings of total worthlessness and self hatred. Its not really logical or justifiable. You just feel like the world would be better off without you. You don't want to talk to anyone because you don't want to 'bother' them or 'burden them with your troubles'. Your friends are all happy people, you don't want to bring them down with you, no reason for them to suffer too...

All this going on in your head. "I hate myself, I have accomplished nothing, I am so worthless, I have done nothing with the last hour, day, week, month, year, etc. Everyone would just be better off if I wasn't around." etc etc etc

Sometimes you snap out of it, sometimes you don't.

These may sound really silly, to some of you out there, but I can assure sometimes the dark pit of hopelessness is very real and very consuming. While sometimes un-explainable these feelings are very crippling and can feel incredibly overwhelming.

The good news?

It is OK to ask for help! Talk to a trusted friend or parent, seek counseling, let someone know how you are feeling and they can help you or help you try to find the help you need. No matter how bleak it seems, you will be ok, things will get better. Sometimes, you just need someone to talk to, and sometimes just talking helps. If you can talk it out and get things off your chest, you'll be amazed how much better you feel after.

The point is, don't feel bad, embarrassed or ashamed. Everyone needs help sometimes. It is ok to ask. If you're feeling depressed, please talk to someone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Way of Kata

Way of Kata covers the largely untold truth about Kata. For anyone looking for a deeper move involved Bunaki for their kata or for anyone who feels that some of the applications taught by their Martial Arts school seem to be missing something, this book is for you. Even if you are a beginner, this book will give you a unique perspective and definite advantage as you begin your journey in the Matial Arts.

This book covers

  • a brief history of karate and kata.
  • strategy vs. tactics
  • 15 guiding principles to follow
  • 8 rules for interpreting kata
  • what happens during a violent encounter, physically and mentally. Types of criminals, things you should know about fighting and what will happen during a fight.
  • How to bring everything together to make your knowledge and practice effective.
  • Kata examples with checklists from Goju Ryu kata.
Along with extra goodies at the end, there are some great glossaries/appendixes at the end; excellent reference/resource material.

First, there is a lot of information in this book. A LOT.  It's almost overwhelming. However, everything is arranged in a logical order with a progression that builds through the book. Everything in the next chapter builds on the chapter previous so they don't throw you in the middle of everything. 

I found Chapters 3 and 4 to be the most useful/beneficial to me. If you have not read anything else by Kane and Wilder or by Rory Miller, then Chapters 2 and 5 will be very interesting and information packed as well. If you are familiar with other works by Kane, Wilder, and Miller, then they will be a bit of a review, but still worth the read. 

Chapter 6 covers great classroom ideas as far as drills go and ways to practice what you learned. Chapter 7 is an extensive checklist of Goju Ryu kata and applications. This gives some really great examples and helps you understand the fundamentals of what the authors are talking about. I think this list would be invaluable to any Goju Ryu student. If you study a different school, like I study Shotokan for example, it would be helpful to look up the kata on YouTube to get a better idea of what the kata look like so you can see the techniques in motion.

The only complaint I have with this book is that it is a little on the dry side. It can be tedious to read through sometimes, as if you are reading through a text book, especially towards the end, chapters 5 through 7. I think this is just due to the sheer amount of information packed into this book. HOWEVER, even if you have to put the book down and come back to it the next day, I highly recommend pushing through it and finishing it. 

I think it is very important for Martial Artists to be educated on what they practice and/or teach. If you are teaching someone self defense, (which is in essence what Karate was designed for by the Okinawans) then you need to teach them something that works, not something ineffective that could get them hurt if their lives ever depended on their understanding of their techniques and kata application.

I think this is a MUST HAVE book for any Martial Artist or dojo library.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: How to Win a Fight

I recently (and more than a little behind schedule I admit, which Mr. Wilder or Mr. Kane if you are reading this, I sincerely apologize for) finished "How to Win a Fight" by Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder.

"How to Win a Fight" is a book first and foremost I think about why you should NOT get into a fight, and how to avoid getting into one. As the saying goes, the only fight you are sure to win is the one you do not have. This book exemplifies and stresses that to n-th degree. They discuss the difference between the Hollywood glamour of fighting vs. the brutal reality that IS violence.

The book starts with an excellent forward by Mr. Rory Miller. This is a great call to action and one that I hope is followed by anyone who reads this book. (Or any other of Miller, Wilder, or Kane's books, which are all very good ).

Included in the introduction is a check list of how far you are willing to go, what you are and are not willing to do in various situations. I think this is an excellent idea. Miller did something similar to this in his seminar. It's really good to have a mental check list and to know what you are willing to do in any type of violent situation; to know your limits I recommend doing the checklist before and after reading the book to see if your answers change. I did. Scan of Photocopy the check list and take the time to fill it out. You might be surprised.

The book itself is broken up into three parts.

Before Violence Occurs, During a Violent Encounter, and After a Violent Encounter.

Section One gives lots of useful information about avoid violence and situations where violence occurs. In this section they cover information like awareness levels, reading body language, tactics predators can use to ambush you, using your voice to de-escalate the situation and how to avoid the Monkey Dance. Gangs are not your friends. And lastly, you WILL get hurt if you get involved in a fight. Which is not fun. Getting hurt can mean a lot more than just black eyes and busted teeth, which they cover in later chapters more extensively.

Section Two covers what to do if you are involved in an altercation. Kane and Wilder make it EXPLICITLY clear that under no circumstances should fight unless you have absolutely no other options and it is life or death. Section two covers some fairly intense material and may not be for the faint of heart. They talk about how to really hurt the enemy if you are in a situation where you need to get away. The book covers vulnerable spots, fighting tactics and strategies, etc. Again, this section is a good read, especially for someone who has never thought about what it might take to have to get someone away from you. For example, they describe in detail exactly how to pop an eye ball from its socket. Its a little morbid to be honest, and unsettling to read, but again I feel like its important to know what you may be into if you have to something that extreme to survive.

Section Three covers what to expect after you have been in a violence encounter. Unlike "Meditations on Violence." which covers mainly the emotional trauma that comes with a violent encounter, "How to Win a Fight" covers what to expect legally after you are in a violent encounter, what to expect when the police arrive and what you can do to protect yourself in court. This section is probably one of the more useful sections in the book as no martial arts dojos ever seem to cover this kind of information, and no one really tells you what to expect or how to behave with the police should you ever be in any kind of altercation.

Overall, lots of good things. Lots of useful information.

My ONLY complaint with this book is the fact that it has illustrations instead of photographs. I understand what the authors were trying to accomplish with this, and while the idea of using comic book style illustrations to reach a younger or wider audience is a good idea, I do not think it lends itself to this medium. This book is about the seriousness of violence, the cold and terrible reality of getting into a fight, the pain, the injuries, the possible jail time, etc. I think a serious book deserves a serious medium. I think if you are trying to communicate how 'uncool' violence is, then comic book illustrations are not the way to do it. Violence is nothing like comic books and video games and movies, so why try to use those same media to explain how it ISN'T like that?

Again, as mentioned, I believe using this type of marketing tactic will (potentially/hopefully) very like draw in the demographic the authors were trying to reach, but for me, it just didn't really lend itself to the message of the book very well. From what I understand "Little Black Book of Violence" is very similar to this book, but uses photographs. I think I would have enjoyed that format a lot better and will be reading Sensei Nick's copy for comparison sometime in the near(ish) future. Maybe I'm just a fan of uncomfortably graphic, but I think a picture of someone with a huge scar across their face or their guts laying on the sidewalk next to them where they bled out and died is much more sobering than an illustration. It just sort of makes it more real and brings it closer to home. An illustration removes the element of 'this is very real, and this is not a game', a photograph shows something that really happened to someone at some point in time and cannot lie. (Aside from Photoshoping it of course... but true actual photographs captured with film are pretty solid case makers in my opinion.)

To summarize: This is all the information they should go over in any kind of self defense class, seminar, or rape defense class or anything of the like. This is all incredibly useful information, and a good read for any Martial Artist who thinks they are studying self defense as opposed to Martial Arts as they are not the same thing. I think its important people know this kind of information and I think all Martial Arts dojos should require reading of this kind from their students. As mentioned, my only fault with the book are the illustrations. And not the illustrations themselves, because I like comic book art, I just don't think its the right format for the material. But, I have a feeling I may be in the minority there. It's just a personal preference thing on my account; so take it with a grain of salt. If I had to rate this book one a scale of 1 to 5, I would give 4 out of 5 stars, for sure.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Internship Expectations

As mentioned before, I will be working as something of an Intern for the dojo that Sensei Nick teaches Aiki out of. Tomorrow I will head in for a Cardio workout in the morning followed by some time with the instructor to go over some of the first TaeKwonDo kata.

