August Newsletter

To Catch the Wind

By Sensei Robert Mason

Some years ago when I still competed in Martial Arts tournaments I was flattered by a fellow competitor, who remarked that fighting me that day had been “like fighting a ghost.” No matter where he tried to strike he felt that there was “nowhere for the strike to land, nowhere for the kick to connect.” The “wind” principle is extremely important in Mu-Do-Kai from a physical point of view. One of my students, Sensei Tony Goodman, once mentioned that “we are rarely attacked by midgets”. This is the truth. What he was alluding to was that in self-defense situations it is usually people bigger or stronger than us who may attempt to bully us or take our stuff.

Obviously, against a bigger stronger offensive attacker, standing up to them, toe to toe may not be the best strategy to adopt. Techniques of the wind principle teach us to move aside and let the power of the oncoming force go past us. They teach us to yield and give way to the line of strength of the attacker, in such a way that we can catch them off balance, control their center of gravity, and execute our counter measures, against someone who has become weaker than us by virtue of a lack of self-control on their part.

Psychologically this can often mean giving way to someone whose passion is stronger than ours, but in such a way as to guide that passion in a direction that suits our own needs, and our own goals and desires. As you can see, giving way in this regard does not mean submission, it is rather a technique that allows us to be out of the way of the energy of an adversaries’ passion, in order that we may take control of it and utilize it for our own purposes, allowing us to redirect their energy with minimum effort on our part. This is an illustration of using an adversary’s strength against them, or blending with them to use all of their strength and power entirely to our own advantage.

As you may realize, the wind principle is not really as passive as it may seem at first sight. Rather, it is both active and decisive by nature, but by virtue of its ability to turn the power of others to its own ends, rather than relying on direct or initial strength.

You could visualize “wind” as a tornado or hurricane which are certainly among nature’s powerful forces, or you could see it as the breeze that frustrates a child’s efforts to catch an autumn leaf caught up in its revolving shifts, twists, spins, turns, rotations and gyrations.

The Philosophy Lesson

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about two Inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The students laughed.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, and your children; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

August contest

Unscramble the letters in each row to form a karate word and write the word in the spaces and squares provided. When all the words have been decoded, unscramble the letters in the boxes and fill in the answer below. Some answers may appear in your curriculum book. The winner will receive a free UKC t-shirt!

Encouraging excellence

By Sensei Kendra Smith

Kids learn from everything they see, hear, and do. How they are influenced depends on the source of their education, whether it be the television, their peers, their teachers, or their parents. I have observed the relationship between the children I teach here at the karate school with their educational surroundings, and have come to a broad conclusion: Kids are taught to follow, not to lead. And in our society, this is something that I believe desperately needs to change.

The first step is to understand that all children are different.

I have run into this particular issue on more than one occasion. For example, a pair of siblings of different ages and abilities and both holding the same belt rank are expected to progress through the higher levels at the same pace. But then, why aren’t they in the same grade in school? Because they are two completely different people. One is older, and therefore more developmentally mature than the younger. So how can the younger child ever expect to be treated as an individual when he or she is being driven to perform at the same level as the older child? There is no doubt in my mind that the younger child has the potential for the same skills as their older sibling, but would be more likely to succeed overall by taking the longer path. We instructors at the karate school understand this, and it is why we sometimes see a pair of siblings wearing different color belts.

I have had parents of come to me, asking why their child had not yet received his or her third stripe, after the child had asked the same question earlier in class. The child may have been decent with basics, relatively competent with pairs and adequate with kata. To me, it isn’t the child’s ability to pass the grading that is in question, but that the intermediate student decided that further effort is unnecessary. It dawned on me that some children would not have thought to ask for the third stripe had the parent not pressured the child to ask for it, and it made me sad that a parent would be willing to settle for mediocrity rather than excellence. I described to the parent that there was a level of skill that I was looking for, and that if the student graded now, their skills at the next level would suffer without a greater familiarity and better skill at the present rank, which would then lead to frustration and a loss of interest in karate. In one case I continued to monitor the child’s progress over time, and in the time that it took for him to earn his third stripe, he had achieved the level of excellence that I was looking for, and in doing so, he felt more comfortable teaching what he had learned to other students; he had become a leader.

One day after class, a young student came up to me and blurted out, ”You’re strict.” I confirmed the statement, telling him that if I didn’t conduct myself with that level of authority, that he wouldn’t have learned as much in class as he did that day. He thought for a moment, and told me that he appreciated that I was firm with him, that it made him want to execute his techniques better so that he could be the best in the class at his rank. And it occurred to me, this child had been taught to think like an individual. And the thing that pleased me most was that he didn’t have to learn it from me.

I have found that it isn’t enough to tell kids what they need to know over and over; they also need to learn how to think for themselves and discover their individuality and strengths. Only then will they truly understand the value of leadership.