Martial Arts Library

*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.

INTRODUCTION

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.

Monty (far right) with a few of his training partners!

Monty (far right) with a few of his training partners!

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.

Monty alongside two of his training partners and fellow Black Belt candidates, Iain Willborn and Matt Thomas.

Monty alongside two of his training partners and fellow Black Belt candidates, Iain Willborn and Matt Thomas.

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.

A snapshot of Monty’s martial arts bookshelf.

A snapshot of Monty’s martial arts bookshelf.

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.

Monty always goes out of his way to help out around the dojo anyway he can!

Monty always goes out of his way to help out around the dojo anyway he can!

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.

Monty and his wife, Mitzi! One of they key components of martial arts training is a supportive spouse!

Monty and his wife, Mitzi! One of they key components of martial arts training is a supportive spouse!

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

Monty on a fall hike with some of his instructors and training partners.

Monty on a fall hike with some of his instructors and training partners.

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.  

Monty alongside FILKENJUTSU founder, SIJo Bruce Corrigan, at one of the Black Belt Test Luau’s!

Monty alongside FILKENJUTSU founder, SIJo Bruce Corrigan, at one of the Black Belt Test Luau’s!

CONCLUSION

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!

Monty alongside his fellow Black Belt candidates after receiving their Black Belts on the 3rd day of their test!

Monty alongside his fellow Black Belt candidates after receiving their Black Belts on the 3rd day of their test!

REFERENCES

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.

























An Overview and Implementation of the Muay Thai Clinch

*On September 13-15, 2018, 5 PMA students tested for and earned their Black Belts in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Follow along over the next few weeks, as we share some blog posts that were written by PMA’s newest Black Belts during their preparation for Black Belt. Today’s post is from Matt Thomas. Matt is 35 years old and has been training at PMA for 11 years. Alongside Bill Molony, Matt became one of the first PMA students to earn Black Belts in both Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu!


Many fighting arts contain various strikes to an opponent’s face and head.  A problem arises with this however–human beings have an aversion to being struck in the face.  An opponent will usually protect his head and face to the fullest extent of his ability because he understands the devastation of a well placed and timed shot to the head.  One of the answers to this problem has come from Thailand.

Matt began his training at PMA fresh out of college! He started with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, before adding training in PMA’s Phase Program (JKD, Kali, Kickboxing & more), and lastly added FILKENJUTSU Kenpo to his training a few years ago.

Matt began his training at PMA fresh out of college! He started with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, before adding training in PMA’s Phase Program (JKD, Kali, Kickboxing & more), and lastly added FILKENJUTSU Kenpo to his training a few years ago.

“Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand.  It was developed several hundred years ago as a form of close combat that utilizes the entire body as a weapon” (tigermuaythai.com).  Muay Thai has its origins in the city of Sukhothai.  An army was raised here to defend the government and inhabitants against invasion from surrounding tribes.  This army was taught to use weapons as well as using their entire body as a tool to defeat enemies.  Muay Thai or “The Art of Eight Limbs” formulated the primary martial combat system in Siam (now Thailand) and was widely taught to commoners and high society individuals as well (tigermuaythai.com). 

Matt alongside two of his training partners and Black Belt Test partners, Monty and Iain!

Matt alongside two of his training partners and Black Belt Test partners, Monty and Iain!

Modern Muay Thai has transformed over the last 100 years while being spread throughout Europe and America through the teachings of Thai soldiers.  This formidable combat system will continue to be regarded as a staple for the progressive fighter, and, as we will see, the Muay Thai clinch can be useful in a variety of situations which call for overwhelming an opponent with high-power, close range strikes.

Matt as a BJJ white belt, back in 2008!

Matt as a BJJ white belt, back in 2008!

Combat Muay Thai can easily be recognized by violent punches, elbows, kicks, and knees.  However, like the closed guard in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, what decisively separates Muay Thai from the other striking arts is its unique clinch position (muaythaipros.com).  A traditional Muay Thai fighter’s most distinguishable advantage when put in the ring with another opponent of differing style will be his ability to close to the clinch position, and be extremely adept at the inner workings of the technique. 

In 2013, Matt became a certified instructor at Progressive Martial Arts Academy!

In 2013, Matt became a certified instructor at Progressive Martial Arts Academy!

