hey warrior, keep going

Inspiration to persevere!

At one time or another each of us needs a reminder of why we need to keep going, no matter what it is. For those of us in the martial arts, it usually involves testing for the next belt. Eventually it means testing for a black belt.

A little while ago we posted 10 great motivating quotes about discipline. A student just will not get to the level of black belt without discipline. That’s why black belts are held in high esteem; most people know it involves mental discipline.

With our black belt test a little over a month away, we thought this was a good time to remind us all of why we start something in the first place!

10 Fantastic Quotes on Perseverance

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. –Albert Einstein

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. – Thomas A. Edison

You just can’t beat the person who never gives up. – Babe Ruth

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. – Harriet Beecher Stow

What holds you back is not what you think you are. It’s what you think you aren’t. -Unknown

Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyway. -Unknown

Keep going, because you did not come this far just to get this far. -Unknown

If you’re going through hell, keep going. –Winston Churchill

Don’t count the days. Make the days count –Muhammed Ali

Nobody is born a warrior, in exactly the same way that nobody is born an average man. We make ourselves into one or the other. –Carlos Castaneda

Keep on keeping on, OSU

young karate girl breaks board

Is board breaking important in martial arts? Part II

We’ll continue where we left off in “Is board breaking important in the martial arts? Part I”. This post will cover some practical reasons for board breaking, and some intangible results, too!

We explained about confidence, technique, focus and speed in our first post. Now we’ll address how all that works together for self-defense.

Board breaking and self-defense

Imagine you repeatedly practice a front kick while holding onto a barre, kicking a heavy bag, and even against a partner while sparring. If you are “light” sparring that kick will be controlled and neither opponent may even be wearing protective gear. Harder sparring will undoubtedly mean full protective gear, including a chest protector. If you land a front kick right into your opponent’s belly, he or she will feel it, but not as much as they would without a chest protector!

Sparring also implies a mutual understanding between partners. Students are usually paired with an equally trained partner. And with consideration given to age, weight and height. That is not the case in self-defense.

Self-defense is not mutual, and never pre-arranged. Self-defense must be fast and effective the first time. A combination of confidence, technique, focus and speed are absolutely necessary for succesful self-defense. The simulation of being attacked and having to defend oneself is rarely, if ever, achieved in a controlled environment like a karate class. So how does a student know if that front kick will work when landed effectively in a self-defense situation? Board breaking.

Practical reasons

Obviously, seeing a bunch of broken boards surrounding you is a tangible result! This gives a student better understanding of the power contained in that front kick. Having the ability to control that power is learned when more than one board is being broken in one front kick.

Beginner students always start with one technique, and one board. Progressing through the belt ranks means more boards and more techniques. Compare two adult students of the same age, but one being a white belt and the other a brown belt. You would see a noticeable difference in not only the ease of the technique but in the complete body control of each student. The white belt may exert excessive power to break one board, while the brown belt is able to know exactly how much power needs to be generated to break one board. Crucial differences when it comes to effective self-defense. Self-defense is about “one and done”.

Those are some of tangible and easily seen benefits and results of board breaking. But there is more. Much more!

Intangible results

There are countless intangible results from board breaking! Student’s lacking confidence suddenly find self-esteem after having the courage to break their first board; pushing themselves out of their comfort-zone to break more boards with one technique; Learning to support fellow students who may struggle with board breaking. And on and on and on.

Stop placing limits on yourself

For me personally, I remember three defining moments involving board breaking. The first was when I succesfully performed a “double kick” ; one board broken with a right leg front kick, the other broken with a left leg front kick, simultaneously. That’s when I realized if stop applying limits to my ability – like I was able to do in that moment – I could accomplish anything.

Get out of your comfort zone

The second defining moment was when I was able to break three boards with a spinning back kick. That was my weakest kick, I loathed that kick! I was trembling with fear and anticipated failure, then something clicked. I visualized it, I commanded it, and I did it. Moving out of my comfort zone was scary as hell but it was then I learned that there is more comfort in accomplishment than always playing it safe.

