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.
Choosing a martial arts school can be daunting, but the good news is that there is a plethora of information available on the internet. Most of the martial arts schools that I’ve seen, at least in the Baltimore / Towson / Timonium / Cockeysville / Hunt Valley / Sparks / etc. areas, seem to include some sort of “selecting a school guide” on their websites. These include a lot of great information that is sure to be helpful to you. However, I want to share with you two new criterion you should use in you decision making process, that may seem rather unconventional.
1. Is the instructor still learning?
In my opinion, this question is even more important than the question “How much does the instructor know?” If the instructor is very knowledgeable, that’s great, but it can be nearly impossible to precisely quantify how much knowledge the instructor actually possesses.
If the instructor is constantly striving to expand his/her knowledge, by continued training and studying (in other words, they are still a student), then it hardly even matters how much they know right now, because they are learning and growing all the time. Each day they will have something new and exciting to share with the students.
Such an instructor is likely to be passionate about all aspects of the martial arts, and give his or her best when working with you. Since the instructor is still a student, he or she will have a helpful perspective and insight into your experience as a student, and can help you manage common pitfalls and challenges along the way.
Finally, I believe that instructors should always strive to continue learning because the martial arts are constantly evolving. New material, and new ways of teaching old material, are constantly being developed.
2. The other students in the class
The other students in the class might be even more important than the instructor, with regard to your progress. You and the other students will be interdependent upon each other for your growth and learning. If the other students are focused, hard working, and dedicated to their training, it is very likely that you will be able to make tremendous progress. The instructor can provide direction and knowledge, but only students, working together, can execute that knowledge and put it to use.
All my adult life I've wanted to help people, especially children, deal with challenges, which we all face in life. I've dreamt of becoming a child psychologist, and while I certainly have not abandoned that dream, my feeling right now is that 4 (OK 5) years of college was enough for me. However, I haven’t always let that stop me from playing amateur psychologist. I used to love dishing out (sometimes) unsolicited advice, or I would attempt to use logic to explain to someone why they should or shouldn't feel a certain way. I would try to help kids see that a certain behavior was good, or that a certain behavior was bad. I would talk until I was blue in the face, and the child was understandably green in the face.
I wish I could say that, using this approach, I met with mixed results, but that would imply that I experienced at least one or two some positive results. The reality of it is that I think my constant babbling produced zero results.
Now, I’m not talking about teaching kids the difference between right and wrong, honesty, etc. I’m talking about actually working with an individual child who is facing a serious challenge. I’m sure we've all felt the frustration of trying to lecture to and reason with people and feeling like we are getting nowhere.
This is where the power of listening, and this blog’s titular phrase, “Primum non nocere,” come in. This Latin phrase generally translates as, “First, do no harm.” It is one of the foundational principles in medicine, and it’s my guiding principle in working with children. When working with children who are struggling in some area, I see myself not so much as a person who is there to fix their problems, but as a listener. If the child wants to share their thoughts/feelings with me I will be happy to listen with interest, and to try and understand where they are coming from. I offer little to no advice, unless it is asked of me. If the child does not wish to talk at this time, I try to gently remind them that if they do wish to talk in the future I will be happy to listen.
With this approach, I believe that I meet with a positive result a much higher percentage of the time, but even if no result is met the child is no worse off than before our conversation. I don’t run the risk of saying the “wrong” thing.
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.
Ah, spring is the air again (that should be pronounced uh-GANE)! What a wonderful time of year!
Many of our students have told me that they are participating in other extracurricular team activities/
sports, and I think it’s wonderful that our students are so active. In an effort to help our students with
these activities, I’ve been doing some research. One great thing about the internet is we have access
to priceless information that was hitherto known only to a few. I’ve been reading several great articles
about coaching and working with children, and I think some of the things I’ve learned might be of
interest to our parents. Even if the child is not involved in team sports, these ideas apply to almost any
activity, including the martial arts, and child development in general.
OK, first off, let me admit that my research really got rolling while I was watching the NCAA basketball
finals. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if one day my future child grows up to be a collegiate or even
a professional athlete?” With less than altruistic intentions, I quickly set out to read everything I could
on developing young athletes. The first thing I learned was that my original plan (to have them dribbling
a basketball as soon as they could walk) would have been going about this the wrong way completely.
Children, and people in general, will excel in activities that THEY are passionate about, so if we want
them to reach their full potential we should let them choose their sports/instruments/activities/etc.
Secondly, children do not have to specialize in one activity to be successful. I used to think, “Instead
of having Johnny Jr. play soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, I’ll put him in basketball year round. He’ll be
thrice as good!” There are many problems with this line of thinking but here’s one of the main ones
(I know this is true in basketball but I would wager it is true of most physical activities): As the child’s
body grows, the technique they will use to shoot a basketball will change dramatically, so it doesn’t
matter much whether they can shoot the ball until a certain age. What is important is that the child is
increasing their coordination, speed, agility, strength, ability to concentrate, ability to work with others,
and, oh yeah, having FUN!
On a similar note, I remember once, after being cut from a Little League travel team, my dad said to me:
“Who cares how good you are now, you want to be good when you get older, like in high school!” Now,
I ended up getting cut from the team in high school as well, but that’s not the point. I think my dad
made an excellent point here, and one that we as coaches and parents should consider. At what point
in their lives do we want our children to reach their full potential? Is my goal to make my child the little
league, dance, karate, or curling star, by age 10, and burning them out from all the pressure by the time
they are 12?