Which reminds me I need to practice my own kata...
(WHICH I actually did some of today, just not all of them yet)

Here are the things that I am hoping to get out of my "internship":

  • Learning to recognize learning styles
  • Learning to communicate with different learning styles effectively
  • Learning drills and fun activities/work outs/exercises to do with kids classes
  • Learning good exercises and fun work outs and drills for adult classes
  • Learning what to do or how to deal with kids (and adults) who misbehave, don't focus, are a distraction, or in general disruptive to the class
  • Being able to teach
  • Being able to help someone understand something for the first time or improve on their technique
  • Being able to learn from my students
I'm sure there are more, but that is all my tired brain can think of right now. I will post more as I think of them and write how my internship goes as I am able to spend time in the dojo. Due to finally acquiring a job this may be a little more difficult and sporadic then I would like, but I will make it happen.

Night everyone.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Where does the time go?

So. Been a while. I have too much going on.

Sensei Nick is left the country today. It'll be down to just me and Musashi in the house. : /

I start my new job on Monday. I got some seasonal work to help pay the bills. Graphic Design freelance work is rather patchy lately...

I need to stay focused. I have a lot to do. Its really hard not to lose motivation when Sensei Nick is out of the country, but I need to make sure I stay motivated and on task because I really want to achieve my goal of being a Martial Arts Instructor someday. I feel like I never have enough time to work on stuff. And that kills me because the sad thing is, I don't watch T.V., I don't play video games very often (maybe once or twice a month at this point), I don't go clubbing or hanging out with friends very often, etc. Where the hell does all my time go???

Obviously, helping run a house, it goes to helping Sensei Nick with paperwork and errands, cooking, helping out with family needs like taking the kids to school, picking them up, etc. But still, I must say I am feeling very discouraged this afternoon.

Anyway, Here are some of the projects I currently have going on.

  • Website stuff: 
    • Updating the GMA website and making tweaks as necessary: Our updated information!
    • Getting my own personal domain issues sorted out so I can get back up and running as well as TiffaniSaharaCreative. Effectively the same website, just different names. 
    • The larger project here is really that I need to learn wordpress. T.T
  • Working on PowerLineDesigns and Graphic Design
    • coming up with new designs and ideas for merchandise on cafepress, zazzle, imagekind, etc. for Power Line Designs
    • Design and make a new flyer for Main Street Martial Arts
    • Design an identity and related materials for a potential project
  • Continuing to fix up the house (lofty goals, but still, I like to aim high):
    • Have most of, if not the entire, interior of the house painted by the time Sensei Nick gets back.
    • Replace all interior doors and molding
  • Martial Arts (last but not least)
    • Do all my kata every day
    • Reread and review "Way of Kata"
    • Finish and review "How to Win a Fight"
    • Watch the Bunkai DVDs regarding the Heian/Pinan kata by Abernethy.
    • Continue to attend Aiki class twice a week
    • Work out with and learn from instructor who runs the dojo that Nick is currently teaching out of after hours. 
      • This will more or less function like an internship. While I am not intent on pursuing any ranks TaeKwonDo, the owner runs the entire school by herself and is need of a little bit of help. She is the only instructor and since Sensei Nick doesn't have an official school as such at the moment and I am in desperate need of teaching experience and more time in a dojo environment in general we talked to her about setting something up. She agreed to let me come in and shadow her for a few weeks and help her teach once I get some of the kata down and learn the ropes. It'll be a really sweet deal as long as my newly found seasonal work doesn't make that impossible. Which I will say I am very nervous about as I already told them I cannot work Monday or Tuesday evenings (as that is Aiki night) and they have already scheduled me for Monday close next week. :( 
    • Homework from Sensei Nick (In addition to watching Abernethy's Bunkai DVDs and Reading "Way of Kata" and "How to Win a Fight" and "Teaching the Martial Arts" if I have time, write out several fight scenes. Starting small, with just a few exchanges here and there, and going up. What do I think two guys with no training would look like fighting each other on the street. How about a beginner rank and a guy with no training, intermediate? advanced? Two advanced fighters? etc. Which means I also probably need to get and read Miller's "Violence, a Writer's Guide." *sigh 

Anyway, overall I think I just need to try to stay very focused and motivated. I WANT my kata to look better by the time Sensei Nick comes back. I WANT to be in better shape by the time Sensei Nick comes back. I want to earn my next ranks and display proficiency, skill, and understanding that any Sensei would be proud of.

Before he left Sensei Nick and I briefly discussed my current ranks. In Aikijutsu I am white belt with two stripes, effectively the equivalent of an orange belt as Nick's school only has two stripes till green belt. I am also an orange belt in Shotokan Karate. And soon to be learning TaeKwonDo. (I know, information overload right? Probably no the best way to study, but I need the teaching experience so I will take what I can get) I feel like every time I study Martial Arts I get RIGHT TO THIS POINT, and then either have to quit or start over. I have never been any higher than an orange belt. And I have been an orange belt many times. I am SICK OF IT. This is incredibly frustrating and upsetting to me. Granted, I know it isn't necessarily the color of the belt that denotes your skill/understanding/proficiency, etc. Nick and I have discussed several times that rank is only applicable from the school you received it from. A black belt from one school may not meet the same requirements or skill levels as a black belt from another school. In a way, its all very subjective. Either way, I WANT TO GET PAST THE BEGINNER RANKS! (And yes, I know, once you get your shodan it just means you have all the basics and you can really start learning, but you know what I mean, white through orange is generally considered beginner, then the next couple are intermediate and then brown is advanced, etc etc) I guess I want it as... as sort of a mile marker or something... something that means, YES, I am making progress, I am sticking with it, I do some understanding of what I am doing, etc.

I WANT to study and learn and be good. I want it desperately, but every time I get started down the Martial Path life comes along and throws a wrench in my spoke. Well, life, I've got news for you, NOT THIS TIME!

I don't want to say that I want a black belt, because I understand that the belt is not the goal, more so now than ever before, but I want to be skilled and proficient in Martial Arts. Particularly Aikijutsu and also Karate. I want it so bad I can almost taste it, I just have to make sure I stay focused and on task so that I can accomplish my goals. 

T.T I'm wearing myself out just thinking about all this stuff. More posts to come soon. 

~Samurai Girl Sahara

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Abernethy Seminar Review

This last weekend Sensei Nick and I had the chance to go to a seminar in Missouri hosted by the Blue River Martial Arts Club. (Thanks to Eric and Sarah Parsons for putting this together, it was awesome!) They brought Iain Abernethy over from the UK for a weekend of Bunkai.

Friday night was a brief introduction to Funakoshi's 9 throws. Which was pretty nifty. There are a lot of people who say there are no throws in karate, but there were definitely some built into the system. Iain broke them up into 6 practical and 3 frivolous throws. After getting to practice all of them, I agree. But it was still cool to go over them. Iain taught us all 9 with the precept that even if something is not practical or would probably not work in a fight, you should still learn it anyway because it is historically interesting. As an instructor it is good to learn all of the techniques, even if they don't work for you (your body type, etc) because if you only pick the ones that work for you and discard everything else you are cheating your students out of a complete education.

Saturday was Bunkai for the Heian Kata. (Heian Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yodan, Godan). Some of the applications were surprising, but usually once Iain explains them and goes through how it works, it makes a lot of sense.

The more we went over the more it became evident that Iain REALLY knows his stuff. He has clearly spent a LOT of time in the martial arts. Not just practicing, but researching and studying the history of the forms, the founders of the systems, the language, and the applications. I tried to write down everything I could, and Sensei Nick and I have been going over some of the Bunkai and sharing the information with our students, but I would certainly jump at the chance to study with Iain again.

Some things we are currently sharing with our students that we picked up at the seminar are:
- Bunkai is something you do to an enemy, not with a partner.
- Do NOT help your partner back up, this is because you can get into the habit of it, as Miller often states what you do in training you will do in real life. There have been studies of military men doing drills where they disarm their partner, and then hand the gun right back to them. When they are in the field, they have disarmed their attacked and simply handed the gun right back to them out of habit. We never want to get into this habit.

