You Are Normal

Do you ever get home from work or school and not feel like going to class?

So do I.

Do you struggle to follow healthy nutrition guidelines and find yourself tempted by junk food at every waking second?

So do I.

Are you nervous about starting martial arts because you're afraid you'll make yourself look like a fool?

So was every martial artist out there, excluding maybe those who began training when they were too young to care!

Do you get nervous about sparring because you are afraid of performing poorly and getting hurt or embarrassed?

So do I.

Do you look in the mirror and think negatively about your image?

So do I.

All of these things are just part of being human. And we all have people that we think are superhuman that we put up on a pedestal but guess what - they are just like you too.

Now it is true that some people seem to have everything figured out in areas of life that you are struggling in. They are just further along in that aspect of the journey, but they were where you are at some point. And in other areas of their lives, they won't be quite as far along.

Plenty of highly successful business people are overweight.

Many famous people have unstable lives.

Tons of professional athletes and musicians struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Many people that make millions of dollars go broke.

Lots of incredibly fit people have poor relationships with their friends and family.

In many cases, high levels of success in one area of life leads to other facets being neglected. We act surprised when we see someone that seems to have "had it all" fall apart, but it's because we forget to see that they are just human beings. 

We are quick to judge and criticize others because it makes us feel better.

When we talk about how much weight someone has put on, we feel better about our fitness journey. When we gossip about someone's personal life, it comforts us.

So next time you catch yourself rationalizing why you shouldn't go to class tonight, get up within 5 seconds and go. Even if it isn't time yet! Go early and practice or update your notebook. 

When you start convincing yourself why you shouldn't start your martial arts training, fitness program, nutrition plan, etc. yet, get up within 5 seconds and start. Don't wait for Monday. Take the next small action you can take towards beginning.

When you find yourself putting someone down, thinking you are better than someone, or participating in gossip, stop right away and intentionally do something positive for that person instead.

All of these thoughts and actions are human things, but our goal should be to strive every day to be a better human. That is the "Martial Arts Way of Life." Don't let the fact that it's "normal" help you rationalize staying where you are.

The fact that you are normal is comforting. Realize you aren't alone. It feels good, doesn't it? Be kind to yourself. Now, since all of these things are normal - strive to be weird!

For more on this, check out one of my favorite pieces from Precision Nutrition - 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/that-fit-person-whos-got-it-all-together-doesnt

Is Jiu Jitsu Dead?

This is an article I wrote seven years ago that was published on GracieMag.com. Let's revisit it, and at the end, I'll address if anything has changed since then!

With the results of the most recent UFC event, people are already starting to pop the question, “Is Jiu Jitsu dead?” 

We watched Renzo Gracie get obliterated on his feet, BJ Penn had his belt taken from him on his feet, and Damian Maia lost his title shot to what started as a very impressive performance but turned into three rounds of running around the ring by Anderson Silva. 

Renzo Gracie, BJ Penn, and Damian Maia – you would be hard-pressed to find three better men to represent the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the UFC. So is this the end of an era? 

Jiu Jitsu dominated the UFC in the early years, was it just a phase?

Let’s imagine for a second that football has been around since the beginning of time, but all anyone ever did was a passing game. Then, all of a sudden in 1993 a team came out with a running game, went undefeated and won the super bowl. 

For the next few years, other teams started implementing running games into their arsenal and before you knew it – EVERY team had at least some running game in their playbook. 

Now, this year in the playoffs all of the matches were running teams versus passing teams. All of the passing teams won. After so much success, should we stop using the running game? It seems ridiculous to even ask such a question. Of course not, on this night the passing teams had the running teams numbers, and nobody could do anything about it. They just came out with a better strategy and implementation.

Jiu Jitsu is not dead, not by any means. In fact, there were some aspects of those fights last night that proved how alive it truly is. 

Anderson Silva and Matt Hughes, arguably two of the best fighters in the history of the sport said that there was no way they were going to the ground. They trained to keep that fight on the feet, just as the jiu jitsu players trained to get it to the ground, the Jiu Jitsu players just couldn’t pull it off. 

