Recently we began letting our students select the topics for our daily “mat chats,” which we discuss for a few minutes each class. We find that this is a great way to ensure that we are addressing topics that are relevant and important to our students. Students may recommend a topic to one of the instructors before or after class.
So far we have had many great ideas, please keep them coming! We are also very open to suggestions from parents! Depending upon the number of suggestions we receive, it may take us several weeks to get to your particular topic, but rest assured that if it is important to you, it is important to us! Thank you for your input!
First off, I will admit that sometimes accepting advice or constructive criticism can be difficult. However, I have recently begun to understand how valuable this input can be, and now, I am asking, nay, BEGGING for more of this amazing resource.
For example, one parent voiced the opinion that in a Karate Camp virtually all of the activities should be geared toward...<gasp>...Karate! After considering this insight, we, the instructors, agree. While our previous Summer Camps have featured intense martial arts training, we have created a schedule for events that will have our campers learning and performing martial arts related activities for virtually the entire day. During lunch breaks, we are even requiring that all students cut their sandwiches with samurai swords (just kidding!).
But seriously folks, this is going to be our best Summer Camp yet because of the carefully laid out lesson plan and curriculum which was developed as a result of one parent's input.
We are available to take your calls any day of the week (410-561-5245), and/or you can speak with Ms. Candice at the front desk during classes.
What would enhance the martial arts experience for you and your child? Would classes on Sunday's help? Do I sometimes have bad breath while teaching class? Whatever it is, we would love to hear about it.
It is true that we cannot accommodate every single "request to a t," but we love hearing from our parents, and we will always take their thoughts into deep consideration.
Sometimes I think that we have some of the world’s greatest young martial artists right here in the Timonium/Towson/Cockeysville/Hunt Valley/Sparks/Baltimore metropolitan area. Mr. Archer and Mr. Azzie helped to confirm my suspicions last Saturday when they put on one of the most exciting Black Belt tests I have ever seen.
The techniques, sparring, and board breaking were all phenomenal. Even more importantly, however, is how each of these young men really acts like a Black Belt. They are very modest about their skills, always willing to work with younger students, and helping them to improve their skills, while making them feel good about themselves.
I am looking forward to watching Ms. Eliet, Mr. Johnathan, and Mr. Glenn earn their Black Belts this month! Those tests will be held on March 14 (Ms. Eliet) and March 15 (Mr. Johnathan and Mr. Glenn). Come on out and support them while watching an amazing martial arts demonstration!
-Jonathan Tissue is the head instructor of Maryland Martial Arts in Timonium. A 2005 graduate of Towson University in Towson, he holds Black Belts (or the equivalent ranking) in the arts of Taijutsu, Kung Fu, San Shou, a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and a green belt in Ninjutsu. He has taught martial arts in the Timonium/Towson/Cockeysville/Hunt Valley/Sparks/Baltimore metropolitan area for over 10 years.
Theme of the week: Perseverance
Perseverance is our theme of the week. One other relevant word might be “failure.” What is failure?
I don’t know about you, but I can recall times in my life when I have given up way too easily. It was as if I expected to get something right on the first try, and when things didn’t go my way, I would become frustrated, discouraged, and just assume that I wasn’t cut out for whatever it was I attempting.
“…every wrong attempt…is another step forward.” –Thomas Edison
Our goal with this section is to help our students to see “failure” for what it really is, an essential, and even beneficial, step towards their goals and growth.
You see, when I used to give up easily, I think I would just assume that the people who had succeeded where I had failed had merely gotten it right on the first try, or were smarter, more qualified, etc. In reality, the key distinction was probably that they simply did not give up until they had succeeded.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” is an old adage that we have all heard since childhood. However, actually living by this mantra in an entirely different matter, and that is our goal with this course!
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run,” – Babe Ruth
Last week, logging onto the computer, I saw a headline for a baseball story. Curious, I clicked on the
link. I don’t want to go into too much detail without the express written consent of Major League
Baseball, but the story can easily be found by doing a search for “Cincinnati Bat Boy.” Basically the bat
boy asked a player to hit a home run for him, which the player did. After the game the players were
crediting the bat boy for their win, calling him “good luck,” and stating how great it is to have someone
with his enthusiasm and positive demeanor in the dugout. It was an incredibly powerful story, and
I’ve talked about little else since seeing the video last week. Yesterday my wife finally said to me, “You
know, if you love this story so much, you should find a way to make it the topic of a mat chat.” At first I
laughed, but I think I have figured out a way to relate this story to performance in the martial arts, and
life in general.
The players called this bat boy good luck, because whenever he is their bat boy they play extremely well.
Now, this young man may indeed bring the team good luck, but I have another possible explanation as
to why the team seems to play so well when he is around. You see, the players remarked that this bat
boy brings an amazing energy and excitement to the team, as was evident in the video. He has a great
time, and anyone around him cannot help but have a great time as well.
Professional sports can seem like the most serious things in the world sometimes. Players’ and coaches’
livelihoods depend upon wins and losses, and we routinely see fighting between players and even fans.