Some of the notes that I took that morning before getting into practicing the Bunkai are as follows, they are a mix of wisdom from Iain and the karate founders/masters:

  • Karate is not intended to be used against a single adversary. It is a use of hands and feet to defend oneself should one need to against a ruffian or vagabond.
  • Kata is self defense, it is NOT a fighting system. There IS a difference. Kata takes place at fighting distance, which is not as most people think the same thing as sparring distance. Sparring distance is two people standing with their arms outstretched and their fingertips touching. Fighting distance is actually standing close enough that you can touch your opponent's shoulder. Iain refers to this affectionately as 'kissing distance'. 
  • It is better to be the hammer than the anvil. Which is also to say it is always better to hit or strike than not. 
  • Always strike for the head and neck for this is most effective.
  • Karate is self defense. It should not be used for fighting. 
  • There are three contexts Martial Arts can be used in. When practicing, you should always set the context and practice in that context.
    • Martial Arts - a formal setting, this is done because it is fun, we like it, it is fun, it feels good, etc. Martial Arts and a hobby. 
    • Fighting - a fight to a conclusion. This is a mutual decision to fight, whether a sparring setting or a monkey dance/bar fight.
    • Self Defense - practical. I DON'T want to fight, but since the situation is absolutely unavoidable,  the FIGHT is totally MINE. If someone jumps you, you can't hesitate, you have to take the fight to them. Their limbs, their jaw, etc, its MINE. 
  • Never have a dead hand, both hands should ALWAYS be doing something. 
  • Even monkeys fall out of trees: even the best of us mess things up sometimes. It is always better to hit them than not. 
  • Start with raw skill and refine as you get better. If you start out practicing and aiming for very very specific targets, your training will not come through in an adrenaline rush. Work on getting the basics down first and then refine.
  • Always take the path of least resistance
  • Cheating is ALWAYS allowed.
Sunday we went over advanced kata, including Tekki Shodan. I have not (or at least am not supposed to be learning Tekki Shodan just yet in the grand scheme of my training. Since Nick does not have an actual karate class going right now, only Aikijutsu I can learn the kata in any order I want. When I was talking with Nick before I moved to Oklahoma, he sent me videos of all the kata. He sent me the 5 Heian kata and Tekki Shodan. After watching all of them I told Nick I wanted to learn Tekki Shodan. "That one! That's my favorite!" I was completely tickled pink that we got to go over the Bunkai for Tekki Shodan. It was GREAT! I really liked the Bunkai and I feel like I picked it up pretty quickly, especially for not having officially learned the kata yet.

To sum it up, I took a lot away from the Seminar, far far far more than I actually wrote down here. But I think one of the things that I was most impressed by was how knowledgeable Iain was. I have been wanting to read the history behind a lot of this Martial Arts stuff and the people who have been monumental in making it what it is today. Iain knows A LOT of that kind of information and its infectious. If I wanted to know before, I REALLY want to know now. The desire to be as knowledgeable as Iain is, as well as to be as proficient in the Martial Arts is burning strongly. The best way that I can explain it: some people have idols and heroes they want to be like, sports players want to be like Brett Farve or Jerry MacGuire, or whoever. (I know NOTHING about sports). Architects and artists look up to Frank Loyd Write or Picasso or Monet, etc. Martial Artists want to be like Abernethy and Wilder and Miller. Including me. Nick is always quoting Basho "Choosing not to follow in the footsteps of the masters, but rather seeking what the sought". So its not like I want to be an exact Abernethy replica, but I certainly want to know the things he knows and be as good as he is, I just have to get there my own way. 

Abernethy is all around a great guy. He has a great sense of humor, a personable disposition and is helpful with instruction and pointers. Again, I cannot stress how knowledgeable he is. If you are ever in the UK or if he ever comes back to the states, I HIGHLY recommend attending one of his seminars or talking/studying with him if you get the chance. You can find information about him via his website. Check it out. His Bunkai is pretty damn awesome. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

5 Elements merchandise

Since I mentioned on my sketch blog, I thought I would post it here as well:

I just finished putting together some things for Sensei Nick's Cafepress store: Power Line Designs. We now have a section set up for merchandise based (loosely) on Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings. There are t-shirts, mugs, clocks, pillows, posters, and pretty much anything you could possibly want up for grabs. If you have a moment, check it out.

Musashi's 5 Elements

You can also find all of the stuff from Guinn Martial Arts online as well: GMA Store.

I will be posting my review of the Abernethy seminar soon as well as a review of "How to Win a Fight" by Kane and Wilder. I'm excited to post these, its just hard to find time to sit down and write.

I am working hard with Sensei Nick on learning Kata and working towards being able to help teach in his school. I have been able to lead warm ups and offer a few pointers to my partners here and there in Aiki classes. After the seminar this weekend I was adamant about learning Tekki Shodan, so I am currently working on the kata out of order. @.@ Oops.

So far I am still a white belt in Shotokan Karate Hachikyu, as there are only 7 belts to black belt in Nick's school, but the material is very in depth and covers the same amount of material with fewer tests. Nick and I are of the opinion that more belts is generally a commercial idea and since we don't charge for tests anyway, you may as well rank from one belt to the next without all the little half way tests in between. Its a long story and probably another post in and of itself entirely; but I know Heian Nidan pretty well as well as more or less all of the Bunkai for the kata. I am working on Heian Shodan, making it look nice and making sure I have all the Bunkai, etc. Tekki Shodan, which came very naturally to me and is my favorite of all the kata I have seen so far. I am looking forward to learning Heian Sandan, Yodan and Godan, but I think Tekki Shodan will always have a special place in my heart.

I am a white belt with two stripes (going for green belt next) Hachikyu in Aikijutsu and working towards my Nanakyu. Which is nice since I started out at Juukyu. As far as Aiki Kata goes I know Walking Kata 1, 2 and 3.

So much to learn... @.@

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Updates and Upcoming Seminar

It's been a while since my last post. I have been feeling a little under the weather lately and have been having some back problems, but overall, things are busy and there has been quite a bit going on. There are a lot of things coming up and some good posts that I should be finishing up and posting in the next two weeks or so. Here is a quick update:

1) Musashi, the Great Dane samurai dog has settled in as an honorary Uchideshi. He is adorable and learning fast. He starts obedience classes later this month and is sure to do well. He is only 11 weeks old and already weighs more than 20lbs. Now that he has acclimated and his appetite is back, that should be skyrocketing. Sensei Nick and I ran into some people on our walk last night, they have a 7 month old Great Dane puppy who already weighs 120lbs. I cannot believe in another 4 months my dog will more than quadruple his weight. @.@

2) Working on both Aikijutsu and Shotokan Karate. Both are loads of fun and I am learning a lot. I received my 8th Kyu in Aiki last week. I am now a white belt with TWO green stripes! Hizzah! :D I'm not sure how close I am to testing for my yellow belt in Karate yet, but Sensei Nick says its not too far off. I am working diligently on both Heian Nidan and Heian Shodan as well as the Bunkai for these kata. In addition Sensei Nick and I are working on all our rank material and thinking about how we would like to set up the school once things get going, I have more training, we get our own facility, etc etc etc. Lots to think about. We also have new rank certificates! Congrats to Jared for achieving Nikyu and Caryn for Kukyu. I am excited to stream-line the look of our material and the school's identity. Graphic Design is so much fun, especially when you get to work on something you are really passionate about.

3) Preparation for Iain Abernethy's seminar in Missouri this weekend. I am really looking forward to meeting Mr. Abernethy and learning all about Bunkai and different techniques from different kata. Should be awesome. Sensei Nick is probably 10x more excited then I am as he has already had a chance to work with Abernethy. Should be all around a great weekend. I will post a review of the seminar and some of my thoughts and things I learned when I return. Probably Monday evening.

4) Almost done with "How to Win a Fight" by Kane the Wilder. Sensei Nick is about half way through it. I should be posting a review of this book soon, and I will make sure he does the same.

5) Working with Sensei Nick on getting PowerLine Designs up and running. We will offer a wide variety of T-shirts and related items (cups, coasters, clocks, backpacks, buttons etc.) Stay tuned for more information on this. Many of them will be Asian or Martial Arts related. Chinese Zodiac Signs, Elemental Kanji, etc etc. In addition to humors T-shirts and the like. I think some of the designs are sure to be really neat and most are turning out really well so far. Also, if anyone is need of any Graphic Design work, or knows of someone who is. Keep me in mind and/or send me a message if you are interested and would like to take a look at my portfolio.