First, the entry into the position must be achieved.  Most times this will involve closing distance with an effective guard while taking minimal damage.  Using strikes to close distance can be useful as well.  By forcing the opponent to defend strikes his attention will be minimal in regards to the impending doom of the clinch.  Once the inside control around the head is obtained, one misconception is brute force is all that is necessary to control the individual.  Balance must be maintained while employing a “snap” of the opponent’s head when delivering strikes.  Once balance is achieved, which will most likely involve off balancing the opponent, precise knees, elbows, and headbutts can be delivered.  Unlike other combat styles, in the Muay Thai clinch, a fighter can place the opponent’s head in the optimal position for the strike.  In addition, the head can be “snapped” into the strike, thus creating more combined power.  The pattern of off balancing and striking continues until the opponent defends and pummels to inside control and reverses the position, gains distance, or is incapacitated.  If for some reason the clinch must be abandoned, a take down can be attempted or a quick forearm shove to create distance for traditional striking can be used.

Sempai Matt and his daughter, Wylie, alongside his instructor, David Corrigan, and his son, Auggie. Wylie and Auggie shared the same due date!

Sempai Matt and his daughter, Wylie, alongside his instructor, David Corrigan, and his son, Auggie. Wylie and Auggie shared the same due date!

Being an effective Muay Thai clinch fighter entails “relaxed, efficient application of strength, not just brute force” (heatrick.com).  One must use large, primary muscle groups to maintain the position.  An active core is paramount to maintaining balance, keeping tight elbows, and delivering forceful strikes.  Thai fighters will set aside 30 minutes after training to develop the ability to battle in the clinch for long periods (muaythaipros.com).  For the application in self defense scenarios, the Muay Thai clinch gives the martial artist the ability to deliver slicing elbows, crushing knees, and sneaky headbutts all the while controlling his opponent’s balance and distance.  This technique from Muay Thai will continue to be taught, learned, and evaluated by professional fighters and serious martial artists as a primary in-fighting and fight ending tool.      

Matt, with his wife, Crystal, and their daughter, Wylie, at last year’s PMA Halloween party.

Matt, with his wife, Crystal, and their daughter, Wylie, at last year’s PMA Halloween party.

2018 PMA Year In Review

I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s! After getting extra time with family for Christmas, we have a week to look back on the past year and plan for the year ahead.

2018 brought many great moments to us at PMA, so I’ll sum up a couple of my favorites here, and then you can take a look at our 2018 Year in Review video if you haven’t seen it yet.

April 2018 - Coming off a 2nd place performance at NAGA TN in 2017, our Youth Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competition Team stormed into Atlanta and took home 2nd place out of 54 teams!

June 2018 - PMA students gathered at Melton Lake Park for a Stick-Nic (outdoor Filipino Martial Arts class and picnic afterward). We hadn’t done this event since I was a teenager, and it was a blast, so I definitely plan to keep it as an annual thing now.

August 2018 - Father and daughter duo, Sempai Gary and Sempai Gracie Hall completed the instructor training program to become the next two instructors to join the the PMA team.

September 2018 - 5 PMA FILKENJUTSU students tested for and earned their Black Belts. This was our largest group ever, and a really special group of candidates that included an 18 year old, Iain Willborn (our first student to make Junior Black Belt and then advance to his full Black Belt), and a 64 year old, Bill Molony (who, alongside Matt Thomas, became PMA’s first 2 dual black belt students in Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu). They tested alongside Isaac Elliott and Monty Blalock, and we added a strong group of students to the black belt ranks!

October 2018 - PMA’s Youth Competition Team brought home 3rd place at the NAGA Tennessee Grappling Championship out of 38 teams. Four of our competitors (Austin Fox, Eli Fox, Aiden Hemsley, and Alex Torres) were unexpectedly bumped up to the Expert division and came home with championship belts!

December 2018 - We closed out the year with 99 of our Kenpo students earning their next rank, and Maggie Fox earning her Junior Black Belt! In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Phillip Ricks earned his Black Belt at 71 years old and after 14 years of training! We said goodbye (for now!) to one of our beloved instructors, Sempai Madelyn Fowler, but we sent her on her next journey with love and support. Then of course there was the holiday party and last class of the year!

Here are our Top 10 most played songs at PMA from 2018:

  1. My Blood - twenty one pilots

  2. High Hopes - Panic! at the Disco

  3. Better Not - Louis the Child & Wafia

  4. Golden Age - Houndmouth

  5. Jumpsuit - twenty one pilots

  6. The Middle - Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey

  7. Ride or Die (feat. Foster the People) - The Knocks

  8. The City - Louis the Child & Quinn XCII

  9. Natural - Imagine Dragons

  10. Born to Be Yours - Kygo & Imagine Dragons

You can listen to the playlist on Apple Music while working out this week and getting ready for the new year here: 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlist/pmas-top-10-songs-of-2018/pl.u-vvezXuq1B22

Alright, we open back up to kick off 2019 on Monday, January 7! Enjoy this video below if you haven’t seen it already (or just want to watch it again). 😊

Happy New Year!

