*On September 13-15, 2018, 5 PMA students tested for and earned their Black Belts in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Today is our final post from a series that were written by PMA’s newest Black Belts during their preparation for Black Belt. Today’s post is from Monty Blalock. Monty is 48 years old and has been training at PMA for 6 years.
A good martial arts library and resources from which to draw can enhance your martial arts training that you receive on the mat.
The path to learning a new skill first starts with the curiosity or desire to do so. Then once you begin your learning process, you should put in the work to become better day-by-day. That requires work inside and outside of class. As it relates to martial arts, work inside of class is easy to identify. It is the time you spend on the mat with the instructors. The work outside of class is more subjective and depends on the individual. It can be practicing on your own or with others outside of class, it can be taking notes to document techniques learned, or it can be research done on relevant topics, concepts, history or philosophies that supplement what is taught by instructors.
In this thesis, I will share some of the things that work for me during my martial arts journey in addition to a few examples of the resources I use. I’ll also touch on meaningful moments that lead me here. However you should treat the information provided like Bruce Lee said in one of his famous quotes related to Jeet Kune Do - “Research your own experience; absorb what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is essentially your own.” (Tao of Jeet Kune Do, p.3)
I’m not a life-long practioner of the martial arts. At least I wasn’t, but I am now. What I mean is that I have been a fan of the martial arts, much like any kid growing up in the 70’s. Except for a year or two of Tae Kwon Do as a youth, my time on the mat didn’t really start until I found PMA in July 2012. As an over 40-year old man at the time that sat behind a desk crunching numbers, my original goal was to take the plunge into martial arts as a means of physical fitness and to explore Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Whatever miniscule amount of information I thought I knew about the stand-up martial arts, I knew significantly less about the grappling arts. So I went to Google and typed “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu near me”. My wife and I had just relocated from Michigan to the Knoxville area. Our transitional apartment, while looking for a house, was in Oak Ridge. Depending on your belief system or personal philosophies, there were other forces at work. Call it fate, destiny, divine intervention, etc. I will elaborate more on that in a moment. The PMA website was the first one that popped up. Since I had zero knowledge about what to look for in a martial arts academy, I called the first one. SiFu David Corrigan answered. Via phone he was professional, courteous and nice. He scheduled me for an intro lesson a few days later. In our first meeting, he informed me that the foundational system his school taught was FILKENJUTSU-KAI, developed by his father SiJo Bruce. The system is based on Kenpo karate at its core, but it included other aspects of martial arts, including BJJ. Although I was initially only interested in BJJ, his family’s system intrigued me. Plus SiFu said that at that time he recommended that all students start in Kenpo, then at yellow belt, you could begin the BJJ curriculum. Ok, I’ll give Kenpo a try, if for no other reason, than to learn a few cool techniques, until I could start BJJ.
Remember I mentioned fate, destiny, and divine intervention earlier. Well the latter is my preference in case you wanted to know. That moment put me on a path that I’m truly thankful I embarked upon. It led me to this moment as a FILKENJUTSU Black Belt Candidate. There have been a lot of moments in between these two points and I’m hopeful there will be many more (a lifetime’s worth to be exact).
Now to get to the crux of the matter. I’d like to touch on a few things that are relevant to me and how they relate to my development as a martial artist and as a person.
HOW TO BUILD YOUR MARTIAL ARTS KNOWLEDGE
In my opinion, I’m not the best martial artist physically, but I try hard, for a middle-aged guy with a constant foot, knee and ankle issues. But I’m still here. What I lack in physical prowess, I try to make up for in organizational skills, positive attitude and having good resources from which to draw upon. It also helps that I understand my own learning style.
According to the website (www.learning-styles-online.com/overview/), there are seven types of learners.
The Seven Learning Styles
Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.
Now many of us are not just one type, but we are a combination of some or all of these. But we all have preferences. Based on the definitions above, what works for me starts with the verbal and logical. I don’t discount any of the others as I apply them to my martial arts training, but after the techniques are taught by the instructor(s), I initially process them along the verbal, and more specifically the written aspect. Then of course there is the physical – meaning repetition, which locks it into muscle memory. Then I look at the techniques through a lens of logic, which helps me understand the “why” of the techniques. And the why leads me to develop a deeper understanding. To gain that deeper understanding, you should find resources that help you do just that.
Just like any other subject you learn in school or in your profession, you have to do some learning on your own. I only bring this up so that if you haven’t done so already, think about your learning style and adjust your practice and training outside of class accordingly. Then do your research!
I’d like to touch on a few things that are relevant to me and how they relate to my development as a martial artist and as a person.
WHAT IS IN YOUR MARTIAL ARTS LIBRARY?
I choose to supplement my training on the mat with a host of other sources. I call those resources “My Library”. My library includes notes, books, information, motivational sources etc. that help me along my journey through martial arts and life.
By no means am I suggesting that you use books to “learn” techniques. But instead, use books and other resources to generate the appropriate level of curiosity as an add-on to the tutelage you receive from our instructors.
When I began my martial arts studies, the material was (and is) taught in such a way to make you thirsty for more. It is given in small, manageable chunks. Take the opportunity to study and practice those techniques, instead of being in a hurry to stockpile or accumulate techniques.
When I first came to PMA, I remember asking SiFu what books he would suggest I read in order to become a little more enlightened about martial arts. Instead of answering directly, he took me into his office and showed me his bookcase. If you’ve never had the pleasure, ask him to show you sometime. Me being a book guy, I thought I had just entered martial arts section at the library or bookstore. The variety of topics was impressive. This made me start thinking about martial arts in a totally different way versus just coming to class to learn techniques. I wanted to know some history. Over my years of training at PMA, I periodically look at SiFu’s bookcase every time I’m in there. This started me on a path to creating my own library one book (or resource) at a time. Your library can get you through in a variety of ways, as I describe in the sections below.
