3 Reasons Martial Arts Training is the Perfect Fitness Alternative

Yes, I said perfect. And I mean it!

We all know that exercise is important, and all of the benefits it can give you. We all know that we should eat healthier and move more. In fact, we know too much.

In this information world that we live in, we are knocked all over the place by information that constantly conflicts and contradicts what we were told the day before. This diet and that diet. This new workout plan, and oh, wait, that one isn’t right for you anymore - this one is.

We don’t need any more knowledge though. We need action. Whether you are 4 or 74, martial arts training is an excellent source of exercise, personal discipline, and of course self-defense.

The simple, focused workout provided by high-quality martial arts training has many advantages over a traditional gym membership. So let’s look at three core reasons we believe martial arts training fits perfectly into the modern adult lifestyle.

1. It’s focused.

Every time you come on the mat, your instructor will be leading you through a focused class. Whether it’s a Kenpo class and you are learning to protect yourself versus realistic self-defense situations, or it’s a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, and you are learning techniques to takedown, control, and submit an opponent, the focus is on something other than exercise, and that is reason number one!

2. Exercise is fake.

We seek out exercise because we know we should keep our bodies healthy and strong. But exercise the way we know it didn’t always exist. Our ancestors didn’t go to a building to lift heavy objects up and down to make an isolated muscle on their body get bigger. They didn’t lace up their shoes (they may not have had any!) and go for a jog just to burn some calories. Heck, they were happy to have been able to eat those calories, why in the world would they waste them!?

Their lives just included more movement. They had to walk more, carry more, and just use their bodies more. But as a species, we do a really good job of inventing ways to make our lives easier. This has brought us to a time where the extent of movement for most people is limited to walking from bed to chair to car to chair to car to couch to bed and repeat.

Workout equipment is a modern invention. Martial arts training is the natural way to train - with just your body (we don’t even wear shoes!).

3. It provides the "why" to your exercise and nutrition habits.

Who do you frequently see on the cover of fitness magazines? Most often are professional athletes. This is partly because they are recognizable faces, and fans of these individuals want to be “that guy” so it sells magazines.

The thing to think about though is what is so different about these guys that helps them be in such AMAZING shape? There are tons of answers to that question, and one of the big ones is that they aren’t actually in as good of shape as they appear in the magazine (read more about that here). But athletes are in great shape!

One of the key reasons that they are in good shape is because they have a reason to be. Their athletic performance and career depend on them being in good shape, so that gives them the motivation necessary to make the decisions on a daily basis required to reach and maintain those health and fitness levels.

Martial arts can do that for the average individual. And what's even better, is it's an activity and lifestyle that you can continue for the rest of your life (if you train the right way). Many professional athletes fall way out of shape when their athletic career is over. Your martial arts journey doesn't ever have to be over.

You will be motivated to make better decisions in your daily life to enhance your martial arts ability and raise your potential.


Adults and children have an incredible amount to gain from training martial arts. Most people just haven’t realized yet how beneficial and enjoyable the training can be.

Do you know someone that doesn’t know yet? Share this with them and encourage them to take their first class. At PMA, the first step is a free private introductory lesson. Call us now at (865)481-8901 to set yours up, and you will never look back.

Have you stopped training martial arts for one reason or another? Guess what, it’s happened to almost every great martial artist, but they came back to the mat. Don’t wait another day - get back on the mat today! No excuses, just get up and go. Take the next step necessary to improve your life right now. Not later. I promise this article is done now, so literally right now take that step!

Demian Maia vs. Tyron Woodley - What the Commentators Left Out and Why the UFC Doesn’t Deserve Him

Demian Maia is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter of a rare breed in 2017. He is a specialist in a time when specialists are hard to find in the UFC. That means he’s an expert in one particular area of the fight - for him that area is on the ground. His forte is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which primarily focuses on controlling an opponent on the ground, and Demian is one of the best in the world at it. 

Hang with me through a long post, as I’d like to introduce you to Demain Maia, for those that don’t know much about him, and then break down some key takeaways from his fight last night for the UFC world championship.

In 2007, Demian won the ADCC World Championships, one of the most prestigious grappling tournaments and considered by many to be the toughest championship to win. That same year he made his debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and began a ten-year display of some of the best grappling ever to be shown inside the octagon.

The UFC was started by the Gracie family (the same family that created Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by adapting Japanese Jiu Jitsu to make it their own) as a way to showcase Jiu Jitsu versus other martial arts. In the early events, it was dominated by grapplers, like Royce Gracie, and the world was sent an obvious message - you have to know Jiu Jitsu.

Now, you cannot find a single fighter on the UFC roster that does not train Jiu Jitsu. With the secret being out, stand up fighters began to slowly take over the sport as they developed better and better tactics to neutralize the attacks on the ground, and keep the fight standing up, and the champions all started to have very similar styles - a potent mixture of striking and grappling.

While Demain Maia also trains stand up arts to learn all aspects of the fight, he has stated that his game plan is always to use his Jiu Jitsu. He is a specialist and looks to get the fight to the ground where he can neutralize his opponents’ strikes, control them, and hopefully finish the fight with a submission such as the Rear Naked Choke (“Mata Leao”) shown in the fight below.

While he makes a living fighting mixed martial arts, Demian distances himself from some of the more negative aspects of the sport: the onlookers who are only interested in seeing a blood bath, the unsportsmanlike and overly cocky attitudes, and the constant trash talk. Instead, he treats everyone around him with respect, including his opponents. He is confident in himself but humble. And intends NOT to hurt his opponent!

A lot of jiu-jitsu is based around the idea of not hurting people. Jiu-jitsu gives people an option to tap or submit. The intention is not to hurt or punish the opponent. They are given a choice to stop that. That’s what I try and do in my fights. I try and represent jiu-jitsu to the best of my ability and to show the philosophy of the art. I don’t like to hurt people.
— Demian Maia

The UFC is a business, and to make more money they have to entertain their fans and get people to watch the fights. Over the last couple of decades, a successful formula has developed in which fighters talk trash to build hype and excitement for their fights. Much of the respect, humility, and kindness that was traditionally taught in the martial arts is not present in the UFC culture as fighting and making money has become more important than sportsmanship and similar values.

