Is Kyokushin Practical for Women ?

Fresh off the back of another awesome Karate camp…I’m reflecting on some things that I have been wondering about of late. Many of the things I have been thinking about , and or heard over time was re-iterated or confirmed by various high level instructors over the weekend.

I have therefore definitely now come to the conclusion that Kyokushin Karate, as it is taught in most dojo’s, is not perfect for self defence. It’s almost detrimental. It’s even less suited to smaller women and children.

Now I understand that I am not a Kyokushin Scholar, and I cannot recount the many changes and periods that have perhaps come to pass over time, nor can I remember dates and the names of all legendary fighters and instructors…but i feel that my 24 years of constant training gives me some eligibility for comment. That…and the fact that I AM indeed one of those smaller women makes me a good case study.

My exposure to years of Muay Thai and attendance at a good number of seminars and fantastic instructors over the years – my brief exposure to Kudo, plus my slow learning Jiu Jitsu training etc I think all gives rise to some level of educated judgment.

I am going to go out and say that unless I can punch the face….strike the groin…..take the fight to the ground if needed and apply chokes and holds….I’m never going to be able to win against a bigger reasonably skilled or violently intent opponent. It’s just not going to happen. I know this because I’ve been the tiny person standing in front of the bigger ones (often but not always male) trying to have an impact with body blows and leg kicks. Sometimes yeah…i can hit them hard…….but I am not dropping them where they stand. There is ample time for them to hit me back….and yes I block much……and avoid lots…..but if they get one in……I’m feeling it. I’ve been launched across the mats on numerous occasions and that’s fine…but it troubles me too. My ego (not going to lie) is bruised….but more so I’m absolutely frustrated.

Now think of this…think of giving out black belts to women and kids only teaching the stand-up tournament style of Kyokushin. Or even men too. IT’s almost irresponsible as they feel that they then have the skills to deal with a potentially violent situation when in reality….there is a distinct lack of ability to do real damage or shut down an attacker for long enough to be safe.

Now…I can already hear many of you saying…….”That’s rubbish. Your’e just not good enough” Well that may be the case. Maybe I’m not. But if I’m not…..after 24 years…..then who or what is to blame here ? Is it me…is it my instructors…the syllabus…..what ?

I also know that lots of you that know much about Kyokushin are going to say that Kyokushin does have face punches…and throws….and limited ground -work. That may in fact be true….but how often are they practised and what percentage of the class time is taken up with them ? It’s not enough to simply iterate that they exist in the syllabus or Kata. It’s not enough to merely know or mention that Sosai wrote about Ground defence being necessary.

As instructors we tell our students that repetition of techniques until they are automatic movements is crucial. We know this to be true.
But that alone is not enough.

Basics repeated in the air teaches predominately muscle memory alone. They don’t also teach timing and working with the flinch response. Only Partner training can do that.
So…these basics…this Kihon must be practised drill style with a partner regularly.

So…If you aren’t doing take-downs……ground-work and face punches as part of your basics, and your’e not drilling them every training session then they also won’t be automatic and they won’t be part of the students “go -to” under duress. I’m going to say then…..they are not useful and possibly irrelevant to someone as a Kyokushin Exponent.

I’d really love to see Kyokushin move forward and embrace what was kind of left behind with the focus on the Kyokushin Knock Down tournaments. I feel that lots of dojo’s want to be known for great fighters and that’s awesome. There’s no denying that Full Contact Kyokushin Fighters are tough and strong and formidable. However……outside of that arena how would they fare ? Especially women that don’t have size and height and strength over their opponent or attacker.

Also…outside of a controlled tournament event….how would their skills hold up ? No doubt having a strong Kyokushin base would be better defence than none….but ask yourself if you feel that your daughter or wife or indeed yourself is getting the complete training that you would like.

So ..I’m asking for feedback from all my Kyokushin Friends and associates…would you like to see competition evolve to include grabs and takedowns and ground work and face punches ?
How would it look ?
Remember, you can’t wear kickboxing style gloves as this makes grabbing and chokes pretty much impossible.
Would it look like Kudo with Helmets /face protection ?