I think that about covers it. Been very busy and have lots going on, but all good things. Hope everyone is doing well. Best wishes to everyone!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Musashi Inu!

Since Sensei Nick has been back in the country we have been working on Aikijutsu and Shotokan Karate. It has been wonderful to have my Sensei here to answer all my martial arts questions. We have been working specifically on refining the techniques in and learning the applications (or Bunkai) of the Heian Nidan kata. We have been working loosly and across the board with Aikijutsu techniques and kata, as well as sword play, among other things. Life is awesome.

However, Sensei Nick will have to leave the country again in another few weeks. Since I am watching the house and helping with the school while Sensei Nick is out of the country, we decided it might be a good idea to have a dog around. Both for protection and companionship. 

Yesterday, we adopted a 9 and 1/2 week old Great Dane puppy. I named him Musashi. After Miyamoto Musashi. 

--> Wikipedia says this about Miyamoto Musashi:  a Japanese swordsman and rōnin. Musashi, as he was often simply known, became renowned through stories of his excellent swordsmanship in numerous duels, even from a very young age. He was the founder of the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū or Niten-ryū style of swordsmanship and the author of The Book of Five Rings (五輪書 Go Rin No Sho?), a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy that is still studied today. Miyamoto Musashi is widely considered as a Kensei, and one of the greatest warriors of all time.

So that gives you some idea.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to post about getting a dog is because I am excited for the learning experience this is going to provide. The main reason I am here with Sensei Nick to learn Martial Arts, to learn Practical Self Defense (As I do not believe these two are always necessarily the same thing) and to learn to teach both of those things.

I am really looking forward to working with Musashi and teaching him. I also expect him to teach me as much as I teach him. I know there will be times when he really tests me, but I consider this a lesson/exercise in being patient, being calm, being assertive and in control at all times, and working with people (or in this case an animal) that has a very different learning style and/or needs than my own. I want to use Musashi to better help me observe and pick up on behavior patterns. Dogs cannot tell you what they need. (Sure they can whine and scratch at the door or their food bowl, but they are not capable of communicating to us if they are ill, hungry, thirsty, have to go out, etc. if we do not pay attention to them.) Sometimes, I think students have trouble with this as well. Whether because they are shy or simply don't have the right words or knowledge to articulate themselves, sometimes we (students) just don't know how to communicate what we want or need to our instructors. Sometimes we don't even know what we need. But by learning to watch and observe behavior, movement, etc. I think it will help get me in the habit of looking for those kinds of things by the time I am ready to start teaching.

In addition, dogs need structure and schedule. Musashi will have to be walked between an hour to an hour and a half EVERY DAY. This will be great exercise for me, and also give me time to think. I think it will help regulate my schedule a bit, and overall be good for my health. 

Now, please don't get me wrong. I am incredibly excited to have Musashi and I already love him very much. I am determined to take EXCEPTIONAL care of him. We did not get Musashi to be used as a tool or turned into a learning experiment. But I believe every situation in life presents an opportunity to be learned from and getting a puppy is no different.

We should always be seeking ways to deepen our understanding of the world around us and to grow and better ourselves as people. No matter what the situation or circumstance, we should always strive to treat each other with honesty, sincerity and kindness. This I believe with all my heart. 

Have a great week all. 

~ Samurai Girl Sahara

This is a picture of Musashi on the day we got him. He was 10 weeks old. D'awwww!
A picture Musashi as of April 2013. He is 21 months old. Just over a year and a half.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Martial Training Conundrum: Take 2

My last post apparently created a huge uproar. I apologize if I stepped on anyone's toes, or hurt anyone's feelings.

I closed the comments on the last post because I was encouraged to do so, and because I needed to step away from the issue for a bit. I did what I felt was the most appropriate course of action, at that time. Honestly, I felt the questions I was trying to ask were getting lost in context of the situation I used to explain what drove me to thinking about these questions. Not because I didn't want to hear the truth or because my feelings were hurt, but because I felt comments were off topic, so I shut it down.  (Not that that stopped the comments anyway). @.@

With that being said:
I really want to try this again, without the context from the last post. I am going to ask the questions I was trying to ask in my last post, BY THEMSELVES. Ignore and disregard EVERYTHING from the last post.

Everyone is welcome to comment on this post, and believe me when I say that I DO GENUINELY want to hear everyone's opinion, and I will not shut down the comments, but please focus on the topic. THIS IS A CLEAN SLATE.

The questions I was trying postulate are these:

  • When is it ok to stand up for yourself or a friend?
    • Please keep in mind, this doesn't mean knocking someone's block off for calling you a name. To me, this means you say "Hey, leave that me/guy alone." maybe you call the cops. Those, to me, constitute action/intervention/standing up for yourself/someone else.
  • I understand our priority as Martial Artists is to always walk away from a fight. Why? Why legally and why morally as I believe these have two different answers.
  • When, or at what point, if ever, is it ethically and morally right to intervene on violence? 
    • Again, to me intervention could mean calling the police, it does not necessarily mean going up to some guy and picking/joining the fight.
  • When is it ok to use force to stand up for yourself or a friend?
  • When is it ok to use force to DEFEND yourself? (How high does the violence have to have escalated?)
    • If the answer to some of these is "ONLY when you life is on the line", WHY does it have to get that far along before you can defend yourself to the utmost of your ability? 
    • Is it wrong to end violence with a preemptive strike? Be it physical or metaphorical. (punch, call for help, etc.)
  • Why is it legally wrong to really put the hurt on someone if they try to hurt you first? Is it morally wrong? Why?

Now, context has a lot to do with the answers for the questions above. So context may be, verbal violence, physical violence, death is impending violence, etc. So feel free to use those types of context for you answers.  

Now, the second set of questions, which I think is more to the point of what I was trying to get at yesterday.  (Thanks Sam for articulating this for me, because I think this is a valid point, and something I want to know, it helps me understand my confusion I think)

  •  One of the simple answers is simply the social context. Physical violence is not acceptable because we live in a society and society has rules. You insult me, you punch me, whatever, I punch you back, society says this is not ok, therefore society makes the rules and the rules say this is not ok, in the eyes of the law you are wrong.
    • To every situation, action reaction, there are social, legal, moral, personal ramifications. Obviously you have to decide if you can live with all of these. Can you live with yourself if you do ____. Can you live with society disapproving of you if you do _____. etc.    
  • This leads me to my next point. Where, when, and why did society change to its current set of rules? 
    • Years ago, if you had a dispute, you went and dueled it out. 
    • Further back, if someone stole from you and you caught them, you could kill them. (Or beat them up, or whatever.) 
    • So, when and why did we gravitate away from these courses of action?
    • Why was it ok to go out back and duke it out, settle it, and move on back then, but not now? (I will not take, 'we are more civilized and evolved now' as an answer.)

And finally, the last of the points I was trying to make. Along the same topic as bullying. We are taught and trained to walk away from any kind of confrontation. I have asked why. But I want you to consider this when answering. We were all also taught when we were little that, "Sticks and Stones may break my bones, by words will never hurt me." In my opinion, this is a lie. I understand engaging in the monkey dance is stupid. But when someone comes after you and verbally attacks you, as a person, sometimes once, sometimes repeatedly, that damage can be more devastating than a broken nose, cracked ribs, missing teeth or a black eye. That damage is lasting, weeks, months, years... I have known people that have taken their lives or that of others, or both because they are pushed to the breaking point by this verbal violence.

So when people say "In my view the mere fact that a person asks themselves if it is acceptable or appropriate to use your training to "stick up for yourself" puts the monkey in the driving seat. I believe it was written that if something does not result in some injury you can see with your eyes and record with a camera it ain't an injury or damage." I must disagree. Maybe some people have this thick of skin, but most of us don't. And some people have incredibly sharp tongues. I promise you, the effects of that kind of violence can last a life time.

Why is it so bad that we fight it out before it gets to the point of guns and knives and even more violence? Why is it so bad to stand up for yourself? I am not talking about looking for opportunities to use your skills, going out of your way to find a fight or prove yourself or anything like that. I am talking having the human decency to help yourself or someone in need. Be it calling the police, notifying the authorities, or delivering a swift punch in the nose as the situation dictates.