David Corrigan
Owner/Chief Instructor
Progressive Martial Arts Academy

Happiness and Long Life through the Way of the Fist: Successful Aging and the Martial Arts

*On September 13-15, 5 PMA students tested for and earned their Black Belts in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Follow along over the next few weeks, as we share some blog posts that were written by PMA’s newest Black Belts during their preparation for Black Belt. Today’s post is from Bill Molony. Bill is 64 years old and has been training at PMA for 12 years. Alongside Matt Thomas, Bill became one of the first PMA students to earn Black Belts in both Kenpo and Jiu Jitsu!

Introduction

The title of this article is taken from kajukenbo, the foundation of filkenjutsu-kai.

This is the martial arts style taught at PMA. Kajukenbo is an acronym, it’s taken from it’s constituent styles, including:

• Karate

• Judo and Jujitsu

• Kenpo

• Chinese Boxing

Another interpretation is a translation from Chinese:

• Ka ( ), meaning “long life”

• Ju ( ), meaning “happiness”

• Ken ( ), meaning “fist”

• Bo ( ), meaning “way”

Thus, it can be translated, “long life and happiness through the way of the fist”.

Bill on the day he was selected as a Black Belt candidate in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Pictured alongside SiFu David Corrigan and SiJo Bruce Corrigan.

Bill on the day he was selected as a Black Belt candidate in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Pictured alongside SiFu David Corrigan and SiJo Bruce Corrigan.

Aging in the United States

The United States’ population is aging. While the USA is not the most elderly country in the world, the median age of US residents is rising, while life expectancy has stopped rising in recent years, and has even dropped slightly.

This will present an ongoing challenge for citizens an policymakers in many fields, including economics and health care. It also concerns individuals, as they confront their own aging, and plan to live healthy lives.

Bill (on the left) alongside two of our younger students, Sadie and Mack. This picture represents the idea that martial arts training is for everyone! Gender and age do not matter!

Bill (on the left) alongside two of our younger students, Sadie and Mack. This picture represents the idea that martial arts training is for everyone! Gender and age do not matter!

Successful Aging

How does one define successful aging? It obviously requires delaying one’s death. Death can be caused by modifiable or nonmodifiable factors. Examples of nonmodifiable factors include unforeseen accidents, unanticipated medical conditions such as congenital intracranial aneurysms, and genetic factors that are not treatable at present.

In 2004, the major external modifiable factors were (in rank order):

1. Tobacco Use

2. Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity

3. Alcohol

4. Infections

5. Motor Vehicle Accidents

6. Firearms

7. Sexual Behaviors (primarily HIV)

8. Illicit Drug Use

The same 2004 study projected that poor diet and physical and activity would overtake tobacco use. More recent trends in illicit drug abuse are obviously alarming.

Successful aging also implies maintaining a good quality of life. I would suggest that a good quality of life maintains physical ability, cognition, social connection, and emotional satisfaction with life. These are all aspects of physical and mental health.

Sempai Bill Molony and SiFu David Corrigan

Sempai Bill Molony and SiFu David Corrigan

Strategies to Mitigate Aging

Regular physical evaluations can catch high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugars before these conditions become symptomatic. Exercise has beneficial effects on blood pressure and weight. It also increases blood flow to the brain. Regular exercise with 150 minutes per week of cardio exercise and strength training is estimated to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%. Weight control is important for avoiding type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Degenerative changes in the spine and knees are frequently related to excessive weight. One recent preliminary study has suggested that obesity can raise your chances for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Challenging your mind by learning and social contact may decrease your risk for dementia including Alzheimer’s disease by up to 70%. Stress management with techniques such as yoga and meditation are associated with reduction in the hormone cortisol. Moderating cortisol levels improves mental function, heart function, anxiety, and chronic pain.

A recent study from Japan demonstrated significant benefit of regular group exercise in older adults. Although the participants knew that they were aging, and felt declines in both physical and mental capacity, regular group exercise helped them to improve or maintain their health. They felt socially connected and experienced a sense of security in community by supporting each other.

A small preliminary study from UCLA reported that memory training done while simultaneously exercising was more effective than memory training after exercise. This suggests the possibility that simultaneous physical and cognitive exercises may be better than doing them separately.

This is Bill on the night he earned his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt. This is an unbelievable accomplishment at any age, but especially to do in your 60s! SiJo Bruce Corrigan gave Bill the belt from around his waist that night.

This is Bill on the night he earned his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt. This is an unbelievable accomplishment at any age, but especially to do in your 60s! SiJo Bruce Corrigan gave Bill the belt from around his waist that night.

