Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Know Thyself. Also, progress!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Results Were:

Blue/Red - The Doing Relater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all the best,

Samurai Girl

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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bullying isn't just for kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

Coping with Stress

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Friday, April 19, 2013

Seminars and Rank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just some food for thought.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Aikijutsu Video


In my last post, I mentioned Nick and I were going to make a video, and we finished it this weekend.

Not super happy about how it turned out. We didn't have a great camera to shoot with and we didn't really  have time to do a practice run so I am incredibly awkward on camera. I sound like a valley girl. I promise I'm not like that in real life. @.@

As mentioned several times it's just something for fun. It isn't meant to be a practical application video. It's more of, here are some fun techniques in Aiki and how the correspond to certain joints in the body.

I'm not a shodan yet, but Sensei Nick let me wear Hakama anyway, for fun. :D I'm only a mid rank and I've been out of class a few months so my techniques aren't that clean. I request you don't critique my technique since that isn't what this video is about.

I think that covers about everything. Without further ado: THE VIDEO!!!

*Edit, watched the video after uploading it on YouTube... I have NO idea what YouTube did to my video, but the text shouldn't bounce around like it does. Sorry about that. : /

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wilder Seminar Review II

A few weekends ago Nick and I got to attend one of Mr. Wilder's seminars. If you haven't had a chance to attend one of his seminars, you need to. This seminar presented different material from the last seminar that I attended with Mr. Wilder, which was pretty cool for Nick and I.

The first day/evening we took some time to review material from the last seminar. The closest seminars to us are hosted by Eric Parsons (who runs Karate 4 Life, which is pretty cool because it utilizes Martial Arts to help people, and all his seminars go towards fund raising, etc) in Missouri. By now, I feel like I kind of know everyone who attends the seminars and it is nice to see all the familiar faces. It feels like family. ^.^ Almost everyone there had attended Mr. Wilder's last seminar in Missouri, so it was neat to see how people have taken his teachings and incorporated them into their own practice.

There are definitely a lot of fundamentals that I need to improve on, and it doesn't help that I haven't been able to attend classes or work on Marital Arts a lot over the last several months. It's just another reminder that I need to make sure I make time for this and find a way to make a living doing what I love. But I digress.

Wilder uses structure and linear force to generate power. He talks about stacking the bones in your body and when he hits, it's really cool to watch. As I said in my last review of a Wilder Seminar, it's like Martial Arts Guru magic. It's neat stuff and it really works.

Day two delved more into the newer material. One of the first activities we did was to discover if we are a Runner, Grappler, or Striker. To do this exercise you need three people. One person stands in the middle and has one person behind them and one person in front of them. The person in the middle does something to get their heart rate up and to simulate stress. I.E. Running in place or doing fast jumping jacks. The person behind them positions them-self somewhere behind the person in the middle. The person in front watches to see when the person in the back is ready, and when the person in the middle is sufficiently stressed. They then yell "GO!" and the person in the back rushes the person in the middle. The person in the middle should then respond according to instinct. You need to do this several times (roughly 5) and see if the person in the middle runs toward, runs away, engages, or does something else, like assuming the fetal position.

After you have done this a few times you can look at your tendencies and determine if you are a Runner, Grappler, or Striker. The person behind you should mix it up a lot to make the situations different to see how you respond. Nick is grappler. I tend to be a little more situational.  If the person is very close to me, or I am caught off guard/by surprise, my first instinct is to run. If I can see them coming then I move in to engage.

So the point of all this is to practice to your nature. Wilder says that your nature is your nature, it is who you are and it isn't going to change, so you should embrace it and practice to your strengths. Particularly when you practice kata, you should practice with your tendencies in mind so you are thinking of applications that suite your instincts. Is that box block a grab and strike, grab and strike, grab and strike, or is it really more of a shihonage? Depends on if you are a striker or grappler. Work to your nature and practice accordingly.