Yet, the team in the story seems to be at their best when they are having fun, laughing, and joking
around. I believe that we do our best work when we are enjoying ourselves. Rather than worrying so
much about whether we are making progress, or how many points we are scoring, we can just go out
there and have a great time, and then we WILL succeed.
What an accomplishment! I've been training at Maryland Martial Arts since 2008 with one goal in mind since day one, which is student creed number four, "I intend to earn my black belt." The funny thing is that this goal never left my mind but so much has changed along the way. In the beginning I so badly wanted to be a black belt, and nothing else was on my mind. Not until I reached late gold belt or orange belt did things start to really change for me. I soon realized that helping others made me a better martial artist. It wasn't all about me anymore. Sure, I intended to earn my black belt, but I also started thinking about helping others earn their white belt and gold belt. This is when my road to constant improvement stepped into overdrive.
Around this time, I changed my diet and started to eat only healthy food that would help me get better at martial arts. When I say better at martial arts, I don't mean just punching and kicking. I mean better at living the martial arts lifestyle..Helping others, avoiding overly negative temptations, etc. And what do you know, this is student creed number one. "I intend to develop myself in a positive manner and avoid anything that would reduce my mental growth or my physical health." Well, it works. Stay positive and stay healthy for yourself, your friends, your family and the people around you that feed off of your positive vibes. This also correlates very nicely with student creed number two.. "I intend to develop self-discipline in order to bring out the best in myself and others." Through instructing, I've learned that not only what I say matters, but what I DO matters equally. People look up to me. They see me winning tournaments, blasting thru the ab-buster, challenging me to push up competitions. Everyone wants to spar me because I have great control and can spar at anyone's pace and skill level. This takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline and the ability to practice what I preach. With my personal growth and positive attitude, everyone that trains with me gets to experience this on some level and that's what is most important to me.
It's funny how goals change. I remember Sensei Jon's blog about goal setting. Should we set goals? I'm not really sure, but I do know that our goals are constantly changing. My first goal was to receive my black belt. My goals changed drastically while training, but in the end, I still reached that ultimate goal and now that I've received my black belt, everything begins for me. It was all about the journey, and now I get to pass this journey onto others.
I intend to earn my second degree black belt. When it happens, does not matter, only that it happens.
The last thing I'm going to leave you with is my best piece of advice. Giving to yourself is not selfish as long as you are helping others with your decision.
Why is right now the best time to study martial arts?
There are many reasons why this is the best time to be a martial artist, or to begin training in the arts. One reason in particular really seems to stand out to me. In the past decade or two, the arts have really gone through a renaissance of sorts, taking them from an interesting form of exercise to a profound art of self-development.
I began training in the martial arts approximately 25 years ago. Since then, I have been very fortunate to study several different styles of martial arts with many great instructors. These instructors taught me wonderful things, and their teachings represented some of the best knowledge and material that was generally known at that time.
However, due to recent advances in training methods, techniques, and a deeper understanding of what actually works, I have made the majority of my progress in the last 4 years. I believe that the arts have come such a long way that one year of martial arts training now might be as valuable as 5 years of training would have been a few decades ago.
To understand why this might be, consider the recent surge in popularity of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Here we have a sport that allows for a wide variety of techniques, with two fully resisting opponents. However we feel about such spectator sports, MMA has definitely opened our eyes to new ideas and training methods regarding self-defense.
There are some martial artists who were fortunate enough to be using these methods long before MMA became popular; for most of us, however, the growth of MMA represented an awakening that helped us identify gaps in our old training methods. Certainly, others will have had different experiences, but I feel that my own journey through the martial arts has been the norm over the past several years: a shift in training to place more emphasis on benefits to the student.
This should also come as no surprise if we consider all the advances being made in other fields. Professional athletes are able to enjoy longer and more productive careers thanks to a deeper understanding of the way the body works and improved training methods. However, the advances that have been made in the martial arts recently are, I believe, even more radical.
I have no doubt that right now is the greatest time to study the martial arts!
This blog is all about accepting ourselves and others for who we are. It seems like everywhere we look there are advertisements telling us we NEED something, as if something is wrong with us if we don’t wear the right clothes or listen to the right music. I’m certainly guilty of this as a martial arts instructor. For a long time I thought it was my job to help shy children become more extroverted, to help make loud kids be quiet, etc. in other words, to change people.
These days I’ve adopted a new approach. Our martial arts program is not about changing who a person is; it is about working with who they are.
In my early days, as I mentioned, I thought the goal was to change people. Of course the martial arts should help a person learn and grow to lead happy, fulfilling lives. However, there are many aspects of our personalities that I believe are difficult, if not impossible to change. My earlier attempts to change people, and myself, showed a lack of appreciation and understanding for the different things that can contribute to who we are: genetics, early childhood experiences, etc. It also ignores the fact that behaviors that may seem undesirable can actually represent an underlying trait that can be a blessing if guided properly.