I mean we could still have traditional Knockdown events as we know them….perhaps this could be a new division…or should it take over completely ? And if it did- how would dojo’s change to account for this ?
Do you think it would make Kyokushin more all round ?

I also just want to qualify that by this i don’t mean that this type of fighting is what makes Kyokushin complete. There are many aspects to fighting which are great but without addressing Kata and dare i say the ‘spiritual’ side of Karate then it really shouldn’t be called a ‘Martial Art”. Karate should be as much about development of the good character of it’s exponents as it is about their physical abilities. Observing courtesies, rituals, hierarchy, respect, honour , Loyalty, self sacrifice etc….these all should make up part of the dojo.
This I know for sure. I just also strongly believe that all things (ourselves included) must continuously be capable of being analysed in an effort to constantly improve and evolve.

Kaizen.
Osu.

Anti Social Media

I was unsure as to where to post this article as it’s not really Martial Arts related, however I don’t really have another relevant blog site. I figure lots of Martial Arts schools use social media as a marketing tool etc…..so perhaps posting here is not completely off the mark.

Anti Social Media

Hmm…..Is it just me or does “Social Media” not feel that “Social’ anymore ?
I began my social media journey later than most. I’m not one of those ‘early adopters’ I’ve heard about at business development courses. I jumped onto Facebook hoping to connect with friends that I didn’t get to see often because I was always so busy working , or with the kids so my social life was severely lacking. It was nice to see what everyone was doing….and back then in 2008 Facebook was a fun place to visit every now and then when I sat down at my laptop. No Iphone back then so access was more limited. In those days….it was all about sharing pics of what you were up to….and funny statuses that were always kind of clever. I think people were more Reserved with their posting….and actually thought of what they were going to post up before doing so.

Then out of who know’s where came the endless pictures of food. I’m guilty of course of displaying my breakfast that I’d just cooked – proud of my culinary skills but single and unable to share it with anyone…so social media seemed like a good place to feel like someone else was enjoying the meal along with me. I guess the food pics began to almost be ridiculous and it seemed nobody could even have a coffee without having to share with their list of ‘friends’ and then this kind of fell out of fashion a little. Though we still see them from time to time….now it’s more like a surprise and we can go back to enjoying these pics again as they no longer clog up your news feed.

Then came the selfies. At first they were novel and funny….and we weren’t really that good at taking them (especially before the reverse camera functionality) but then things degenerated into attention seeking photo’s and it seemed the more riske’ they got…the more likes. It became about filters and lighting and makeup and posture…and what’s worse, it became disguised as something that it wasn’t. Me – guilty. I found myself at a time where my world had fallen apart…..and I doubted who I was . I have posted more than a selfie or two……and sometimes i regret to admit it was an unconsciously deliberate (if that’s even a thing) ploy to attract attention…but usually aimed at a specific audience. It’s a not a high point in my life I can tell you that now. I’m just glad I didn’t get too extreme….and now…I get it. I’m so glad I am no longer so caught up in it that I post provocative pictures of myself and call it some kind of ‘motivational’ pic that I hope to ‘inspire others’ with. I’m so sick of it. So done with (and this is not sexist it’s just true it’s mostly females) all the ladies in the gym posting pics of them posing next to machines. Really…..show us the video of you working out. That would be better !
Oh….you didn’t work out. You just don’t eat and you are 23 yrs old with no kids and you already look great. As if we females (and males too to a lesser extent one could argue) aren’t already concerned about our appearance enough. We now have to compete with these pics that are just totally not real-life at all. Nor are they motivational. If anything at times they are the opposite. De-motivational or just counter productive to our self esteem. Both the poster….and the viewer.

Fast forward to 2018 and it’s just soooo so much worse.
Sometimes I almost wish the slutty selfie would make a come back as honestly it would be far less of an assault on my psyche. Now ……..it seems the biggest thing on social media is to hate. Since when would someone be proud to be a troll ? To be that person that just wants to start a fight for the sake of it. To stir the pot for no reason other than to try to inflate their own feelings of self-importance: – like…..”oh…people are paying attention to the ridiculous bullshit I am saying…..I must be of value”! As they say in the media….even bad publicity is still publicity, and i guess for someone lonely and unhappy enough to be cruising news feeds looking to stir up a fight, even bad attention is still attention. Can you Imagine that person at a real life party ? Imagine them Just walking around the mingling guests and jumping into random conversations saying utter nonsense just because. Arguing against everyone just because. In reality…someone’s probably going to verbally abuse them or physically knock them out. I guess hiding behind a computer screen really does give people a sense of security and grandeur.

