Saturday, January 05, 2008

Taking advantage of the NEW YEAR

Every year millions of people commit on January 1st to change their lives. Usually by January 15th they have surrendered their goals and gone back to their ordinary routines. Why is it that we can't seem to carry through with our New Year's Resolutions? How can stick to a new plan? Here are some thoughts and notes that may help!
Step 1- Have an actual goal
Most people say they want to lose weight or even lose ten pounds. That is not a goal, it is an idea. A goal is something clearly defined, measurable and has a definite start and stop time. Say you want to lose weight, for example. The first step to creating a weight loss goal would be to find out what your ideal weight is. Talk to your doctor before starting any weight-loss programs. While you're at it, ask your doctor what he or she recommends. Determine exactly how much weight you want to lose and by what date.
Step 2- Evaluate your goal
Is your goal realistic? Is it safe? Are you going to be able to fulfill your goal with your current family/work environment? IF the answer is no, you may need to tailor your goal to your personal situation. If I worked in a cubicle for twelve hours a day and lived in a cramped city, it might be hard for me to get out and run five miles a day.
Step 3- Disseminate your goal
Write your goal out clearly on paper. Keep a few copies available in places that you frequent. Let your friends, family, and co-workers know what your goal is. They may be able to help you accomplish your goal. They will certainly be able to remind you of your goal.
Step 4- Set benchmarks
Your goal may seem like a faraway dream at times and that is why having benchmarks can help you. If for example you want to participate in and complete a marathon you should determine what an appropriate training schedule would look like. If the week before the event you can only run two miles before stopping you may find completing the marathon to be near impossible. But by figuring out how fast or slow you are progressing toward your goal (ie, every week you can run a half mile more than the week before) take that into account and back plan. Test yourself on a regular basis, giving yourself time to improve before testing, and determine whether or not you are on track.
Step 5- Completing your goal
If it is a true goal and you are true to it, then you will eventually complete it. Excellent. Once you have completed your goal, look at yourself again and determine whether or not you are perfect (this should be a no-brainer) and determine what area you will work on next.
Other things that might help you are periodically taking pictures of yourself to be able to more clearly show progress. Try keeping a journal including your thoughts and feelings. Also in your journal you might write the comments people make relating to your goal. Good luck with your new year's resolutions!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Practice of the Right Style

There is (and has been for some time) a great debate about which style is the best. Each student is different and must find a martial art that suits them, but here are some things to consider:
Some styles of martial arts focus on high kicks, some focus on strength of the fingers, and some focus on keeping low stances. Obviously, or at least obvious to me, the type of person you are has a lot to do with how successful you might be in a given style. Someone with arthritis may not be able to give the high kicks necessary to practice certain disciplines. Someone who has bad knees may not be able to maintain a low stance for very long. Some people may even have an ethical problem with the moves used in the style. Whatever the reason, some people just aren't cut out for some styles of martial arts.
When finding the right martial art for you, consider your body type and composition. If you feel strongly about a martial art and want to practice it despite some naturally occurring obstacles, go for it! Most instructors are willing to help if you make the effort. However, it may be best to start with something that won't be an uphill battle all the way.
Next, it is important that you dedicate yourself fully to the martial art you settle on. Don't try to take on a number of martial arts at once - you may confuse yourself, you may injure yourself or others, and you may not be able to dedicate the focus needed to become truly proficient at any style you're doing. The idea that if you practice a year of karate, a year of judo, a year of kung fu and a year of tai chi you will be a well-rounded practitioner is also false; you will become a "jack of all styles, and master of none."
I do, however, encourage you, once you have been in the same style for at least five years, to branch out and try new things. Your expertise in one style will help you to learn others and will aid you in becoming a "renaissance" man or woman of the martial arts. I would recommend studying a hard style first, (tae kwon do, karate-do, kick-boxing, et cetera), transition into a hard and soft style (certain styles of kung fu, karate, hapkido, jujitsu, et cetera), and "finish" with a soft style like judo or aikido.
On a final note, finding the right martial art for you can be a big challenge, but add to that the challenge of finding a sensei or a teacher who is competent in teaching that martial art, which may be an even bigger one. Never "settle" on a teacher, doing so will only lead to improper technique, injury or worse. Make sure you love what you are doing and that you love the people you are with.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dealing with Injuries