Martial Arts and Aging

How do all of these facts and associations relate to the martial arts? I can only relate my personal experience at PMA. I have significantly improved my flexibility and strength. I have lost weight. I have made treasured social connections with good friends in classes that are stable over long periods of time. I find the classes to be simultaneously physical and cognitive workouts. I feel a decrease in anxiety and stress after workouts. In short, I think that PMA has nudged me along the path to more successful aging.

Bill (2nd from left in the front row), alongside his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training partners. Take a look at the diversity!

Bill (2nd from left in the front row), alongside his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training partners. Take a look at the diversity!

References

Hiroko, Komatsu, Yagasaki Kaori, Yoshinobu Saito, and Yuko Oguma. “Regular Group

Exercise Contributes to Balanced Health in Older Adults in Japan: A Qualitative Study.”

BMC Geriatrics 17, no. 190 (August 22, 2017). doi:10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3.

McEwen, Sarah C., Prabha Siddarth, Berna Abedelsater, Yena Kim, Wenli Mui, Pauline

Wu, Natacha D. Emerson, et al. “Simultaneous Aerobic Exercise and Memory Training

Program in Older Adults with Subjective Memory Impairments.” Journal of Alzheimer’s

Disease 62, no. 2, 795–806. issn: 1387-2877, accessed September 9, 2018. doi:10.3233/

JAD- 170846. pmid: 29480182. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/

PMC5870016/.

Mokdad, Ali H., James S. Marks, Donna F. Stroup, and Julie L. Gerberding. “Actual Causes

of Death in the United States, 2000.” JAMA 291, no. 10 (March 10, 2004): 1238–1245.

issn: 1538-3598. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1238. pmid: 15010446.

Naderali, Ebrahim K., Stuart H. Ratcliffe, and Mark C. Dale. “Review: Obesity and

Alzheimer’s Disease: A Link Between Body Weight and Cognitive Function in Old

Age.” American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias 24, no. 6 (December

1, 2009): 445–449. issn: 1533-3175. doi:10.1177/1533317509348208.

Statista. “Median Age of the U.S. Population 1960-2017 — Statistic.” Accessed September 9,

2018. https://www.statista.com/statistics/241494/median-age-of-the-uspopulation/.

The World Bank. “Life Expectancy at Birth, Total (Years) — Data.” Accessed September 9,

2018. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN?locations=US.

WebMD. “Alzheimer’s Disease: Is There AnyWay to Avoid Getting It?” Accessed September 8,

2018. https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/understanding- alzheimersdisease-

prevention.

How martial arts impact the mind

*On September 13-15, 5 PMA students tested for and earned their Black Belts in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Follow along over the next few weeks, as we share some blog posts that were written by PMA’s newest Black Belts during their preparation for Black Belt. Today’s post is from Isaac Elliott. Isaac is 38 years old and has been training at PMA for almost 5 years.


There are many reasons that people train in the martial arts. Most people think about the fitness aspect, the ability to defend oneself, the confidence that training builds, the community of training partners, or the discipline gained through regular training. One thing that most people wouldn’t normally consider are the long term cognitive benefits training in the martial arts can offer.

While there is limited research on the subject, the understanding is growing. One thing is becoming clear: nearly everyone can benefit from the complex form of exercise that is found in activities like martial arts once they understand what is impacted, what is involved in the training, and why it all works.  

Isaac as a beginner student (back row, 5th from left) with some of his classmates!

Isaac as a beginner student (back row, 5th from left) with some of his classmates!

The impact

There are 2 things that need to be understood in order to see why activities like Martial arts are so beneficial. The first is “Executive Function”, and the second is “Transfer Effect”. 

Executive functions (EFs) consist of a family of three, interrelated core skills (inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.  Inhibitory control thus makes it possible for us to choose how we react and to change how we behave rather than being “unthinking” creatures of habit or impulse.   Working Memory is used to hold information while performing one or more mental operations. It is key for exploring relationships between bits of information, and understanding the relation between a later effect, and an earlier cause.  Cognitive Flexibility refers to the ability to flexibly adjust to changed demands or priorities, to look at the same thing in different ways or from different perspectives. This is commonly referred to as “thinking outside the box”. (A. Diamond et al., 2016)

Transfer effect is the change in cognitive performance after training. The area where this effect is most seen is in the Working Memory category. In the Study done by D. Moreau, improvements were seen in working memory, not directly related to the physical activity. The study used an activity similar to wrestling that was called “designed sport”. (D. Moreau et al, 2015).  The elements of Moreau’s designed sport focused on introducing perceptive problems, complex motor problems, and cognitive problems. (D. Moreau et al, 2015).   An interesting point is found when comparing the effects of normal aerobic exercise to the complex movements of the designed sport. For most tasks the designed sport group showed equivalent or better results than those who did task specific training, while those who did only the simple aerobic exercise showed minimal improvement. (D. Moreau et al, 2015) 

Isaac with his partners after a fun night of training!

