I showed this video to my classes yesterday. I’ve shown it to my students each of the past few years, on the last class before Thanksgiving. As a scientist, I always love seeing the relationship between data and behavior. As a dad and husband, it’s humbling and convicting. As a teacher, I used that motivation to do something kind of cool.
Last week at school our students talked about gratitude and thankfulness. I was blessed to get about 50 notes of gratitude from my new students…this shocked me! So, I took it a step further: I wrote a personal note of gratitude to every one of my 150+ students…even translating a few to Spanish and Portuguese because that’s easier for a couple of my kids.
The reaction was amazing. It was the most amazing day of work in a long, long time. “You wrote one for all of us?”
“How long did this take you?”
“Mr. B. thank you. That means a lot.”
“Mr. B. you know me so well.”
“That. Made. My. Day! Happy Thanksgiving Mr. B.”
A few of the kids taped their notes to their binder (or their forehead) were so proud.
The lesson was two fold:
Thank someone today.
I challenged my Kids Kyokushin class on Monday to say “thank you” at least 5 times a day. I told them I’d do the same. Why don’t you join us?
OSU everyone! So we here at the Forge are located near Washington DC, in a nebulous area that’s often referred to as “the DMV.” If you’re at all familiar with the area, then you probably know that driving around here is the worst. Traffic is bad, roads are confusing, and the drivers are universally terrible. (Except for me, of course. And Sensei does OK too.)
One thing in particular that I hate-hate-HATE with a capital “H” is how many drivers just DON’T use their turn signal. Instead, they’ll just, like, GO, without warning or pretext. Or they’ll position their car next to a “gap”* in the lane they want to merge into, and then wait for the space to open up so they can merge.
I refuse! I do my best NOT to let these people in, and I will honk my horn in righteous fury if they should try to cut me off. You may be thinking that this is rude or unsafe of me - after all, does it really cost me that much to let these people in? Aren’t we taught in the dojo to be compassionate to others? In some ways you’re correct - I’m not being as nice as I could be. But I think the greater flaw is in letting the attitude and thinking of the non-signaler flourish.
Let’s consider what not using a turn signal really implies. First, if you’re not using a turn signal, you’re stating that you’re so very busy that you can’t move your left hand THREE INCHES to hit the lever before you make your turn. You’re assuming that everyone around you is paying attention to your actions and will respond accordingly and correctly in a way that accommodates YOU (a particularly dangerous assumption to make on a highway). But mostly, you’re proclaiming to everyone that YOU’RE the most important person, it’s all about YOU, and YOU don’t need to inconvenience yourself in any way for others.
It’s this last attitude in particular that I can’t stand, because it’s not only incredibly selfish, but it’s so THOUGHTLESS as well. It’s one thing to be selfish in your day-to-day life (and some amount of selfishness is to be expected, we’re all only human of course), but driving in particular is a communal activity. Rarely, if ever, are you alone on the road; even if you are, that situation can change at any time. Your actions have direct consequences on those around you, and vice-versa. To be clear, it’s not the act of turning that is bad - people need to turn and to change lanes to get to where their going. It’s only a problem when you aren’t communicating your intention and are instead expecting everyone around you to be a mind-reader. That’s when people get hurt.
This concept can also be applied in the dojo.** Proper signaling in the dojo can be hugely beneficial for yourself and others. While your instructors are always watching you, they aren’t mind-readers. They can only interpret your actions based on their own knowledge and experience. So if you want something specific out of your training, you need to signal. Want to be perceived as a serious student of the way? Signal this by always observing the rules of the dojo (stand in yoi dachi, always answer with OSU, address people by their rank, etc.). Want to show that you’re grateful for the instruction you’re receiving? Signal this by LITERALLYSHOWINGGRATITUDEWITHTHEWORDSTHANKYOUORSOMETHINGLIKETHATTHISREALLYISN’TTHATHARDPEOPLE. Do you have a question about a technique or exercise? Here’s where proper signaling comes in. If your question is not related to what’s currently happening in the dojo, then save it for later! If it IS related, then hold your hand up high! If your instructor doesn’t see it, say “OSU Shihan/Sensei/Sempai excuse me I have a question!”*** Say it loud enough so that they can hear, and so that EVERYONE can hear! You may have the same question as others and by asking it you’re helping everyone out! But only if you’re signaling properly!