We then talked about striking from a distance, which is more psychological than anything. Using your eye contact and your body language to control people. This is pretty cool stuff, and something I need a lot of work on. Homework: PEOPLE WATCH. Watch how people stand when they talk to each other, or when you talk to them, and them move your body to a different position and see how they react.

After lunch we covered kicking! I am particularly fond of kicking because while I don't have a tremendous amount of upper body strength, I DO have a great deal of lower body strength. We covered a few different types of kicks, including suni geri and two variations on a shomengeri kick. Wilder does a great job of explaining how to use structural/linear force and the stronger muscles in your hips to power your kicks as opposed to the rotational force we see everywhere else. I won't go into any more detail here because Wilder is really the best instructor for this.

Wilder then took the last hour of the seminar and turned us into monks. With ice cubes. It was epic.

Wilder also briefly covered something he calls the "Macta Bacalas" (and I'm probably spelling that wrong, Mr. Wilder, if you're reading this, please correct me) which is the warrior's path. I find myself really drawn to discussions and ideals of this nature regarding Martial Arts and Martial training. It's not that I idealize violence, but when Wilder talks about the difference between a warrior and a fighter, I can't help but want to be the warrior. I don't care about playing the game, or dragging the fight out, or winning for glory. I want to be the warrior that ends it, immediately. The Samurai mentality to some degree... knowing you could snap that ass hole in half like a twig, but not doing it because it's not worth it. It's very hard to articulate for me... I'll have to think more on it and post about it in the future. By the way, if you ever meet Mr. Wilder, he has some pretty amazing Samurai eyebrows when he does his Samurai face. You should ask him to show you.

ANYWAY, I of course wanted to know more about this "Macta Bacalas" but when I asked Wilder said it's something he created, which he covers in his newest book, which isn't out yet. I have since pre-ordered my copy of Dirty Ground and am hopeful that this topic will be covered in more depth.

Overall, it was another great seminar, and a good reminder that I really need to stop filling my life with distractions so I can work on what I really want... as soon as I figure out what that is. For now, I will continue with my art and once school is out I will go back to training. (Although I am very glad I took Anatomy and Kinesiology as the class was very interesting and I hope to have a video posted soon of a project Nick and I are working on inspired by the class).

Till next time, ja mata.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Long absence and life direction frustrations

Hi everyone...

I know its been forever since I posted... I've had a lot of junk going on lately in my life and I feel like I've been losing and re-orienting my direction in life a lot over the last year.

To understand where I am there are just a few things you probably need to know that will help everything make sense. I have a lot of student loan debt and a degree that I don't like. Well... I take part of that back. I do have a tremendous amount of student loan debt. Around 120k. And I have a BFA in Graphic Design and Interactive Media. Which is cool... except I don't want to work in that industry. I LOVE doing art... and I'm fairly good at it, but I like doing it on MY terms. I don't like clients dictating how the design needs to look, and I certainly don't want to work in advertising and convince people to buy things they don't need with money they don't have. I've probably mentioned all of this somewhere before in previous posts, so if I am repeating myself, I apologize.

What I have been struggling with over the last year or so is what to do next. Where do I go from here? I have been working several different very low end jobs to try to pay down my student loan debt, but I am not even close to making ends meat. Art is NOT a good profession to have in this kind of industry, and it is difficult to get other well paying work with an Art degree. Last year I made $8,000. My student loan payments are $1100 a month. You can do the math.

So I figured I probably ought to get back to school and get myself a degree that pays better and is in an industry I enjoy more. Because if you do what you love you'll never actually work a day in your life. I just... have no idea what I WANT to do. I keep feeling stuck.

For a while I thought personal trainer. Then I wasn't so sure about that. I am MovNat certified, but in Oklahoma, that is worth SHIT because it seems like everyone here is overweight and no one cares about their health enough to do anything about it. I have offered several seminars and I have never had one person call or show up. So that went out the window.