If anything is to be taken from these fights, it is the evolution of all martial artists. Jiu Jitsu in the United States has evolved tremendously. Fighters are taking the words of Bruce Lee to heart and using no way as way. Matt Hughes' Jiu Jitsu includes more aspects of fighting than Royce Gracie’s. His wrestling skills combined with the training he has in Jiu Jitsu enabled him to take out some of the best of the Gracie Family.

So what will I train? I will continue to train my jiu jitsu skills, both the sportive aspect as well as the street. I will continue to train my standup skills, but I will not limit myself to Boxing or Muay Thai, my standup will include Kenpo, Kali, Wing Chun, Muay Thai, Western Boxing, Wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and other martial arts that our family has incorporated into what we teach.

Where we believe some schools error is in calling their singular art “THE WAY.” There is no way, and once someone starts to tell you that this is the way, and no other martial arts are worth learning, be wary. 

However, don’t be fooled by the hype of the outcomes of these fights, on any night anything can happen. Watch them, appreciate their place as a competitive sport in which some aspects of the martial arts can be proven on the canvas battleground, and continue to train a very well-rounded program. 

Jiu Jitsu is not dead!

So 7 years after posting this article, has anything changed? If we look at that stats it seems that more fights (while still close) are being won by the strikers rather than the grapplers. 

Check out this post from my father:

No this does not mean Jiu Jitsu is dying but in fact the opposite. More and more fighters are learning it, which makes them much better at defending against it. Why are they learning it? Because the early success of Jiu Jitsu in this format proved it is a necessity.

However, every round starts standing up, and this plays into the hands of the striker - the fight starts where they want to be, so they just have to avoid letting the grappler get it to where he wants to be.

So, what are you training? Are all three sides of this triangle covered? If not, there could be a huge hole in your ability to fight in all scenarios.

Size Definitely Matters

When a new Jiu Jitsu prospect walks in, my favorite part of our interaction is watching their reaction when I tell them Jiu Jitsu allows a person to use momentum and leverage to control a much larger opponent.

The reactions are always a mixed bag, but my favorites are the faces of people who consider themselves at a physical disadvantage - whether it’s because of their gender, strength, or height - as they alight with hope or excitement.  On the other hand, my least favorite reaction, unfortunately, is probably the most common one: the non-believers or skeptics.
    
As a woman, sometimes they target their disbelief specifically at me. “There’s no way you can throw me!”  “You really think you can hold me down?!”  
    
Sometimes, their reaction is born from fear.  They want what I’m saying to be true, but whether from their imaginations or respective experiences, they can’t quite bring themselves to trust me - or, as a result, the technique.  “Are you sure this will work?  I don’t know.”  “Well, what if they do this? Then this? Or this? What about this?”

Whatever their reaction - excited or skeptical - every person eventually finds their way here: “They’re too big.”
    
Some prospective students acknowledge this right off the bat.  They see a room full of men and women of various sizes, but they zero in on the bodybuilder that looks like he could bench press a semi and, oh yeah, just happens to be seven feet tall.  They take one look at that guy, and think, There’s no way I can use leverage to control that guy.  He’s huge!

Some people have enough success with training partners similar in size to silence the worries in the back of their heads about bigger students.  These people usually start to doubt their abilities when techniques that have worked perfectly on smaller partners don’t work as well on larger opponents.

Their concerns are not without merit, and here’s why: size DOES matter.  Read that again if you need to, but don’t panic because while size absolutely matters, it CAN be overcome with technique. 

Here’s how I want you to think about this.  If an untrained person with the size and strength of a tank walks into a dojo and rolls with a smaller, well-trained opponent, the smaller man can win.  Take a look at this video to see this theory in action:

Now, if a trained person with the size and strength of a tank walks into a dojo and rolls with a smaller individual who is also well-trained, size is going to matter.  It can still be overcome with technique, but it will be harder.  The larger person has an advantage because they have size AND skill on their side.  
    
