A Responsible Balance

Martial Arts can teach us to be disciplined, strong and self-aware. Martial Arts classes are a wonderful opportunity for growth and learning, and they are worth as much time and energy as we can give. Nevertheless, there are other important responsibilities in our lives that require the same commitment time and energy as our Martial Arts training. Although it can be a challenge, it is important to strive for a balance that will allow us to perform our best in all areas. Balancing our responsibilities to our job or schoolwork, our family, and other commitments with our Martial Arts can be a daunting task, but it is a task that we can do if we learn to manage our time well. Here are several ways to do this:

Keep a schedule of when you have to be where. Set up times to practice your Martial Arts do any homework, spend time with your family, and any other activities that you might be involved in. This will help you visualize your activities and establish time priorities.

Set goals for yourself. For example, you might write down that you will work on your forms for at least 30 minutes, complete all your homework, practice a piece on a musical instrument or write a page or two in your journal. By setting these daily goals for yourself you can ensure that you are staying on track.

Maintain self-discipline when it comes to doing tasks that you often don’t feel like doing. We can all go into resistance at the idea of working at home, but sometimes we have to do it anyway. Being disciplined prepares us for success in life. Remember that discipline is at the heart of the Martial Arts, and is the source of mankind’s greatest strength, the inner strength of that comes from self-control.

Have fun of course also! It is healthy to spend time with your friends, relax and not always feel over burdened. Going outdoors and getting fresh air is a great relief when you can enjoy it to it’s fullest. Having friends to talk to and spend time with is great as well. Don’t take on so many responsibilities that you don’t have any time left for yourself. What good would everything you learned be if you did not have anyone to share your experiences with?

Once you got into the habit of balancing your responsibilities you will find it easier and easier to do. Being able to juggle many different activities at once is a wonderful skill to have, because it will allow you to develop in many different areas and take advantage of the many opportunities that will present themselves to you in your lifetime. It is not always easy to do, but practicing the discipline of finding a responsible balance will help you develop into a well-rounded individual, an essential part of achieving Black Belt excellence in the pursuance of Personal Mastery!

The Importance of Understanding Friends

Most likely you have heard it stressed that the Martial Arts is more than just a physical discipline; that it is a discipline that develops both the mind and body. The presence of mind that the Martial Arts demand helps us to make wise and thoughtful decisions. Often these decisions involve choosing others as friends—and all of us would like to choose good friends, people we can consider real "team players".

It is sometimes very mysterious why we choose who we do as friends. Often we like a person right off the bat based on some intuitive thought or feeling. Other times we observe someone for a while with admiration, and build up to a formal introduction. Friendship is a wonderful thing, often beyond words, and is sometimes sparked by what we commonly call "vibes", or a strange and electric power of attraction this is what gives friendship such a strong and almost magical power to tie people together so closely. All the same, our first impressions can be mistaken. Many of us realize we have made mistakes before in the friends we have chosen.

There is no way to be certain that everybody you choose as a friend will turn out to be a team player or a "good buddy", but Martial Arts schools are a terrific place to meet new people. Many life-long friendships have begun in the Dojo. Here are some tips on how to choose friends that might be right for you:

[a] Look for people who share the same basic values that you do. Karate teaches you certain values and principles that you should know to look for. Honesty, respect, self control, these are all good qualities that a lot of people share. Having friends with these qualities will make it a lot easier for you to feel relaxed and at ease when you are with them. You want to develop friendships that will be both fun and rewarding.

[b] Look for people who respect your decisions. Your friends will have different tastes than you do, and they should respect your freedom of choice, just as you should respect theirs. Sometimes you may feel that a friend is not making a positive choice, or a friend may feel that you not making a positive choice. Discuss these issues. Nothing is more important to friendship than open communication and honesty. Discuss these issues with your parents and Sensei as well.

[c] Look for people that are real team players. You know what that means: people who are willing to stick by you through thick and thin, will be there when you need them, and will show you the understanding that you in turn give back. A friend that you know you can depend on will be a friend for life! There will be times when you feel that a friend of yours is consistently making bad choices, or is not treating you with respect. The Martial Artist takes pride in understanding: try to see where your friend is coming from, and try to resolve any differences that you might have. Feel free to speak to your your instructors. They have the benefit of experience, and are always looking out for your best interests. There are very few things as precious as having good friends, and you should not let them go easily. Hold onto your friendships; let your friends know you value them and do your best to solve problems as quickly as they arise. Trust your instincts and follow your heart!

