Sunday, May 27, 2012

Watching MMA

As mentioned in previous blog posts, I more or less live under a rock. I tend to be pretty detached from main stream anything. I don't own a T.V. that plays channels, I don't read the newspaper or watch the news, etc. I pretty much live in a bubble. I know this isn't really a good thing, but it's where I'm at right now, so it is what it is.

I went over to my mom's house a while back and she wanted to show me some MMA fights since I had never seen any. Yep. I've been practicing Martial Arts for several years now and I've never watched a boxing match or MMA match at all. My mom and step dad are pretty supportive of my Martial Arts goals and they link me all kinds of stuff, keep an eye out for articles, etc. and my mom is actually (and surprisingly) really big into MMA. She knows a lot of the fighters names and styles etc.

Well, my mom was telling me about some of the MMA fighters and how the Brazillian JuJutsu guys were pretty hard core, especially when they 'ground and pound'. She was also trying to explain how good this one guy was and how he just toyed with his opponents. I THINK it was Anderson Silva, but it's 11pm and too late to call my mom and double check. 

ANYWAY, so my mom pulled up the episodes she had recorded and was having me watch some. I got to thinking, as my mom was getting all excited and yelling at the T.V. and I was watching through my fingers over my eyes...

"Isn't this just a little bit fucked up?"

Pardon my language. But seriously: what is so wonderful and exciting about watching two guys get into the octagon and beat each other till they are bloody and broken? I mean... if you REALLY think about... that's kind of messed up. They beat the other guy till he gives up or can't continue anymore, and they stand up covered in blood with huge bruises already forming, black eyes, and the crowd goes totally wild. Woah.

And we've been doing it pretty much since the beginning of recorded history. 

We have rules to protect our fighters now, but gladiators competed in the Colosseum and fought to the death. Think about it... Two or more people got up in front of a crowd of thousands of cheering people and fought each other until all but one of them DIED. For ENTERTAINMENT.

All I can think is "Why?"

I'm about to open a huge can of worms with this, but I'm going to do it anyway and I'll try to be brief:

Violence is part of human nature. We can't escape it. It's part of who we are. 

I'm not saying we're not capable of mercy and compassion and love, but I don't think it's our first instinct or our natural tendency. When we don't understand something or we're afraid, humans generally react with violence. "What is that?" "I don't know.." "Kill it!"

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have things like Martial Arts, because everything would be love and rainbows and sunshine. No one would hurt each other or hate each other and things like rape and murder and theft wouldn't happen. But we don't live in that kind of world, so it's a moot point. Sorry hippies, you can't escape your programming no matter how much you try and you can't change anyone else either.

I would wager that, for whatever reason (religion/original sin, evolution, instinct, etc.) violence is in our nature. We can't escape it. During the time when there was no law and we had to defend ourselves, or abide by laws such as Hammurabi's code "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" being violent kept us alive, fed and our families safe. 

In today's 1st world countries, there is no need for that type of violence. We have police officers and a legal system to take care of the bad guys for us. So how do we get these primal urges out? Watching MMA, boxing, and wrestling, and if we can't satisfy our need for violence though those channels, or feel that the justice system fails us (bullies in school for example and teachers/principles who won't do anything) we have cases of monkey dances in bars, road rage, school shootings, etc.

I would almost argue that sport fights, or in the past, sport killings, are/were necessary to appease our darker sides and keep a greater peace. It keeps the real beast lurking inside content, keeping the rage and our violent natures at bay. 

The caveat being, real violence rocks us to our core. It touches and twists us in ways we cannot understand until we have experienced it first hand. Soldiers coming back from war, rape victims, people who have suffered gang beatings, people in the law enforcement industry. I have read stories about and talked to some people who have experienced real violence, and having to actually hurt someone, having to kill someone, being violated by someone, these are things that are utterly shattering to a person. They can take years to come to terms with and to get over. Some people never get over it.

If going through these things is so devastating to our psyche, then why do we crave violence and often react with violence first? Why is violence is such an integral part of our nature if it is so damaging to us?

Finding the answers will involve a great deal of research looking through piles and piles of information regarding history, culture, violence, psychology and philosophy. Even then I'm not sure there is one single right answer. I think most of Miller's work is going to be a good place to start, and following his sources. Reading work by other experts on the topic will help, so I will probably read some of Marc MacYoung's work as well. 

Still.... it's a big question... probably one with many answers.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's in your Supplement?

