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Inspired by the “F” word

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This 4-letter word makes most people cringe. People try to avoid using it in a sentence and will seek any synonym that isn’t as harsh. It can invoke an emotional response and trigger action.

Why is the “f” word so bad?

Did you figure it out? This is a “G” rated blog, so I wouldn’t even go there . That cringe-worthy word I’m speaking of is “fail”. There – I said it.  That wasn’t so bad. And the fact is that it isn’t bad! It doesn’t feel good, but neither does having a cavity filled!

It’s an outcome, not a life sentence

At The Bushido School of Karate we make an announcement before every belt promotion test. It’s important to educate and re-enforce that our test’s are not ceremonies. We do not award belts; rather, our students earn their belts. There may be students who do not go home with a new belt. The opposite of pass is fail. Plain and simple.  Failing is just an outcome; it does not make someone a failure.

Of course those who failed will be disappointed. That’s where a parent can make all the difference. After 20 years of owning and operating our karate school we have seen the gambit of emotional responses and the actions that follow.  The following suggestions are based on real-life scenarios. Our findings have not been psychologically analyzed or studied, formally conducted, or funded with grants. They are observations based on only one thing: experience.

What to do when your kid fails

Of course they need comfort, but not coddling. When a parent is upset, the child will have the same response. An acknowledgement of their failure is important, but stroking their ego is not. Martial arts are inherently tough, both physically and mentally. If earning a black belt were that easy you would see as many kids wearing karate gis around town after class as you do young soccer players wearing their uniforms after practice.

Sometimes the reason for failing is obvious, even to the untrained eye. Sloppy techniques, inconsistent focus and just not knowing are among the more blatant mistakes. Don’t overthink this, but do try to find out what can be done to improve. Has your child missed classes or not adhered to their schedule of classes? Is there any time at your school or dojo when students can make plans for informal training with higher ranks (sometimes called Open Mat). Are there any resources available outside of class for practicing at home? 

One of the best things you can do is not treat the word fail as a bad word. The greatest innovations of our time have been the result of success after multiple failures. It’s a part of life, and without it we would never know joy. ( I think I paraphrased Eleanor Roosevelt there. )

Osu, keep on keeping on


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12 inspiring ways to improve your day

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These twelve short “stories” are all very good stories and make us think twice about the daily happenings in our lives as we deal with others!! They came to me in an email this morning. While a couple of them are gut-wrenching, sometimes that is when the deepest change can happen. I hope this list of twelve inspiring and thought-changing narratives will improve your day, and your perception!

What does success mean to you?

1. Today, I interviewed my grandmother for part of a research paper I’m working on for my Psychology class. When I asked her to define success in her own words, she said;

“Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile.”

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2. Today, I asked my mentor – a very successful business man in his 70s what his top 3 tips are for success. He smiled and said;

“Read something no one else is reading, think something no one else is thinking, and do something no one else is doing.”

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3. Today, after my 72-hour shift at the fire station, a woman ran up to me at the grocery store and gave me a hug. When I tensed up, she realized I didn’t recognize her. She let go with tears of joy in her eyes and the most sincere smile and said;

“On 9-11-2001, you carried me out of the World Trade Center.”

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4. Today, after I watched my dog get run over by a car, I sat on the side of the road holding him and crying. And just before he died;

he licked the tears off my face.

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5. Today at 7AM, I woke up feeling ill, but decided I needed the money, so I went into work. At 3PM I got laid off. On my drive home I got a flat tire. When I went into the trunk for the spare, it was flat too.

A man in a BMW pulled over, gave me a ride, we chatted, and then he offered me a job.

I start tomorrow.

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6. Today, as my father, three brothers, and two sisters stood around my mother’s hospital bed, my mother uttered her last coherent words before she died.

She simply said, “I feel so loved right now. We should have gotten together like this more often.”

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7. Today, I kissed my dad on the forehead as he passed away in a small hospital bed. About 5 seconds after he passed,

I realized it was the first time I had given him a kiss since I was a little boy.

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8. Today, in the cutest voice, my 8-year-old daughter asked me to start recycling. I chuckled and asked, “Why?” She replied, “So you can help me save the planet.” I chuckled again and asked, “And why do you want to save the planet?”

Because that’s where I keep all my stuff,” she said.

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9. Today, when I witnessed a 27-year-old breast cancer patient laughing hysterically at her 2-year-old daughter’s antics, I suddenly realized that,

I need to stop complaining about my life and start celebrating it again.