Beware of Overtraining

All Martial Artists know the importance of hard work and dedication. Your instructors are always telling you that it is necessary to train even when you are not in class if you want to become proficient in the Martial Arts. So how could you possibly overtrain? What does that mean? Isn’t it better to overtrain, if such a thing is even possible?

Overtraining is possible, and it is not in your best interest as a Martial Artist. Martial Artists develop greater and greater levels of fitness over a period of time. There is a maximum level of growth that the body is capable of achieving at any given time, and it is important to keep this in mind as you train.Flexibility and Power take

Exercise in intervals: 20 minutes of intense aerobic exercise can be more than enough, especially if it is alternated with strength building moves like push-ups or sit-ups. For maintaining a consistent exercise routine either can or will result in effective results while reducing the chance of injury. Try doing this rather than pushing yourself to maximum one day, then giving up the next. Remember to include warm up and cool down exercises to allow your muscles to adjust to new levels of activity.

Practice new techniques: Learning a new technique is like learning to walk: you must program your brain with the patterns and balance involved so that the actions become automatic and precise. Trying to perform a new technique before your muscles have adjusted to the challenge may cause injury. Make a point of consistently practicing new techniques; work on them at a moderate pace until they are second nature.

Respect your body’s limits: Your body knows that there are some actions that it cannot perform. Perhaps someone in your class can do a full split without a problem, but you feel a lot of stress only halfway down to the floor. Focus on finding ways to increase your skill and fitness level in a way that respects your body’s limits. You will eventually be capable of performing the tasks your Martial Arts ambitions demand without doing damage to your body. Above all, pay attention to factors like fatigue, hunger, and illness. A well rested, hydrated, and nourished body will accommodate more physical stress than a neglected one.

The Martial Arts take time and patience to learn, and an even longer time to master. The body and the mind must both become properly attuned before the Martial Artist can reach the point where the techniques and the mindset work together harmoniously. It has been said that until the student has reached the level of Black Belt, the student is only preparing to be a Martial Artist. The real training begins once one has achieved that first degree. Rigorous training is most successful when you make a conscious effort to listen to the messages your body sends you.

The Schools within the School at UKC

Because we teach the Mugendo system at University Karate Center, we can consider that there are several schools within the school. Mugendo means"unlimited way", so that all martial arts principals are included in our training. Mudokai Karate basics are taught daily and form the basis of our martial arts study. For adult students we offer "Funkicks" kickboxing classes three days a week. These classes are a useful introduction to martial arts for adults looking for a fun and intense workout, but who do not yet feel ready to begin martial arts training. They are also a great training tool for adult martial arts students looking to build up their cardio conditioning and hone their skills in the circuit training portion of the workout. The Friday morning Karate class is similar to the circuit training portion of the Funkicks class, except that it is conducted barefoot and the dress code is Karate pants with belt and a school tee shirt. The Tuesday and Thursday night Karate classes have a focus on self defense applications, and allow more development of the students’ knowledge of Jiu Jutsu. Our Mudokai style draws on techniques from the Shindo Yoshin Ryu Aikijiujutsu system. My Sensei’s Sensei, professor Hironori Ohtsuka was the Grandmaster of this style, before he founded the Wado Ryu Karate style which combined Karate and Jiu Jutsu. Thursday nights are also when we offer Kobudo, practice in the art of Okinawan weapons. Junior students who are members of the Black Belt Club have their own Kobudo classes also on Thursdays. For the more advanced Karate students, classes are offered weekly in Kata (Forms) and Strategy (Sparring). These classes allow junior and adult students to meet the criteria for promotion through the Karate ranks to Black Belt and beyond. They also offer a training regimen to prepare for martial arts tournaments, should that be within the student’s realm of interest. Tai Chi Chuan is available to adult students on Sundays. Sensei Stamp teaches the Wu style of Tai Chi to adult students at the beginning and advanced levels.

Our goal at the center is to train martial artists who can cope with attacks utilizing all three major martial arts principals. 1) Striking, which includes all punches, kicks, blocks and strikes. 2) Taking the foundation, which includes all sweeps, throws, takedowns, projections, kick-throughs, kneel-downs and step-downs. 3) Taking a limb, which includes all arm, wrist and finger locks. All leg, ankle and toe locks. All neck and head locks and grappling techniques. We have it all available for you, your friends and family. As you train and benefit from our program we hope you will take the opportunity to recommend University Karate Center to those who might be interested in our broad and thorough curriculum.

Sensei Robert H Mason, Chief Instructor (c) 1998