Call me old fashioned, idealistic, stupid, or naive if you must, but rest assured if, somewhere, someday, I see you getting bullied, mugged or gang-raped in an alley, I firmly believe it is my moral and ethical obligation to intervene and I will help you. (AGAIN, all I may be able to do is call the police and tell them what is happened and where you are, but it is still something and better than nothing in my opinion.)

Just some things to think about... Or comment on, if you so desire. Again, I promise not to close the thread, but I do ask that comments are kept on topic and are not made personal.

Hopefully my questions are presented better this time and I look forward to reading everyone's response. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Martial Training Conundrum

*This post is may be considered offense to some people. I am merely thinking out loud and trying to work through and understand some aspects of society and culture as opposed to martial training.*

I have lived in a few different parts of the country and traveled to lots of them. I haven't yet had a chance to explore other countries but I am working towards this goal. One thing I can be certain of is that culture is very different from place to place, even within the United States.

Miller said in the seminar that violence happens in specific places, one of which being a place where we don't understand the rules or the culture. Now, this wasn't necessarily a violent encounter, but it is something that happened in a place I was not familiar with. What I am having trouble understanding is if the rules were different here, or if it is just because there is an epidemic of rudeness in our country right now.

(I know people like Charles James mention rudeness and the power of words and Rory Miller have mentioned things like cultural differences, in their blogs.)

Anyway, so the situation is this. My mom and I stop at a Jack in the Box off the interstate to grab a bite to eat. Its near the highway and the closest thing around and we are starving. So we pull off and head in, because we're tired of being in the car. The place is mostly empty. There is one person ahead of us in line. So we order and sit down to wait for our number to be called.

Then the lunch rush hits, or something, because all of a sudden the place is packed. The lobby is very small and there aren't enough tables. People are giving mom and I some strange and dirty looks. We're not sure why. We're sitting quietly, minding our own business. We are clearly waiting on our food and everyone else is in line, no one is sitting down yet. Eventually it becomes so uncomfortable mom and I consider just taking our food and go eat in the car when they call our number. I decide to run the restroom so we can be ready to leave if that's what mom wants to do.

It figures, the second I run to the bathroom, they call our number. Mom doesn't want to leave her purse at the table, so she takes it with her to get our food. She comes back and some guy and some of his group sitting at our table. He's with a large group and they have several kids with them.

Mom said, "Oh... my daughter and I were just getting our food, thanks for taking our seats..." Or something like that. Either way, she wasn't rude. My mom isn't the type who is rude or aggressive up front. She might get upset and rant about it later but she tries pretty hard to be kind to people. The guy looks at my mom, right in front of all the kids and everyone in the restaurant and says loudly, "YOU'RE FUCKING WELCOME."

This, in my opinion, is totally unacceptable. If I hadn't been in the bathroom, I would have said something. I came out and mom was standing by the trash can trying to hold the tray and her drink and purse and all that. So we took our food and left, she didn't tell me till we got in the car what happened.

Now... here is the conundrum. I wanted very badly to go back in there and kick that guys ass. Obviously I don't have the skills to do it yet but I really wanted to anyway. It's not ok to talk to anyone like that. Especially someone's mom. However, as Martial Artists just, because we can kick someone's ass doesn't mean we should, even if they deserve it, right? (I know that at this point Charles James will link me some things on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense.)

I expect most people to say, "Of course, just because you can doesn't mean you should." I want to know: why not? Why is it not ok to use your skills to stand up for yourself??? Granted, all this guy did was snap at my mom, which doesn't necessarily warrant a punch in the face. But let's consider some other scenarios:

Why is it as Martial Artists we train and train, but we're not allowed to use our abilities unless it is a life or death struggle? This is honestly something I have always struggled with. Maybe I will be more at peace with this as I progress in my studies, but I do not understand why it is not ok to put people in their place if they deserve it. If someone tries to mug me, why can't I break his kneecaps to discourage him from doing it to anyone else? If someone is a bully, why do they just get to get away with it? If someone tries to rape me, why am I expected to run away and let the law deal with it? If he has a good attorney, he'll just get off with a slap on the wrist and will probably do it to someone else.

Yes, I understand the only fight you are guaranteed to win is the one you never have, and how do you really distinguish between when someone deserves a punch in the nose or not, how do you keep yourself from becoming the bully, etc etc etc. I know all this sounds ridiculous coming from me, who has not much experience with violence. I'm sure people like Miller and MacYoung and Wilder will tell me they really hope I never get into a fight, because they are not fun, they are messy, brutal, awful affairs.

I'm sure its safer for people in the long run if we don't have violence running rampant through our streets. (Except, the other day in Joplin, I saw two guys get out of their car at a stoplight and proceed to have a fist fight right in the middle of the street... so... on some level whether we like it or not, violence is going to happen anyway)

But I still just don't get why it isn't ok? If I were better with my skills, why couldn't I have used Aiki to make this jerk stand up and move so mom could have her seat back? Why does that make me the bad guy? (At least in the eyes of the justice system)

Maybe people would be a little more polite and respectful to each other if they didn't think they could get away with being a complete ass hole to everyone all the time? "If I say something incredibly rude to him, or behave in this inappropriate manner, he/she could haul off and knock my teeth out. Hmm... maybe I better not say/do that..."

Does this make any sense to anyone else? Am I alone in thinking that maybe Hammurabi's code "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" wasn't such a bad idea? (Some of his other laws were pretty harsh, and most of them involved putting someone to death, but this one seems to make sense to me. You reap what you sow. Karma and all that.) I don't believe Martial Artists should go around looking for fights. I do not approve of this behavior at all. But if someone starts it, if they make the first move, why can't we finish it?

Why do we have to just stand by and allow people to treat each other like dirt or hurt each other and get away with it? This doesn't seem right to me. I don't care if it's not my business or not, if you are hitting your girlfriend in public while I am watching, or screaming at the cashier while I am in line behind you, or  stealing from someone while I am a in the same parking lot, then it is my business and it is my human/moral/ethical obligation to help. For me, in most cases, that would probably mean calling the police. If some guy is beating his girlfriend at the park, or I see someone down an alley way attacking/mugging/raping someone else I am not going to walk by and pretend I didn't see it, I will call the police. I would want someone to do the same for me. If some dude is screaming at a cashier, I would say something. I have worked retail. We're people too and you do not have the right to treat us like trash because you are having a bad day. Not enough people stand up for each other in those kinds of situations, and it sickens me that someone can come into a place of business, scream and throw a fit, and be rewarded for their behavior with apologies and coupons from managers.

This whole dynamic is just so confusing to me. You train and train with the understanding and the expectation that you will never have to use your skills. I really would like to think there is more to it than just my monkey brain seeking to do the monkey dance. This isn't about having something to prove. This is about human decency. When you were little and you misbehaved, you were reprimanded, right? I got spanked, or had my mouth washed out with soap, or sent to time out, or stood in the corner, or grounded, etc. The punishment always fit the crime, but I always knew there was a certain way to behave and that it was not ok to treat people a certain way. So why is it when we grow up, we're suddenly exempt from punishment and repercussions from our actions? Why is anyone who tries to curb or adjust your snobby attitude considered the bad guy? (again, I am speaking from what I expect the legal stand point would be. I'm guess if you go to court and say, "Well, Judge. I just don't believe in bullying. Someone had to put a stop to it, so I punched him in the face." You'll be the one who winds up with a fine or in jail.)

This is such a complex topic and there is a lot more that I could say/ask. But I think this post is long enough and I am talking myself in circles at this point.

I am open to hearing thoughts and opinions from others on the subject, especially anyone with martial arts experience and/or experience with violence. Dialogue is encouraged, I really want to know what other people think, but I do not want to start an argument, so if you comment, do not attack anyone's thoughts or beliefs or comments, I will remove your comment. What I have written are mostly my thoughts, considerations and questions on a very broad subject that is very gray in terms of right and wrong. I do not claim to be right or wrong, nor to have any of the answers. I am merely seeking understanding.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Eating Healthy on the Road

long day with totoro...

I took a short road trip this weekend to see my mom in Joplin, MO and check out the Japanese festival at the botanic garden in St. Louis. Which was amazing. If anyone gets the chance to go, I highly recommend it. The gardens are beautiful and the whole trip was a lot of fun. I even got a Totoro hat!

But I digress...

I really wanted to post about how to eat when you are on the road!