I recently went to GNC to get a small Blender Bottle for my mom for mother's day. (Which, if you haven't heard of these things, they're freaking amazing. Get one! They work for all kinds of stuff!) I can find the large/regular sized ones everywhere, but I have only found the mini ones at a few stores in my area. Anyway, She really likes Spark, and I wanted to get her something easier to mix it in then just a glass with a spoon. The mini size blender bottles work perfectly.

Anyway, the very nice guys at the store asked us what we wanted our blender bottle for and my mom said "Spark! I really love it!" Well, of course since Spark is through AdvoCare and not commercially available, they gave of some samples of things that they thought we would like better that we could buy at their store. Of course.

I got them home and put the samples in the pantry thinking I may get around to trying them eventually.

I work out at a CrossFit gym, I'm studying to be a personal trainer, and I do try to eat pretty clean. I will be the first to admit I don't eat anywhere near as much as I should, but at least I don't eat junk. Yesterday was a particularly challenging work out for me. I absolutely hate trying to get through a work out and lagging behind because my body just decides its physically done. I feel slow, I can't make myself keep going. Its AWFUL. I'm a bit of a perfectionist so to me it feels like failure, which is very difficult for me to deal with.

So, feeling incredibly tired, exhausted, pissed off, and miserable after my work out yesterday I decided maybe it was time to bust out some of those "EXPLOSIVE PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENT" samples. I had three different ones to choose from, so I looked them over. Then I got to REALLY looking them over and looking at the labels. That stopped me dead in my tracks. Has anyone seen the warnings on these things???

This one didn't scan so well, so it's hard to see. But basically most of these warnings are close to the same across the board. Don't use if you're under 18, don't use if you have a huge list of health conditions, don't use for more than 8 weeks, don't take any any other sources of caffeine or stimulants if you are taking these, discontinue use if you feel experience rapid heartbeat, dizziness, severe headache, shortness of breath, etc. If you're an athlete you need to consult the governing body of any  professional sports organizations because some of them have banned the substances in these supplements. 

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but that scares me a little bit. Why would I take something that could make me that sick or that has been banned by professional sports organizations, even on an amateur level? It probably works great... but is it worth it, dumping all that stuff into your body? Kinda turns me off.... 

No Thanks! I'll pass on the chemical cocktail. ¬.¬ Just for shits and giggles, lets take a look at what is in an AdvoCare Spark. (Which isn't necessarily designed to do the same thing, but since these are what the GNC guys gave me to try in lieu of Spark... why not compare?)

Hmm. If you're pregnant or nursing, check with a doctor (Which everything under the sun says that) and if you're sensitive to caffeine. 

As far as the caffeine, I've never drank a pop in my life, I don't drink coffee, I pretty much never consume caffeine. I have tea once in a blue moon, which is usually like 20mg of caffeine. I can drink these and be fine. If I eat too much dark chocolate (which is very high in caffeine) I get a massive debilitating migraine. By too much I mean something about the size of a Hershey bar. So I would say I probably qualify for caffeine sensitive. Other people who have similar issues have not had a problem with spark, or to be cautious they only drink half a Spark and are fine. Plus, AdvoCare products are all Informed Decision certified, which means there are absolutely NO BANNED SUBSTANCES in them.

If you work out and like to add a little zing to your routine or are looking to do so, I would caution you to please check the labels and consider carefully before you just start taking something, or check with your doctor of course.

I'm not a chemist or a pharmacist, so I don't know everything. But I know something with that kind of  a warning label definitely causes me to pause. Obviously every person is different and everyone has to find what works best for them. What do you find works for you or what, if anything, do you like to eat or use before a work out or cardio activity? 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Commercialization Rant

Today, Nick got his copy of MASUCCESS in the mail.

Nick gets these magazines in the mail from time to time, usually flips through them, and then they disappear. [I now assume they wind up in the trash] I ended up reading through this month's issue.

My reaction: WTF!?

Does most of the martial arts community subscribe to this?!? I can honestly say I would never recommend this magazine to anyone or any dojo. EVER.

How could I have been so sheltered!? I mean, I usually joke around and tell people that they may as well assume I live under a rock, because I'm never up to speed on things. But seriously!? I waved the magazine around in Nick's face and threw it down and stomped on it and demanded to know if this was the kind of crap that most dojos are subscribing to. Places like the place I studied Kempo at. Nick nodded. He said sometimes they have good articles, but for the most part it's all the same stuff like what you just read.

I flipped out.