A perfect example of this is to watch one of the match ups between Mackenzie Dern, who is arguably the number one pound for pound female black belt in Jiu Jitsu, and Gabi Garcia, another talented BJJ black belt competitor who outweighs Mackenzie by nearly 100 pounds.
    
They’ve competed against each other multiple times with different outcomes.  When Gabi Garcia wins, Mackenzie Dern is still able to hold her own during the match.  Check out the video below to watch Mackenzie come up victorious in a match against Gabi at the 2015 Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship.

Sometimes, size does matter, but it can be overcome.  So don’t let that discourage you; let it challenge you.  And don’t let it make you a skeptic; let it make you excited!

Who Should Train Martial Arts?

“I wish I could train martial arts.”  

“I would train, I just have this __________ problem.” 

“There is no way that I could fit training into my schedule.” 

“I want my kids to train but…” 

Tonight, I thought back through my day and realized there are very few things that should keep someone from learning martial arts. Usually, the excuse given is out of fear or stubbornness but rarely should prevent them from training.

Here was my teaching schedule today:

10 AM - Beginner's Jiu Jitsu Class - Average Age of 40 with a myriad of joint issues, back problems, tight schedules, etc.

11 AM - 33-Year-Old Female - Takes time off from work to learn self-defense and relieve stress.

12 PM - 56-Year-Old Male - Private Lesson - This individual also uses his lunch break from a stressful 60-80 hour work-week career to learn the martial arts. Often wears a knee brace or pads to support his knees after having a surgery years ago.

12:30 PM - 67-year-old Male - Private Lesson - Trains martial arts to learn self-defense as he is sometimes involved in physical altercations with unruly patients at the hospital he works at and wants to be able to defend himself while controlling a patient without bringing them harm. Thus, he trains in Jiu Jitsu - The Gentle Art.

5:15 PM - Juniors Class (Ages 8-12) - These kids range from very athletic and outgoing to shy and physically weaker. Their parents come from all walks of life, and for some, the tuition for their children is but a small dent in their monthly income, and others work very hard to scrape together the money to get their child in the martial arts. For all - it is life changing.

6:30 PM - Adult Kenpo Class - The youngest in this class currently is 16 years old, and our oldest is 71. Some have issues jogging, jumping, kicking, etc. due to various health problems or injury, but all find a way to push their limitations and enjoy their training. 

These were just the classes I taught yesterday, but other instructors at PMA taught others. We have students with autism, cerebral palsy, asthma, chronic injuries, and many learning disabilities. We have moms, dads, teachers, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, engineers, scientists (it is Oak Ridge!), butchers, veterinarians, salespeople, mail carriers, college students, police officers, entrepreneurs, pharmacists, military personnel, security guards, retirees, children, and everything in between.

Anyone can train martial arts.

Everyone that trains martial arts will run into obstacles and limitations, but part of the journey is the ability to overcome these perceived barriers. 

Martial arts empowers people of all ages to live their lives to the fullest and enables them to conquer the same obstacles and stress of their daily life that we all face. 

The intent of this article is to motivate those that have hesitated to begin their martial arts journey due to certain limitations and motivate those that may have quit training for one reason or the other. 

Check out this video published by Ryron and Rener Gracie last week emphasizing a critical point:

If you are training now, keep it up! When obstacles present themselves,  handle them accordingly but never let them stop you from training for the long haul.

See you on the mat!

Using the “10,000-Hour Rule” and the “20-Hour Rule" to Your Advantage

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of “Outliers,” proposed years ago after studying experts in many different fields that on average it takes a person 10,000 hours to achieve excellence at his job or hobby.

This concept is so important for us to remember as martial artists. It helps to prevent frustration along the journey when we are not improving as fast as we think we should be. It’s a long process, and it takes a ton of practice, but time is going to pass anyway so why not be a talented black belt in a martial art ten years from now?

It helps to remember the five steps to learning martial arts (or anything!): 

1. Learn
2. Practice
3. Master (Mushin)
4. Functionalize
5. Maintain

If we have adopted the martial arts way of life, and plan on continuing to train martial arts after receiving our Black Belts (maintain), then what is the rush?