And if the hate wasn’t enough; in marches the advertising. IT’s so prolific now that it’s infiltrated our message inbox……(stay out of my private place pls) and you can’t even have a verbal conversation anymore without seeing a random advertisement for that very thing pop up on your screen! It’s not just me…..other people have mentioned it so I’m sure I’m not going crazy. And I get that everything costs money and advertising is king when it comes to raising revenue….but really……it’s getting to the point where my screen is 2/3rds full of it.

Stir into that dreaded mix a portion of people sharing sensationalised stories that aren’t fact checked…….or worse still…… old news articles which scare everyone and do the rounds before people realise it’s a terrorist attack from 2014….or some Virus Outbreak (yeah……3 people we are all gonna dieeeeee) and it would seem that the social media scene is more Anti than social.

But…..and it’s a big but, like the world and all it’s problems there is still so much good in there. I stay on because for small business it’s an amazing platform for advertising. For personal reasons….it really is great to catch up with friends far away or those close but life is busy and there is never enough time to meet up in person often. It seems to have this ability to bring people together as much as it can separate and divide.

The battle lies in using the platform as a tool and not being sucked into the Matrix of believing it’s real. Understanding that real connection comes from knowing someone in person, and likes don’t translate to …well anything except a dopamine boost which I’m pretty sure you can get from chocolate !
Like the internet in general……it’s a fun place to watch humorous videos and stuff…..share interesting parts of your day and keep up to date with current events, but you need to be able to vet the information and know what’s true or not. You need to be able to not get drawn into the hatred and negativity when it rears it’s ugly head, and know how to crawl out if you do end up at the bottom end of that tunnel. We need to know that it doesn’t control us – we control it and our usage of it and at the end of the day…like real life…if you don’t like what you see get new friends, and get out of bad groups and get into good ones. The quality of your environment and your surrounding’s is ultimately a product of your choices and who you hang out with. This is true for our physical as well as our online world.

Not everyone likes social media and not everyone has to however i think it would be kind of ignorant to ignore it’s power. In some ways i think it will evolve to become a staple in every home / life just like TV did – only that this is a bigger , more powerful and more accessible monster. It will need to be embraced as it’s part of our world now – and it will grow and change as we do. Let’s hope we can all make it join the good side and use it for good and what it was originally designed to do. Make the world more social and connect people and ideas that are positive- but also ‘real’. It’s up to us to tame the Social Media Beast because after all – this really is a tool for the people controlled by the people that use it. Let’s make Social Media great again !

Curse of the Yellow Belt !

It’s a hard road being an instructor sometimes. In some ways….akin to being a parent. You spend many a formative year with a student…..you teach them basics as a white belt, watching them slowly progress through the novice ranks, and then just as they start to make sense of everything…something changes. Sometimes, they casually challenge you in class….ask those “what if” questions, or perhaps even start to roll their eyes in class over a basic technique or skill being explained…or on being corrected on a technique they clearly thought they had nailed.  The awful part comes when this student thinks they know enough to make it on their own and so leave home and venture out into the wide world of other activities.

I have noticed that in junior ages, this tends to happen at around Yellow belt which is what this post is speaking predominately about today, and of course, I am also referring to Kyokushin Karate wherein this colour belt is ranked 6th Kyu, and not a starting rank which it can be in other styles. For a junior in a Kyokushin club with a strict syllabus, reaching this level could take about on average 2.5 years depending on training commitment etc. Now I understand that for a kid…..2 years can feel like an eternity. They feel like at this point they have been training for sooooo long and as they kind of know what they are doing in the dojo now…..it’s easy to lose focus. As instructors, we try our hardest to push our students to compete, to continue to aspire towards grading’s and attend dojo events etc to maintain training goals and also the social enthusiasm which seems to be very important for the kids.