The other day when I posted that I was fortunate enough to have found someone to help me bypass all the bull shit, I didn't realize what I was saying. I had no idea how much bull shit I was by-passing. I had some experience with bad kata applications and dojos that don't focus on proper form and balance and mechanics and all that, but it was a pretty brief stint all in all, maybe 6-9 months across all of them. Now I feel like I have some understanding as to why I felt so dissatisfied.

Has most of the Martial Arts world sold out!? When did everything become so commercialized? It's all MMA, and Belt Promotion 'shows' and ceremonies, and... and... the whole thing was full of bad articles and bad technique. It's ALL COMMERCIAL! There were more pictures of money in the issue than of people. (I'm not saying MMA is a bad thing, but I don't think MMA is what Martial Arts is REALLY about.)

Here are some gems from this month's issue:

Some dude who runs some schools over on the east coast, I'm sure his belt is the one Charles James posted an article about some time back. It's so torn up it hardly looks like it could even be a belt anymore. That's so unbelievably disrespectful. His quote "In our schools is a professional atmosphere with a professional instructor, not one-touch death and fake stuff. It's real and in your face – the way it was meant to be!"

Um... pretty sure the old masters didn't subscribe to the idea of MMA, and I'm willing to bet if someone like Abernethy or Wilder grabbed you by the throat and threw you down, as per the master's version of karate WAS MEANT TO BE, it'd be pretty close to one touch death for you buddy.

Another article details how to make a belt promotion into a great show! Have your students bring friends and family because the focus is not on the student, it's on the potential students. And "how to have a dress rehearsal", so that you can "put on a great show!" Not even joking. That was what they said, WORD FOR WORD. I wish I was making this up.

Another article was an interview with the man who perfected Heroic Musical Kata.  WHAT!?!? Musical Kata??? To quote Bunkai Jutsu, "The primary purpose of kata is to enable us to inflict pain upon our aggressors in response to unprovoked acts of violence." I feel like quoting the whole book! Musical Kata... JEEZ. It's reasons like this that tournaments are being won with back flips and other flashy but utterly useless techniques. This guy needs to be beaten with a copy of Bunkai Jutsu, I am tempted to ask Abernethy if he has a hard back copy somewhere that I could borrow just for this purpose.

10 books every Martial Artist should read...
Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Book of Five Rings
The Art of War
Zen in the Martial Arts
Way of the Peaceful Warrior
The Original Martial Arts Encyclopedia: A Century of Traditions, History and Pioneers
Living the Martial Way
The Essence of Karate (OMG! Gichin Funakoshi made it on the list... as number 8!?)
The Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do
No Holds Barred: The Complete History of Mixed Martial Arts in America

I think some of those might actually be worth reading... but there are some books I would very much liked to have seen on the list instead. I will be checking some of them out so I can form my own opinions, but I'm not holding my breath.

Finally, one of the last articles in the magazine. A 7 time champion performing Osoto Gari (major outer reap) and showing readers how to do it. Honestly, I'm not even a green belt in Aikijutsu yet, (8th kyu I think... White belt two stripes) and I know how to do a better Osoto Gari then what was pictured. Would I want to fight this guy? No. But STILL. HIS TECHNIQUE HAS GOT SOME MAJOR FLAWS IN IT!!! AAAAAAARGH!!!!! Drop your weight don't bend over!!!! You will get pulled to the ground and you don't ever want to be on the ground! DUH!


In all seriousness it really saddens me that such an attitude of money making and commercialization has swept across what seems to be the majority of the Martial Arts community. The true meaning of what it is to be a karateka, the real techniques, the fact that Martial Arts is self defense and not a sport... don't even get me started on all the articles listed about how to pump more money from your students. Yes, I do understand these places are running a business, and in a perfect world, this wouldn't be a problem. But really, I can't help but feel a little sick at how much of this magazine was focused on increasing profits.

This is precisely why I quite my job at a corporate design firm and refuse to get a job with an advertising agency. I will not subscribe to the idea of convincing people to buy things they don't really need with money they don't really have. I still work as a designer, but on my own terms. I will not do the same thing with my business, Nick and I are adamant, we do not want to fleece our students. Now, for a healthy dose of reality: Are these people rolling in money? Probably so. Am I living paycheck to paycheck with no extra income at all? Yep. Due to those conditions do I fully understand the gravity of that statement and following my moral compass? I'd say probably so. Will I waiver from that decision? Nope. It's not all about money people. Don't get me wrong, Nick and I would love to have a successful school full of students, but we would rather treat our students with respect and give them as close as we can get to what the master's meant karate to be at a good, legitimate price as opposed to rising the prices to make more of a profit and pulling the wool over their eyes by teaching sloppy ineffective technique for fast promotions and using elaborate belt ceremonies as a distraction.