Isaac with his partners after a fun night of training!

The training

So, what is in martial arts that makes the difference? There are many branches of martial arts, each developed to address different aspects of fighting. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and they can be combined synergistically, or used independently. The elements of Moreau’s designed sport focused on introducing perceptive problems, complex motor problems, and cognitive problems. (D. Moreau et al, 2015).  

In the interest of full disclosure, the descriptions bellow are drawn from my own training in FILKENJUTSU-KAI. The three styles below are part of the curriculum, and in my opinion best showcase the elements highlighted by the research.  

Kenpo karate is primarily a “stand-up” form, and uses scripted techniques to teach fighting concepts. These range from simple sequences consisting of only an evasion, and one or two strikes, up to complex forms with dozens of movements.  Kenpo really shines when an opponent is just close enough to land a punch or kick.  At the beginner level the movements themselves are complex enough to tax a student’s brain.  As the movements become more familiar, more complexity is added. After that the meaning and purpose of each motion is introduced. From a cognitive perspective, this constantly provides opportunity for growth, and if practices correctly, will never fall into that category of “simple” aerobic exercise.  As the training progresses, sparing is introduced. This adds a more creative and real word aspect to the training, which enhances the effects further. (A. Diamond et al., 2016)

Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) takes a completely different approach, and focuses on the close-range aspect of a fight. This includes grappling on the feet, but the focus is control of the opponent once the fight goes to the ground. The level of complexity in the movement grows quickly due to how many motions per minute of practice can be done. During a 3 minute BJJ “roll” it would not be surprising to count hundreds of techniques, or attempted techniques.  Each movement invites a counter, provides an opportunity to escape, or an opening attack. This provides a very complex set of motor and cognitive problems for each person, that must be processed using the student’s knowledge of their own techniques, as well as what is known about their training partner’s level of skill, and knowledge of technique. 

Kali is the Filipino art of fighting focused on the use of weapons, as well as the open hand. Much like Kenpo, the striking patterns range from simple to complex. One of the special things about kali is the ability to string the movements together into sequences that can be repeated very quickly.  This takes time and practice, but much like BJJ skill can be built quickly because of the rate of repetition.  Another element of Kali is the separation of the hands and feet. When first learning the movements, the student is stationary, focusing solely on the hand movement. Then a basic foot pattern is incorporated, keeping rhythm with the hand movements. Then finally the hands and feet are decoupled. The student needs to keep up the hand motions to intercept the partner’s movements. Both students move the feet independently of the hand rhythm to maintain relative position and distance from each other. 

Isaac at the end of his brown belt test in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo!

Isaac at the end of his brown belt test in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo!

Why it works

All three of these styles start simply, with a strong structure. As the student progresses, so does the complexity and creativity. Ultimately the goal is to integrate all the different styles seamlessly into one fighting art.   From a cognition perspective, this incorporates solving perceptive problems, motor problems and genitive problems, but at a higher level that the designed sport used by Moreau.  At an advanced level, a student must recognize, process and react to situations with considerable speed, often in a setting where fatigue and mental strain have been introduced. While this directly prepares a student for a physical confrontation where they may need to defend themselves, it also provides mental exercise that transfers to other facets of life.

“To see widespread benefits, diverse skills must be practiced. For that reason, real world activities such as martial arts and certain school curricula (that train diverse executive-function abilities) have shown more widespread cognitive benefits than targeted computerized training” (A. Diamond et al., 2016)

Aerobic exercise itself has been shown to be cognitively beneficial across all age groups and developmental stages. While the effects differ between age groups, improvements to Working Memory are noted everywhere. The data is suggestive of further effects to selective attention and inhibitory control, but more research would be needed to confirm the relationship. (Guiney-Machado, 2013) The benefits to working memory are notable, but not as significant as when the exercise is more complex. (D. Moreau et al, 2015) (A. Diamond et al., 2016)  

Isaac earned his Black Belt in September alongside 4 other PMA students - the largest group of Black Belts to test together!

Isaac earned his Black Belt in September alongside 4 other PMA students - the largest group of Black Belts to test together!

Conclusion

Most of the studies referenced here were conducted over time spans of weeks, or months. From my personal experience I know that the level of movement complexity a person can attain in martial arts in general bounded only by the amount of time spent practicing (barring a physical/neurological limitation).  Anecdotally, there have been cases where persons with physical challenges or developmental delays have used elements of martial arts as unofficial therapy, to good effect.  I hear stories of children with behavioral and social issues making significant improvements after training for just a few months. It is my strong belief that quality training using complex movement greatly benefits a person’s mental functions. 