But this is where the critical time for parents comes in. I’m not trying to tell any parent what to do……as I know how I would feel if someone tried to do that with me, but my advice from both sides of the coin is this : Find a way to encourage them to stay. If not for the karate (or any sport or matial art really) but for the extremely valuable and underrated skill of “sticking it out” and “seeing it through”. I can’t stress enough to read up about Grit in Angela Duckworths book with the same title…..and how this mental toughness to follow things through plays a most vital role in determining a child’s (any person’s) future success.

When we think about it….who starts Karate or traditional Martial Arts and doesn’t dream of that black belt ?! So to put that goal aside when it becomes hard…or get’s boring means that any time in life something becomes hard or tedious …then we just give in ? Move on to something new ? I mean, we can’t do that with school can we ? We can’t do that with brushing our teeth, with tidying our room, with study, with family etc.

As instructors it’s also a critical time for us to identify the needs of the yellow belt- and do what we can to continue to help them advance to the next level.  We need to recognise their level of success  and place within the dojo heirarchy, But we need to also remind them gently of what they don’t know. We need to dangle the carrot and keep them striving for more.

Early on in my Karate journey , I purchased my copy of the now rare and coveted hard cover book by Shihan Cameron Quinn, “The Budo Karate of Mas Oyama”. This book was snapped up quickly at the dojo when it first arrived and my training friends and I read ours excitedly. It held the answers to the stuff we weren’t being told in class. The “More” That we were looking for and it became like our bible. For many of us it was our first glimpse into the writings and philosophies of Sosai Oyama and back then there was no google to look up any of this stuff. If there was…I certainly didn’t know about it till years later ! But anyway…..In this book Shihan Quinn breaks down the belt colours and the corresponding qualities which the karateka should be developing at each level. He also talks about the colours and where they align with Chakra colours and energy centres of the body. It’s quite fascinating to think that Yellow is often considered the colour of self confidence, which would coincide nicely with the idea that at this level the student has moved from the novice to intermediate ranks and therefore we would assume would have a certain level of confidence in their abilities. But that’s just it……it’s only a start…perhaps even a false confidence.

To quote from Shihan Quinn directly from his book, “ Until Yellow belt, the student concentrated on purely physical skills – balance, stability, hand-eye co-ordination, and general technical ability. The yellow belt requires the student to now give serious consideration not only to physical training, dynamic balance and co-ordination, but also to the psychological aspects of training – perception, awareness, assertion, and other manifestations of will power”.  Will power ! Yes……will power is sticking with things. About pushing when it’s difficult and moving up divisions, about more responsibility in the dojo, about learning more kata and being in that weird middle place where you aren’t low enough rank to get away with everything…but not the big fish in the ocean just yet.

I know I take it personally each time I get that email from a parent, or have to have that conversation about the student leaving and it’s awful every time. After 2o something years of teaching….you never get used to it. After years, you know the student well and have spent hours upon hours with them and helping them learn , pushing them through tough times in the dojo and then here they are leaving you !  I take it to heart because I question myself then…have I been a good enough instructor…or how can I motivate my students more …am I not doing enough etc ? But then I realise it’s more than me….and it’s parents, and students, it’s everyone and we need to work as a team.  I can say for sure though how many times I have also had the conversation with a returning student about how difficult it is to get back into training. How frustrating to re-learn so much, and to train and think…I could do this before…and also to look back and think where would they be if they just didn’t quit ?!

Getting the black belt is not for everyone , and I guess if everyone had one then we wouldn’t want one anyway as perahps then it wouldn’t be quite as special, however it is surely an achievement to be proud of. It is a sign of courage and commitment and of a no quit atttidude that serves us in every facet of our lives. Let us encourage our kids to perhaps not quit – to maybe reduce training to try a new interest….or to cross train to maintain enthusiasm….but to keep one foot in the door and advance continuously towards a once held desire no matter how slowly. It is not how quickly we get there…but only that we do and to be so close…to have dedicated so much time already only to put it aside is a huge shame and one that I think has ramifications outside of just the dojo.

 

The Art of Self Expression the Martial Way

Kata and Karate Poem
If art is defined as creative expression , and a skill in a particular thing acquired through practise…..then Martial Arts should also have an element of creative expression – or of self. Indeed Sosai Mas Oyama has been quoted in saying that there is no Kyokushin Karate. There is only…..Kiley Karate, Bob Karate etc.
 