Every practice will be focused on improving your skill and technique, regardless of the color belt that is around your waist. So take your time, enjoy the process, and keep chugging along towards your 10,000 hours.

Now, this past week I’ve been talking about a concept from this video I recently watched about learning anything in 20 hours. The concept is that the 10,000-hour rule came from looking at the elite performers in a given area, but if you are a white belt walking into your first martial arts class the situation is entirely different.

While it may take you 10,000 hours to become an Olympic Gold Medalist like Helen Maroulis, within 20 hours, you could learn to wrestle really well compared to where you are right now. I have seen it happen so many times with new students.

Without a doubt, a new Jiu Jitsu student after 20 classes would demolish their former selves in a grappling match. After just 20 lessons! But they won’t often see it that way because they are too busy comparing themselves to the other people around them who are also improving every class, and many of whom are farther along the journey then they are.

So I propose that you keep both the 10,000-hour rule and the 20-hour rule in mind, and use them to your advantage. Remember that it will take 10,000 hours to reach excellence, but 20 hours of solid practice can make a huge impact on your skill level. 

Since you are likely already 20 hours into your martial arts training, you should use this rule for more specific skill-sets within the martial arts.

Want to get better at kicking? Spend 20 solid hours working on your kicks this month, and I bet there will be a huge improvement.

How about guard passing? Spend 20 hours this month practicing your guard passing with a partner, and starting every roll inside your partner’s guard. There will be a massive improvement.

Want to improve your forms? I think you get the idea…

It is normal to get frustrated with your progress, but when was the last time you spent 20 committed hours to developing or improving one skill? Next time you see an area in your life that could use some improvement, don’t whine about it. Fix it!

You don’t need the perfect workout plan or a magic diet. There usually aren’t any secrets behind the curtain, just many hours of hard work and discipline. Sometimes 20, and sometimes 10,000.

And if you haven't started your martial arts journey yet? What are you waiting for!?

3 Things to Avoid Saying to Your Training Partner

It’s hard to believe that I have been training for over ten years now!  When I first started my martial arts journey, I was an awkward seventeen-year-old who thought Jiu Jitsu would be the perfect fit for someone like me - gangly and graceless and likely to trip on air.  I figured if my training started on the ground, my lack of coordination and surplus of clumsiness wouldn’t be noticeable.  

I was right and wrong.  My lack of grace was, and is, very much noticeable, but despite this, Jiu Jitsu was perfect for me.  And from it, my love for training expanded into other areas of martial arts.

Brittany sparring with her friend and training partner, Elizabeth, at 17 years old.

Brittany sparring with her friend and training partner, Elizabeth, at 17 years old.

Now, with ten years of experience under my belt, I can say a lot has changed - both for me personally and for the dojo that I call my home. 

Personally, I have grown faster, stronger, and healthier.  I’ve received a wealth of information that has improved every aspect of my well-being, from my knowledge base and execution of techniques to mental strength and peace of mind. 

I’ve also acquired a number of valuable friendships and acquaintances over the years.  I’ve had the privilege of training with partners of every shape, size, age, gender, skill level, temperament, etc., and I deeply value the relationships that are built among training partners.  

You have the ability to learn invaluable tips and tricks from them, and the honor of returning the favor with helpful skills of your own.  Your training partner is there to help you, encourage you, and constantly challenge you.  Training with others forces us to be vulnerable (it’s how we learn and grow as martial artists!), and because of this, there is a level of mutual trust and respect that is necessary for any training partnership to be healthy and beneficial.

Many things can get in the way of a healthy training relationship - ego, pride, and hygiene are a few that come to mind - but the way we talk to and about each other is paramount when building the rapport needed to maximize our mat time.

I can speak from my own experiences, both positive and negative.  I have unfortunately put my foot in my mouth more times than I’d care to count, and I’ve also been on the receiving end of a few too many well-meaning “can you believe a girl did that?!” jokes.  From these experiences, I’d like to share a few basic comments or quips that I’d love to see leave the mat.

1. Compliments are appreciated - patronizing is not.  

Please don’t compliment your partner’s technique and then undermine it by telling them you were really/actually trying to escape or maintain the position.

