For as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of the bad guy. Whether I was cheering for Mum-Ra, or COBRA, there was always a bit of disappointment when the bad guy lost. I never really understood why until I began reading more about myths and the origins of stories.
What draws me to the bad guy is the fact that, unlike their superhero counterpart, the villain is never able to overcome their one character flaw. They don't push through tough situations and typically fail to embrace failure as a chance to learn and grow. They're great at blaming others.
Stop running from your faults. Start working on your weaknesses.
And don't wait until tomorrow because, frankly, that's not guaranteed to us.
Stop running and confront that part of yourself that you've been ignoring. Confront your arrogance. Squash your ego. Quiet the quitter inside your heart by doing something challenging.
Stop running. Take 2 minutes, right now, to think about that one area that you need to work on.
Oh, and get to the dojo.
Returning to The Hundred Rules of War:
"When entering a confrontation, Samurai should neither look back on the path travelled, nor what is off to the left of right."
Most of us will never enter battle, and many of us avoid confrontation like a plague. I think that's why, when we enter into a confrontation (an argument, a discussion, or a physical altercation) we've got no idea what to do. Panic sets in. We become overwhelmed with everything going on around us and lose focus of the task at hand.
Focus on what's ahead and drive through it. Don't allow yourself to be distracted.
I see this a lot as a teacher. High schoolers in particular might see the confrontation as a big assignment that needs to be completed. Some (more these days that i've noticed in the past) become overwhelmed with details and other happenings that simply don't matter and are not relevant to the assignment.
Do you remember the last time you did something distraction free? It really is an amazing feeling. Each morning I get to work a little early, shut the door, and read (usually something nerdy) for 15 minutes. No phone. No e-mail. No worries about the day ahead. Just pure, uninterrupted, focused reading. Focus=freedom. Enjoy some of it today.
It's not that I have a ton of keys, my problem is that several of them (about half) look almost identical. I've had to take a marker and color code them at times before learning their place on my keyring. Before doing that, I remember a couple of times where I'd gotten flustered; needing to get into a room quickly, but not remember which was the magic key.
Many of us start the week of with good intentions of making some positive change. Good intentions will only get you to the starting line, but aren't really helpful in getting the show on the road. I think a lot of the struggle comes from people wanting to do too much.
Rather than become overwhelmed with your list, just shorten it. Seriously shorten it...down to one action item that you can commit to each day.
The only thing on my list for this week is to get up 15 minutes earlier. So far, so good...although I barely made it this morning!
What's your one thing going to be? A 30 minute walk each day? Reading for 15 minutes before going to bed? What are you going to commit to?
Listening to a podcast this morning, I had to rewind several times in order to get this quote down; word for word. This is one professor's interpretation of Soren Kierkegaard:
"There will come a time where we will have so much security and comfort that what we will want more than anything else is deprivation and challenge."
As a school teacher, I'm confronted with this every day...and have been for the last 17 years. What might grind your gears is that, while certainly not unique to boys, this is an issue that particularly effects boys in the middle and high school years; primarily because of the way in which most schools are run and the overprescription of ADHD medication, but there are other factors as well. From a physical and neurological development aspect, boys need the challenge. They need to have some of the unnecessary comforts stripped away and pushed into doing hard things; things they may not initially want to do, but are hardwired to need this challenge in order to thrive.
That's the problem, but what's the answer? I don't know. What I certainly do know is that if we continue down this path, we will continue to raise a culture of "boys who shave" and "men without chests."
One way to push your own sons in this direction is to ensure that they have opportunities to be challenged, not just physically, but cognitively, spiritually, and even morally. Give them regular chances to struggle and grow.
Get your son involved with a martial arts program...a challenging one...one that demands hard work and personal growth on a daily basis.
What's at stake is significant, and we're seeing a lot of it already. We're not losing a generation of boys. No, it's a heck of a lot worse than that. By not pushing them from late elementary through the high school years, we are ensuring that the boys get bigger, but never really grow up. Think on that for a moment, seriously consider the implications. If that doesn't scare the hell out of you, then I'd say you've got a bit of reading to catch up on.
My job (as a teacher and instructor) is not to make your son feel good about himself by throwing unwarranted praise in his direction. My job is to present him with a challenge that, once accomplished, unleashes the pride from within his own soul. Who knows though, I could very well be wrong.
Hello and Osu, internet! I’m Sempai Matt, assistant instructor at the Forge and our resident jovial curmudgeon, and I’m here today with a question.
Do you want to be a Black Belt, or do you want to be a Sempai?
If you answered Black Belt, then I have good news! Getting a Black Belt is CRAZY easy. Open a new tab, and type “www.amazon.com” into your browser. Search for like, I don’t know, “karate black belt,” and BOOM. They’re like 10 bucks. You’re welcome.
We don’t train “black belts” at the Forge. We train Sempai.
“But what does that mean?” you ask, in a grating mewl. Slow your roll, hypothetical-question-asker. I was just getting to that.
Sempai (or senpai) is a Japanese word that means “senior.” If you were a first-year at a Japanese high school, any second- or third-year student would be your sempai, and you would be their kohai, or “junior.” You would be expected to show deference and respect to them at all times, and even sometimes run errands or perform menial tasks. These relationships exist at all levels of schooling and in the workplace as well.
Being a sempai sounds pretty sweet, right? But it’s not all fun and games. As a sempai, you’re expected to care for your kohai. You’re responsible for guiding them and setting a good example. If your kohai screw up, it’s you who are held accountable. You’d even be expected to treat them to food or drinks every now and then (assuming a personal relationship of course).