Perhaps most importantly, where are you trying to go? Karatedo is a long road. You may think you’re heading in one direction, but if you haven’t properly signaled, you might be going the wrong way. Your instructor knows the rules of the road and they have the map. So signal! Ask for help! “OSU, here’s my goal. Am I on the right track? What else can I do to get to where I want to go?” I promise you that your instructor will LOVE this question. Even if there’s no easy answer, the fact that you’re asking says a lot.
So, how can you improve your signaling to help not just yourself, but those around you? Give it a try, and I think you’ll be presently surprised by the results. And of course, USE YOUR TURN SIGNALS. OSU!
*- IT’S NOT EVEN A GAP THEY JUST ROLL UP LIKE “OH HEY I’M ENTITLED TO GET IN FRONT OF YOU BY VIRTUE OF MY EXISTENCE KINDLY ACCOMMODATE ME” GAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH
**- Seeee, this wasn’t JUST a 1000-word-rant on people not using turn signals. I mean, yes, it is that, but it’s also the other thing
***- When they’re done talking of course, don’t interrupt people what’s the matter with you gee-whiz
Wow...it's been almost two months since I last posted.
In the past two months I've transitioned from a job that I loved for 15 years to a new position, that I'm growing to love so, so much.
In the past two months we've transitioned our 3 older boys from the same school. Our oldest is graduating this year from that place I have loved for 15 years; and our two middles are being homeschooled this year.
In the past two months, our youngest has started preschool with one of the best in the DC Metro Area.
We. Have. Been. Busy!
Over the past two months, training faithfully in the dojo, there is simply one word that sums it all up.
Now that I've found my groove, I'll be getting back into posting more regularly. Thanks for being so patient! The theme of "blessed" is going to carry us through 2018 and hopefully give us a positive kick into next year!
The dojo benefits. Families benefit. Kids have an opportunity to learn something WITH mom or dad. One parent per enrolled child can train FOR FREE at The Forge Dojo, provided that parent attends a minimum of 5 classes per month. Parents benefiting from the Free Parent Plan DO pay the 1-month rate for any month they fail to attend the class minimum, and there are no excused absences for this policy. Sign up for 6 months “free” classes, therefore, and it’s likely that you will pay for one or more of those months because interruptions do arise for work, vacation, illness, etc. If you’re disciplined, however, and dedicated, this can be a VERY affordable way for your family to join.
This unique element of training at The Forge Dojo began one year ago and has been such a blessing. As an adult, there is a priority to find an activity for your child, but that makes it difficult for you to afford your own workout? Here’s your chance! In the future, I foresee some of our stronger adult students will be free parents in this category; also because $110 is a good incentive to keep training regularly. You might even consider taking this on purely BECAUSE it will keep your practices regular and get you into shape. Don’t make this decision lightly, but if you take it with eyes wide open it can be the best decision you make this year.
Note: Parents taking advantage of this opportunity should plan on training in the Adult
Kyokushin class or, with approval from the head instructor, the Teen Kyokushin class.
Around the country, a new school year is ramping up. Some of my friends have already sent their kids back for the 2018-2019 academic year.
This is a busy time of year for sure. The roads are more congested in the morning and afternoon rush hours, and our schedules tend to begin filling up with work obligations or family schedules. This year though, why not try something new?
I know some of my friends out there have considered martial arts for themselves or their kids. Here's your chance to jump right into a great program.
I don't like bragging, but a lot of people have been very happy training in our dojo. I wont share specific reviews or testimonials here, but I do encourage you to check out the reviews on our Facebook page and even here on the website. I'm pretty confident that at least a few of our current students and families may comment on this post:-)
While the Back to School Starter Bundle is only available to new students in our Kids Kyokushin class, do keep in mind that new students (or their parents rather) can participate in our Free Parent Program. Watch out later this week for an update on that program and how it works.