Every once in a while, due to the nature of practicing a martial art, you may find that you become injured. Do not despair. The first thing to do is go to a doctor immediately and begin receiving treatment from a professional. If you do not start treating the injury and decide to "tough it out" you may have a permanent loss of ability which will mean that you might never be able to return to full practice.
After treatment has begun with a licensed professional, get an estimate on how long your recovery might last. Give that estimate to your instructor and let him or her know that you plan on coming back at that time. Stay in regular contact with your instructor or fellow students so that they don't just decide you gave up on them.
Another important thing to get from the doctor is a list of approved physical activities. If your arm is broken, for example, you might still be able to practice kicks, or stance work. Get constant updates from your doctor about these kind of approved activities and inform your instructor. If your teacher is willing, go to your karate school or martial arts school to do those exercises.
Remain positive. In my experience, most injuries last more than a minute. That can get depressing because you feel like you are losing all that hard work you did. Don't believe it for a minute. Nothing is ever truly lost, merely misplaced. You will find that even if you have "forgotten" the kata or the moves you were working on just prior to your injury, you will have an easier time remembering them the second time around and it will stick with you longer.
Next, buy a notebook and write down things that you remember about your martial art. It is important that you retain as much as possible and a notebook will help you put into words (which can be easier to remember than some motions) what you have learned. Be as specific as possible and start as soon as possible. When I write these kinds of things down I draw a lot of pictures to give a clearer understanding about what I am working on, for example: when I am writing about a punch, I will draw the fist in various stages, I will draw the fist from various angles and write a description of how the force of a proper punch is evenly distributed through the forearm and the consequences for having a bent or cocked wrist. Writing down what you learn will also make it easier to pass that knowledge on. You will be able to cherish things that your sensei says to you if you write them down more than if you just try to remember the gist of what they say.
Lastly, take your time recovering from an injury. Of course, you want to come back and get to your karate practice as soon as possible. Don't come back too soon, however, because you can potentially injure yourself further. An injury can in this way help you exercise your patience, which is important for any martial artist.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

karate: getting ready to practice with only fifteen minutes

When you are in a hurry and heading out to practice there are some basic steps to consider:
1. Change clothes. If you practice in a gi (karate uniform) or in sweats and a t-shirt, make sure you change clothes before practicing. You want to remember to take off watches and jewelry (especially rings, bracelets and anything pierced). Changing clothes helps prevent injury to your opponent and helps you commit to what you are doing. IF you are wearing a button up shirt for example, it's pretty easy to see that the buttons would hurt a lot if someone were to punch them. Likewise, belts (except for the soft variety) have hard and often sharp edges that can bruise or cut. Last, if you are wearing a nice pair of slacks you probably won't be inclined to kick as high or work as hard as if you were in clothes that were intended to be sweat-drenched and torn.
2. Stretch. Stretching before an exercise can help prevent injury and may help you increase your flexibility. That aside, stretching is an excellent way to help start getting your mind on karate.
3. Warm up. A quick jog, some push-ups, sit-ups, squats, et cetera can also help prepare your body for practice and may help prevent injuries. If you're feeling up to it and have some time before class, do about half an hour to an hour of these kind of warm up exercises to fully benefit from your class experience. If you can do a high kick after an hour of exercise and still have good form you are more realistically preparing yourself for the unforseen encounter.
4. Drink a bottle of water. Some styles encourage waiting until after class to drink, but unless this is your case, it is a good idea to drink some water before class so that you can be full of energy and won't feel thirsty. To make your water intake more useful, any day you have practice you should be drinking at regular intervals throughout the day to fully hydrate your body.
5. Double Check! Before you walk out the door to smash things and rend throats, remember to double check your hair and nails. If your hair is long it should be tied back in a pony tail or even better a tight bun. This will prevent stray hair from impairing vision or getting caught. Your nails should be short and well trimmed.
6. Pack it in, pack it out. If you live a good distance from where you practice you may wish to pack your karate uniform in a bag and take it with you. If for some reason there was an accident on the road or you were to be involved in something on the way to class, your karate uniform may seem intimidating and unfriendly and add to an already stressful event. Changing clothes after class is also highly recommended. Not only for that reason, but also, if you sweat your clothes will be wet at the end of a good practice and allowing your body to heat up and then cool like that can throw your body off and increase the chance of illness. Bring a towel and shower at the first opportunity.
Remember that no matter how soon your class starts (ie, how late you are for class) never speed or drive aggressively. If your school has a "no late comers" policy, you may still be able to benefit by watching the class. Apologize to the instructor and think of ways that you can practice on your own.