Last night, Demian Maia challenged Tyron Woodley for the Welterweight title in the UFC. This fight was the culmination of years of hard work and a seven fight win streak (the current longest in the division) for Demian. Along the way, he took down and submitted the best fighters in his weight class but was passed up over and over again for a title shot because he is the antithesis to what the UFC is looking for as stated above. He doesn’t talk trash; he even said that he doesn’t try to hurt his opponents, and that is not the type of fighter that the UFC promotes (though I wish it were!).

In last night's fight, Tyron won via unanimous decision and based on the scorecards and the comments made by the commentators, Joe Rogan and Dominic Cruz, and the media, you would think that Tyron decisively won the fight. Before I go any further, let me say that I understand this is a business and that making exciting fights will entice fans to buy pay-per-views which creates a need for the scoring system to reward what would make an exciting fight. 

Regardless, I watch the matches as a martial arts instructor and look to take away as many lessons on fighting as possible, and I think there are some important ones here that Demian did well (as did Tyron), but the commentators only talked about Tyron’s success.

Dominick Cruz criticizing Demian’s “wrestling.”

Throughout the fight, Demian shot in to take Tyron down 21 times and wasn’t successful at getting his opponent to the ground on a single attempt. This was obviously a job well done by Woodley. He did his homework on Demian’s takedown strategy and shut it down perfectly. Using a combination of his back against the cage, well-timed sprawls, and turning and pulling his leg free anytime Demian was close on a single leg attempt, he kept the fight standing for the entire 25 minutes.

Now, while this was going on, Dominick Cruz was pointing out some things that he thought Demian could do better with his wrestling to get Tyron to the floor. Dominick has had a lot of success in the UFC, and is very knowledgeable in the fighting game, but so is Demian. My problem with Dominick’s style of commentating is that he tends to point out what he thinks one fighter is doing wrong rather than what the other fighter is doing right. I disagree with that approach because the fact that something works one way for one fighter does not necessarily mean that is the “right” way to do things, and all fighters should do it that way.

Last night, Dominick made the comment that Demian is not following through on his shot attempts and that he needs to keep driving through his opponent to finish the takedown. He said, “that’s wrestling 101.” And he’s right. BUT Demian is not a wrestler, he is a Jiu Jitsu fighter and one of the best to ever compete in the UFC. He trains wrestling to improve his takedowns and takedown defense, but if you look at the success he has had thus far, it is not by using “wrestling 101.” He doesn’t usually drive through his opponents to get them down, and one of the reasons is his body.

If you look at Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley side by side you will notice a taller, leaner Demian Maia, and a shorter, stockier, Tyron Woodley. Tyron is extremely muscular, explosive, and powerful. Woodley is a wrestler and has the body necessary to drive through his opponents and follow through on his takedowns with ease. Demain does not, at least not with ease on a strong wrestler like Woodley.

I know this because I have a similar build to Demian Maia. I wrestled in high school and had a much harder time with it than I did with Jiu Jitsu. In Jiu Jitsu, you don’t need the pure athleticism that you do in wrestling. While both grappling styles are technical, wrestling is much more built around explosiveness, and Jiu Jitsu is much more based on control.

In another martial art, Kenpo, five animals are used to showcase the different characteristics and styles that a martial artist can implement. In this fight, Tyron Woodley would be a Tiger, and Demian Maia would be a snake. Tyron has the explosive power to charge forward and quickly take out an opponent, and Demian has the strength of an anaconda to wrap his opponents up and control them (or choke them!).

So when Dominick Cruz criticizes Demian for not wrestling the way a wrestler would, I’d have to say that he’s right, but it’s because that’s not the style of fighting that works for him. The fight video above is Demian in the middle of his 7-fight win streak where you can see his Jiu Jitsu in action, and the way he typically has success getting his opponents to the ground.

Demian shoots in on his opponents, but rather than drive through to finish like a wrestler, he latches on and either drags them down to the ground with him or even pulls them on top of him. His goal is just to get them close. Then he can go to work.

Both Commentators Calling for Demian to Throw High Kicks

As the fight went on, the commentators began to try to come up with things Demian could seek to do to have more success. At one point they began calling for Demian to throw some high round kicks to the head of Woodley.

Their argument was solid in that Demian needed to try to mix things up because apparently Tyron was prepared for Demian’s game plan. They stated that since he isn’t afraid of getting taken down, there was no risk in throwing kicks and that in fact, it would be a gift if Tyron decided to catch Demian’s kick and take him down. This is true, but what they are forgetting is that while half of Demian’s gameplan was to get the fight to the ground, the other half was to control the distance on the feet and ensure that Tyron could not strike effectively.

The most important rule in the fight is to control the distance, and Demian did it beautifully in last night’s loss. He maintained a range in which Tyron could not reach him to land his notoriously powerful punches that have knocked out some of the best fighters in the division. He did this by calmly moving out of punching range or closing the distance with a takedown attempt anytime Tyron came forward with an attempt to strike.

Throwing a high round kick while trying to control the distance can be risky in that you could be caught standing on one foot and your opponent could seize that opportunity to finally close the distance and land a big punch while you are unable to retreat effectively or shoot. This is especially true with a round kick because since the kick travels around the side, it would allow the opponent to move straight forward past the kick and close the distance. Especially with Woodley’s speed and 2-inch reach advantage!

Discussing Tyron Shutting Down Demian’s Game But Not Demian Shutting Down Tyron’s

Lastly, the commentators highlighted well that Tyron was shutting down Demian’s gameplan by stopping all 21 takedown attempts and keeping the fight standing up. And since it was a unanimous decision from the judges, they apparently felt the same way.

However, I’d like to argue that Demian shut down Tyron’s game effectively as well. As stated above, he controlled the distance very well and didn’t allow Tyron to effectively strike, evidenced by the fans booing Woodley as soon as his name was announced as the winner. The fans were frustrated because of the lack of effectiveness Tyron had on his feet. He did a superb job keeping it on the feet, but then could not execute there effectively.

In the post fight press conference, Dana White was extremely critical of Tyron Woodley’s performance and much like Dominick was doing to Demian Maia as discussed above, Dana was discussing what he thought Tyron was doing wrong rather than what Demian was doing right.

Tyron did not strike effectively because anytime he began to commit to his striking, Demian would shoot in for a takedown. You could argue that while Demian didn’t manage to get the fight to the ground, his takedowns were extremely effective because of what they did. They allowed him to control the distance. 