This type of give-and-take relationship is what we strive to cultivate in the dojo. Becoming a Sempai and earning your black belt isn’t just a free ticket to yell at kohai and make them do push ups (although that part is pretty fun). It’s a responsibility to be an example to your kohai. To teach, lead, and support them.
“How can I do that?” Excellent question, hypothetical-question-asker - I like that you’re catching on. There are any number of ways to be a good Sempai. You can, of course, strive to be a better teacher in the dojo. But if teaching directly isn’t your thing, you can still teach by example. You can strive to be an excellent fighter. You can make sure you know every stance and technique. You can be a pillar of courtesy, respect, and discipline. You can be a voice of encouragement during a grueling conditioning session (but please don’t, everyone hates that guy). My point is that anyone can be a Sempai, as long as they put in the work. And I can personally say that if you do, your new give-and-take relationship with your kohai will be well worth it.
If that sounds like something you’re interested in, our dojo is the place for you. We’ll do everything we can to help you get to that level.
If you just want a black belt? Well, there’s always Amazon.
I'm not a preacher or theologian, so I'm sure someone will take issue with this. I was just thinking through the Lord's Prayer this morning and got stuck on the line "I shall not want." It's taken me a while, but I've come up with a new way of thinking about that phrase that, in just a few hours, has reshaped my thinking.
I shall not want. What if we took it as a command, rather than a suggestion? What if we accepted the imperative to look at what we have, rather than search out all of the things we don't? While we're busy complaining about what we don't have, we're missing the blessing of those things (and experiences, and relationships) that we do have. If we would embrace that, I believe it would radically change our lives in a way that would ripple outward into our communities.
Each day this week, write out 5 things, or experiences, or relationships that you're thankful for. Read over that list when you wake up the next morning. Let's try this and see where it takes us.
Monday in the dojo we were practicing a certain technique and I noticed that a couple of students were making the same mistake. It's a mistake that we address every time we practice gedan barai...the placement of the pre-blocking hand/arm.
White belts are still learning how to move...I've got a lot of grace and patience for them. Once you put on a black belt though, my patience wanes quite a bit.
So Monday, I made a promise that if I caught one of our black belts making that mistake, we would all crank out 100 burpees. Surely, we would make it through at least a month with a heavy price like that placed on a small mistake. Nope. Last night, about 20 minutes before we would bow out and head our separate ways, we had to crank out 100 burpees.
Is it fair that the entire group is punished for one person's mistake? Seriously, I'd love some feedback from other coaches, instructors, students...if you've ever led a group or been part of a group, I want to hear from you!
Today is a big one for us here in Gaithersburg. It was on this day, 8 years ago, that the first formal class of the Gaithersburg Dojo was held. While I'd taught some seminars and summer camps in the few years prior, it took time (and a lot of encouragement) to get classes started.
In the past 8 years, we've had classes in back yards, basements, public school gyms and all-purpose rooms, and a private school wrestling room. We've trained on tennis courts, in the woods, and in parking lots. The more I've trained with the dojo here, the more that I learn that the dojo is more than the physical space that you practice in...the dojo is wherever that place is that you're practicing. Practice kata in the kitchen? Well, for that time, your kitchen is your dojo.
The dojo, to me, is also the community of people you are training with. I wouldn't trade these people for anything. I appreciate everyone...every single person who has even tried a single class at our dojo. It takes courage to try something new and even more courage to stick with it.
Did you know that in the 8 years that our dojo has been around, we've had about 500 people try a class? Now, in our area, that's a pretty small number. I think that speaks to the challenge of our style...it take a certain kind of toughness (not just physical) to come try a class. But of that 500...how many do you think have gone through the ranks to earn a black belt? 100? Too high. 50 then? Still too high. Out of the 500 people who have visited the dojo, four have gone through the ranks to earn the rank of shodan. Again...I think something shows here about the difficulty of our style.
Those four on a regular basis welcome being presented with their weakness and accept the challenge of working through them. Yeah, they can all fight. Yes, they're physically strong. But that isn't what makes a warrior. Those four, and so many who are following the way, are forging strong convictions and spirits. THAT'S why I love running this dojo. Changing bodies...making weak people strong and strong people unstoppable, that's fun. But it's so much more fulfilling to see people change for the better.
So 4 out of 500 earned an awesome accomplishment...I can say that all 500...every person who came into the dojo...they all leave better people than when they came in.
Eight years of investing in people. Here's to eight more!
I cannot wait for Avengers: Infinity War to come out. I've always loved superhero movies and still remember watching the original Superman with Christopher Reeve and loving it. Then came Michael Keaton...and as the years went on, the heroes became more grand.
My first favorite superhero though...Wonderwoman. I had a pair of Wonderwoman socks when I was a kid and there was a little (huge) part of me that was so excited to learn that Linda Carter lives just a short drive from my house.
We love heroes. Deep down, there's a part of us that wants to be that hero...and that is where our key for an awesome week comes in.
Every superhero, at some point in their journey, by definition will challenge fear. So, what are you afraid of? What can you tackle this week that you've always been hesitant to do? Have a tough conversation? Start a business? Talk to that girl or guy you've been thinking about? Try a new class (like mine)? What have you been afraid to try?
Now, more importantly, WHO can you ask to join you on this journey? Who is going to be your sidekick or, who will you be the sidekick to? I'm so proud of the boy in the picture above. In our last board breaking class (a few months ago) he struggled. He's young. He's small. It was understandable. However, those of you who are good at breaking know that a lot of it is in your head, right? Enter the black belt that is standing right there. I suspected that her presence would have a magical effect on him and asked her to join us at our most recent breaking class last Friday. Sure enough, having Senpai Lianne there gave this young boy the confidence of a superhero.
Find a goal. Find the help. Make it an awesome week.