The vast majority of the students at Forge Dojo hear stories of "the old Rockville dojo" and the people that it produced. While lining up to close out Camp Phoenix 2018, I got the idea to gather what's left of us for a group photo.
I've got countless stories about this group. Every single one of them can fight...without question. I would confidently walk into battle with any one of them, but that's not what I love most.
What I love most is that the men and women in this photo, the remnants of the old Rockville dojo, are some of the finest people that I know. More than anything, this group reminds me that budo karate is about perfection of character...taking weak people and making them strong...taking good people and making them great.
Well, Independence Day is here, which can only mean one thing...Camp Phoenix is right around the corner!
While we will not be staying in tents, there are quite a few similarities between traditional camping and Camp Phoenix. Now, that might be a HUGE turnoff for some folks, but here me out on this one. Here are my top 5 reasons YOU would love camping the Phoenix way.
Sensei Bob's Top 5 Reasons YOU Will LOVE Camp
1. Get away- Sometimes it's nice to get away for the weekend and forget about the responsibilities of work and household chores. It's also an awesome weekend to focus on yourself and your own growth.
2. Community building- Now, you wont be in solitude at all, but you will be surrounded by like-minded people all there to accomplish one primary goal: to train. When like-minded people gather together for any length of time, strong bonds can be formed. I've met some great friends at Camp Phoenix in the past. Whether you're a brand new student, or a seasoned veteran, you will leave Camp realizing that you are a vital part of something much bigger than yourself. That, is a feeling too few people experience.
3. Satisfaction on a job well done- You're going to work hard, there's no doubt about that. You're going to sweat. Your feet are going to be sore. You're going to be exhausted. But, you're going to be proud of the work you put in. You'll share stories with your friends and coworkers about everything you accomplished in such a relatively short time, and they will look at you like you're a superhero.
4. The setting- Camp Phoenix is held on the beautiful campus of Mount St. Mary's University. Nestled in the hills between Frederick, MD and Gettysburg, PA, it's always a gorgeous view and secluded from much of the busyness of the DC Metro area.
5. The timing- Camp Phoenix is smack dab in the middle of your summer...and that's exactly what you need. If you're anything like me, you're exhausted by mid-July. Getting away for a weekend to train and recharge can be a huge motivator to push you through to Labor Day!
Room assignments (your own private dorm room) are being finalized soon, so there's still time to register. To learn more about Camp Phoenix, check out this link: https://www.forgemd.com/camp-phoenix.html
To register for Camp, contact your instructor (or me directly) now!
Hope to see you there!
Many people believe that every teacher loves Summer Break. Sure it is nice to have a little bit of time off, but it's the break from the routine that drives nuts. I don't like changes to the plan. I don't particularly enjoy changes in my daily, or weekly routine. Heck, i don't really care for making last minute driving directions. I'm fairly certain that for me, at least partly, it's a control issue. I want to wield the cosmic remote and control all possibilities. Seems even more absurd to hear that, and see it on my screen.
Still, summertime for me does bring about certain challenges. With a more open schedule, it's easy to push things off until later in the day. Most of us know how well that works, right? Since I don't have to necessarily "be" somewhere first thing in the morning, the temptation to sleep in is strong.
So, I'm reaching out to you. How do you handle changes in routine? Teachers, how to you embrace the summertime schedule?
There's an expression that goes something like:
Lions don't lose sleep over the affairs of sheep.
I like it.
I really like it.
I don't think it's an arrogant or self-righteous idea, but it could easily turn into one. Rather, to me (if I can be so bold as consider myself a lion) it's a reminder to not lose sleep over things that just aren't important. That argument at work? Most likely not that important. Dinner was late? Not important. House is on fire? Maybe you should take care of that.
Most of the things in my life I have little control over. I'm growing in learning and growing here, and caring less about those things I cannot control. I can control my words (most of the time) and my actions (most of the time) but I can't control you. I can't control your opinion of me or what I have to say.
The idea of not being able to find rest because I'm preoccupied with someone else's opinion or something else I have ZERO control over is almost comical now.
I like to sleep.