So, why train in the Martial arts? The ability to defend oneself still floats to the top. The confidence in this ability shows through, and in itself is often a deterrent to attack. Physical fitness is still a major part of training. The sense of community that can be found when training with several like-minded people can be very strong, forming bonds that last a lifetime.  But on top of all that now the research is starting to show what practitioner have been claiming for a long time: Training in the martial arts will keep you going mentally as well. Not only maintaining cognitive function, but actually increasing it in a useful and meaningful way. 

Isaac and his SiFu, David Corrigan, last Christmas!

Isaac and his SiFu, David Corrigan, last Christmas!

References

Adele Diamond, Daphne S. Ling, 2016. Conclusions about interventions, programs, and approaches for improving executive functions that appear justified and those that, despite much hype, do not. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 18 (2016) 34–48

David Moreau, Alexandra B. Morrison , Andrew R.A. Conway 2015.  An ecological approach to cognitive enhancement: Complex motor training. Acta Psychologica 157 (2015) 44–55

Hayley Guiney & Liana Machado 2013. Benefits of regular aerobic exercise for executive functioning in healthy populations. Psychon Bull Rev (2013) 20:73–86

It Really Is a Way of Life

*On September 13-15, 5 PMA students tested for and earned their Black Belts in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo. Follow along over the next few weeks, as we share some blog posts that were written by PMA’s newest Black Belts during their preparation for Black Belt. First up is Iain Willborn. Iain is our academy’s first person to begin training as a child (Iain started at 11), earn their Junior Black Belt, and then take the 3-day test to earn their full Black Belt upon turning 18. Hopefully the first of many! Enjoy!


One may observe the phrase “martial arts is a way of life” and think “No, martial arts is nothing more than a hobby, through and through,” and to be honest, when I was younger, I would have fallen into the group of doubters.

Can you find Iain in this 2013 photo? He is the 5th from the right in the back row!

Can you find Iain in this 2013 photo? He is the 5th from the right in the back row!

I was one of the people that do not see martial arts for anything more than basic self-defense and exercise. But when you look deeper, martial arts, in my case, FILKENJUTSU, has a plethora of knowledge and lessons hiding just under the surface. Respect for authority is just one. The humbling experience you receive on a class to class basis through the teachers and the curriculum is another. As you are told often, “a martial artist’s journey is never done,” and indeed there is always more to learn, whether physically or mentally. The self-control, the ability to be a gracious winner and an even better loser, and then the true feeling of comradery between one another are just snippets of what martial arts, especially taught through PMA, have opened my mind to over the years.

I never wanted to train in martial arts in the first place. I was lovingly forced into it by my parents, who hoped it would not only give me some well-needed exercise, but also aid in my anger management issues. And I thank God that they did because it’s been one of the primary means that He has used in my life to this day.

As a lazy, angry child, I saw absolutely nothing good about PMA, other than it was something cool to tell friends about. But looking back at that little boy now, I can see that PMA is exactly what I needed, and exactly what God wanted for me. The investment that my parents made in classes for me over the years has been priceless in my life. My journey through Progressive Martial Arts has ranged years, and I’ve had many different attitudes towards it during that period. I’ve gone from not wanting to do it, to only doing it for fun, to doing it for fitness. But all these have been leading me to where I have landed and settled over this past year, wanting to do martial arts for life, wanting to learn more, and continuing to improve my skills.

August 2015 - PMA's first group of Junior Black Belts!

August 2015 - PMA's first group of Junior Black Belts!

For almost the entirety of my martial arts life thus far, I have been more of a punch and kick oriented fighter. My newest passion, however, is the entirely different fight that happens on the ground, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

When I first started martial arts, I did private classes in which I learned some basic Jiu Jitsu. As I continued to train, however, I eventually started doing group classes in the juniors, then to young adults, then finally to where I am today, the adult Kempo class. In the juniors and young adults, Jiu Jitsu was taught very minimally. So, for years I was in a stagnant state concerning groundwork. I knew the basic positions, and basic movements, but I never practiced them, and I never thought of them very much honestly. But just within the little time that I’ve been training Jiu Jitsu seriously, about a month and a half, I’ve learned just how wrong my outlook was.