TAKE GOOD NOTES
The style of martial arts that we study is comprised of hundreds of techniques. It can be difficult to recall everything that we have learned during our training just from memory alone.
According to a Harvard research paper on note taking, you should review your notes on the same day you created them and then on a regular basis, rather of cramming your review into one long study session prior to an exam. (Friedman, p.3). This helps improve retention and makes it easier to study the material in the future. I try to document my notes from the martial arts classes attended as soon as I can after class. This lets me reflect on the techniques learned, and document them as accurately as possible. I also include my questions to ask the instructors for details that I may have missed. (I’m not saying that I take the best notes, but they work for me. If you’ve ever seen mine, you understand what I’m saying). If you haven’t started, I suggest you take notes after each class to add to your library.
GAIN A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM or PHILOSOPHY
To me a belief system is multi-pronged. It means faith in something greater than yourself. It could mean religion, philosophies, ethics and/or moralities that exist within you. The martial arts are filled with these themes in almost anything you pick up related to the topic. One of the first books I obtained during my martial arts training was Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams. Early in the book the author mentions how the aspect of Zen had been underrepresented in the martial arts literature. He quotes “Yet I had studied the martial arts for several years before becoming aware of this [referring to the Zen principles]. In the early stages of training, like most students, I spent my time learning and refining complex physical techniques and movements. Only occasionally did a SiFu (‘instructor in Chinese’) hint that there were other lessons to be mastered” (Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams p.9).
Just like Mr. Hyams mentioned in the quote above, our own instructor - SiFu David has mentioned this book and periodically reads passages in class. This book helped me think of martial arts on a deeper level, much more than just the physical.
FIND SOURCES OF MOTIVATION TO KEEP YOU GOING IN THE TOUGH TIMES
For those that study martial arts within the FILKENJUTSU system, you know that there are some physical and mental demands that you encounter in class, belt tests, etc. There are times that you feel as if you can’t go any more. A lot of that is your mind telling you to stop. Yes, your muscles and joints could be in some mild discomfort, but if you push yourself past that point, you will be amazed at yourself. But to get there, sometimes you need to distract your mind while your body keeps going. I suggest you find things such as a mantra, phrase, song, or poem. One of the things I have in my mental library is a poem that has some significance to me called See it Through by Edgar A. Guest (Poets.org). It speaks to getting through tough times. It can be applied to any FILKENJUTSU belt test or life in general!
See It Through
When you’re up against a trouble,
Meet it squarely, face to face;
Lift your chin and set your shoulders,
Plant your feet and take a brace.
When it’s vain to try to dodge it,
Do the best that you can do;
You may fail, but you may conquer,
See it through!
Black may be the clouds about you
And your future may seem grim,
But don’t let your nerve desert you;
Keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
Spite of all that you can do,
Running from it will not save you,
See it through!
Even hope may seem but futile,
When with troubles you’re beset,
But remember you are facing
Just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting;
Don’t give up, whate’er you do;
Eyes front, head high to the finish.
See it through!
- Edgar A. Guest
LEARN THE HISTORY AND TRADITIONS OF THE PAST
The FILKENJUTSU official websites at our disposal (fusionmartialarts.com and pmaoakridge.com) should be your starting point for system knowledge. Then you can delve deeper into our history. As I began to build my library, I found myself migrating to books related to the history of Kenpo, in addition to the other arts that make up FILKENJUTSU.
KAJUKENBO, one of the systems that FILKENJUTSU is derived from, has a rich history that all Kenpo students should be aware.
There is a lot of material on the topic of KAJUKENBO to draw from, but I suggest a few titles specifically. KAJUKENBO, The Original Mixed Martial Art and KAJUKENBO, The Emperado Legacy, both by John Bishop, as well as The Black Robe: The Kenpo/KAJUKENBO Connection by David Tavares These books go deeper into the mindset of the creators and early practioners, in addition to some of the things that necessitated the creation of the system (Environmental, social, economic, etc.). As stated in the quote by Pearl S. Buck (American Pulitzer Prize-winning Author):
“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” (http://www.rightattitudes.com/2016/06/26/pearl-s-buck/)
SiJo Bruce has done an outstanding job in keeping and/or bringing back historical aspects and traditions that tie directly back to KAJUKENBO.
In conclusion there are many sources from which to draw additional resources related to your martial arts path. I choose to supplement my training on the mat with a host of other sources. I call those resources “My Library”. My library includes notes, books, information, motivational sources etc. that help me along my journey through martial arts and life. Do you have a library? If not, I suggest you start one today!
Lee, Bruce (1975). Tao of Jeet Kune Do, p.3.
Website: (www.learning-styles-online.com/overview/), Seven Learning Types.
Hyams, Joe (1979). Zen in the Martial Arts, p.9
Research Paper: Friedman, Michael C. Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching
Harvard University. Notes on Note-Taking: Review of Research and Insights for Students and Instructors, p.3
Website: (www.poets.org), See It Through by Edgar A. Guest.
Websites: www.fusionmartialarts.com and pmaoakridge.com
Bishop, John (2006). KAJUKENBO, The Original Mixed Martial Art.
Bishop, John (2011). KAJUKENBO, The Emperado Legacy.
Tavares, David (2017). The Black Robe: The Kenpo/KAJUKENBO Connection.
Website (www.rightattitudes.com/2016/06/26/pearl-s-buck/). Quote from Pearl S. Buck.