I absolutely love travel, but I HATE fast food. (Don't get me wrong, I love the occasional fast food burrito, but I have gotten to the point where my body hates me for eating out.) But what are you supposed to do when you are on the road and there are only greasy icky options and gas station foods all around you?

Here are helpful tips for eating healthy on the road!

When you are traveling by car, the easiest thing you can do is pack a small cooler and stock it with water, juice, fruits, veggies, nuts, yogurt, string cheese, sandwiches, etc. Avoid drinking soda as much as possible, and try to stay away from very salty/greasy or sweet snacks like chips, cookies, chocolate, etc. If you are unable to pack your own cooler, or you forget, here are some tips for picking snacks at the gas station and places along the road:

Try to find the fresh fruits or foods with an expiration date. Most gas stations now will usually have a basket with apples and/or bananas and such in them. You can also look for things like string cheese and yogurt in the cooler section. If you cannot find these foods in the cold section or the fruit looks a little on the questionable side, opt for nuts or dried fruit. Trail mix is usually a pretty decent option.

When looking for places to eat, if you just have the munchies, if you can find a Starbucks, grab a fruit and cheese plate. If your only option is fast food, you can opt for a salad, making sure you go for grilled chicken as opposed to crispy chicken and go for a light dressing. You can go for a burger and fries, but the key is portion control. Do NOT super-size your meal! You can get away with a small burger and fries without too much damage to your calorie intake. As far as dinners and sit down places are concerned, be sure to avoid fried foods if at all possible and make sure you eat your veggies.

Most hotels now have mini-fridges and microwaves in the room. Avoid the temptation to eat out and swing by the local grocery store instead. Grab some T.V. dinners (Lean cuisine) or other small easy prepare foods (a loaf of bread and sandwich meat, cheese, etc) as well as some fruit (apples, grapes, etc) and string cheese, nuts, and such for snacking on. This will probably save you a bit of money and your stomach will likely thank you for it later.

When traveling by air, go ahead and pack nuts, dried fruits, protein, cereal bars, and such into your carry on bag. You may not be able to take your water through security, but I have had no trouble packing an empty reusable water bottle and filling it up at a water fountain on the other side. If you have to eat airport food avoid the burger joints, pizza parlors and taco stands and go for sandwiches if you can. Pick one with a lean meats like Turkey or Chicken and try to get as many veggies as you can on your sandwich. Go for fruit at the counter and always choose water over pop. Juice and low fat milk are also good options.

Hope this helps or gives you some ideas. Happy traveling everyone!

~Samurai Girl Sahara

Useful links/sources:
Best Picks No Matter Where You Are
Meal and Restaurant Advice
More of the Same

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The other stuff I do...

And now for something completely different! (again!)

As you all know, I LOVE martial arts, working out, and being healthy. But I also like to draw, write, read, and study languages. 

I have finally got my sketchblog up and running. Hopefully I'll be able to update regularly. If anyone is interested, feel free to have a look! MY AWESOME SKETCHBLOG!  I'm just getting it up and running now, but as I said, more things to come in the future. Stay tuned for more sketches, drawings, poems, stories and things artistic. 


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kata Practice

Sensei Nick is out of the country currently. I am able to attend the biweekly Aikijutsu classes as he has a senior student to teach them. However, since he was mostly teaching kids (as I understand it) there is no one work on Shotokan Karate with while he is out of the country. Well, I take that back. Some of his friends are experienced Martial Artists and could work with me on this, we just haven't been able to set up a time to actually get together and work on anything yet. But there are no actual classes that anyone is teaching at the moment.

Alas. Much sadness abounds when your instructor is out of the country. 

However, Sensei Nick DID give me Heian Nidan to work on while he is away since kata is something I can practice on my own. We haven't gone over ALL the bunkai yet, but I do have the whole form down and I am supposed to be doing the form at least 10 times EVERY DAY.

I am ashamed to admit I have slacked off a little bit. Which is particularly sad as kata is something I desperately want to excel at. I've had a few projects I'm trying to finish up for cash and I'm still trying to nail down a job. But I am always thinking about it in my head, and I know I should be practicing more. 

I ready Felica's blog post today and she had a link to another post she had written about a specific kata practice technique. It's a good post, give it a read. Go on. You know you want to.

Honestly, its not that I wasn't motivated before, but it just helps renforce, I NEED to be practicing! Only through lots of practice and hard work can I become the martial artist I want to be.

To myself I say "Self! MAKE TIME! No excuses! Get up and practice your kata!"

To all you I say "All you! Go practice your forms!" or if Martial Arts isn't your thing practice whatever it is that YOU want to excel at. Only through devotion of time to your art (be it drawing, writing, singing, cooking, miniatures, whatever) can you obtain the level of competence and proficiency that you want to achieve. Even if its a few minutes a day, spend some time every day doing what you love. After a while, that cumulative time blossoms into real skill, understanding, and mastery. 

To Felica I say "Thank you!"

Have a good week all, practice practice practice! ^.~

~Samurai Girl Sahara

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Learning Styles

There are three basic/common types of learning styles. They Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.

Visual learners learn by seeing/looking/observing. Here are some clues that you might be a visual learner:

  • take numerous detailed notes
  • tend to sit in the front
  • are usually neat and clean
  • often close their eyes to visualize or remember something
  • find something to watch if they are bored
  • like to see what they are learning
  • benefit from illustrations and presentations that use color
  • are attracted to written or spoken language rich in imagery
  • prefer stimuli to be isolated from auditory and kinesthetic distraction
  • find passive surroundings ideal

Auditory learners learn by hearing/listening. Clues you may be an auditory learner:

  • sit where they can hear but needn't pay attention to what is happening in front
  • may not coordinate colors or clothes, but can explain why they are wearing what they are wearing and why
  • hum or talk to themselves or others when bored
  • acquire knowledge by reading aloud
  • remember by verbalizing lessons to themselves (if they don't they have difficulty reading maps or diagrams or handling conceptual assignments like mathematics).

Kinesthetic learners learn by doing and touching. Clues you may be a kinesthetic learner:

  • need to be active and take frequent breaks
  • speak with their hands and with gestures
  • remember what was done, but have difficulty recalling what was said or seen
  • find reasons to tinker or move when bored
  • rely on what they can directly experience or perform
  • activities such as cooking, construction, engineering and art help them perceive and learn
  • enjoy field trips and tasks that involve manipulating materials
  • sit near the door or someplace else where they can easily get up and move around
  • are uncomfortable in classrooms where they lack opportunities for hands-on experience
  • communicate by touching and appreciate physically expressed encouragement, such as a pat on the back
So, they're pretty straight forward. Also, it's not uncommon for people to have two stronger learner styles and one weaker one, or even use different learning styles for different tasks. Once you know what kind of leaner you are it can help you absorb information better. For example if you know that you are an auditory learner, reading flash cards or notes aloud to yourself will work better for you than just looking at them or writing them.

Most martial arts instructors will teach using a combination of all three of these to accommodate all learning styles. They will demonstrate a technique for the class (visual) while explaining what they are doing (auditory) usually followed by having the students work on the technique or by working one on one with the student (kinesthetic).

If you tend to go through the motions as you watch your instructor do the movements, you are probably a kinesthetic learner. If you are able to just observe and absorb the instruction that way, you are probably visual, and if you find yourself listening more than watching or repeating instructions back to yourself, you are probably auditory. 

For more information about this read "Way to Black Belt" or "Teaching the Martial Arts". One thing that Wilder and Kane discuss in "Way to Black Belt" is that once you have identified your learning style you should discuss with your instructor what your learning style is.

If you are uncertain as to what your learning style may be, just google "Learning Styles" and you'll come up with information as well as quizzes to help you determine where you fall. :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Follow up to my request

I think my last post stirred some things up in a way that I did not intend for it to do so.

In addition to this Josh made a very poignant comment on my blog. His comment reads

Josh K. said...

Ah, but did you tell them what you just told us?

There seemed to have been a failure to communicate information from you to them also. I know sometimes the mid-level instructors in a field can be touchy, but it something they need to learn; the ability to switch hats from instructor to student. 90%(made up stat. alert) of all learning failures is do to the instructor just assuming the student just didn't understand their brilliant teaching method.


My response is this:

I feel like me saying "I need to do the technique to understand what you are trying to tell me" is essentially telling them I need to do the technique to learn it and understand what you are saying, similar to what I said in my blog post. I was getting incredibly frustrated and was probably not communicating very well towards the end, and I was also still upset when I wrote this blog, which also means I probably didn't convey this situation in as neutral of a light as I meant to.