So one could ponder then……… because sometimes it would seem that the more I train the less I feel I know. But is that because I choose to try other martial arts and styles and allow myself to be back at the bottom of the food chain. To challenge everything I have learned….to test my knowledge base or lack thereof ?
 
And upon doing these other ‘thing’s’ that seem to creep into my base style…..isn’t that the way it should be ? I read an article recently from a respected Shotokan Master (I can’t find it now to quote) but it talked about how there should only be 1 Karate. That people shouldn’t come up with their own styles as this would be almost seemingly arrogant and that first we must master everything our predecessor knew and keep everything together and the same. In some part i agree. We should of course learn everything we can from our teacher / Sensei first……have a good knowledge base to start from.
 
Perhaps that’s why masters say that black belt is the beginning. That once you have obtained your black belt you are now ready to learn. Because then that’s really what we should do isn’t it ? To go test out our skills and see if they work. You can do this through competition, through teaching others (never will you have your knowledge tested so much as through teaching i believe) and by trying a new style to find the weakness in your own.
 
I don’t believe for a second we are supposed to sit back and watch our black belt shrink around our waist (if you get my drift) while we continue to practise and teach the same thing we were teaching as a Shodan……..into higher levels of our Dan grades. If we are still teaching the same things the same way we were originally shown in the start of our martial arts journey …then something is wrong. Of course there are basic principals that should be adhered to…but our level of understanding of them should grow and manifest in new ways of explaining…..new ways to test….and sometimes perhaps….abandonment of them altogether if need be and replaced with something else.
 
I really feel like at this point in my Martial Arts (which is really only a short stroll in the park compared to many others) that there always needs to be balance. I mean…even Mr Miyagi preached that ! But seriously……always life is about balance. In this case…..the balance should be about honoring traditions and lineage and the knowledge base you stem from, coupled with introspection and self expression through your chosen style.
 
If it is true that the one certainty in life is change – and survival is dependent on ones ability to adapt to change…..then Martial Arts too needs to adapt and evolve with time – all the while honoring that which allows us to ‘be’ in the first instance.
 
And so back to my reality……which is bookwork. Ahhh…..dont you wish martial arts was all just the fun stuff !
Osu.

Is Hard Sparring the best fight Prep ?

If you want to fight – compete !

I’m really hoping to get feedback from other Full contact Martial Arts instructors on this – so let me know what you think.

Going to go out on a short limb and say we have all had a student (or students) that just won’t make the plunge to jump into the full contact ring for some reason. The reasons are varied, and some are valid and some are not. For example, if you have a student that perhaps has discovered Kyokushin Karate at the ripe age of 60 then perhaps the full contact competition mat is a bit out of the question. That one I understand. I’m not saying they don’t partake in sparring….that will be par for the course of grading etc…but getting in the ring or a knockdown comp is not only unnecessary but unsafe. I’m also fairly certain that the reason to train has less to do with fighting than it does with other aspects of health , fitness, motivation and connection with a social group.

For a young student though…..I fail to see a valid reason why not to fight. I mean….if you chose Kyokushin, Kickboxing, Kudo….or whatever style it is, if full contact sparring and competition is part of the syllabus then it must be undertaken otherwise why do that particular style ? As an instructor and also a student and someone who has been a competitor I can appreciate the nerves and the apprehension. Again however, this is just another obstacle that must be overcome in order to become proficient in your chosen style. Everyone get’s nervous and worried but good training and preparation can help counter or minimise this. At the same time there comes a point where first you must fight to know how you need to prepare !