Nick is always telling me to be constructive with my criticism, to write things in such a way as to offer suggestions, to not just complain, but to work to find solutions as well. Normally I agree, but this time I don't know what the answer is. I only know that I feel pretty sorry for all the McDojo's out there and even sorrier for their students. This Quote sums up how I feel. Honestly people, this time, I got nothing. : /

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Testing Fees

Testing Fees...

Sue C's blog post about the cost of obtaining a black belt got me thinking about infamous testing fees. I'm not sure what they are like in other schools or what everyone's experience with them is, but here is my two cents: Testing Fees are BOGUS.

(Not going to lie, that felt really good to type)

Anyway, I'm sure it varies from school to school and in what part of the country/world you are in, but here in the U.S. testing fees can be astronomical.

Sensei Nick's perspective: Part of the reason he left his old school was this very reason. He wanted to test for his 5th dan but the fee was $600. Nick has explained it as "$600 for no real perceived benefit. Over time my certificates felt like they were worth less and less because the people who were also earning them achieved them with less and less effort."

Think about it. If you take a college class, you pay for the class and the materials up front. You take the class. You have your mid terms, and you take your final. You pay for your books and materials up front at the beginning of the class. (You buy your Gi, sparring gear, patches, student handbook, etc. up front.) They don't charge you to take your midterm or your final. You may even have to buy your blue book, but it's only $2 or $3. (If you have to charge, charge them for the belt or the certificate, which might be $8) Plus, you don't raise the price based on the student. Can you imagine walking into the book store, picking up your scan-tron sheets or blue book and getting to the register and having the cashier ask you if you are a graduate or undergrad student? If you're a freshman it's $2, if you're a sophomore it's $4, if you're a junior it's $6 and if you're a senior it's $10. If you're a graduate student it's $20. For the exact same blue book.

From my point, which also actually ending up affecting Sensei Nick, though I didn't know it till much later: In 2004 and 2005 I was a student of Sensei Nick's while I was in high school. I was testing for my 9th Kyu, first stripe in Aiki. After I passed my test Sensei Nick told me I could pay my testing fee at the front desk. This was the first time I had heard of a testing fee and I stared at him for a moment before breaking into tears and walking away.

Some of my adult friends pulled me aside to find out what was wrong and I explained to them that I would have to skip classes next month in order to pay for my test as I could not afford to pay the testing fee (which was only $30) and tuition for the next month (Which was only $40) at the same time. These are not very big amounts, but at that time I was going to school full time, working two jobs and paying for most of my own expenses. I'm sure this is a pretty common story and everyone can relate to this on some level, if not in high school certainly in college. Every extra cent I had went towards class. I had maybe $2.00 in my bank account at the time, which was the norm between paychecks after I had paid for gas, insurance, lunches, and tuition for class.

My friends ended up paying my testing fee for me and in the process had to explain to Nick why they were doing so. I ended up moving away to college/Colorado a short time after that and had to leave the school, but when I got back in touch with Nick 2010 I found out that because of what happened with me he eliminated testing fees from his school altogether. He said that he "could not believe he had made someone feel the way that the ass hole who told him his next test was $600 had made him feel". Guinn Martial Arts does not have any fees outside of purchasing your Gi and monthly tuition. When we get our Karate classes attendance up we will probably ask students to purchase their own sparring gear.

Sensei Nick and I are of the opinion that rank/testing fees are generally a way for more commercial schools to pump more money out of their students. Of course some people/instructors might try to defend their testing fee by saying "It covers the cost of the test and the belt and the certificate." etc. I do understand you have to run a business and make a profit to live, but at what point do the charges become exorbitant?

I don't know how most schools do testing, but I can say that most of the schools I have attended hold testing during normal dojo hours, at least until you get to brown or black belt and your tests are taking 3 hours or more. Even then, most of the schools I know of still hold these tests at certain dates of the year instead of Saturday classes, or other happenings during dojo open hours.

Nick has looked into and divided out the costs of common testing materials. A certificate costs no more then $2.00 per certificate to print, even on nice paper with color ink (It's closer to $1.20). A belt generally costs $5.00. With the exception of black belts which can cost up to $20, plus embroidery which can cost up to $30, raising the total cost of a very nice black belt to $50. Boards for breaking run about $1 a board.