While the sentiment can be appreciated, I know personally that I will always try my best in class and hope my partners will do the same.  Please follow the instructor’s directions where intensity and resistance are concerned within a specific drill.  If he or she tells you the goal is to maintain the mount, please give it your all and assume your partner expects that of you.  While there may be some exceptions, you typically won’t need to tell them.  The favor will be returned when you switch top and bottom.

2. Please do not comment about anyone’s fight/feistiness to them or anyone else.

I hate overhearing one training partner telling the other that they “have alot of fight” in them during a roll.  It’s a pet peeve of mine that might come second only to hearing someone warn the class to “watch out - she’s/he’s a feisty one!”  

Always assume that your partner’s skill has more to do with their focus, execution, and consistency in training than their feisty personality.  Your partner might have successfully landed that sweep only after weeks or even months of practice and failed attempts.  Don’t take away from their moment of success by belittling their hard work.

3. Let the instructor be the instructor. 

I know it can be hard, and it almost always comes from the best of intentions, but try to avoid coaching or teaching your training partner - especially during sparring/rolling.  When your working technique with someone, it’s natural to point out a tip you use to make something smoother or share something someone told you that helped you remember which side your blocks start on or which hand goes on top in a Palm Up - Palm Down choke, but don’t overdo it.  

Don’t spend the majority of your practice time breaking the technique down for your partner, and try not to ruin their enjoyment by pointing out too many mistakes they’re making in the technique they just learned five minutes earlier. 

Avoid slowing down the flow of a roll or the momentum of a sparring session by stopping to point out something to your partner.  Instead, try to remember the details to discuss after the training session is done so you can both get the most out of your randori.  

Something that goes hand in hand with this is focusing on your own training.  Don’t play down your partner’s recent improvements by saying things like, “looks like someone’s been getting some extra training” or “you must have learned that in a private lesson.”

Instead of making excuses for why someone’s forms might be looking sharper or why someone is suddenly having success completing all of their arm bar attempts, try taking advantage of the training opportunities that are available to you.  Try maximizing your repetitions in class as an alternative to worrying about how much mat time other people are receiving. 

Let the instructor worry about teaching and keeping track of everyone’s material while you simply enjoy the class.

At the end of the day, no matter our respective motivations, we all just want to have the best training experience possible.  In order to learn and improve, we have to help each other - as training partners, as peers, as human beings.  Communication, among other things, can help build mutually beneficial and strong relationships with our training partners and even our instructors. 

So let’s build each other up and encourage each other with our words as well as our actions!

Do you have any other comments or habits that you'd like your training partners to stop doing? Or maybe something you enjoy that you'd like to see more of? Leave me a comment below!

Self Perfection: The Key to Enjoying the Journey

My dad always says that there are two main components in martial arts training:

1. Self-Preservation (Self-Defense)

2. Self-Perfection

Number one is by far the easier of the two. Self-preservation is relatively straightforward:

Avoid the fight.

Use verbal Jiu Jitsu (see video).

Control the distance.

Hit first, hit hard, and don't stop until your opponent is no longer a threat.

Survive!

Some key components must be mastered, and of course, there will always be room for improvement, but you can learn to defend yourself fairly quickly. 

Self-Perfection is a much longer journey, and self-perfection in our everyday lives is what martial arts is all about.

Peace, Serenity, Balance, Strength, Control, Determination, Discipline, Coordination, Patience, Humility, all of these and many more are to be taught through martial arts. There is so much more to it than punches, kicks, chokes, and armbars. Through the training, we find a means to perfecting ourselves and go back into the world better spouses, parents, coworkers, friends. 

Better people!

If you are not receiving these things through your training, then you need to re-evaluate immediately.

I have been on the mat my entire life but am still and will always be “self-perfecting” on and off the mat. The key to “perfection” is to break everything down into smaller easier steps. If you can figure out how to do this, then you will work more efficiently, and enjoy the journey, no matter how long it takes.

Let's take a look at an example of how we can do this on the mat.