I'm not going to give it away for things that don't matter.
I remember this song playing during the last week of Basic Combat Training at Fort Benning. Here we were, a room chock full of newly trained soldiers...thinking we were some serious badasses. All of us; every single one of us...man we were reduced to a sobbing mess when this song was played during one of our class sessions.
I am grateful to God for those men and women who sacrificed themselves for this country. I'm humbled beyond words by the fact that there are husbands and wives, sons and daughters, moms and dads, who have had to say goodbye too soon.
So today, do three things for me:
1. Grill something. Animals are preferred, but I hear you can grill other things too.
2. Drink a beer. If you're not 21, enjoy a beer of the root variety.
3. Take 30 seconds to reflect on the family you have in your life today that others don't.
Have a thankful Memorial Day.
I've written about this before. I think about it a lot more often though. While we are naturally geared to identify errors and hypocrisies, it feels like we've tilted too far in that direction. We have become willing to overlook the great accomplishments of men and women and, instead, focus on their faults. It's easier to do that, but we all know that the easy way isn't typically the best way.
I've read people go as far as to demonize Martin Luther King, Jr. for some of his personal faults. Seriously, that's how far we've tilted. From what I can tell, this movement seems rooted in the confusion between equal opportunity and equal outcome. Tearing people down because their outcome turned out better than yours is wrong. And it's not just wrong for you, everyone around you suffers.
Maybe it's the dad in me, but I get pretty fired up. My biggest problem is that when we tear people down, who do we have to look up to? When we have no heroes, who do we point to and say "Son, be like that" or "Daughter, live like that"? We need men and women to point out to our kids. WE need heroes to look up to! Don't believe me? Look at the box office. We (globally) are longing for stories of heroes.
I never met Lieutenant Michael Murphy; I've only read and seen stories of him. He was a warrior. He was a good man. He was a hero. He is one of my heroes.
Below is a clip from the film Lone Survivor (NSFW due to language) which shows why Murph is a hero of mine. It takes a hero to make the right decision over the popular decision.
For what it's worth, I let my kids watch movies like this. I want them to see men and women who are better than me, who are stronger than me, who are more honorable than me. I want my sons to have men and women to look up to...but that's just me.
To say that I’m excited about this camp would be the understatement of the year! This year, I'm looking for a dozen young people from across Montgomery County who want to take on this challenge: an introduction to real, hard, budo karate training. To help answer your questions, and plan ahead, I’ve broken down some considerations by category below:
We will train from 8a-5p each day. There will be three slots each day dedicated to Kyokushin karate training in the dojo. Additionally, we will have a 45-minute session set aside for reading and reflection (and recovery). I will have several books to choose from; karate related and other material good for character development.
The Uchi Deshi Camp includes a “PT” uniform; consisting of shorts and two t-shirts. Those wishing to purchase a dogi (karate uniform) are more than welcome to do so. We will be staying in one of the two uniforms all day!
One aspect of this camp that I’m particularly excited about is that we will be completely “unplugged”. Checking e-mail, text messages, Facebook, Instagram, etc. will have to be done outside of our 8a-5p window. This is going to require some planning on your part to make sure you communicate clearly with your friends and family. In case of an emergency, you should encourage your family to call the dojo phone (240-899-3517).
In the spirit of Budo karate, we will also be pursuing some service projects during the week. I’m still working on wrapping up the final details for those projects, and will let you know our partners as soon as those details are nailed down. Remember, we train to make our minds, bodies, and spirits stronger; not just for us, but so that we can be a blessing in our communities!
Lunch and snacks will be provided each day. There will be a “lounge” set up with items to enjoy during rest/recovery and break times. This space will also house a lot of the reading material for the reading and reflection times each day.
To register, check this link.
As always...send me any questions you have!
Looking forward to a great time training with you all!
Two summers ago I ran an Uchi Deshi Camp here in Gaithersburg. It was an opportunity to participate in a focused week of training, completely unplugged from the outside world. It was an incredible success in so many ways. There's definitely something special about the group that was able to successfully navigate through the rigors of that week.