And this is where my blog post really lies. The preparation point.
For over 2 decades I’ve been involved in martial arts and trained in various styles and at numerous gyms etc over this time. Too many to mention. There are many methods that gyms or dojo’s undertake in order to get a fighter ready for a competition. Of course this will vary depending on the style…but let’s assume in essence they are all similar, as really they are. Some gyms love to have their fighters sparring hard and often. I’ve had my fair share of hard sparring training and do I think it made me better?, yes of course. Any hard training will improve you. Do I think it was the best training…no. I don’t.

let’s be clear here though. There is solid training where you are getting hit hard…but with good technique and in a calm and controlled manner. Then there is the ‘hard sparring’ which I call dumb sparring which is what you often get where students just rush into it…throw ill timed and not thought out techniques as fast as they can and hope they land when and where they want them to. This type of sparring doesn’t allow for any self analysis on either participant’s side, and is usually just survival or destroy mode (depending on who is the better fighter) and is what I think of most often when people say ‘hard sparring’. There are many successful and not so successful gyms and dojo’s etc that predominately get their students doing this as fight prep, and is often the reason why you have a class full of injured students….slow improving students, or you have a high drop off rate. From what I can observe, clubs that take on this method usually have low numbers in terms of members or high numbers of students that will never fight and don’t want to come to the sparring sessions….but a small and hardy group of tough fighters who may or not be the best technicians…but have good abilities and good results in comps etc.

Then there are the gyms that focus largely on drills and pad work to prep their fighters. 80 -90 percent of their training will be prearranged drills to build muscle memory and good reaction time, and hard techniques and fitness will be built on the pads and bags. They push themselves hard in fitness training and running …..some weights etc and they do sparr yes, ..but it’s usually padded and it’s slower than dumb sparring…and sometimes looks almost soft. This type of sparring is all about trying to perfect timing…..see openings and make corrections as they go. I said it “almost looks soft” and this is the difference where great fighters don’t need to go into a frenzy and leave themselves open. It’s cautious and controlled but when the opportunity is there and safe…they deliver the shots with controlled power. It’s not aggressive and it’s humble. This enables the better fighters to fight the less apt ones and both sides still can benefit. There is always going to be that one person in the gym that is better than everyone else. If you can’t prep like this…then how does this fighter prepare ?

I’ve seen this second type of prep in Thailand and Japan numerous times and to me it makes the most sense. It means the fighters can minimise risk of injury….adapt and improve faster. For example….let’s look at a Thai fighter at a stable there. I mean…..an up and coming fighter for the gym might have a comp every second week if not more often. It’s not uncommon for a Thai fighter to have over 100 fights under their belt before moving from the novice to pro comps. For some of them….fighting is their income. They cannot afford to get injured and miss out on a fight then. So, they smash pads (omg do they train hard) and the sparring that I saw was almost playful. Impeccable….but so controlled and they would tease each other when someone would land a good shot. No ego’s, just good smart sparring.

To me……if you want to get good at fighting, then compete. Get your experience in the ring or on the mat against tough competitors and the dojo is your place to sharpen the tools and fix the weaknesses you discover when you fight.

Let us apply the analogy to golf and how they train by perfecting their swings. They must practise teeing off thousands of times…..But the game is the competition and the competition is the test. The competition is the pressure and where you learn the most. We could look at cycling and I mean nobody that I know goes out and rides the Tour De France course in preparation for the Tour De France ! Okay so bad example…but I hope I made myself clear because it’s this point that becomes the excuse that I hear. That we haven’t been doing enough hard sparring in class so therefore they aren’t ready.

And here’s the conversation I’m having in my own head after hearing that….”Oh….so have you told me you want to fight or put a form in for an upcoming comp ?” No – ok.
“Are you attending class more than 2-3 times a week ? “ No
“Do you not believe as an instructor that I know if you are ready to compete or not ? “
There is is this and more but I also feel it’s a bit of an insult to all your training to say you aren’t ready because you aren’t doing enough sparring.
Does that mean all your training is BS and that if you were attacked on the way home tonight you wouldn’t be able to do anything to defend yourself ?
Because really that’s what fighting is. Albeit…it’s safer. I know that a competition is a sport and it’s rules vary with the style and the game. I understand that because it is a sport….fitness needs to become more important as the fights last longer due to rules and limitations etc. This though is my point that it’s all the drills that make you better. You should already have your techniques, your reading abilities and your skill set under your belt and you should have developed your fitness accordingly. The test of all this is the fight- the competition and as I said before…If you want to fight then get your fight experience actually competing.

Osu.

The necessity of Judgement

plato on Judgement
Thankyou AZ quotes for this image.