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I consider one of the most important concepts being to get to the top position (sweep or escape). So if I wake up tomorrow and set a goal that when I train with Joe (who has been kicking my butt every time we roll), I am going to put him in my guard, sweep him, and get the mount, then I most likely will fail. I will be frustrated, miss out on the benefits of training, and leave the mat with stress, anger, and disappointment. 

Instead, I should set the goal just to put Joe in my guard. 

Once I am successful, take it another level - this week I am going to put Joe in my guard and break his posture. 

Then, put Joe in my guard, break his posture, and sweep. 

Then, put Joe in my guard, break his posture, sweep, and control him in the mount.  

If I take this baby-step approach, I will be much more successful, enjoy my training and receive the full benefits of martial arts while always perfecting myself.

A good example of this approach off the mat is Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps for taking control of your money. I learned about these in a personal finance class in high school and they truly helped shape my approach to personal finance and budgeting as I went into adulthood.

Precision Nutrition also takes this approach with nutrition and lifestyle coaching. My students that go through this 1-year program with me as their coach are slowly introduced to one habit at a time to introduce into their lifestyle and change their approach to nutrition and fitness for long-term success. It is not a diet or sudden workout plan that is put into action. It's baby steps.

Break your goals down, evaluate your training, and make the adjustments needed to ensure you are working towards self-perfection. Many times these adjustments are in our attitudes and mindsets. 

Most importantly, enjoy the journey!

Zen and the Martial Arts Way of Life

*On February 19, 2017, Linda received her Black Belt in FILKENJUTSU Kenpo at Progressive Martial Arts Academy. This was written by Linda in the preparation process.

Most people would probably agree that being in good health ranks high in things that can contribute to a happier and longer life.  So in general people may seek to adapt an exercise and or nutrition regimen to achieve this goal.  

On my personal path to becoming healthier, I began training in martial arts. The more I train, the better physically conditioned I become, my self-confidence is improved, and I feel empowered as I continue to build my self-defense skills.  

Linda performing a push up exercise with cinderblocks.

Linda performing a push up exercise with cinderblocks.

But what else can I add to achieve overall well-being? 

A few years ago, I was given a book by my instructor, my Sifu, entitled “Zen in the Martial Arts,” (Hyams, 1979).  The only thing I knew about Zen was that it included some kind of meditation and peace. Meditation was not something I incorporated into my daily life.  

After reading this book, I found that Zen is not easy to define, so it was something that intrigued me to explore further.  I can now see that employing tools and methods of Zen can enhance someone’s life in general or as part of the martial arts way of life.  

Linda receiving a promotion from her SiFu, David Corrigan.

Linda receiving a promotion from her SiFu, David Corrigan.

Originally Zen was just one way, of many, that Buddhists incorporated in their religion to attain liberation from delusion and suffering and ultimately find enlightenment.   According to “The Zen Way of Life,” (ZenBegin, 2014), Zen Buddhism originated from India in the 6th century.  It began with the Prince, Siddhartha Gautama, who left his riches and his life at the palace to embark on a spiritual journey.  He became a monk on a quest to find the real nature of all things through thought, meditation, and fasting.  He was regarded as the enlightened one, otherwise known as Buddha.  

Bodhidharma, who was one of Buddha’s successors, traveled to China to spread Buddha’s teachings, “the Dharma,” which they named Chan.  The teachings of Buddhism and even Zen already existed in China but the idea that Zen pointed directly to the mind to reveal one’s true nature was introduced.  

Bodhidharma was trying to portray the nature of emptiness, the absence of self, and the truth in everything as well as other Zen teachings to find enlightenment.  As noted in “Everything Zen Book,” (Sach & Faust, 2004), Bodhidharma was credited with being the first Zen patriarch to China and also credited with being the founder of martial arts because of the physical and spiritual training he provided to the Shaolin monks.   

In the twelfth century, Bodhidharma’s teachings on Zen spread to Japan and the Samurai Warriors.  The Japanese knew Bodhidharma as Daruma. 

After receiving her Black Belt, Linda presented a gift to her teacher and academy featuring Daruma/Bodhidharma's famous words, "To Fall Seven Times. To Rise Eight Times. Life Begins Now."