My mentality concerning my lack of Jiu Jitsu training through the years was as simple as “I won’t ever let someone take me down, so I don’t need to know Jiu Jitsu,” which is crazy! One must observe that I drastically overestimated one thing, and that was my skill as a fighter. Over the two years that I have been in the adult’s class, my lack of skill in controlling a fight has been demonstrated to me time and time again, and that is just in a civil sparring match! I now realize that I will never be quick enough, or smart enough to guarantee that I won’t be taken to the ground during an altercation. Like SiFu David regularly reminds us, “Action is faster than reaction”. So, moving forward now, what is my goal for Jiu Jitsu?

My goal for Jiu Jitsu, as is my goal for any aspect of a fight, is to learn how to survive. I simply seek to gain the ability to last through the fight, whether on my feet or on the ground. But another more exact point of interest for me is submissions. The art of controlling your opponent, whether to injure or to simply stop them from injuring you has fascinated me. As a person that trained for years thinking about fast, powerful, and rigid strikes to control an opponent, seeing the fluid art of chokes, key locks, and triangle chokes (just to name a few) has opened my eyes to a side of the fight game and martial arts that has been out of my reach for years. I am looking forward to learning and honing these skills moving forward in my martial arts life, and becoming a more well-rounded martial artist.

August 2015 - Iain’s Junior Black Belt Test with his classmates and instructors.

August 2015 - Iain’s Junior Black Belt Test with his classmates and instructors.

The anger that plagued my younger years is still a fault I continue to battle even now, but it is not the destructive hellfire as before. It is now in the form of constructive discontent. Instead of firing my failures, insecurities, and sadness out at the poor souls around me, or destroying myself mentally, I use it to fuel my desire to always be improving, always learning, and always helping others. My hope and dream moving forward is to be a part of the family at PMA, and to be there to support and uplift others as they are embarking on their own journeys.

December 2016 - Iain tested for his first degree on his Junior Black Belt, alongside Monty Blalock and Matt Thomas. At PMA, when a child reaches Brown Belt but is not old enough to take the Black Belt test yet, we test them for a “Junior Black Belt,” which is the belt you see in this photo with the white stripe. Then, they can earn degrees (the red stripes) on their Junior Black Belt, until they turn 18 and are selected to take the test for their full Black Belt.

December 2016 - Iain tested for his first degree on his Junior Black Belt, alongside Monty Blalock and Matt Thomas. At PMA, when a child reaches Brown Belt but is not old enough to take the Black Belt test yet, we test them for a “Junior Black Belt,” which is the belt you see in this photo with the white stripe. Then, they can earn degrees (the red stripes) on their Junior Black Belt, until they turn 18 and are selected to take the test for their full Black Belt.

I will move forward in the race that is this life to learn how to handle myself with honor and dignity, so that one day, I can master the avoidance of battle and strive for peace. The work ethic that I have learned from my parents, my church, and PMA has enriched every aspect of my life. Those three things have sculpted who I am, and who I’m striving to be. PMA is one of the building blocks that is there to support the growth of who I am, and I will continue to build on those foundations for the rest of my life.

Iain amongst his FILKENJUTSU Black Belt family!

Iain amongst his FILKENJUTSU Black Belt family!

I couldn’t be more thankful for the people that have aided me along this journey, especially in the early years, like SiFu David and SiHing Terry. They have been there to lift me up, but also correct me when I was wrong. Their commitment to me, and my fellow students, has left an unperishable imprint on who I am and how I carry myself today. I’m never going to stop pursuing my callings and aspirations, even when faced with failure and hardship.

To fall seven, to rise eight. Life begins now.
— Bodhidharma (Damo)

The Dangerous Risk of Not Training

Last week I was talking to one of our adult students that will be turning 50 this year. We had a funny conversation that comes up fairly often when teaching martial arts about how he could beat up his former self. This student didn’t start training until his late 40s, but now that he has been training for a few years, the skills he has acquired would enable him to defeat his 30-year-old, stronger, faster, younger self in a fight.

The important thing to take away from this is that with every passing year one of two options is happening:

1. You are training martial arts. In this scenario, the percentage of people in the world that would beat you up in an altercation is decreasing year after year. Or depending on your age, at the very least it isn’t increasing as quickly as it would be without training.

2. You are not training martial arts. In this scenario, the percentage of people in the world that would beat you up in an altercation is increasing year after year.

It’s as simple as that.

Sometimes, when talking to someone over the age of 35 or so, they make the assumption that their time to train has come and gone. In all actuality, that is never the case. No matter your age, 35 or 75, it is important to train for self-defense (and so many other benefits).

While you should always try to avoid a fight, through training you are increasing your chances of being able to survive an attack.

Sometimes people say they will just keep themselves out of situations that they might need to fight. That’s really good - I will too! Unfortunately, sometimes there are situations we cannot avoid. As we’ve discussed in previous entries, men can avoid many altercations as long as they check their ego and alcohol consumption. But not all.