Demian did a phenomenal job controlling the distance, Tyron did a phenomenal job at stopping the takedowns, and Tyron was able to inflict slightly more damage which is surely what secured him the win on the judge’s cards. Dana White was overly critical and said Woodley should be embarrassed, going as far to say that “it couldn’t be a worse performance.” I disagree, I thought Woodley did a great job staying composed and not falling into the trap that could have landed him on the ground with Maia, not to mention he defended 21 takedowns!

As a martial artist, I enjoy watching someone like Demian Maia fight more than anyone else. He fights efficiently, with incredible technique, and doesn’t look physically imposing. To acquire the skills you see Demian Maia using, you only need to train martial arts for many years. You don’t have to be naturally gifted with athleticism or power, but if you are, the martial arts can provide you with a fighting style that fits you too! The five animals of Kenpo that we mentioned above are the Tiger, Snake, Crane, Leopard, and Dragon. All five are very different, but all can fight effectively. 

Most importantly, I love that Demian Maia carries himself like a true martial artist with respect and humility in both victory and defeat. The UFC really doesn’t deserve him, but I’m glad he’s there so that my children still have some genuine martial artists to watch fight.

Ranks and Titles, Part 2

Before you go on, check out last week’s post if you haven’t read it already!

Ranks and Titles, Part 1

So now, let’s talk about titles. What do things like “SiFu,” “Sensei,” or “Professor” mean? How does someone get these titles?

One of the easiest ways to understand this is to look at the traditions that are used in academics at colleges and universities. First off, back to what we discussed last week - a person cannot just attend college sporadically for 20 years and end up with a degree. They must complete a course of study that has been laid out by a professional and then pass all evaluation by a higher authority before earning an actual degree.

A degree from a university is much like a black belt. It demonstrates that a certain amount of knowledge has been acquired in an individual subject, or in this case a martial art. However, a degree does not give that person the ability to teach others and give out degrees. 

But why not?

A baccalaureate degree is not the end of someone’s path in learning that particular subject. In fact, in many ways it just allows them to begin. They can now pursue a career in which they will learn a tremendous amount more through experience, or maybe they will pursue higher education within that subject area. They cannot, however, teach others. At least not yet.

According to study.com, if someone wants to be a professor at a university they should be prepared to do the following:

The minimum level of education required for college professors is a master’s degree, which can qualify an individual for work as a professor at a community college. A doctoral degree is typically required to work as a full-time, tenure-track university professor. You should be prepared to earn an undergraduate degree in your chosen subject area, go to graduate school, complete a Ph.D. program, conduct independent research, and write and publish articles in scholarly journals.

In addition, you may need to gain teaching and research experience as a graduate assistant, or gain work experience in settings like governmental, nonprofit, and the private sector related to your field of study. The key skills you want to build include critical thinking skills, communication skills, computer skills, and knowledge of classroom management.

The same is true in martial arts. 

A black belt does not stand as one's ability to teach, only as a testament to their technical accomplishment.

There is a multitude of examples of highly talented black belts who are not good teachers. In fact, some of the best martial artists on the planet are terrible teachers because the arts came naturally to them and they have difficulty getting someone that does not have natural ability to perform the techniques.

One of my good friends and teachers, Felipe Costa, is both a world champion and a great teacher. The reason for this is he lost over and over again before he ever won. He is at this time still the only person to win the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Championships in an Adult Black Belt division who did not previously win it at one of the lower ranks - he always lost. BUT, his losses gave him a greater understanding of the techniques than many other world champions and the patience and passion that a great teacher must have to pass on what they know to someone else.

Felipe Costa, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt World Champion

Felipe Costa, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt World Champion

The ability to teach is what makes a “sensei” or “sifu” (which both mean teacher, by the way -  Sensei is Japanese, and SiFu is Chinese). And just as we discussed with rank, it is important that these titles are bestowed upon someone by a higher ranking practitioner of their art. In the martial arts world especially, because there is not one governing body or accreditation system used universally, it is important that a prospective student does their research to validate someone’s background in the art they are claiming to teach, and that they have the authority to do so.

At Progressive Martial Arts Academy, we use Chinese, Japanese, and American titles to show the mixed origins of the arts that we teach. They are as follows:

Sempai (Japanese) - Senior Student - usually brown belt or senior. We bestow this title upon all of our Black Belts and instructors.

SiHing (Chinese) - Very Senior Student - usually brown belt or senior. This title is typically given to one student in the Academy and is senior to Sempai.

SiFu (Chinese) - Teacher - usually 2nd-degree black belt or senior.

SiGung (Chinese) - Teacher of Teachers - This is a very senior practitioner who is awarded this title by the system founder or head of the family - usually 7th degree or senior.

Professor - usually 8th degree or senior.

Grandmaster - 9th or 10th degree, can have more than one grandmaster.

SiJo (Chinese) - Founder of the system, or head of the family. There is only one head of the family.

That's it for this week! I hope this answered some of your questions about ranks and titles. Did I miss anything? Send me an email with any questions or topics you'd like to see covered on our blog at dcorrigan@pmaoakridge.com.

Ranks and Titles, Part 1

Possibly one of the most confusing things for new students in the martial arts are ranks and titles. What are they? What do they mean? How do you get them?

Last week a historic promotion was made in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when Grandmaster Rorion Gracie promoted his brother, Rickson Gracie, to 9th degree Red Belt and Grandmaster. Let’s talk a little bit about what that means, why it’s important, and how ranks and titles are used at Progressive Martial Arts Academy.

First, let’s discuss the belt (obi). In most martial arts, belts (just a long piece of cloth) are worn around the waist tying the top of the uniform (gi) together. It is said that originally these belts were colorless, and over time dirt and sweat would turn a belt darker and darker. When it became necessary to find a way to differentiate between instructors and students, or advanced students and beginner students, many arts decided to use colored belts. They kept the tradition of having the colors progress from white to darker, with most arts having Black Belt be the highest rank.

It is important to understand that the colors are not all the same in each art. Therefore a Blue belt in one art is not necessarily at the same place in his training, as a Blue Belt in a different art. For example at PMA, we teach two martial arts that use a belt ranking system: Kenpo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Kenpo Belt Color Order:
White
Yellow
Orange
Purple
Blue
Green
Brown
Black

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Belt Color Order:
White
Blue
Purple
Brown
Black

Notice the Blue and Purple belts are switched in Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu. I know, it can be confusing!

Wait, what about the Red Belt?

In both Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu and some other arts, the red belt is often reserved for the masters or founders of the art (usually 9th or 10th degree, and can be worn at their option). But in some other arts (Korean arts for example), the red belt is one of the regular belts on the path to Black Belt.