After receiving her Black Belt, Linda presented a gift to her teacher and academy featuring Daruma/Bodhidharma's famous words, "To Fall Seven Times. To Rise Eight Times. Life Begins Now."

The Samurai class used Zen to become aware of the nature of things to be able to move without hesitation in battle.  According to the “Everything Zen Book,” (Sach & Faust, 2004), there were two schools of Zen in Japan.  The Rinzai and the Soto schools which are still very prominent in Japan today.  The difference in them is the view of approaching the mind of enlightenment.  

The school of Rinzai believes Zen happens at one great moment and the Soto school believes Zen occurs in little flashes.  In Japan, Chan was pronounced Zen, and this is the name we know of today.  Although Zen meditation and its beliefs were used by Buddhists to achieve the liberation of truth, today it has evolved into so much more.  

Three Asian immigrants, Zen masters Roshi,  Harada, and Roshi Yasutani, introduced Zen Buddhism to the West.  And although there are many Americans that practice Zen Buddhism as a religion, there are also many Americans that have just adapted the principles of Zen in their everyday living to live more wisely and more fully.   

Linda with two of her training partners, Brittany and Kristie, at the Secret City Half Marathon.

Linda with two of her training partners, Brittany and Kristie, at the Secret City Half Marathon.

To the latter group, the Zen practice is more methods and tools to change a mindset and behavior to achieve enlightenment rather than a religion.  

As stated in “Zen in the Martial Arts,” (Hyams, 1979), it is interesting to see that methods and principles of Zen have become part of the martial arts way of life.  Several styles of the martial arts have the ending of “do” which means “the way” or more fully “the way to enlightenment, self- realization, or understanding.”  For example, Aikido, Judo, Taekwondo, Jeet Kune Do, etc. Zen can be thought of as a state of mind or attitude when confronting circumstances in any situation.  

So how does Zen relate to martial arts, when a martial artist is viewed as a warrior, but Zen portrays tranquility and peace?  

In actuality, the martial arts places lots of emphasis on discipline, awareness, and unity, over fighting.  The connection in the Zen and the martial arts is in the mental training. Therefore, Zen can become an invaluable tool for any martial artist.  

Linda served 6 years in the United States Navy.

Linda served 6 years in the United States Navy.

Detailed below from “The Four States of Mind,” (Roadtoepic, 2012) are just a few of the many methods and states of mind or consciousness one can practice to achieve Zen in a martial arts way of life.  Although one can read about countless ways to achieve Zen, ultimately Zen is something only one can experience intuitively.  It is not about thinking but about telling your mind to be still to attain insight.

 In Japan, the word Shoshin is referred to as “beginners mind.”  This is described as entering a situation without a preconceived notion or expectations of how the situation is going to play out.   This helps us from over thinking or over analyzing the situation. It also helps us to think outside the box and therefore be open to learning and new ideas. 

According to “Zen in the Martial Arts,” (Hyams, 1979), Bruce Lee was a student of Zen, and one of the lessons he mastered was to always approach a situation or a training session with an “empty cup” or a beginners mind.  He studied many forms of martial arts and took from each the techniques that he found useful. He was always learning because he approached things in the Shoshin state of mind.  

Linda and her son, Jared, at a PMA Christmas Party.

Linda and her son, Jared, at a PMA Christmas Party.

Zanshin is the state of mind where one is aware of their surroundings and their emotions to have more freedom in the way they choose to respond.  This translates to “remaining mind.”  One application of Zanshin in martial arts can be when you are fighting an opponent you are focused on them, but not so much that your focus takes you away from also being aware of an attacker that may be coming up from behind.  It is about achieving a focus while keeping a mental awareness with unity and flow.  

Linda and her sister, Tanairi, after running in the Ninja 5K.

Linda and her sister, Tanairi, after running in the Ninja 5K.

Another state of mind in Zen is referred to as Mushin.  Mushin can be described as having “no mind.”  One can think of it as getting to the point of doing something effortless.  A way to achieve Mushin is by practicing something to the point that it becomes automatic or second nature.   

