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!