This past week, when Grandmaster Rickson Gracie was promoted to 9th-degree red belt, he responded with surprise and initially did not want to accept the promotion. His resistance has led to some discussion in the Jiu Jitsu community about whether he should accept the promotion or not and what the standard should be. This discussion can help us understand more about the importance of ranks and titles.

Rickson has been working on trying to get a uniform set of guidelines for all Jiu Jitsu academies to use when determining how long it should take to reach each promotion. Rickson’s stance was that by his count he had been a black belt for 40 years, and in the standardization guidelines that he has put forth, it should take 45 years to get to 9th degree. He didn’t think he should be an exception.

The argument to this, and why his brothers, among other famous Jiu Jitsu practitioners, thought that this should be overruled is they believe longevity is a major factor, but should not be the only criteria for promotion. The argument is that merit, growth, contributions, and achievements should also be considered. 

Rickson was considered to be the Gracie family champion for many years in both Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts competitions. Therefore these individuals thought the promotion was a no-brainer. While it is not my position to decide what the criteria should be, I do believe longevity should not be the only factor. There are many examples of individuals who have been Black Belts for a long time, but have not made any sort of effort to continue their personal training and growth or contribute/progress the art forward in any way.

One of the things I appreciated most from watching his promotion, however, is Rickson’s humility. While accomplishing more in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu than virtually anyone, Rickson still did not place too much importance on his rank.

I grew up in a martial arts family. Great martial artists surrounded me as a kid. And truthfully, I don’t remember ever seeing any degrees or stripes on anyone’s belts. I didn’t understand what the degrees or “dans” even were. I was raised to believe that once you earned your Black Belt, you just continued to train because you needed to, wanted to, and loved to. Not for your next promotion.

The degrees or “dans” are used to classify students, instructors, and masters that wear the Black Belt. They were traditionally used in Japanese, Okinawan, and Korean styles, but in America, many Chinese styles (kung fu) even have even adopted a similar system to that used in Japanese arts such as Karate and Jiu Jitsu.

As our family grew in size, the need for degrees and a system to classify the Black Belts also became important, and we began to emphasize our ranks and promotions after Black Belt too.

(However, at our academy, you will often still see high ranking black belts both in Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu wearing a plain Black Belt, despite holding a rank higher than that.)

In both Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu, there are 10 degrees that are awarded after Black Belt. We do not typically use the Japanese Dan rank titles and opt to just say "1st degree" rather than "shodan", but they are as follows:

1st degree - shodan
2nd degree - nidan
3rd degree - sandan
4th degree - yo(n)dan
5th degree - godan
6th degree - rokudan
7th degree - shichidan
8th degree - hachidan
9th degree - kudan
10th degree - judan

It is important to note that there are not any unified governing bodies in the martial arts as there are in academics, and other professions. Therefore, it is important that someone senior in the art to yourself gives the promotions. Self-promotion is not a reliable evaluation of one’s abilities but unfortunately, runs rampant in the martial arts community. There are a large number of high ranking black belts whose only achievements have come through self-promotion or rank. In some rare instances when a high ranking black belts' instructors or those senior to him have passed away, a group of designated individuals lower in rank together may decide to make the promotion.

Now that we understand a little bit better how ranks/belts work in the martial arts, next week let’s discuss titles and the criteria to be an instructor of the martial arts. This too is a major problem in the martial arts community, with many individuals who have never been qualified to teach martial arts, opening schools and teaching with no training or credentials to do so.

Evolve to Remain Strong

Part 1: Train Strong to Remain Strong

Adriano and Joe Emperado began to spread their new system of self-defense, KAJUKENBO, by teaching at YMCA’s, graduating more instructors, spreading to neighboring areas in Hawaii, and eventually the art was brought to the mainland United States. Their goal was to “create the most effective street self-defense system and then bring it to the public to learn” (Conway). 

It is said that KAJUKENBO stylists were feared on the streets, but once the system was brought to the mainland, KAJUKENBO practitioners also began to win sparring and forms tournaments. The sparring format in tournaments was easy to prepare for compared to the full contact style found in the KAJUKENBO dojos. Beautiful traditional forms had been brought to the self defense style to enhance the curriculum, as well as develop a student’s focus, discipline, balance, coordination, and overall skill.

Two of the early practitioners of KAJUKENBO were Walter Godin and Victor “Sonny” Gascon.

Walter Godin trained in the martial arts as a child, and as a teenager sought out training in Kenpo after watching the movie “Lightning Karate” with his cousin, Bobby Lowe, who was a student of Kenpo. He tried to join Bobby’s academy but they were no longer accepting students, so he continued to ask around looking for a good place to train. He was referred to a Kenpo school in the Palama settlement, run by none other than Joe Emperado.

At first, Godin was not permitted to train because of an old rivalry between neighboring areas in Hawaii, but he persisted and eventually was accepted as a student. He would go on to become Joe’s protege and apprentice.

In 1961, SiJo Walter Godin and SiJo Victor “Sonny” Gascon would go on to open a school in Burbank, California. They co-developed a revised system of punch defense combinations, weapons defenses, and forms. They named the system “Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu,” an acronym for KARAte, ZEN, and KenPO, Go - meaning five (for the 5 animals of Kenpo), and Shinjutsu – meaning “way of self defense.” 

One of the students at the Karazenpo school was George Pesare. Grandmaster Pesare is responsible for bringing Karazenpo/Kajukenbo/Kenpo to the East Coast. After his initial training in California, he moved back home to Rhode Island and began to teach the martial arts he had learned. Pesare too, added additional forms and punch combinations to the system and also continued his studies with a variety of notable teachers in arts such as Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido.

Grandmaster George Pesare executing a Side Kick.

Grandmaster George Pesare executing a Side Kick.

One of George Pesare’s most notable students was Nick Cerio. Like most of the people we have discussed in this story, Professor Cerio had trained in other martial arts before finding his way to Kenpo/Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu and George Pesare. He went on to study with Grandmaster Pesare in Rhode Island, as well as Professor William Chow in Hawaii. Professor Cerio then began teaching Kenpo at his own academy, before later revising his curriculum, and titling it “Nick Cerio’s Kenpo.”

Professor Nick Cerio (right) training with Professor Chow (middle).

Professor Nick Cerio (right) training with Professor Chow (middle).