We all know that youth activities can get very competitive. The ability to outperform others may seem
very important at the moment. Players, students, instructors and coaches may rely on strategies (that
will not work as the children get older) for the sake of winning. Which is more important: winning, or
One form of bullying that our students frequently report encountering is cyber-bullying. I hope that the concept in this article will help readers to deal with all kinds of bullying, but I think it is especially relevant when discussing with cyber-bullying.
Sadly, bullying occurs in many different places, so it is no surprise that it occurs online. There is, however, one major difference: it is generally much easier for one person to bully another over the internet, and the bullying is often much more malicious. Think about it. How much easier is it to type an offensive remark and click send than to actually yell an offensive mark to an actual living, breathing person? I think that for most of us, if (heaven forbid) we felt inclined to insult another person, the former would be much easier.
I once read an article that put this situation in perspective very well. The article basically said that (sadly) the internet can often bring out the worst in people, and for a lot of people one of the primary functions of the internet is to vent and be nasty towards others. The article went on to say that getting upset by such nastiness is akin to walking into a public bathroom, seeing some offensive graffiti on the wall, and taking it personally. If I walk into a bathroom and see that someone has written “To heck with you!” I’m not going to stop and say, “To heck with ME? Why I oughta-“
But isn't that essentially what I am doing if I get upset over something someone has said to me over the internet, or in any bullying situation for that matter? As we discussed last week, bullying is generally not the fault of the person being bullied. The person doing the bullying is just looking to be nasty, and I just happen to be the one standing there.
I’m not saying that cyber bullying is OK, and that we should just accept it. I also don’t want to suggest that bullying isn’t painful for the victim; it is. However, “the bathroom wall graffiti” analogy has really helped me to take things less personally. Things may still get under my skin, but not nearly as much as in the past. When someone is mean to us we can always chalk it up to “Well, maybe they are having a bad day,” or many other possible reasons, but the answer is never, “They are bullying me because there is something wrong with me.”
Last week we began our workshop on bullying by examining one of the first rules to remember when dealing with bullying: when a person is being bullied, it is not that person’s (the victim’s) fault. Of course, if I bully someone, and they bully me back, than I may have brought that bullying on myself, but our students wouldn't bully another person, and I strongly believe that no one deserves to be bullied. There are many reasons why one person may bully another: the person doing the bullying may be having a bad day, going through a rough time, being bullied themselves, they may be jealous of the victim, they may bully as many people as they can, etc.
The point is, that while bullying can be very painful, we hope that to make it less painful by helping students to understand that it doesn't mean that something is wrong with them (if they are being bullied). I feel like this is a message that people need to hear a great deal before they fully believe and internalize it.
Another rule that we have been discussing is that we should always report bullying when we see it, whether we are the victims or observers. Reporting bullying to adults is not tattling; it is our duty. This is another message that we will constantly be repeating to help the students fully grasp the concept.
One of our students proposed the idea of telling a person who is bullying, “I don’t want you to get into trouble, but if you continue I will have to report this. Let’s talk about something else.”
Rather than threatening the person doing the bullying, this student came off sounding like a friend to that person, looking out for them. I thought it was a very clever approach.
We will be discussing more ideas and strategies for dealing with bullying over the next several weeks!
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.
Lately in class we have been discussing Student Creed #1, which reads:
I intend to develop myself in a positive manner and avoid anything that would reduce my mental growth or my physical health.
This is a very broad concept encompassing all aspects of a healthy “Black Belt,” lifestyle, and taking care of one’s body and mind. My main goals in discussing this student creed with the students are to help them to develop healthy eating and exercise habits, and for our teen students to avoid drugs and alcohol. How can we accomplish this? Well, it is easier said than done, but one thing I try to do is break this stigma that living a healthy lifestyle is dull, painful, or unpleasant.
I used to think that eating and living in a healthful manner generally meant doing something that I didn’t feel like doing (eating an apple), as opposed to what I actually wanted to do (eating a candy bar). Fortunately, I have been able to improve my habits by finding healthy foods that I actually do enjoy. In the beginning, it might have been a little bit more challenging, but as I have learned the taste for healthy foods can be nurtured and acquired. It can feel quite natural, rather than forced.
So how does this help our kids? One strategy could be to expose them to as many different healthy foods as possible, so they can learn which ones they like. You see, I have this theory that the reason why eating healthy foods is so unappealing to many youngsters is that it often feels like they are being forced to do so. By exposing them to a wide variety of healthy foods they can feel like they still have many choices; we just try to ensure that all of those choices are healthy.
Finally, I would like to leave you with a little tale that I thought was relevant. I first read this story in the 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden, and I have attempted to summarize it here:
A boy had a very sweet tooth. His parents were concerned by his overindulgence in junk food so they took him to see a wise man who lived on the outskirts of the village. The man told them to bring their son back in two weeks. When they brought him back he said, “I am now ready to help your son.” When they asked him why they had to wait two weeks he replied, “I was also suffering from an addiction to junk food, and now that I have overcome the habit I can help your son to do the same.”
Thanks for reading, OSSS!