Well, I'm doing it again. This time with one major change. This year, the program will only be open to teenagers; students entering grades 6-12.
Think about it...9 hours of training for 5 consecutive days. No cell phones. No computers. No television. Hard physical training. Reading actual books. Being outside. It's going to be another awesome experience.
One stipulation that will be in effect again is the size limit of the group. Again, I'll only work with a maximum of 12 students during each of the week long experiences. Actually...I shouldn't say "only". To be quite honest, I don't think there are 12 youth (or their parents) who are brave enough to take the challenge.
If you're one of the brave souls who is willing to take a week and really work on improving yourself, on unleashing that warrior that may be sleeping deep down inside, then click here to sign up.
If you've got any questions...anything at all...send it my way.
Pick. Your. Battles.
Think about your last "battle". It could have been a debate, a heated argument, or a physical trial. Was it worth it? If you could do it all over again, would you have done the same thing?
Most of the arguments I get in have very little significance in the grand scheme of things, and often I regret engaging in them. On occasion though, there are those battles which, controversial as they can be, are worth the risk of engagement. Not just engagement, but whole hearted commitment. Typically, there aren't many of these that we come across in our lives, so when you come across one of them, you sure know it.
I've been teaching for a long time now. I've seen the trends of culture change. I've seen the effects of cell phones and instant access to information. I've seen the explosion of social media.
I've also seen adolescent depression and anxiety skyrocket. I've seen more pressure put on kids than they can handle. I've seen an increase of procrastination and a decrease in planning, scheduling, and discipline.
Our kids aren't doing well...at least not nearly as well as they could.
I know what they need. What they need is incredibly simple, but a significant challenge, for all of us involved. What they need is countercultural. What they need, is training in warriorship.
And while creating a new, warrior mindset would benefit all of us, my heart goes out to seeing boys grow into men; strong men and not big boys who shave. That's the hill I'm going to die on. Creating a warrior mindset in young boys and teenagers so that we will all benefit from a generation of men (producers) and not just big boys (consumers).
To help kickstart this in the MoCo area, I'll be running two, week-long camps this summer. Training in warriorship for 9 hours a day. Training...not playing because dammit, this isn't a game.
I'll be doing a Facebook Live Q&A this Wednesday a noon EST. Jump in, shoot me some questions. I'm eager to hear what you all think.
Last week in the dojo I had each of us go through a significant, physically demanding trial. Simple, but extremely challenging.
Pushups. Squats. Crunches.
How many? All of them! We performed as many repetitions as we could without stopping. Pushing ourselves to that point where the mind was willing, but there was nothing left in the muscles...man it's always tough.
We all pushed to our breaking point and then, once we were finished, we continued with more normal training.
After about a half hour, I presented the real challenge. Take your numbers from the first set of pushups, squats, and crunches and do 150% of the reps. Sure, breaks we allowed this time and while it was definitely an exercise in mental toughness, we were all pushing our bodies to a new limit.
We don't do that often enough. I am amazed some times at how much our bodies can do...that our bodies WANT to do...we just ask so little.
I'll never forget years ago talking with my wife and trying to explain what a Pistol Squat was. To this day, I still cannot do one. The envy that I felt when Amy said, "Is it like this?" before executing a perfect Pistol makes me smile to this day.
Our bodies are stronger. Much stronger than you think. Demand more and you'll see what you're capable of. Continue sitting on the couch, and you'll never tap into that greatness inside. Test yourself. Do one more rep. Run for one more mile. Do. One. More.
And get to the dojo.
"Samurai should, as a matter of course, engage in contests of strength. If you do not then your muscles will become slack."
The Hundred Rules of War
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.
It's Monday, and good night I hate hearing about "the Mondays" like they're some kind curse. You know what Monday is? Monday is your opportunity to start an entire week off doing something awesome.
Get fit. Lose weight. Learn more. Save money. What do you want to do that you're not doing? More importantly...why haven't you started yet?
Are you waiting for the perfect time? Guess what...this is it. Waiting for a written invitation? This is it. Don't waste your Monday. What are you going to do today that will setup success for the week?
Stop waiting. Go.