Problems at school?

As a Developmental Psychologist Mr. Mason has designed the children’s karate program here at the Dojo to work in conjunction with school activities. We have an ”on report” program that can be utilized to assist students, parents and teachers in an effort to improve student performance and behavior at school where necessary. Often parents mistakenly believe, with the best of intentions, that martial arts training should be withdrawn as a punishment when school work is not going well. Actually the martial arts, when taught from a personal growth and developmental point of view, can support and enhance performance and good habits in school. The qualities of focus, concentration and discipline that are required for success in the martial arts, are similar to those needed in the academic arena. So, if your child is having a problem at school please let us know here at the Dojo so that we can work with you using the principles of the martial arts to improve your child’s school performance. These aspects of child development work hand in hand, so that, when taken together, improvement in one area can lead to improvement in the other.

A Brief History of the Nunchaku

Nunchaku as a weapon originally comes from the Okinawan – archipelago, which is part of today’s Japan. In 1429, King Sho Hashi united the three parts of Okinawa, creating the Ryukyu Kingdom. To maintain peace in his kingdom, he outlawed carrying weapons except for the king’s army and nobles. The law left the people of Okinawa helpless against the swords of soldiers and thieves.

In the beginning of the 15th century, Okinawa was occupied by Japan. To defend themselves against Japanese Samurai and other possible dangers, people all over the Okinawan villages began to practice martial arts. They also formed secret groups who fought against Japanese soldiers.

The warlords were alarmed by the development and declared that anyone found carrying any kind of weapon would be killed. In these bad days only one knife for a complete village was allowed – this knife was stored in the village square, tied to pillar. The villagers were allowed to take this knife only for a few hours, and then only after confirmation from the village leader.

Citizens mainly practiced unarmed arts of to-te or Okinawa-te, which later became the basics for today’s karate; villagers usually trained in the use of everyday tools as weapons. In the hands of a kobudo practitioner usual tools were converted to weapons when needed – not such lethal weapons, as the sword or spear, but serious enough to really increase their chances to defeat armed opponents.

In the list of the most popular tools, which were learned in kobudo as weapons, were such things as staff (bo or rokushakubo), baton (hanbo), sickle (kama), handles from the millstone (tonfa) and, of course, Nunchaku.

Popular myth says, that Nunchaku were used originally as a flail, but some people dispute this – the Okinawan flail, like that of the Europeans, has a handle as tall as a man, and such tools were also used as Kobudo weapons.

Nunchaku were said originally to have been used as a horse bit. Original Nunchaku sticks were curved and only later developed into the model which is used today – with straight handles. Few Nunchaku kata are known today (by comparison – more than a dozen traditional staff katas are still studied).

The lack of popularity of Nunchaku in Okinawa came probably from its minimal effectiveness when used against a sword or staff – in a such situations tonfa or kama were felt to offer a better chance to defeat an opponent. But one who was skilled in Nunchaku usage was able to easily defeat a few opponents, who were unarmed or armed with knives. Today, when swords and spears are seen only in museums, the Nunchaku has become one of the most popular weapons. Weapons similar to Nunchaku exist in many martial arts over the world.

Nunchaku are so popular today, that almost any new martial art integrates this weapon into its training. It is great for building timing and coordination skill, and for developing the lines of motion required for training with the Katana (long sword of the Samurai).

Dominance and Martial Arts Philosophy

Dominance, and issues relating to it, are a feature of life for humans and animals alike. Wolves fight to establish or maintain a dominance hierarchy, siblings fight over who gets to hold the TV remote control and spouses fight over who gets to spend the money on a new motor cycle, or a new high fashion outfit. Who is dominant is an issue for life. The struggle for dominance can be seen at the beginning of most of the Junior classes, when, following the warm-ups, we see the competition over who should stand where in the line; in spite of the fact that the students’ belts and stripes largely define the order. Everyone gets to take class, no matter where they stand in line. It’s not an issue worth fighting over, and yet youngsters will contend for territorial dominance in this instance.

Who is the boss? Who is in charge? This is often how we perceive who has the power in a situation. We don’t want to be bossed around. In a society where “the customer is always right” there is often the idea that the consumer of a product or service is “in charge.” In Martial Arts it does not work that way. The Sensei is in charge. He is dominant. The students, starting from the most senior among them, form a hierarchy beneath the Sensei, based upon their rank. Where that rank is equal, they are encouraged to be modest, humble and deferential towards each other. The real test of their ability to be respected as dominant, lies after all, in their ability to perform.

While Martial Arts teaches respect for everyone, it also teaches the importance of winning, of being dominant, where issues of real importance are concerned. Additionally, Self Mastery is held to be of more value than dominating others. Respect is a by-product of this dominance hierarchy. For example, if a lion cub does not respect a male lion, he may end up being hurt, or even killed. Similarly, if a person does not respect a judge in court, they may end up going to jail for their attitude of contempt.

We ask that all students develop a proper respect for the traditions of the Dojo, and remember that respect for property is a part of this. Training equipment, magazines, displays of photographs and even the paint on the walls are all part of the dojo, the place where we train. It is important that everyone who enters this special space shows the proper regard for both the space and each other. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

 Sensei Robert H. Mason c2000

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