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10. Today, a boy in a wheelchair saw me desperately struggling on crutches with my broken leg and offered to carry my backpack and books for me. He helped me all the way across campus to my class and as he was leaving he said,

“I hope you feel better soon.”

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11. Today, I was feeling down because the results of a biopsy came back malignant. When I got home, I opened an e-mail that said, “Thinking of you today. If you need me, I’m a phone call away.”

It was from a high school friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years.

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12. Today, I was traveling in Kenya and I met a refugee from Zimbabwe. He said he hadn’t eaten anything in over 3 days and looked extremely skinny and unhealthy. Then my friend offered him the rest of the sandwich he was eating.

The first thing the man said was, “We can share it.”

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The best sermons are lived, not preached.

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Osu, enjoy today!


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Family, Disney and stick-shift


With Father’s Day this weekend I wanted to share the inspiration and lessons learned from my Dad.

Family comes first

My dad grew up in Yonkers, N.Y. in a basement apartment with three older brothers, one sister and immigrant parents. Crowded to say the least. Perhaps living in such close proximity to one another was the reason that, as my father grew up and became a dad, we were taught that family comes first.

I can remember car trips to visit uncles in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Our station wagon was packed with family. My brother and I and assorted cousins, my Grandmother, and usually my aunt. We always stopped along the way at some road-side attraction. My father loved to explore and travel. Before the age of five I had been in 48 contiguous states and Alaska.

When we weren’t traveling, family came to stay with us. There was never a question about going to a hotel. People slept in every room and kids on the floor. The TV had seven stations. The internet was a few decades away. The phone was attached to the wall and board games were our entertainment. Those were the best memories of my life!

We’re going to Disney World!

In 1971 I was four years old and the happiest place on earth opened their gates! My dad fell in love with the ideology: magical and happiness. And I quickly followed in this belief. Every other year we would take a trip to Disney World. Usually by car, and one time by train.  After the first couple of years the crowds got bigger and lines got longer under the hot Summer sun in Florida. That’s when my parents decided to pull us out of school for one week every October for the Disney trip. No lines, no crowds, no unbearable heat! While other parents poo-pooed the idea of taking us out of school, don’t poo-poo it until you do it. Best memories of my life!

Learning to drive a stick-shift was required

When it was time for me to learn how to drive my dad had one requirement: you must learn on a stick shift. I chug-chugged an old pick-up truck up and down Boston Post Road. Stalled a few times and learned the emergency brake is my best friend when stopping while going uphill. Now this was driving. His reasoning was that if I could drive a stick-shift then I could drive anything. Cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles. Anything.

I was already familiar with a clutch from riding our mini-bike around the backyard and the ATV’s in upstate New York. It was second-nature to then drive a car with a clutch and gears.  And yes, I have driven trucks and tractors and inherited my dad’s love of motorcycles. His was originally an Indian, and he looked like a Norwegian James Dean sitting on his bike with t-shirt sleeves rolled up and blue jeans.

When I bought my Harley Davidson back in 2003 the first place I went was a mile away from my home to show my dad.  I wanted him to know his grown daughter had followed very closely in his adventuresome footsteps, and I thanked him for making me learn how to drive a stick-shift. As soon as I got off the bike, he got on. I snapped a picture of him sitting on my HD with the biggest grin. That grin said more than words could ever say. Best memory of my life, and my dad.

Happy Father’s Day and don’t forget to have fun with your kids!


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What to know about first impressions


There are so many instances when a person’s first impression of you matters. When applying for a job, going on a first date, starting a new school, selling a product or service – those are among the many times it matters. And most of the time our first thought turns to how we dress, or a nice firm handshake. Looking the other person in the eye is important, too. That’s a biggie. But there is one thing that people notice before anything else.

It sounds like impression

When we were looking to hire a part-time assistant in our karate school, I was told about a young lady who was interested in the job. She was already a student, which is always a bonus. She was always early for her classes, tried hard on the mat and took pride in her uniform being cleaned and pressed. She was a role model as a student, but there was one big problem. She never smiled. What sounds like impression? It’s your expression. And hers was glum. Imagine you are a trepidatious, prospective karate student coming into a martial arts school for the first time. Would you want to be met with someone who looked like they were sucking on Sour Patch Kids? As talented as she was, her expression made us pass her up for the job.

The right expression at the right time

Of course it’s not always a good idea to smile. I’m thinking of facing an opponent during sparring (kumite) lessons. In this instance, each opponent has the opportunity to intimidate the other with their expression. It is the first line of defense.