I should have mentioned in the post that after I went back to working with my initial partner the assistant instructors broke us up and I worked with the second instructor who was very patient and was able to actually walk me through the technique and help me in a way that I needed. I did try to tell him as he was doing it that THAT was exactly what I needed. I need to do the technique to understand it. I didn't mean any disrespect or accusations by my previous post, I was merely trying to post it as an example of what can and does sometimes happen in any learning environment. I should have concluded the post by saying that there was a resolution to the issue and I was not merely left helpless to struggle through it on my own.

That being said, I do agree with Josh. It is as important for students to communicate to their instructors HOW they learn as it is for instructors to understand how to teach to that learning style. The road goes both ways and in retrospect I could have communicated better as well. 

(Way to Black Belt has an incredibly good chapter on this, and I believe Teaching the Martial Arts addresses this as well)

I would like to stress again that I was not trying to point fingers nor was I trying to imply that the assistant instructor(s) are bad instructors or that the were doing a bad job. We were simply having trouble communicating and I wanted to use the situation as an example in hopes that I might make other instructors or students aware that this can and does happen and that when it does, you need to find a way to communicate with each other about how to work through it.

I hope this clears things up a little bit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A request to instructors everywhere

A teacher can either make or break a class, a subject, or a concept. I truly believe the reason I always hated math was because I struggled to pick up the concepts and I never had very good teachers who were willing to work with me on it.

If the teacher understands that they are talking about, that is really important, but I don't think that automatically makes them a good teacher. 

In my opinion a really good teacher is someone who is passionate about both learning and teaching. They are excited about what they are teaching, which is infectious and in turn makes the students excited and engaged. They are good at communicating. A really good teacher is someone who understands that you might need to explain the same concept different ways to different students because there are different learning styles. While one student may be able to hear an explanation, another student may need that explanation worded differently while another student may need a visual aid to understand the point a teacher is trying to make. A great teacher will be able to teach across all learning spectrums or be able to explain the same concept a number of different ways until something clicks with the student. And finally, a teacher needs to be knowledgeable on the subject they are teaching. 

If you end up with a teacher who is not excited, cannot communicate or does not know what they are talking about it can make learning an incredibly difficult and frustrating experience.

If you are in an instructor position, I would strongly encourage you to do research on learning types and related teaching methods. There is nothing more frustrating than being a student and asking for help and having your instructor be unable to communicate with you in a way that you understand. 

For example, this evening in Aikijutsu class we were practicing shomen uchi irimi nage and one of the assistant instructors made the comment that I was doing certain parts of the technique wrong. (Go figure, its the 20 year throw...) They then showed me how to correctly perform the technique on the other assistant instructor. While I do pick things up visually I am a much stronger at learning kinesthetically. (which is to say I have to do it to get it) I asked the instructors to walk me through the technique as I was doing it on them. Instead they proceeded to show me the technique on each other several more times and explain in great depth the concept and workings behind the technique. I understand how the technique works, but if I cannot feel where I am doing the technique wrong or right as I am actually performing the technique, all that knowledge is useless to me. I asked them again to please allow me to do the technique and walk me through it as I was doing it. The instructor who had initially made the comment I was having problems continued to say "No, watch, THIS is how it works," while still doing the technique on the other instructor. After a good 5 to 10 minutes of having both assistant instructors try to help me and another student chime in and I became so frustrated I gave up and just went back to trying to figure it out with my partner.

This is NOT ok! If you are a teacher or instructor in any field, I IMPLORE YOU, on my knees, to please research learning styles and teaching methods for the sake of your students. PLEASE. 

For Martial Arts instructors specifically, Sensei Nick has recommended Martial Arts Instruction. This is the next to read on my list. 

Next post I will post a bit about learning types and related material. Till then, keep it cool everyone.

~ Samurai Girl Sahara

Friday, August 12, 2011


And now for something completely different:

Don't worry, spiders
I keep house

~ Kobayashi Issa

O snail
Climb Mt. Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!

~Kobayashi Issa

Old pond
Frog jumps in
The sound of water

~Matsuo Basho

Fleas, lice
A horse pissing
By my pillow

~Matsuo Basho

A long hard journey
Rain beating down the clover
Like a wander's feet

~ Yosa Buson

The sparrow singing
its small mouth

~Yosa Buson

Friday, August 5, 2011

Stressed Out?

Feeling stressed out lately? I am. I'm in the middle of making some huge life changes. Changing jobs, changing states, moving, etc. Half my things are in Colorado, half of them are in Oklahoma, I have no job, and $1200 student loan payment to figure out how to make this month. In addition, Sensei Nick is on the other side of the world for the next 34 days or so. Wooo!

So, in light of all the apprehension and anxiety I've been feeling I wanted to share some facts about stress.

Stress is very bad for you. It is incredibly hard on your body.
Stress effects
  • Your Brain: how clearly you think and make decisions as well as how you react emotionally to people and situations. It can also cause headaches and migraines.
  • Your Teeth and Mouth: stress can cause you to clench or grind your teeth, which is very bad for them and can lead to TMJ, problems with joints in your jaw, and some studies show gum disease. Stress can also cause canker sores. 
  • Your Heart: hormones released into your body when feeling stressed cause your heart to beat faster and blood vessels to constrict, stress has also been linked to high blood pressure, blood clots, and even stroke.
  • Your Lungs: people with Asthma or COPD may experience extreme symptoms when stressed
  • You Tummy: stress can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach aches, cramps and even ulcers.
  • Your Skin: stress can cause break outs including acne, cold sores, and fever blisters. 
  • Your Hair: stress can make your hair fall out! Its true. 
  • Your Muscles: stress can cause tension to build up in your muscles, especially around the neck, shoulders and back which can lead to all over body pain
  • Your Immune System: stress also suppresses the immune system and can cause you to be more susceptible to infections. If you want to avoid getting sick, try to avoid stress.
Well... That's some pretty terrible stuff. As I said, stress is VERY hard on your body. Luckily there are things you can do to cope with stress and avoid some of these icky symptoms. These include:

  • SLEEP - be sure to get a good nights rest, 8 hours if you can manage it.
  • EAT PROPERLY - most people eat junk when they're stressed out, but by making sure you eat well balanced meals in healthy portion sizes you'll be doing your body a huge favor.
  • EXERCISE - this one is huge, most people feel too tired when stressed out to work out, but this is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It helps you burn off some steam and is good for your body. Take a walk/jog/run or head to the gym and pump some iron for half an hour. You may not feel like you have time, but usually when you are stressed and feel that way is when you need to work out the most. Make time and you'll feel much better for doing it.
  • PLAN AND PRIORITIZE - planning you schedule, making a to do list, and prioritizing things you need to accomplish can help if you're feeling overwhelmed. Start with some of the small easy stuff and cross these tasks off your list when you are done. This can give you a sense of accomplishment and be a moral booster. You can do it! Don't over-schedule yourself. Also, when setting goals, be sure you are setting SMART goals.
  • RELAX and/or MEDITATE - be sure to take some down time. Take a hot bubble bath, lay down in a quiet place and just focus on breathing techniques, meditate, do something that you find enjoyable and non-stressful. Taking a little time to do something for yourself can help you feel rested and restored. It can quiet your mind and give you better focus and more perspective. One thing I think people don't do enough these days is slow down and relax. Sometimes it really is ok to just do nothing.
  • TALK IT OUT - talk with friends or family, someone you trust about your anxiety, apprehension, and stress. Sometimes just being able to talk it out helps and you'll feel a lot better after you've just gotten it out of your system. Plus, friends and family also usually form a great support network and can be a great source of encouragement and helpful advice. Avoid negative people or people who are more likely to contribute to your stress. 
  • AVOID IF POSSIBLE - finally, avoiding stressful situations (if you can) is the best way to deal with (or not deal with as the case may be) stress and it's side effects. 
So, if you're feeling stressed out, take a walk, eat some fruit and nuts, make a to do list, remember to breathe. Just remember, this too shall pass and you'll be all the stronger for it. Talk to people who are supportive and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Have a good week all. I believe in you!