Finally, this brings us to my father, Bruce Corrigan. After achieving his first Black Belts in Tae Kwon Do and Judo, SiJo Bruce began the lifelong study of Kenpo under Professor Nick Cerio. Beginning in the early 1980s, SiJo Bruce began augmenting his Kenpo studies with intensive training in Kickboxing and the Filipino Martial Arts. Later, SiJo Bruce began the study of Jeet Kune Do; and in the early 1990s, he began training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

From left to right, SiJo Bruce Corrigan, SiJo Victor Gascon, SiJo Walter Godin, and Professor Nick Cerio at SiJo Bruce's Kenpo school in Virginia, 1994.

From left to right, SiJo Bruce Corrigan, SiJo Victor Gascon, SiJo Walter Godin, and Professor Nick Cerio at SiJo Bruce's Kenpo school in Virginia, 1994.

As a result of SiJo Bruce’s years of experience and exposure to multiple systems, he realized that many fighting systems offered either skills, or a philosophy, which should be used by his method of Kenpo. 

Kenpo provides us with one of the most effective self defense methods against various punches and grabs available. Kenpo also provides our traditional basis and foundation. However, it still had holes. So he formulated his method of teaching, integrating the most effective aspects of the other arts that he studied, and named it FILKENJUTSU KAI. 

The term FILKENJUTSU stands for FILipino Arts, KENpo Arts, and JUdo and Jiu JiTSU Arts. However, as with any name, there are limitations. It is better to look at FILKENJUTSU - Kai as a “house of training” that has as it’s root, the system of KAJUKENBO. In addition, to the root of our system, we add the Filipino arts. The Filipino Arts of Kali, Pananjakman and Panantuken, add a devastating close range defense and attack system – something which had been lost. Additional training in the Filipino methodology of edged and blunt weapons use and defense are ingrained throughout FILKENJUTSU. To this is added the throwing arts taken from Judo, and the ground arts taken from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

My dad further recognized that the methodology used in teaching particular Martial Arts was as important as the martial art itself. In other words: if the most effective aspects of a Martial Art are taught poorly, then those aspects lose their effectiveness. As a result, he based his instructional technique on progressive physical training, mastery of range, emphasis on “aliveness,” significant weapons training, and most importantly, spontaneity.

As you can see, time and time again throughout this story of Kenpo’s beginnings all the way down to Kenpo here in Oak Ridge, TN, the art has evolved with each instructor. This evolution is so important because while it may be fun to talk about “in the old days” or being “old school” you have to evolve your teaching and training methods in order to provide your students with the most effective fighting techniques and the safest training environment.

The only way you can do this is when the instructor himself puts in many years of hard training, then continues to train, and not just in the parts that he personally enjoys, but in all of it. You cannot avoid one area of hand-to-hand combat, or the martial arts, just because it isn’t your favorite. While my Dad began training in all of these arts either before I was alive or when I was just a toddler, he is still out on the mat training them (and not just teaching them). He hits the pads, gets his knuckles hit working sticks, and gets mat burns grappling, on a regular basis.

SiJo Bruce Corrigan teaching a Jiu Jitsu class after Kenpo in the early 1990s. At the time, he would fly to California to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Rorion Gracie as it was not available in many places yet!

SiJo Bruce Corrigan teaching a Jiu Jitsu class after Kenpo in the early 1990s. At the time, he would fly to California to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Rorion Gracie as it was not available in many places yet!

Why? For no other reason then he knows there is always work to be done and improvement to be made.

While I am not in search of arts to fill holes in our method of teaching (it seems as though they’ve all been filled, but I keep an eye out just in case!), I vow to always continue to advance and evolve the curriculum that I and my outstanding team of instructors teach to our students. I can do this by making sure that the people that teach our classes have not only trained martial arts with me from white belt on up, but also by putting every individual that ever steps onto our mats to teach, through an arduous instructor training program that teaches them how to teach. I will never hire someone to teach martial arts at one of our academies that has not been trained by us. 

I am about to start the next group of instructor candidates through this process. So far, five individuals have gone through the training - and they’re all standing right here next to me.

From left to right: Sempai Madelyn Fowler (2nd Degree Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU), SiHing Terry Alcorn (3rd Degree Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU), Sempai Matt Thomas (Brown Belt in FILKENJUTSU), SiFu David Corrigan (5th Degree Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU), Sempai Brittany Corrigan (Black Belt Candidate in FILKENJUTSU), and Sempai Kristie Fox (Black Belt Candidate in FILKENJUTSU). Photo credit to Julio Culiat.

From left to right: Sempai Madelyn Fowler (2nd Degree Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU), SiHing Terry Alcorn (3rd Degree Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU), Sempai Matt Thomas (Brown Belt in FILKENJUTSU), SiFu David Corrigan (5th Degree Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU), Sempai Brittany Corrigan (Black Belt Candidate in FILKENJUTSU), and Sempai Kristie Fox (Black Belt Candidate in FILKENJUTSU). Photo credit to Julio Culiat.

P.S. - Sometimes people ask why we wear black gis. This was the traditional uniform of KAJUKENBO students! Later, some Kenpo stylists would separate themselves by "piping" their gis with white trim. At PMA, FILKENJUTSU students that achieve the rank of purple belts and up wear black gis, black belts pipe their gis in white, and 5th-degree black belts and up pipe their gis in red.

Works Cited

FILKENJUTSU Student Manual. Bruce Corrigan. 1985

Kajukenbo The Ultimate Self-Defense System. Frank Conway. 1988.

 

Train Strong to Remain Strong

While we train and teach a variety of martial arts at our academy, including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Filipino Martial Arts, Kickboxing, and Jeet Kune Do, the core of our school is Kenpo. Our method of teaching Kenpo is named FILKENJUTSU (read more about FILKENJUTSU). FILKENJUTSU is not a style of martial arts so much as a method of training/teaching Kenpo. The style of Kenpo that we come from was named KAJUKENBO.

In the late 1940s, if you were to travel to Hawaii, you would find a melting pot of people and cultures from all around the world. This situation led to the streets of Hawaii being somewhat violent. 

Today’s story starts with a man living in Hawaii at the time, named Adriano Emperado.

