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 TiffaniSahara.com 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