Then I got a job in a administrative type setting. I was working as a Customer Service Rep for a while. Which is a fancy way of saying secretary. But all three jobs I worked as a CSR over the last year were HORRIBLE and ended badly. Terrible bosses seem to be everywhere these days and it seems like people are being abused and mistreated in all levels of businesses these days. So... even though I've been trying to keep a steady job to work on paying my loans down, I seem to keep winding up places where the working conditions and the management are so bad I end up quitting because I refuse to put up with the terrible working conditions.

So I did some research and talked to a few people and decided maybe PTA would be a good fit. It's just an associates degree, they make decent starting pay, around 35k to 40k in Colorado, (which I am planning on moving back [home] soon.) So that would be good. So I took a few classes to see if I like the material and looked into prospective colleges and got my shadowing in line and everything. I took a Kinesiology class, which I absolutely love. I was thinking PTA would get to do a lot of things similar to the material we were covering in class, but incidentally, they don't get to do any of it.

So... now what?!

I keep thinking and thinking "what do I want to do with my life" and I keep coming back to running a school with Nick. That is what I want to do. So... instead of trying to find something to do to make money doing so I can do what I want, I need to figure out how to make Nick's school successful so I don't have to have a day job. I want my job to be the work that I love.

Nick and I have talked a lot about diversifying the school a little bit so that we can make the best use of the space. We would like to offer fairly comprehensive services to our students. We don't want our dojo to be open only a few hours a week in the evenings. Ultimately I think we want to offer self defense classes in the form of Applied Karate and Aikijutsu. We want to encourage our students to read works by Wilder, Miller, MacYoung, and others. We want to offer personal training and encourage good health and fitness practices in our students. (I will be honest, it is a huge pet peeve of mine to see Black Belts who are seriously overweight...) We want to offer nutrition classes on occasion and nutrition coaching if students want it. I think this would be great to have these resources available to students all in one place. I feel like so many schools never go into anything other than, let's kick and punch and go to tournament. People come to study martial arts for a variety of reasons, so why not try to help aid and encourage the diversity of those reasons and give students the resources they might want or need right there at the school?

I have read some stories of schools trying to diversify and that didn't work out for them AT ALL. One story was of a school that had a tea room and a pro shop attached and was about to go under till they got rid of both of those and made them classroom spaces and now the school does incredibly well. On the flip side there is a Krav Maga school in Denver that has two classrooms and a work out space and they do very well.  This is more along the lines of what I am wanting.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... while I have been trying to figure out 'what to do till we get the school going' and working, it just keeps taking more and more and more time away from me doing what I really love and what I really want to do: MARTIAL ARTS. Because school class times conflicted with dojo class times, (and I desperately wanted to take the Kinesiology class, which I am very glad I did) I haven't been able to attend any Martial Arts classes since December. And I won't be able to go back to classes till May. ARGH! It's killing me! I HATE not going to class. It's such a huge set back.

So what is the point of having a day job that I'm not making any money at any way, and that keeps me from getting closer to doing what I want to do? It all seems so backwards and frustrating. So I feel like I need to re-organize and re-prioritize my goals.

I DO want to go back to school, but I want to go back for a degree that is going to be the most useful to running a martial arts school and fitness facility. Through shadowing and taking a few classes this semester I think the things I want to do in addition to helping Nick manage the school and occasionally teach classes would be more on the fitness side and the mobility assessments and range of motion tests and such. There are a few different degrees that I am looking at, which would be a B.S. with a major in Athletic Training (which would be a lot of injury assessment and detailed bone and muscle knowledge), or a B.S. with a major in Health and Human Performance with a minor in Nutrition. (Which is exercise science and coaching and nutrition) either degree would be completed with intent to go on and eventually look at getting a Masters in Kinesiology.

The really frustrating part is that because I left Colorado, I no longer have residency there, and since that is where I will be returning to, I will be going to school there, and I don't think I can afford out of state tuition. ARGH. I feel like for every one step I take forward it is two steps back. >.< It's so frustrating. I just feel very stressed out about the whole thing. I know what I want... (I think...) I'm just not sure how I'm going to make it happen just yet...