SiJo Emperado (SiJo is a martial arts title) received his martial arts training from Professor William K.S. Chow, the founder of Chinese Kenpo. Professor Chow had been trained in Shaolin Kung Fu by his father but sought out training in Kosho Ryu Kenpo from Grandmaster James Mitose (also called Kenpo Jiu Jitsu) to add a “hardness” to his style that would better prepare him for self-defense. Departing from the original Kenpo Jiu Jitsu taught by Mitose, Chow united the arts of Kosho Ryu Kenpo and his family’s Kung Fu system. To make a distinct variation from Mitose's Kenpo, Chow called his art Kenpo Karate, specifically Dian Hsuhe Go Shinjutsu of the Kenpo Kai. (Corrigan)

Professor Chow taught Kenpo for ten years but only graduated five people to black belt, and SiJo Adriano Emperado was one of them (Conway). SiJo Emperado was also trained in the Filipino Martial Arts which included, stick, knife, and empty hand fighting techniques. SiJo Emperado continued to search for more because he felt as though Kenpo still did not have all of the answers necessary for one to safely defend themselves if attacked in the street. 

This journey ultimately led him to one of the most important collaborations between martial artists of different styles. He met with four other martial artists from arts such as Korean tang soo do, se keino jujitsu, Kodokan judo, and Chinese boxing (kung fu). Together these arts were to make up KAJUKENBO:

KA - Korean KArate (tang soo do)
JU - JUjitsu and JUdo
KEN - KENpo
BO - Chinese BOxing

SiJo Emperado and his brother Joe Emperado together opened the first KAJUKENBO school in Honolulu’s Palama Settlement, one of the toughest areas in Hawaii. It is here that they established a philosophy and training method that while it has evolved and been improved upon over 60+ years, still stands in our academy today - "Train Strong to Remain Strong."

If we could take a peek into a typical KAJUKENBO class at SiJo Emperado’s school you would see students salute their instructors when entering the dojo, line up in order of rank, kneel to tie their belts, and begin class by saluting the American flag, SiJo Emperado (or his picture if he was not present), and the chief instructor.

The class would then start with a warm-up full of calisthenics, traditional forms training (kata), and self-defense techniques. At the end of class, there may be some drilling, conditioning, and strength training. Finally, students would salute again, and kneel and remove their belts in order of rank after dismissal from the instructor.

Training was tough, but the family of students was close-knit, loyal, respectful, and disciplined.

Come back for Part 2 next week!

 

Works Cited

FILKENJUTSU Student Manual. Bruce Corrigan. 1985

Kajukenbo The Ultimate Self-Defense System. Frank Conway. 1988.

 

Becoming a Martial Artist

A few years ago, I wrote a post titled “Martial Artist or a Student of the Martial Arts?

I posed the question to my students trying to determine how they saw themselves. There were a variety of opinions on the topic, but today I want to discuss one way of looking at this. I had multiple people tell me that while they were training martial arts, they did not yet consider themselves martial artists because they were not living all aspects of their life like a martial artist would.

The next logical question would be: "How does a martial artist live?"

For this, let’s take a look at the eight aspects of the martial arts way of life that we have outlined for our students at Progressive Martial Arts Academy:

  1. Fitness - Are you living your life in such a way that you are a healthy and fit individual? Does your body function the way that it should?
  2. Health & Nutrition - Have you adopted healthy eating habits? Sleeping habits? Most of us know what we should be eating, and how we should be living our lives, but are we following that? This one can be tough.
  3. Meditation - Have you brought a little bit of meditation into your life? Again, you don’t need to be sitting on top of a mountain cross-legged to say you meditate. At this point, if you have not at least brought it into your life in small ways like taking a few deep breaths and living in the moment, you are ignoring so many studies that have proven its effectiveness.
  4. Yoga and Stretching - Unless you've been living under a rock, surely you've heard that this stuff is excellent! And you don’t need to be a yogi to benefit from it. A martial artist has to have some yoga or good stretching/mobility routines in their life to recover properly from their training and maintain a level of flexibility and body control that allows them to perform their techniques.
  5. Philosophy - Being a martial artist also means living your life with the philosophy of a martial artist. That means bringing kindness, humility, respect, and love to all aspects of your life and all people in your life. This philosophy includes things like avoiding fights and confrontations. Do you have road rage? Then you still have some work to do here.
  6. Striking Arts - Keep those tools sharpened. A good martial artist has something in their life that keeps their striking sharp. For some this is heavy bag work, for others, it might be traditional forms. These are two great methods for keeping your tools ready to go.
  7. Grappling Arts - You can’t ignore the groundwork either. You may not have taken the full fledge jump into a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class yet (if not, what are you waiting for!?), but you need to know how to defend yourself on the ground. Something like Jiu Jitsu takes many years to master, so the sooner you start, the better.
  8. Self Defense - Being able to walk around the world with confidence that you can protect yourself is what enables the martial artist to carry themselves the way they do. You need to be training with a focus on self-defense.

If you have 15 minutes, take a look at this TED talk below. Dr. Chang is discussing how to make hard choices, but she lays out a way of approaching life that can help lay the framework for becoming who you want to be - in our case today, a martial artist.

So, I'll ask you again - Are you a student of the martial arts or a martial artist? If you are still having difficulty labeling yourself as a martial artist, is there an area of your life that you can work on aligning your lifestyle with the items listed above?

Most importantly, keep training!


Do you need help "becoming a martial artist"?

Some of you may have a few of the items above taken care of because you have begun training in martial arts, but may still be struggling with the elements outside of the academy such as your nutrition and lifestyle. 

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better, yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

That’s why I became a Precision Nutrition certified coach - to help PMA students lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health…no matter what challenges they’re dealing with. I accepted my first group of students last summer, and recently had certified PMA instructor, Kristie Fox, get her PN certification so that we can take more students in the program. 

We are planning to accept a group of students to begin their program on Monday, July 31st with Coach Kristie.

Interested in starting this one year program this summer? 

You can find more information about our nutrition and lifestyle coaching program here:

http://www.pmaoakridge.com/nutrition

Then, send me an email to join the presale list; you’ll save up to 45% and secure a spot in the program. We like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. 

And, you’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we plan to only open up the program twice a year. In the end, if you’re ready to change your body, and your life, with help from the world’s best habit changing program, this is your chance.

If you're ready to join the presale list now, you can do that here:

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Mindfulness & No-Mindedness (Mushin)

In recent years, mindfulness has become a hot topic in the United States with more people discussing the idea of “living in the moment” and seemingly fewer people than ever actually doing it. 

Mindfulness is the act of consciously directing your awareness to what you are doing at that moment. We have more distractions than ever in our lives today, and that has led to a society of people that seem to never be in the moment. 