Think of each one of us as a sailboat. The wind is all of the things that contribute to who we are fundamentally. It is out of our control. We can use the rudder to steer the boat, but if we try to paddle in the opposite direction, we will be fighting the wind, and we are unlikely to make much progress.
Children who we consider to be shy are often times very thoughtful, capable of making a few very close friends. Those who seem “negative,” can also be very successful, as they may be very realistic, wisely cautious, and detect problems earlier on. I might coach such a person to start each day by listing all of the things they are thankful for, but I would not try to change them, as there is nothing wrong with them.
Early on in my teaching career, while I may never have come out and told a student, “Stop being so shy/hyper/negative/etc!” I believe they detected the underlying message: That something was wrong with them and needed to be fixed. I did the same thing to myself. I would beat myself up wondering, “Why can’t I be more outgoing? Why am I this way?” Now, when observing behaviors in myself and others, I ask myself, “How is this a good thing?” and even if the behavior is undesirable, I can ask myself, “Does this represent an underlying trait that is actually positive?” Some behaviors, such as lying, may be regarded as immoral and undesirable, but perhaps a child who is having trouble telling the truth can find a positive outlet to their creativity, such as art or writing, while at the same time learning the importance of honesty.
I think of it as helping or guiding children, rather than changing them; respecting them as individuals. I would like to leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Thanks for reading.
As we prepare for our next youth Black Belt test (to be held on June 9, at 6 p.m.) I can’t help feeling amazed at the skills of the two testers, Mr. Colin and Mr. Sam. I have watched them train hard consistently for several years, with an incredible surge of effort in the months leading up to the momentous occasion. This level of skill, effort, and commitment is impressive at any age; in youth students it is extraordinary.
By achieving Black Belt at such an early age, these students have learned to set and achieve goals, the value of perseverance, and to never give up. How often have we heard someone say, “I’m going to become an expert musician!” or “I’m going to get in the best shape of my life!” and then stick with their plan for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months? Eventually they lose track and never fully realize their goal. I know I’ve heard that, and I’ve also been that person, but these two young men are of a different sort. These guys don’t just talk about achieving goals; they achieve them.
I do believe that if you look up Black Belt in a dictionary, you might see a picture of these two young men. Not only are they skilled martial artists, they are great kids. I am very proud and I am very fortunate to work with them.
But don't take my word for it! I would encourage everyone to come out and witness the promotion of these two talented young men to the elite rank of Black Belt.
You know, people ask me all the time, “Sensei Jon, what is your secret to success?” OK, so no one has ever asked me that, but I have had the great fortune of working with many individuals that seem to really excel at what they do, and I would like to share an observation with you. Every student is different; however, I’ve noticed some recurring trends among the students that become Black Belts, not just Black Belts in the martial arts, but “Black Belts in life.”
Black Belts (and future Black Belts) do not seem to be motivated solely by external rewards. It is easy for someone to say, “I want to be a Black Belt one day!” It is much harder to put in the hours of training and buckets of sweat that it takes to reach the Black Belt level. The students that experience the most success are excited to achieve the next rank, there’s no doubt about that, however they realize that excellence is a journey (not a destination). They enjoy training for the sake of training, and do the right thing even when no one is watching. This is how they are able to persevere and put in the countless hours of training required to reach Black Belt.
Now, some people may be more inclined to enjoy their training than others, and I feel that it is the instructors’ responsibility to try to make the classes as enjoyable and exciting as possible. However, as students, we can cultivate our own passion for the arts in many ways. First of all, we can focus on areas to which we feel naturally inclined. Maybe you love to practice your kata, or perhaps you are more at home in the sparring ring. Either way, that is fine. It is important to work on our weak areas, but many of the best martial artists are experts at only a few techniques (quality vs. quantity).
Figure out a training schedule that works for you. Set aside certain times each week for practice at home. Listen to your favorite music or political talk show while banging out your kicks. Start with 5 minutes a day. Once this becomes a habit, you will have laid the foundation for a very successful martial arts career.
Belts and stripes are wonderful things. However, it is only the hard work that goes into said awards that gives them any meaning.
To share a personal factoid, I have been a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for two and a half years (it generally takes longer to achieve belts in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu than in other arts). My attendance at class has been fairly consistent over that time period. Sometimes I think one of the greatest things my instructor has done for me has been to keep me at Blue Belt for this long. It has taught me patience, humility, and to stay motivated by seeing progress in my skills, rather than external rewards. Additionally, when I do achieve my purple belt, it will be one of the proudest accomplishments of my life. I have achieved Black Belts in several other styles of martial arts, but I have worked harder to earn my purple belt than any of those belts, and therefore it will be more meaningful.
Another point I’d like to add- it isn’t terribly important to me when I earn my purple belt. What is important is that I do earn it. A wise person once said, “Goals are dreams with deadlines,” and generally I think that is great advice, but in this case, I am enjoying the journey so much, that I’m happy to keep training hard, knowing that when I am ready, I will receive the next belt.