And if you are a woman, you have an even more important reason to train, as there is a much greater chance that you could be targeted in an abduction or sexual assault.

So, how would 50-year-old you fare against 30-year-old you? I can GUARANTEE that 50-year-old you will be much better off if he/she is consistently training.

See you on the mat!

Tournament Recap - NAGA Atlanta 2018

Our kids had a great weekend in Atlanta! There were so many hard fought battles and great memories made. With each tournament, I am more and more impressed with their effort, skill, and most importantly - character. I couldn’t be more proud as their teacher!

We posted videos and pictures all of last week on our social media pages, so I thought I’d gather them all up here in one place for you in case you missed some!


Connor (in grey rash guard) slaps on a perfect Anaconda choke in his first match of the day in the Advanced Kids division! He went on to use the same choke with the same result in the finals!


Connor gets his second anaconda choke of the day. I haven’t seen a kid go to sleep in a tournament before, so having it happen twice in the same tournament was pretty crazy. For those concerned, both kids were okay!


6 month’s ago, Grace had to face a big challenge when she stepped up to fight in a boy’s division at her very first tournament. She lost her matches at that tournament, but came back with tremendous experience to build off of - today she picked up two submissions and earned first place in her division!

The wins and medals aren’t why we do this. These competitions for kids help them learn so much about themselves and how to find the spirit and confidence to persevere through such difficult challenges. We had many great performances this weekend - in both wins and losses. And Grace was one of our stand outs!


Look out because here she comes.

This was a big tournament for Maggie. She has improved so much in the last few months, but primarily in one area - starting off strong and bringing the fight to her opponent for the full match.

She demonstrates tremendous skill, heart, and effort in this clip (including a textbook guillotine escape), but what you don’t see are the hours of hard practices she put in to get there. She made huge strides in class with her training partners, and decided she was going to fight differently this tournament.

This is Maggie!

ps - she loved training to this song so we had to throw that in the video.


Ty had some of the toughest matches of the day, and was our vote for the MVP this tournament. He won with mental toughness and good position. I’ll share a couple of videos so you can see the intensity that his opponent’s brought, but has one of our parent coaches said - Ty has ice water in his veins.

In this match he has to overcome a tight Kimura submission, fight back to tie it up before time runs out, and then win in overtime. Please excuse the camera being off occasionally, we were a little preoccupied with the match!

His mental fortitude was they key element, and his physical preparation in the months prior to this are what seals the deal. All of those early Saturday morning practices doing their job…


Here’s another quick one! Grace gets her second submission of the day with a back take from the closed guard and a Mata Leao (Rear Naked Choke).


Alex demonstrated excellent top control and continues to showcase more control and confidence with every tournament. Our team is full of kids that are extremely coachable. We’ve built a great relationship between our coaches and kids, and you can see it in how well they receive guidance and make adjustments mid-match.

This relationship is built on respect, openness, and trust.


Aiden worked really hard on his strategy and position over the last few months and executed it so well in this match.

Watching the whole team takes such big leaps forward from tournament to tournament is an amazing process to be a part of.


Here's a longer highlight of PMA's whole team - we have a little bit of each kid in this video. Our team took 21 competitors to this tournament, with 1 teammate that missed out this time (Mack), as he was in Houston competing with his robotics team at the world championship!

There is footage from both wins and losses in this video. Our kids know that the coaches are just as happy with a win or a loss as long as we get two things - they have fun and give us a perfect effort. And in that regard, we were 21 for 21 this trip.

These kids will remember how tired they were for a few weeks, they’ll remember their matches for a few months, but they will keep the memories of their time together with their team forever!

The Competition Team came back and celebrated last week, and they are right back on the mats training! A little tired, a little sore, but ready to go.

And we had them pose for one last picture with their medals and swords from another incredible trip!

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The Rules of Normal Eating

We teach our students that there are 8 aspects of the martial arts way of life:

  1. Fitness
  2. Meditation
  3. Philosophy
  4. Yoga & Stretching
  5. Health & Nutrition
  6. Striking Arts
  7. Grappling Arts
  8. Self-Defense

A complete martial artist should be putting energy into each of those 8 aspects of their training.

Today, I have a quick video to share with you in one of the areas that is most difficult for people and is often one of their biggest roadblocks to success - nutrition.

In our nutrition and lifestyle coaching program we teach 25 habits over the course of a 1 year program. You spend 2 weeks working on each habit and receive daily lessons (online) that will help you with your current habit. Two of the most important habits in the program are eating slowly and stopping before you are overly full.

This video hits on these concepts. As Dr. Koenig reinforces, this stuff is SIMPLE but not EASY.