Let’s take a look at eating as an example. Mindful eating is not the same as being aware you are eating. For the most part, I think all of us are aware of the fact that we are eating when we are eating. How many of us though are consciously directing our awareness towards eating while doing so? If you are watching TV or looking at your phone, then you are not mindful of eating, and that can lead to overeating, not sufficiently chewing your food, or eating too quickly. Not to mention you can enjoy and savor your meal much more if you are mindful!

This absent-minded behavior rampant in our society is partially due to our smartphones - we look at them at sporting events instead of watching the game. We look at them at the movie theater and restaurants, and, my least favorite, we pull out our phones while having a conversation with someone.  I know I am not the only one that has recognized this and pointed it out. There are many news articles, blog articles and YouTube videos about waking up, looking up and trying to cure the twitch of checking our phones. There are problems here that go even deeper, however. When we are not entirely conscious of our experiences and engagements, it can be detrimental to our mental health and the health of our relationships.

Let’s look at relationships for example. One of the top ways we hurt the people closest to us is by lashing out when we get frustrated. While many people will write this off as an anger management or stress issue, often it boils down to consciousness. We have to be acutely aware of every moment. 

When something is not going “our way,” if we are not conscious at that moment, then we will react negatively. The reaction that comes out is resistance to being triggered negatively and things not being the way we want them to be. In contrast, had we been conscious in that moment, we could have made the recognition that “it is what it is” and we can flow with it.

This idea was discussed in a recent article by Psychology Today, and when you have a few minutes I recommend you give the whole article a read - 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200811/the-art-now-six-steps-living-in-the-moment

Here is an excerpt:

“Perhaps the most complete way of living in the moment is the state of total absorption psychologists call flow. Flow occurs when you're so engrossed in a task that you lose track of everything else around you. Flow embodies an apparent paradox: How can you be living in the moment if you're not even aware of the moment? The depth of engagement absorbs you powerfully, keeping attention so focused that distractions cannot penetrate. You focus so intensely on what you're doing that you're unaware of the passage of time. Hours can pass without you noticing.”

Learning to flow can be tough, but as martial artists, we have a rare opportunity to master it. In martial arts, we have something called “mushin.” Short for “mushin no shin," it translates to "the mind without mind." This concept is critical in fighting. A martial artist will perform at his highest potential if he can enter into a state of mind where he is fully aware and mindful of the present moment he is in but does not have to think about how to perform his techniques consciously. In fact, some fighters reach a level in which they don’t even think of which techniques to execute. They are just reacting much like your eyelid closes when something moves towards your eye.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners use this word “flow” all the time! We use it to discuss someone’s ability to smoothly transition from position to position but also their ability to flow with their opponent. In Jiu Jitsu, which translates to “the gentle art,” we try to use an opponent’s movements against him rather than resist his moves. 

So while reacting in an argument can be detrimental, in martial arts it is our ultimate goal to be able to just react - except we would like it to be with the proper reactions. You see, this only works when mastery of the skill set being deployed is attained to the point that the reflexes become the techniques he’d like to use. In a fight, if thought is necessary to choose a technique, then it is probably too late. By training ourselves to determine the correct reaction, eventually, this will become our instinctive reaction of dealing with that scenario.

While in a way “mushin” may seem like the opposite of mindfulness, this type of training may be one of the strongest tools in developing it. Mindfulness takes much practice. By training ourselves on the mat week in and week out to put ourselves into a calm state of mind, ready to “flow” with a situation and react with trained responses, we are also preparing to handle daily interactions mindfully.

Exercise: Throughout this week be mindful of each aspect of our daily lives from the mundane to the exciting. Be mindful while eating. Be mindful during conversations. For those of you training, put your focus while training this week on training towards mushin. Repetition, repetition, repetition. But remember “practice doesn’t make perfect,” “perfect practice makes perfect.” So practice mindfully and get the most out of each training session. If you are at a stage of your training that involves sparring, try to enter into that state of mushin while sparring this week, but only if the necessary groundwork has gone into your training first. This is why it’s important to not rush into sparring and to develop a strong foundation first.

My Trip to Rio

On May 19, I took off with my wife, Brittany, and oldest son, Charlie, on what would be the trip of a lifetime. We spent 10 days in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil visiting my close friend and teacher, Felipe Costa, his wife, Ana, and his son, Bento. Charlie and Bento were born just 2 weeks apart and despite living almost 5,000 miles away are great friends!

I thought for the blog this week I'd share some of the posts and memories that we shared on Facebook throughout the week, all collected in one place!

Taking off from McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, TN!

Taking off from McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, TN!

Day 1:

It's only been one day in Brazil, but we are having an incredible trip! 

We came back to Felipe's house and unloaded/rested then took a long walk down Copacabana beach and Ipanema beach to Ana's parents' house where they cooked us a wonderful traditional Brazilian meal - feijoada.

So happy to be reunited with our friends!

So happy to be reunited with our friends!

Ana's parents were so welcoming, and cooked us a wonderful meal!

Ana's parents were so welcoming, and cooked us a wonderful meal!

Day Two: Today we visited the botanical garden, the lagoon where the Olympics were held, and ate at a really nice Brazilian steakhouse. Bento and Charlie's friendship is really cute (as you'll see!).

We love this family so much! And are enjoying every second of time with them in their home, on the other half of the earth!

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So today while visiting the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden we got to see a variety of wild monkeys! That by itself is really cool.

Now, while watching the monkeys, one of them snuck up on us, jumped in the stroller, and stole our unopened bag of snacks. He then took it up into the tree, shared with his friends, and later they all came down to retrieve the ones that they had dropped - even taking them from our hands!

 It's crazy how you can be in one of the largest cities in the world and just a short walk away from the jungle.

DISCLAIMER: you should not normally feed animals in the wild or in a zoo, both for your safety and their health!

Day 3: This morning we took Felipe's son, Bento, to school and then spent the day exploring downtown Rio de Janeiro. We also went by Felipe's academy, Brazilian Black Belt, Terere's academy, and watched Professor Ricardo De La Riva teach De La Riva at De La Riva Jiu-jitsu!

Visiting Professor Ricardo De La Riva's academy!

Visiting Professor Ricardo De La Riva's academy!

On the way home tonight, we were picking up some Acai for dinner and ran into a group of kids walking home from Jiu Jitsu class. Felipe stopped them and asked them some questions about their training and then "fought" one of them in the street. 😊

P.S. - Authentic Acai is much different than the frozen bricks sold in the United States! Charlie still enjoyed it, and Bento LOVES it! Charlie is also a big fan of the subway we have discovered.