I’m pretty sick of hearing the “No Judgement “catch phrase being flung around at the moment. To me it’s the equivalent of the pervading PC Narrative that is getting people, schools and countries into hot water – but that’s another story.

To tell someone that they “shouldn’t Judge” to me is silly and unrealistic.

The word judgement can have other legal interpretations; however it really is simply the formation of an opinion on something which carries no other connotations.  We should all be aware of the phrase “A good Judge of character” and if you aren’t aware….perhaps you should endeavour to become so.

Being able to judge another’s character is a valuable life skill. There are numerous examples I can give you whereby to form an opinion of someone else’s moral standards and behaviour is not only valid but necessary.  For example choosing and finding your life partner. How about selecting an employee to hire. More importantly……..who you trust with your personal safety. What if one night you are walking along an empty street alone and a couple of young guys in hoodies are heading towards you. You feel uneasy as they look suspicious for no obvious reason other than perhaps their odd behavior. Do you make a judgment call to cross the road or perhaps head towards an open shop ………or continue straight towards them ?

It’s also something we should be teaching our children.  If we don’t instill this basic survival mechanism of identifying when a person could be of questionable character into our children, what happens when one day your child is out playing on the front lawn and is approached by someone who intends to do them harm. Instinct will tell them something is not quite right….but they have a convincing story like the one I heard in a town just 20 minutes away from me last week. A man approached a 5 year old in the front yard, asked him to come and help with his car which he said had broken down. Now luckily that child felt wary and didn’t head over to the car parked on the nature strip out the front of his house…..and his sister came out….and the man went away. What would have happened though if the child had been taught never to judge. To put aside odd feelings and believe everyone should be trusted and loved?  I shudder to think.

We need to be able to judge if someone is telling us the truth or lying.

We need to be able to judge the distance from here to there while driving.

We have to be able to judge if something is morally right or wrong.

We must be able to form opinions on things so that we can choose the appropriate actions to take henceforth.

Perhaps I am oversimplifying things….but I’m pretty sure this topic is not actually that complicated. The lefties and the wanna-be Mother Theresa’s and Ghandi’s complicate it by turning decision making into some awful process of putting other people down. If someone is a violent offender, then I judge that person unfit to be around and sometimes people do need to be put down so to speak.

What really get’s on my nerve is this type of rubbish which I’ve actually heard. (Pls say this in your best whiny voice and place an inflection at the end of every sentence for full effect).

“Sooo the other day while I was working out, this overweight woman walked into the gym and I really admired her and there was like no judgement or like anything”……….Zzzzzzzipp……stop. Back up. You called her overweight. You formed an opinion…stated it…..and therefore you judged her !

Or what about this tasty gem “Oh my gosh….you are so judgemental”. I’m sorry……did you just form an opinion of me? Then I’m pretty sure that’s judgment…so you are judgemental too hypocrite.

I’m just going to leave this here now and wait for the barrage of comments that I am sure will ensue.

I stand firm in my belief that Judgement is necessary. And sometimes It’s necessary to make it with minimal time and information.

What’s not necessary though is to form an opinion and then use that as an excuse to behave badly yourself. That is not judgment, that is the act of bad behaviour.

What’s wrong is to be unkind or judge someone unfairly or unjustly and treat them poorly undeservedly.

It still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever judge.

 

Your Strength Lies In Your Weakness

At the end of most Karate classes…I like to say what’s on my mind. Give a small speech to the students about something that’s popped into my mind during the session, the day or the week. It might be something to do with current news events, training, and sometimes just life in general. I do try and keep it topical and relevant…but you know…my mind wanders at times.

This week I spoke to the class about the importance of competing. In our style of Karate, I really don’t think you can say that you are a Kyokushin exponent unless at some point you have fought full contact. I understand the juniors to some extent as its not just theirs (and most of them want to) but their parents choice.  The adults however…there can really be no excuse. Nope…none. I do understand that it may be a scary thing for some….but in reality that fear needs to be faced. If not….then perhaps Kyokushin isn’t the style for you.