I had a second experience when I was studying Kempo, they wanted me to test for my Orange belt and I told them I could not afford the testing fee. They pretty much insisted I attend the test that month and I needed to pay my fee in advance. It was a $75 fee on top of the $195 a month I was already paying for classes. My yellow belt test had been $60, and the fees went up with every belt. I looked my instructor square in the face and told him that if it was that important to him then I would test, but in order to do so I would be going hungry that month. He blinked at me like it had never occurred to him that people might not actually have money oozing out of their pockets.

So, if the dojo is open anyway, and the instructor would normally be running a class, and materials/supplies are generally under $10.00 per student per test, why are schools asking students to pay $65, $70, $120, $300, $600 and up per test???

Are organizational fees really this high??? Sensei Nick said that when he was looking at registering his black belt with different international organizations it was $25 and $35 to register, depending on which organization he went with. They didn't take registration for anything less then black belt. So why ask students to pay $400 for a 1st kyu or even 3rd kyu? If an organization's fees ARE this high, you should probably take a really good, long, hard look at what you get for being a member.

What are your school's testing fees? Do you feel these are adequate or exorbitant? Does your school do anything special for testing? (One school I went to gave t-shirts, a belt, and a certificate with your new rank.) If you ran your own school, or if you do run your own school, what would be/what is your testing fee policy and why?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Seminar Attitude

This is NOT the review of the Wilder Seminar. If you are looking for the review of the Wilder seminar, it can be found here.

**As a forewarning, this blog might upset some people, probably black belts. I honestly sincerely don't mean any disrespect by it, but I want to preface the blog with this disclaimer: I'm sorry if this upsets you and I do not hold this opinion to be universally true about all black belts.**

I recently attending a seminar. It was awesome. It was the third seminar I have been to, and the second martial arts focused seminar. (First was a Mr. Rory Miller seminar on violence, second was an Iain Abernethy seminar on Bunkai and Kata, and the most recent was a Kris Wilder seminar on power generation and application of this principle with some of the kata movements)

I did not get this vibe from the Miller seminar, probably because some of the first words out of Miller's mouth were "This is not about Martial Arts, this is about violence." and no one showed up in uniform.

However, I have to say something I experienced at both the Abernethy and the Wilder seminar has left me feeling rather perplexed. I felt it quite a bit more at the Abernethy seminar then the Wilder seminar, but it was still there.

Generally speaking I am usually one of the youngest and lowest ranking people there, but not usually via the same person. There are younger attendees who hold black belts, and older attendees who hold green and brown belts. There have been one or two other people younger then myself and maybe 3 to 5 people who are not black belts at these seminars. Overall, there are not a lot of us 'newbies' at these seminars. It's probably 90% Black Belts. I am not sure if the other lower ranking students feel the same way I do, but I usually feel a distinct 'mood' emanating from some of the black belts who attended the last two seminars I went to. Both seminars, walking into the room first thing on the first day, I feel a general air of... I want to be politically correct, because I do not want to hurt feelings or step on toes, that's honestly not the purpose of this post, but to be blunt I feel like a lot of people are looking down their nose at each other.

I have never felt this feeling or attitude from any of the hosts or presenters of the seminars that I have attended, and I certainly don't get this vibe from all the participants either. This is not a blanket statement. However, this feeling does come and go throughout the seminar, and I feel like most everyone is on guard and is always slightly on the defensive. I see a lot of dour expressions.

(There was a brief discussion following the seminar about this, and the comment was made "I don't think those kind of people come to these seminars, I think everyone here wants to learn." I'm not sure I entirely agree with that. Perhaps I am just imagining it though? I agree that close minded ignorant martial artists will more then likely not sign up for these types of seminars, and I do think that everyone there wants to learn, but I just don't get the feeling like the attitude is all bubbles and roses and sunshine. And yes, I am aware that Martial Arts is a serious subject, but like Miller has stated, you learn things better if you have fun with it.)

I'm not sure where this sense of standoffish-ness comes from, but I don't like it. I think it would be cool if all the attendees left their belt at the door and put on a white belt for the duration of the seminar. I think it would be neat if everyone would let go of their pretenses and insecurities and just have a good time and enjoy themselves. Introduce yourself to people, make a point to go talk to someone you don't know, ask them about their style, work with different partners and be excited about it for godssake! We get this chance to work some of the heavy hitters in the industry and I think we should make the most of it, not spend time sizing each other up and worrying about if the person next to you knows more then you.

