Archive | July, 2012

//08// Breaking Bad Habits

8 Jul

For some reason we’re on summer break at my dojo and it’s been really interesting! Last year I managed to keep running around but this year I’ve been taking it easy and let me tell you, it’s something I could get used to.

We have two weeks with no classes. After my last kids’ class before the break I was so sad that I wouldn’t get to see the kids for two weeks. I reminded them to practice, practice, practice. Then the next class time rolled around and I was still at work. The pang of longing was there but not as strong as I expected to be. In fact, I got to used to it pretty quickly. I work better at night anyway. So it’s been a whole week of work and then doing nothing but relaxing after class. Or maybe going to the mall, which is bad. I only filled up my gas tank once the entire week which is unheard of in my normal life. I can tell you, I could definitely get used to it. But that would mean never going to class again. Of course, that’s not what I want. So this lazy lifestyle cannot turn into a bad habit.

A couple of weeks before my second degree black belt test my Sensei and I had a talk. She said that she had this discussion with all the future black belts before their tests. She wanted to talk about things that I could improve. Only she was having some trouble coming up with any.

I was more than happy to help her out with a laundry list of things I needed to improve. Like my shuto blocks aren’t chambered correctly every time. Or my back stance could be a bit off. And my feet directly underneath my knees could be a problem. And I have a bent wrist issue on things like high block. And I need to keep my hands up more consistently while sparring. Well, the list goes one. But Sensei said she wasn’t talking about physical things but rather what I could improve on as a human being. Well, I’m not a perfect person either so we came up with a few things but I was still thinking about my other bad habits as I prepared for my test.

The thing about habits is once it’s a habit it’s very hard to break. I’ve had some of these bad habits for years and it really worries me, especially being an instructor for impressionable young children. Every time the kids are doing something in a funny way and the other black belts are like, they need to correct this & that, I cringe inside because I feel like it’s a direct result of my bad habits. Like I’m the example they see but I’m not perfect. So it worries.

Of course, it’s way easier to correct others than to break your own bad habits. So the foot angle I have to constantly worry about is easy to point out in others. But there’s a big difference between saying it and doing it. Sometimes I think the visual a more effective teaching tool, especially when speaking to children who just may not have the vocabulary to understand what’s really important.

So what’s the best way to break a bad habit? Get hit in the head a few times? Well that’s already happened to me so I’m not sure it’s the best method. I just have to think about it constantly in my quieter moments, especially when we’re going through the basics. I think my favorite thing to do in class is drills, just punches and kicks up and down the room, back and forth. It gives you time to actually think about what’s going on. Of course, you can’t practice the basics too much. While you’re sparring or in the middle of the kata there just isn’t the same amount of thinking time.

The other place where I practice on my basics is when I practice on my own. That’s something I’ll need to do more of. Just looking in the mirror and really studying myself. The other part of it is having others help me figure out what I’m doing wrong. It’s not enough to just look at myself all of the time. My dad encouraged me to do this while I was practicing for my last test. He has a good point.

As simple as it is to pick up bad habits it’s that much harder to break them. That’s why I encourage my students not to start in with their bad habits. I try to get them to break it right away– which is easier said than done. There’s one little girl who’s getting those elbows out in his fighting stance but through some knowing glances I think she’ll be able to break herself out of that one. And I know it’ll be the same for me.

Only one more week of break left!

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//07// To Cross-Train or Not to Cross-Train

1 Jul

Hiatus from the dojo means an un-hiatus from the blog. Hello again! It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this thing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about my lovely little blog which I hardly wrote in. How I love it so!

Anyway, since the last time I posted I’ve hosted a lot of other special games for my kids’ class. The kids keep changing but I still love it as much as ever. The class is a bit on the small side right now but I’m excited because we’ve got kids advancing, which is the best part. I just want to see them all go further and further until we all reach that elusive shodan level which is a lot less exciting once you get there.

The other thing keeping my class exciting is the different assistant instructors I have, keeping it interesting. If there’s anything that’s most important to me when I’m teaching it’s not so much the moves, because I’ve got those down, but it’s the people helping me that really makes the class worthwhile. Even though we have a small class its wonderful to have the kids be able to get one-on-one attention and I really like using the small-group format in order to address the different levels in the class. When you’ve only got one instructor in a mixed-level class you almost always have to default to what our sensei refers to as “the lowest common denominator” meaning that the higher ranks aren’t always getting the challenge they’re looking for, which can be frustrating for everyone. It’s hard fitting everything into 45 minutes twice a week but I’m doing my best.

Also, I recently tested for my 2nd dan, which went well. More on that later. Now that I’m a second-degree black belt I’m thinking about what I can do next. When it comes to martial arts I like a concrete goal. For the first six years of my training it was getting to black belt. For the past 18 months of my training it was about getting to second-degree. Now, I’ve done it. So what now?

Of course, third-degree is the next logical step but there’s a waiting (training) period of three years before I can test. Those three years will be spent further strengthening my technique because I have a lot way to go before I can feel fully satisfied. I want to hear my gi snap everytime I do a shuto strike. I’m pretty slow with doing the 10-move hand strike combination that I do every single day (lol). My foot angles still need work, especially on front kick. For some reason when I do a side kick on my left side I have a really hard time looking over my shoulder. The list goes on and on. But I think another thing I was to address are not only my weaknesses but my fears when it comes to certain aspects of the style I study.

For example, I really don’t like close range fighting at all. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I’m a strong kicker and I have pretty long legs & I’m pretty flexible with my kicks so I’ve found that doing an intimidating kick to the head and then keeping my opponent a leg’s length away from me is my favorite way to spar. But unfortunately (or fortunately) there are a few people at my dojo who have figured this out so if they get in on my kicks and come in close they can take advantage of my obvious weakness. I really need to be better at close-in fighting. Plus, it’s more applicable to real-life. But I hardly ever wear my mouth guard!

Another skill I need to improve are my take-downs. My sweeps are pretty hit-or-miss and I hate to be thrown. Falling is not my favorite thing to do, at all, which means I’m also pretty lousy at teaching it. But it’s an important skill and throws are important to. I feel like I understand how it should be done but when it comes to doing it in the moment, I still need work.

So when it comes to issues such as these I think about what to do. One thing I’ve been considering is cross-training. Maybe I need to find a style that focuses more on these problem areas and will force me to improve. Something like Judo or Brazilian Ju-Jitsu which just about sounds like my worse nightmare. I think at some point I’ll have to try something different. I’ve studied three styles already and while each are different at the same time they’re pretty similar or in the same hemi-sphere of martial arts. What if I went into something completely different? Something I’ve barely even heard of before? What would that be like?

Our sensei shared with us an interesting article about “different kids of martial art students” and there were some interesting points. One of the types was “the drifter” which is someone who flits from style to style looking for something different. Sometimes I wonder if that’s me except I’d like to conquer whatever style I got into. But then again, cross training is a very important part of being a martial artist. I look at all the grandmasters out there and I feel like they all have studied something different, at least once. It’s not a bad thing and luckily, my sensei understands that. So we’ll be having some upcoming guest instructors which is really fun and also intimidating. Starting from the bottom isn’t something I’ve had to do for a long time but I think if I make the commitment to cross-training in another style then it’ll make me a stronger martial artist and eventually, I’ll be worthy of my third degree black belt.