In reality it’s not all about the fighting, although it does give all your training a new perspective. The fighting doesn’t instantly make you tougher or better, but what does is all the training you then do in preparation. It’s about the overcoming of that fear holding you back. Going through the nerves and the times you want to back out. It’s about the people in your corner and support of your team. It’s about the humility in loss and the confidence garnered through victory. The lesson lies in pushing yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone. So….if there is all this to gain how can there be a real excuse not to do it. What motivation or inspiration could you need ?

I recounted how at the tournament we travelled to in Griffith last year, that a student was competing in his wheel chair. And then…how a video had recently been shared on facebook showing a male that had lost the use of his legs…get onto the competition mats to compete in BJJ. His team mates basically helped him out of his wheelchair and onto the arena. Amazing and inspiring stories. There’s loads of those type of stories around on the internet if you choose to look.

And it’s not just Martial Arts. Most people have seen the Paralympics, I’ve seen videos of Crossfit competitors with missing arms and legs, and all manner of inspirational movies of disabled people achieving what some able bodied people can’t. In the end I think it all comes down to how much you ‘want’ to be able to do something. And if the will is enough – you will find a way.

What is better than watching a video, or hearing a story about someone though, is seeing it in person. I’ve asked permission from this member of our dojo to share his story briefly and I am so glad that he said yes.

Not everyone knows or has met Tailem. He’s a quiet kind of guy. He joined our Kickboxing class a little under a year ago and then a bit later found his way into the BJJ class. At his first class I noticed that he had a large build, and initially I thought he was perhaps an ex gymnast. Then of course…me being me…I just asked. It was probably something like….” Hey…what do you weigh…You look pretty big….and do you lift ? ” I wasn’t rude…just matter of fact.  That’s when I found out that Tailem was a Powerlifter. I had also noticed something else…..but didn’t really get a chance to talk to him on his own that first class.

I later asked him about his hand , and the fact that he had difficulty putting on the left glove. I had seen something like that in a hand before….in my stepfather after he had a stroke many years ago.  I was taken aback when Tailem explained his situation. Immediately he had my respect. You see…..Most people would come into the dojo and make excuses straight away for something like that. I hear stuff all the time (and I’m not putting anyone down…it’s just for comparison) like..Oh my leg is sore today. Or ….two years ago I fell off my bike and have a sore back so I ‘m not sure I can do everything or even I play the sax so I can’t punch without gloves and wraps in case I hurt my hand. But this guy walks in….sais nothing about his dis-ability and just trains.

There are those I am sure that have looked at Tailem’s physique and assumed he’s “on the juice” etc. What they don’t know however is firstly that he is not. That’s a whole lot of time at the gym and chocolate thick shakes !  Secondly that they are looking at someone who at the age of 9 years old, suffered a brain abscess that caused the left side of his body to be paralysed. Only through countless hours of dedication to rehabilitation as a child,  visits to hospitals, doctors, physio and chiropractors, and time and patience of his parents did Tailem regain the use of his left side to the point where he surpassed what was originally diagnosed as possible.

Obviously the limits and disadvantages that this placed on Tailem as a young boy was difficult. Sport just didn’t come as easy and there were feelings of inadequacy surrounding his appearance which is difficult enough for most people already. Not feeling comfortable or able to be as active this then led to weight gain…and from there the spiral into an eating disorder. Then….Tailem discovered the gym and found a way to build himself into the strong and capable man he is today.

Since then….Tailem went on to hold 6 powerlifting records (and is right now training to grab another one this year) , and last year won a bodybuilding competition.  Of course…..each training day when the jab doesn’t fire as fast as the cross,  or he can’t grab the gi to lock a hold in BJJ with one hand is a constant reminder…but he doesn’t let that stop him.  I’m really proud to have members like that at the dojo, and I look forward to one day seeing him on the martial arts competition mats. I think….with an attitude like his…there is nothing he won’t be able to do if he wishes.

I’m sharing this story because I think it shows you how you can turn your weakness into your strength if you try hard enough. If you want to change bad enough,  and you want it bad enough then there are no excuses. Only solutions to find.

Osu : Never Give Up

With respect.

Click Here To watch Tailem’s Bench Press Record Video

After the operation
In hospital after the operation
Mr Teen Australia 2015
With his friend and trainer for the comp
On Stage. Mr Teen Aust 2015
On Stage. Mr Teen Aust 2015