Are you worried that your partner is going to hurt you? Are you worried about looking weak? Do you feel like you have to uphold your black belt macho attitude? I don't get it! Please help me understand why I saw almost no laughing or excitement. If you do feel this way, maybe other people feel this way too. (I did see SOME, especially when people are doing the drills, but I also saw a lot of eyeing up and turned backs during breaks or before or after the seminars.)

Whatever you're holding on to, let it go!

This little orange belt would be pretty darn excited if everyone came with an empty cup, an open mind, and a willingness to work with others, to listen, and to drop the pretenses, to go as slow or as fast as your partner is comfortable, to hit as hard or as soft as your partner is comfortable with, to be willing to scale back, to not be embarrassed to ask your partner to scale back if that's what you want.

We are all there to learn and to have fun. We all come from different backgrounds but we are united by our passion for the martial arts. No one is out to get you, no one is out to make you look stupid or feel like a fool in front of everyone, no one cares if you don't know something specific that the person next to you might know; you may know something they don't! No one cares what color your belt is, or how many stripes are on your belt or how long you have been training. We are all equals there to learn, share, practice, and enjoy.

I know I just said that no one cares what color your belt is, but perhaps because of this general vibe it can be very intimidating for a low ranking student to walk into a room full of black belts. (For those of us who don't have a black belt, it can best be described as the black belt complex. You know it shouldn't matter, but you can't help but fixate on it to some degree till you have it) I just didn't feel overly welcome till the host and presenter showed up, I didn't see enthusiasm or excitement, I saw sideways glances and people sticking to clicks/schools.

I will be the first to admit, I am just as guilty of this myself. I tend to mainly work with Sensei Nick during these seminars. Partly because I am shy, partly because I have a very strong sense of trust with Sensei Nick and it can be unnerving for anyone to work with a stranger, and partly because I didn't feel like most (not all, but some) of the other attendees wanted to work with an orange belt. It's very difficult sometimes for us newbies to come out of our shell and approach you 'towering black belts' who have been doing this for 10, 20, 30 years or more. Does anyone else feel this way?

Last night in class, we talked about how cool the seminar was and are encouraging out students to attend the Brent Yamamoto seminar. We had a student, a white belt, say he didn't want to go because he was afraid he would be in the way, or he wouldn't be able to keep up with the material. Sensei Nick and I tried to encourage him, but I got the feeling that that is why a lot of lower ranking students don't attend these things. If he were to attend, I couldn't honestly guarantee that he wouldn't pick up on some of the attendees not wanting to work with him because they, too, felt he would be in their way, etc.

It can be really scary attending a seminar for the first or second time, especially as a lower ranking student. We feel like mice among giants! You're the role models, you're the ones we all look up to for guidance and acceptance. We need your welcoming attitude and encouragement, not your aloof detachment. In our minds you embody the black belts we want to become. Think about that for a minute... We're watching your every move to see how a real black belt behaves. If you snub other schools, your students will do the same. If you go out of your way to talk to other people, to share information, to be pleasant etc, your students will follow your lead, especially when you encourage that type of behavior.  Do you want your students to be like those of Cobra Kai or those of Mr. Miyagi?

Sensei Nick and I discussed this on the way home, and he said that honestly the two seminars that we have attended together were pretty good. He's been to seminars that were almost downright hostile. Has anyone else had any type of experience like this? What have you done to get past it?

There were some suggestions like forcing people to work with different partners on the first day, but then letting people work with people from their own school on the second day so they can collaborate and be able to take the material back to their own schools better. Miller did this at his seminar and it seemed to work pretty well. It was only a one day seminar that I attended but by the end of the day it wasn't a big deal/awkward to go introduce yourself to someone and change partners every time.

I've decided that the next seminar I go to I am going to make a point to try to get there early and talk to as many people as I can before the seminar starts and during the breaks. To introduce myself and find out who they are and where they come from and what they study. This is going to be a huge challenge as I am actually pretty shy when I have to face people in person. In fact, I've gotten so nervous I've thrown up before! However, this is really important to me, so I want to push myself outside my comfort zone. We grow through challenge and adversity, not by staying in our safety zone.

So if I see you at the next seminar, you can bet I'm going to try to come over and talk to you. And if I suddenly dash off while we are talking, please don't be offended, I might be throwing up in the bathroom because I am so nervous, but by golly I'm gonna make the effort!