Never underrate being supportive

My final moment of life-changing board breaking came at my test for 1st degree black belt. I had to perform a three-station break in rapid succession. I got through the first two without a hitch. The third one was a jump front kick at chin height. This was a technique I was very comfortable with and had performed succesfully many times before. But not this time. I tried once – “clunk”. I tried again – “thud”. There was only one more chance left to break this board or my test was over! Through an audience of about 200 people I could spot my fellow students who had come to show their support. I saw their look’s of concern and anticipation. I felt their support and confidence in me.

It was that energy that helped me smash through that board on my final attempt. The crowd cheered and I looked around to see my fellow students hugging each other, jumping up and down, shouting their happiness. BEST FEELING EVER.

inspirational quote with background

Inspiring Discipline

Inspiring discipline is one of the roles of a great martial arts teacher. The quotes that follow will speak to just about every human being, from every walk of life and with varying interests.

Making resolutions can be premeditated failures if they are not accompanied by purpose and direction. Someone trying to quit smoking, for example, might have better health as their purpose. Speaking to a health care provider and choosing a method of quitting is the direction he or she has chosen. Now, the wanna-be-ex-smoker must have the discipline to do it!

The 10 quotes we have chosen are meant to motivate and inspire you to KEEP GOING . Whether its quitting smoking, losing weight, working-out, learning a new hobby, going to bed earlier…know your purpose, have direction and have the discipline to see it through!

10 Fantastic Quotes on Discipline

Even as you make progress, you need the discipline to keep from backtracking and sabotaging the success as it’s happening. –Nipsey Hussle

We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment. –Jim Rohn

It’s absolutely true that unless you can instill discipline upon yourself, you will never be able to lead others. –Zig Ziglar

At the center of bringing any dream into fruition is self-discipline. –Will Smith

Discipline is just choosing between what you want now, and what you want most. -Unknown

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. -Jim Rohn

Through self-discipline comes freedom. -Aristotle

Success doesn’t just happen. You have to be intentional about it, and that takes discipline. –John C. Maxwell

Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power. –Clint Eastwood

Discipline strengthens the mind so that it becomes impervious to the corroding influence of fear. –Bernard Law Montgomery

Keep on keeping on, OSU

young karate student breaks wodd boards

Is board breaking important in martial arts? Part I

There is so much controversy and tons of opinions on this subject. How important board breaking is in the martial arts will also depend on what style you practice. Opinions aside, there are some styles that just don’t include strikes. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Aikido are the first to come to mind. You will have not have success waiting for the board to tap out. Nor will you be able to find a hand on that board to manipulate into a painful position.

Now that we have that out of the way we can share a great post we found concerning this very topic. But first, our opinion.

Our philosophy on board breaking

Our karate school holds a Wood-Breaking Week about 4 times a year. Our brown belts are required to set-up and execute a 4-station break as a step in earning their black belt. (A 4-station break means the student must succesfully break boards with 4 different techniques at 4 different set-up stations.) So, there you have our answer. Yes it’s important!

The wood boards are 1″ thick, 12″ long and either 4″, 6″ or 8″ across. The younger and newer students always break the smaller boards. Our advanced students graduate to the larger boards and additionally, stack boards together for high-powered and experienced techniques.

Of course having a board to break is absolutey necessary, but there is more to it than that. We routinely teach and quiz our students on what each needs in order to break the board(s). There are 4 components a student needs in order to generate the power needed to be succesful. Let’s look at those next.

The 4 components for success in board breaking

Confidence

A student must believe that he or she can break that board. Of course our student’s must have a few classes under their belt as a beginner, and he or she will only be asked to use basic techniques. But believing in one’s own ability is first and foremost in board breaking.

Technique

Karate is very repetitive and students practice a specific technique many, many times before attempting to break a board. Proper technique involves using specific parts of your hands, feet, legs and arms. While someone not educated in martial arts may think a kick is a kick is a kick, student’s with proper training know better!

Focus

So you believe in yourself and you have great technique. All that means nothing without focus! For comparison, think about hitting a specific target on a stand-alone training bag. If you miss the target by a couple of inches in either direction, you will most likely still hit the training bag itself. Now think about having to strike the exact middle of a 6″ wide wooden board. A few inches on either side could mean missing the board completely. When you want to apply that same technique in a self-defense situation, you don’t get a second chance to get it right!