In 1994 I was a brown belt preparing for my black belt test. During sparring classes it was important to realize that, although I was among friends, I had to look at them in the eyes with an expression that said “I am going to sweep the floor with you.” That’s the impression I had to make.  During a sparring class I would never expect an opponent to back down, even if I growled. However, I would expect a potential attacker to think twice.

Self-defense starts above the neck

Your brain starts the whole process, and for most of us, it is located above the neck. Your expression is next. If you believe someone wants to harm you, you need to let them know it’s not going to happen. Speak volumes without opening your mouth. ( Just like my parents used to do, and I knew I was in trouble without a word being said.)  And it wouldn’t hurt to take a self-defense class, have a plan and know the facts.  Just saying.



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Inspiration from my 6th Grade History Teacher

Let’s just say it was a real “slap in the face”

This post may shock some of you, no doubt. I will begin by saying this happened in 1979. I cannot imagine this happening today. If this happened today it would be considered an outrage. People would be fired, there would be counseling, maybe even a lawsuit. Thank God it happened in 1979. And yes, it was a literal slap in the face.

The boy got what he deserved

I was 12 years old in 1979 enrolled in a public school in suburban New York. Sitting in my history class among 20 other kids, I was taught one of the most memorable lessons of my life. And it had nothing to do with history.

There was a class discussion going on, although I cannot remember the topic. There was a lull in the noise when the boy behind me – let’s call him Joe (because that was his name!) – uttered a derogatory remark about me. He intended just for me to hear it, but that’s not what happened.  The sudden quiet in the room caused his remark to be heard by everyone, including our teacher. That’s when this boy got what he deserved.

What was I going to do about that?

That’s the question the teacher asked me. I know I didn’t have an answer. I was embarrassed and mortified. What Joe said wasn’t true, but that didn’t matter. So the teacher told me to “turn around and slap him.” So I did. And then he told Joe to apologize, and he did. Then he told Joe to stay after class, and he did. When the bell rang I was outta there, and I was a hero. No boy in that school ever made me feel uncomfortable again.

Imagine almost 40 years later and that incident has never left me. I hope it didn’t leave Joe either, and my hope is that he is as thankful to that male teacher as I am.  Now I don’t go around slapping people when they say something mean about me. That wasn’t the lesson. But it was in that moment that my self-worth sky-rocketed.  I was being taught to take care of myself. It doesn’t get more valuable than that!

Karate for girls

Anyone over 50 can back me on this. In 1979 there was nowhere near the plethora of activities that are available for kids today. Our choices were football (for boys), cheerleading or field hockey for girls, and basketball for both. There was only one martial arts school within 20 miles and it was a little scary.

Now kids can join or participate in practically anything. From coding to curling, rock climbing to karate, there is something for everyone. As a female martial arts school owner I can tell you that every time a parent signs up their young daughter for lessons I remember the day I was taught a most valuable lesson. It makes me so happy to know that there won’t have to be a circumstance in her future when she is without her parents and has to take care of herself, but won’t know how.  The irony in taking karate lessons is that she may never actually have to be physical to defend herself.  And that is also the best part!


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Inspiration from Mas Oyama

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The founder of kyokushin karate

Masutatsu Oyama is the founder of kyokushin karate. This is our training style at The Bushido School of Karate. You can easily find more information about Mas Oyama and his own lineage online. Our own Shihan Mehrkar was lucky enough to train under the Oyama family in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  Mas Oyama passed away in 1994, but his legend and legacy continue.

The following was copied from the Armenian Kyokushin Karate Federation’s website.

Masutatsu Oyama: Inspiration and fear


They say that there are a lot of things that are transmitted or can be inspired. Drowsiness transmits. Yawning can transmit … Very often this is used by sportsmen during fights.

In large-scale strategy, when the enemy is active and is showing signs of fuss, do not pay attention to it. Express equanimity. It will make an impression on the enemy, and he will relax. When you see that your spirit relaxation is transferred to the enemy, you can win the fight by a surprise attack.

In a duel with one opponent, you can win, relax your body and spirit, and then, seizing the moment when the enemy relaxed, catch him off guard, attacking strongly and quickly …


In order to frighten the enemy one should do something unexpected. In large-scale strategy you can frighten the enemy not only by your appearance but also shouting and screamings, creating the illusion of force or the threat of attack from the flank without warning. All this can inspire fear. You can win, extracting maximum benefit from the enemy chained actions.

In single combat you must also strive to surprise and defeat the enemy, startling him with your movements, or voice. You should explore this possibility.

What is Karate, by Masutatsu Oyama