Sunday, July 31, 2011

7 Essentials for MA students and teachers

Last of the information I'm going to post from the Miller Seminar, I debated back and forth about whether to post this or not, but I feel this is pretty essential information. These are all things most dojos don't cover but SHOULD. This is essential for both students and instructors to know. If you're interested, Meditations on Violence covers everything much more thoroughly. I'll be posting information from and a review of Facing Violence once Sensei Nick brings it back from Singapore and I get a chance to read it. ¬.¬

Self Defense - 7 things you (and your students (or teachers)) NEED to know:
  1. Legal and Ethical - Legal - Don't go to prison for doing something you thought was ok. Disarm/disable the attacker and get the heck out. Don't disarm him and then stab him with his own knife and kick him while he writhes in pain on the ground. Ethical - know your own laws. Know where your glitches and lines are, know what you can and can't do.
  2. Violence Dynamic - its stupid to study Martial Arts/Self Defense without studying how violent predators attack. That is the question, Martial Arts is the answer. You cannot study the answer without knowing the question. In addition, do not train against stuff that never happens in real life. Study how people really attack and work to that. 
  3. Avoidance / Evade and Escape / DeEscalate - Avoidance - Avoid places where violence happens. If violence does happen, Evade and Escape! Run towards safety and away from danger, this means running towards lights and people, remember witnesses, etc. Deescalate - know when you can and when you can't. If someone is in an altered state of mind, you probably won't be able to talk them into calm, rational thought, so best just get out and notify the authorities.
  4. Operant Conditioning  - when confronted with a new situation, people go through the OODA loop. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. To limit the amount of time it takes you to get through the OODA loop, you need a decision stick instead of a decision tree. Keep things as simple as possible to narrow down your reaction to Stimulus - Response Stimulus - Response Stimulus - Response etc. 
  5. Freeze - EVERYONE freezes, this is normal, the only thing you can do to try to break the freeze is to tell yourself to do something, and then you have to make yourself do it. Then you'll want to freeze again, so you have to make yourself do something again. 
  6. Fight - in a fight, your skills WILL go to shit, you won't know anything, you won't know who or how or why, or anything, bad guys smell and they don't care if they get in your space and they hurt you. If you are losing badly, then you have nothing to lose, so anything and everything goes. If you're going down, take the guy with you.
  7. Aftermath - there will be legal, medical and psychological aftermath. As far as the immediate goes, GET SAFE, CHECK YOURSELF FOR INJURIES, and then CALL IT IN ASAP. If you are OK with what happened, THAT IS OK, don't let some counselor tell you that you are broken and should have damage and trama. If you aren't ok with what happened, that is ok too! You WILL be ok, You will change and grow and you will never be the same again, but you will be ok.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spider Sense and Safety Words

"My spider sense is tingling..."

When I first began discussing the idea of studying Martial Arts seriously again with Sensei Nick, we talked about all kinds of things. Nick recommended authors to me like Miller, Kane, Wilder, and Abernethy. He sent me ideas for drills. He even mentioned at one point it might be interesting to go bar hoping some weekend to watch for fights. NOT participate, but just observe.

I kind of liked the idea because I haven't ever really been exposed to violence before. How can I teach the martial arts without having some idea of how violence happens and what it's like. Reading Miller's work helps with this, but in the end I figure it's kind of like reading romance novels to learn about sex. Each experience is different, and while people can tell you what it's like, until you actually do it for yourself you really still have no idea.

So when I made the decision to be an Uchideshi, I knew I was going to be in for some interesting experiences. Little did I know they were going to happen so quickly.

Sensei Nick currently teaches classes on Monday and Tuesday at a small dojo in the next town over. (When he's in the country anyway) After our Aiki class Sensei Nick had me going over kata. It was just Sensei Nick, his daughter Emma and I in the dojo. It was late, after 9:30pm, and dark outside, etc.

Sensei Nick was sitting on the mat, I was doing my kata, and his daughter was sitting next to him. A guy walks into the dojo and sits in the chair and starts to watch. He doesn't say anything. I IMMEDIATELY get a strange vibe off this guy and start to feel pretty uncomfortable. I finish up my kata and Nick stands up and says its time to go. Emma and I start to turn the fans off and the guy moves over to the counter to talk to Nick. I can't hear what is being said, but Emma and I are on the other side of the room and Nick looks over at me and tells me to take Emma and go wait in the car. Now I'm starting to feel really bad about the situation. I'm not 100% sure what to do at this point, but I trust Nick so I take Emma (who is 10) and we go wait in the car.

I have a million things going through my mind. Do I call the cops? Is Nick ok? Does this guy just want to talk? Is he going to rob Nick? Does he have a knife or a gun? From where we were parked I could see inside the dojo and was trying to look in the mirrors to see if I could see where Nick and guy were, but I couldn't. I trust Sensei Nick, I know he can handle himself and I know he could seriously mess someone up if he had to. But I would rather not take the chance. Emma and I had only been in the car for a few minutes before another car pulled up and started honking. I could see a mom and a kid inside. The kid jumped out and ran up to the dojo, so I assumed they were this man's family. Shortly thereafter Nick and the guy came out and he got in the van and Nick got in the car with us.

Nothing bad happened, but my heart was pounding.

The conversation on the drive home was of course what to do next time something like this happens. I KNEW something was not right. Nick has mentioned the book "Gift of Fear" many times, because people often tell themselves they are being paranoid, but you do not want to ignore your intuition. EVER. This can save your life. We have that tingly spider sense for a reason. Don't ignore it. In the seminar earlier this month Miller mentioned not to ignore your subconscious either. He said when your subconscious goes off, to look around and see what has triggered it. Have an internal dialogue with yourself and talk to your subconscious. The more you learn to have your subconscious and your conscious communicate with each other, the more things your subconscious will notice.

In the end Nick and I devised a system. If something happens again and he says something like, go wait in the car or whatever, and tugs on his ear while he says it, I will promptly leave and call the police for help. It turns out the guy was drunk and he did have a knife, but he didn't pull it on Nick. He just wanted to talk. Thankfully. Since I tend to fidget with my hair and pull on my ears and stuff a lot we decided the best thing would be for me to have a verbal cue. "Everything's good in Tokyo." means "HEEEEELP!"  Maybe all of this is a little silly, but I feel much better having a code to be able to communicate distress in a situation where you can't necessarily actually ask for help.

I'm glad the situation wasn't critical, no one was hurt, nothing bad happened, but it was certainly a good learning experience and sparked some really good conversation.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Setting your doubt aside

This week has been pretty crazy so far. Made the drive down to Oklahoma, by myself in a car with no AC on Monday night. Have been intensely job hunting, trying to finish up projects, reconcile feelings, have bumped into people that I haven't seen in years, among other things. Overall, its been kind of emotional.

Mainly, I am working on getting settled in at Sensei Nick's. I can't exactly say we've hit the ground running as far as martial arts is concerned, but that's probably not a bad thing. Having a few days to adjust and sort of plan things out has been pretty nice. I did a lot of job hunting this week and hopefully something will come through for me soon.

Later today we're going to solidify the uchideshi schedule and tomorrow we're going to start our practice run for the week.

In the mean time we've been sparring a bit and going over Heian Nidan. I really REALLY love kata. But I have to say, I've never had to struggle so much with learning a kata before. Sensei Nick is such a technical teacher, it really opens your eyes to how much some of the other schools are leaving out when they teach you these things. I cannot even begin to tell you how many things have been left out of my instruction prior to now. Aiki kata are different than kempo or karate kata, and even though Sensei Nick went over them in detail with me while I was studying under him in high school, it's not the same level of involvement as now.

Over the last couple days I have become increasingly aware that I am going to be the biggest obstacle I will have to face in my training. I am incredibly self critical and I get down on myself or discouraged very easily. I am usually pretty good about keeping after it and doing something anyway, but it can be difficult to focus and slow you down if you allow negative thoughts to take up space in your mind.

Sensei Nick sat down and had a conversation about this last night after we finished going over Heian Nidan. He said that fear and doubt are normal and that everyone experiences them, the trick is to be able to acknowledge those feelings, and then set them aside and continue to do what you need to do. To be able to see that part of yourself, take it for what it is, but not let it control you.

This all kind of goes back to Miller's blog post about yes and no people. People who are trail blazers and refuse to allow fear and negative feelings to hold them back. I want to be like that. Even if it scares the shit out of me, I want to continue on the path I've chosen.

I want to leave you with a quote Sensei Nick mentioned last night in our discussion. "With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side." Hagakure

Have a good weekend all, tomorrow the uchideshi madness begins so I'll be sure to keep you all posted.

~ Samurai Girl Sahara