Speed

This is one of the coolest components because it has a lot to do with physics. Simply speaking a student would need to generate a speed of 20 feet per second to succesfully break one board. We could never attempt to explain the science as well as the article we found: How Board Breaking Works BY OISIN CURRAN

As the article mentions, follow-through is crucial to actually breaking the board. We never understood the science behind it (now we do!), but part of coaching a student is to tell him or her to try to hit a target just beyond the board. This helps the student to go through the board, and not stop at the board.

But why is board breaking important?

The article How Board Breaking Works illustrates a couple of the arguments for and against board breaking. It also thankfully puts to rest some of the myths regarding martial arts and injuries.

We’ll go a little deeper and explain why board breaking is an important part of our training in Is board breaking important in the martial arts? Part II. Stay tuned or get on our blog’s e-mail list to automatically get weekly posts!

woman martial artist stretching

Why stretching is (still) important for weight loss and exercise

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the value – or lack thereof – of muscle stretching to accelerate recovery after exercise. “Stretching clears out your lactic acid,” and other similar claims abound. Is any of this true?

Sort of.

First, it is important to understand the difference between stretching for recovery and stretching for remodeling.

Recovery

During exercise, muscles are called upon to work. During this work, fuel is used up, waste products are created and muscle fiber structure is disrupted by multiple micro tears. Imagine a banquet, for comparison, during which the food is eaten, garbage is accumulated (napkins, chicken bones, etc.), and the table settings disrupted. Before the next banquet, the food needs to be restocked, the garbage cleared, and the tables reset.

For muscles, this process of resetting for the next event is called recovery. The muscle is returned to full function without soreness.

This is not the process that leads to body change per se, but it is important for athletes who wish to compete at their highest level multiple times during a short period.

Athletes have tried many things to speed up recovery: cryotherapy, massage, compression, ice water immersion, stretching, hyperbaric oxygen, anti-inflammatories and electromyostimulation, just to name a few. These interventions are aimed at decreasing lactic acid, inflammatory markers and other molecules that build up following intense exercise.

Of these, only massage is consistently effective. Multiple studies have shown that stretching does not aid significantly in waste removal or serve in any capacity to accelerate muscle recovery.

Remodeling

Most of us aren’t training for professional competitions, though, but are exercising to be healthy, lose weight and improve our moods.

For that, we need to focus on our body’s remodeling response to exercise, which is not the same as recovery from exercise.

Plainly said, when we exercise consistently, our bodies adapt to that stressor by changing our muscle structure, metabolism and physiology. It is that change, that remodeling, that leads to all the positive benefits of exercise. To stick with our banquet example, if we realized that 500 people are going to show up at every event, but we only have 10 tables set at present, we would change our capacity to be ready for the next event. We would increase the efficiency in the kitchen and set more tables. Likewise, our body remodels itself to adapt to increasing exercise.

Many studies also have been conducted to determine how to optimize the body’s remodeling response to exercise. After 35-plus years of study, six variables emerge as consistently aiding the body in its effort to reorganize in response to exercise: timing of nutritional intake (specifically protein), type of exercise, massage, sleep, low-dose creatine and – you guessed it – stretching.

Perhaps the most well-known and accepted benefits of muscle stretching exercises are improved or maintained range of motion, or both; alignment of bones and joints; and strengthening of connective tissues – all elements that optimize performance. Many studies have shown that flexibility training (dedicated attention over time to muscle stretching as part of an exercise program) directly improves muscle function, and ultrasound images have documented favorable alterations in muscle architecture following weeks of regular stretching, such as longer fibers. What’s more, a recent study has clearly shown that stretching over time improves blood flow to the muscles during subsequent exercise in animals.

Prior negative commentary around muscle stretching may be misleading to the casual observer. It is true that studies have shown static stretching routines (reach, hold for 30 seconds, release, next stretch) prior to a workout or competition lead to decreases in strength during that event, and that stretching before activity does not prevent injuries, as was long thought. But these are very specific circumstances that don’t apply to most people.

So do I stretch or not?

If you are an elite athlete trying to decrease injury, increase strength or accelerate muscle recovery right before your next event – then no.