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Day 4: Today we visited the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. It has an amazing view over Rio de Janeiro. This was one of our favorite moments so far.

Then Charlie and Bento went to Jiu Jitsu class! This was Charlie's first official Jiu Jitsu class and how cool is it that it was in Brazil?! 

Afterward, Brittany and I stayed to train too. Felipe's academy, Brazilian Black Belt, is awesome and has a great group of people of all ranks to train with. You can tell who their teacher is because their technique was great, and the culture was good too!

Our Portuguese is improving little by little!

Day 5: We woke up early this morning and hiked to one of the Horto waterfalls! The water was freezing but we had to jump in!

Then later in the day, we visited the Christ the Redeemer statue which was voted one of the seven wonders of the modern world in 2012! Another unbelievable view of the city of Rio.

Then we packed up to spend the weekend in the beach town of Armação de Búzios (another city in the state of Rio de Janeiro).

Day 6:

This morning we visited Felipe's grandmother and her good friend Lola (who was Felipe's nanny)! Afterward, we spent the afternoon on the beach in Leblon before picking up Ana, Fernanda (Ana's sister), and Michelle (Felipe's long time friend, and Jiu Jitsu Black Belt) and driving to Buzios!

The classic drink on the beach in Rio - Matte!

The classic drink on the beach in Rio - Matte!

We arrived to find out Felipe and Ana had surprised us with a house that was actually on the beach. We woke up each morning and opened the back door to a beautiful view of the beach and could step right off the patio and walk onto the sand.

After grabbing some dinner and lemon pie (Lemon pie is Felipe's favorite dessert and he swears this place has the best Lemon pie in the world - we all agreed!) in downtown Buzios, Felipe and I decided to jump in the COLD ocean, you only live once! 

Day 7:

On our first morning in Buzios we took a walk on Geriba beach before heading out for some breakfast at a delicious local bakery. Brazilian breakfasts typically have lots of bread and cheese. Delicious!

We then went back to the house for naps. That afternoon we walked to Ana and Fernanda's cousins' place for some Acai.

We went out again Friday night for some bruschetta and pizza and of course, more lemon pie!

Day 8:

Today we woke up, went out for breakfast, and walked down to a different beach in Buzios where we spent the afternoon swimming, playing and relaxing. The water felt great and Charlie really loved it!

At the end of the day, we walked down to another beach in Buzios to eat dinner watching the sunset on our last night in Brazil. That was followed up by some lemon pie downtown of course!

Day 9:

This is our last day in Brazil! Brittany and I woke up to see the sunrise over our beach and I spent the morning reading.

Once everyone was awake, we ate a wonderful breakfast at our house and walked down to one more beach to say goodbye to Buzios. And grab one more bowl of Acai!

We then drove back to Rio and packed up to come home. Saying goodbye brought tears to everyone, and we can't wait until we see each other again!

This was a trip we will never forget. Our friends live in a beautiful place, but it was them that made it so special. ❤️

All pictures from this trip were taken on my iPhone. It's so fun to be able to capture these amazing pictures with something we take with us everywhere and that fits in your pocket!

Loyalty and the Martial Arts

When someone is committed to a cause, person, or thing, we call that loyalty. Loyalty is a feeling of devotion or faithfulness no matter what the current circumstance. 

Some of you reading may already have some people or things you feel loyalty towards coming to mind: your family, your nation, your faith, your friends, your partner, or a favorite sports team (Go Vols!). Loyalty is asked of us a lot, and some people are even uncomfortable about the idea of commitment. 

Let’s break loyalty down in a martial arts context and explore its application:  

Loyalty may be what leads you to start training. Perhaps loyalty to your health and fitness goals inspired you to research ways to stay active. Maybe you wanted to be sure you could protect yourself and those you love. You were committed enough to your values of bettering yourself that you took action. That is loyalty. 

From the second you take your first steps into an academy, your instructors should be loyal to you. They should be committed to giving you the best impression of martial arts possible. They shouldn't do this to “make a sale” or fill their class size, but rather because of their loyalty to martial arts in general. They should believe in its benefits and be committed to accurately portraying them. That way, even if this school is not the right fit for you, you keep looking for martial arts elsewhere. That is loyalty. 

If you do discover the school is right for you and decide to join, they should ask for some loyalty in return. You may be asked to uphold the academy rules. There are countless reasons for these rules, but it is also one of the small instances you are asked to show your commitment to the academy. Albeit small, that is loyalty. 

At some point in your training, you may hit a plateau. This plateau is well-known among martial artists but not talked about that often. It is when you start to feel stagnant (like you’re not progressing). Perhaps you haven’t gotten any new material lately and start to feel bored with your current techniques. You start wanting to skip class, but you don’t. You don’t because of your trust in your instructor’s plan for your journey in the martial arts. You don’t because of your commitment to bettering yourself and all the reasons you started training martial arts in the first place. That is loyalty. 

Fast-forward years and years down the road. You have demonstrated determination, commitment and an understanding of the core material. At this academy your brown belt is replaced with a white one, signifying you are now in preparation for your Black Belt test. For the next several months, you are asked to show humility, conviction, perseverance, grit, and most of all loyalty. You show commitment to your training by increasing your attendance and your time outside of class practicing material and getting in the best shape you can. You show this loyalty to prove that when the mentally and physically grueling test does come, you will not quit—no matter how hard it is. 

Really the Black Belt test at its core can be seen as an expression of your loyalty to your training and yourself. No matter how tough things get, no matter how you feel that day, loyalty stays constant and quitting is never an option. When the test is over, nothing changes. 

This allegiance to your training, training partners, and instructors stays—forever! 

If this level of devotion seems crazy to you now as a beginner student, don’t worry. By the time you’re at that level, just like you have practiced punching and kicking, you will have practiced loyalty so much throughout your training that it will feel natural. It will never be easy, but it will be natural. 

I’ll leave you with a poem written by PMA student and Black Belt, Jack Tuberville, that you can find hung up in our lobby:

Black Belt

The white belt learns to kick and punch
And take another down.
He trains in use of stick and knife
And grapples on the ground. 

The Black Belt still has much to learn, 
But nothing left to prove.
All fear he’s long since put aside;
He walks in different shoes.

He lives to serve both kith and kin,
And keep this pledge held true:

In time of trouble
If you call
I will stand by you.