If you are most people, exercising to lose weight, be well and improve mood – then yes. It will help with muscle remodeling, connective tissue strengthening, range-of-motion improvement, joint alignment and potentially blood flow during subsequent exercise – all beneficial effects in the long run.

Written by David Prologo and originally published on TheConversation.com

Links for your consideration

Martial Arts Fitness

Martial Arts Fitness Series1, Episode 2

brown belt clip art with post title

Why do students quit at brown belt? Part 2

“Brownbeltitis”

Our post “Why do students quit at brown belt” received quite a few clicks. It’s a topic that deserves some more insight and discussion. So here is our Part 2 which offers a cool scientific explanation.

Fear of the known

So many people don’t like the word fear. It somehow denotes inadequacy. Quite the contrary, fear can be very helpful in some instances. Fear of driving too fast – because you might lose control. Fear of crossing a busy intersection – because you have a greater chance of being hit. I’m not referring to phobias; just ordinary, daily fears. And those are the ones we can readily admit to. It’s universal – those are healthy fears.

Fear of failure

Then there is fear of failure. That’s the one that will make a brown belt quit, and many times, won’t admit to this fear. Black belt tests can be long and physically and mentally demanding. When a student is afraid of sparring, for example, sometimes that becomes projected onto the instructor for “not partnering me up fairly”. If a student is not proficient in required techniques this can quickly turn into  “sudden symptoms of injury” that would prompt a medical note to cease training. This is the fear that can almost be referred to as ironic. Aren’t the martial arts supposed to instill self-confidence and courage?  This is the one that needs involvement with the parents, the instructors, teachers and the student. It’s important to keep asking and probing. Be realistic and don’t promise outcomes. The focus should be on the insignifigance of failing if a true effort has been made. The best thing about failing is knowing what you need to work on!

When a student has passed test after test, has learned and grown, even prospered in their martial arts training, why would fear of failure suddenly take such a strong hold? It’s true that black belt tests are meant to test technique, but more important is the spirit and drive the student demonstrates to earn a coveted rank. If you can discover the underlying fear of failure ( sometimes evident as anger at everyone and everything ) you have the opportunity to change a person’s perspective for life.

Fear of success

As a martial arts student and teacher for over 28 years I can tell you I have heard many, many excuses from brown belts for quitting. While I was training as a colored belt there were three other females my own age and belt rank. We all made it to brown belt and all trained hard together. But one by one our group of four became a group of one; me!

The first friend to quit blamed everybody and everything. From inconvenient class times to injuries, she began to let us know that she didn’t need a test to be as good as a “black belt.” And she was gone.

Friend number two was at the top of her training for the years leading up to brown belt. She was devoted and interested. Things changed when she earned brown belt. She didn’t feel our teacher was giving her good training. ( So – it was great for three years, but now it’s not?) She said she was going to another dojo to train. She didn’t. Quit at brown belt.

The last friend in the group not only had Brownbeltitis, she was a classic example of Imposter Syndrome.

Individuals with “Impostor Syndrome” tend to suffer from a very specific self-esteem issue: The belief that they are unworthy of success. -PsychTests

Imposter Syndrome

This is a real thing and one of the most relevant statements I read is this:

…the more success “impostors” experience, the more pressure they feel because of the increased responsibility and visibility.     – inc.com

Martial arts are known for their heirarchys and expectations of advanced students. What once seemed like an unachievable goal – earning black belt – is now closer than ever for brown belts. Brown belts are looked up to by younger students because of the role they play in the heirarchy. But brown belts are still a part of the “under belts” community. This community is comfortable and known to the brown belt.

And then comes the once elusive rank of black belt. Achieving a black belt is a huge accomplishment and seen as a big success, especially from your peers. Success can mean stepping into a new role with more responsibility, and more eyes watching.

That last friend I mentioned was living in the wreckage of her future. She had forgotten all the long training sessions, the thank-you’s she received for helping students and the hard-work we all put into reaching our goals. In her mind, becoming a black belt was not achieving a life-long dream anymore. It had become a success she was afraid to achieve.

If I knew then what I know now, I’m confident she would have been testing right beside me!

Get it done.

Links for your consideration

Inspiration: Courage 

Inspired by the “F” word

Why do students quit at brown belt?