A lot of athletes are said to experience Mushin when they are “in the zone.” When one becomes what it is they are doing, then it is thought to be in the zone, “Everything Zen Book,” (Sach & Faust, 2004).  I believe I have experienced Mushin when running but I didn’t know that is what it was. Often my mind quiets and frees itself of wandering thoughts during running, so I can embrace nature and travel for miles and miles without realizing the distance I have gone.  It is my desire that I will ultimately experience Mushin in martial arts as I spend more time in the discipline.

Linda with her husband, John, and two sons.

Linda with her husband, John, and two sons.

 One state of mind that can be beneficial in any walk of life is referred to by the Japanese as Fudoshin.  Fudoshin is described as having an immovable mind.  One is said to experience this state of mind when they can easily control themselves under the most stressful situations.    Fudoshin is attaining the ability to remain calm and collective when it seems like the world is falling apart around you. 

 I can see where being in this state of mind can also be critical when your actions can determine your survival.  For example, if there is a house fire, if one has Fudoshin they can remain in control, access the situation and act appropriately to remain unharmed.  

On February 19, 2017, Linda became the 5th female FILKENJUTSU Black Belt. Pictured from left to right: Olivia Cannon, Gracie Hall, Meg Corrigan, Madelyn Fowler, and Linda Davis.

On February 19, 2017, Linda became the 5th female FILKENJUTSU Black Belt. Pictured from left to right: Olivia Cannon, Gracie Hall, Meg Corrigan, Madelyn Fowler, and Linda Davis.

According to “Zen Living,” (Burk, 2014), “The central Zen method is Zazen or seated meditation."  Za means seated, and Zen means meditation. Zazen, when practiced regularly even daily, can be very beneficial. The mind will start to settle the longer one sits.  Beginners may start with 5 to 10 minutes but a normal classic Zazen period is 30 to 40 minutes.  Zazen can be done anywhere, but it is recommended to find a place with minimal distraction to you. It is recommended that you keep your eyes open to avoid daydreaming or drowsiness. Thoughts will come as you meditate, but it is important to let them be passing thoughts and not mull over them.  

Practicing Zazen increases the awareness of mind, building its attention muscles.  Zazen teaches you to declutter your mind and achieve serenity.  With Zazen we try to see things purely, letting go of discrimination and the subjective.  

Linda with her Black Belt Test partner, Gary Hall.

Linda with her Black Belt Test partner, Gary Hall.

In the Western culture, there are other ways people meditate that are different to Zazen.  For example, one might focus on a passage from the Bible and how we can apply the concept to our life.  Some concentrate on repeating a mantra, or some might try to set aside distractions as they focus on visualizing something. 

According to “Zen Living,” (Burk, 2014) “mindfulness is the practice of Zazen except it is done while engaging your daily activities.”  “In contrast, mindfulness is cultivating awareness during an activity; you don’t do Zazen while washing the dishes, you wash the dishes.”  It is being in the present and focusing your awareness on the action you are performing. 

Most people have trouble remembering to be mindful.  Our minds tend to wander to the past or the future and find it difficult to stay in the present.  If we are actively doing something with our body, our mind becomes active as well.  But with mindfulness, one is always taking care of everything around them, whether it be a person or a situation.   

The best way to keep in the present while meditating is to focus on your breathing.  As noted in “Zen in the Martial Arts,” (Hyams, 1979), Zen breathing is a method of controlled or focused breathing that can restore calmness, confidence, and strength.  Visualizing the air entering your body through your nose and entering the lower part of your lungs as it completely fills to the top.  Then imagine the air traveling through your body as it fills every inch of your body and before it leaves your body, you take the next breath.  One cannot force the breathing so that it is unnatural.  This type of breathing has proven to relieve anxiety, fear and even to heal our minds, bodies, and spirits.  Breathing can also be used to manage pain and provide insight into the way your body responds to different situations.  

Doing something with focus and concentration, in other words, being in the present, is a practice of Zen referred to as Kime.  It is the process of tightening the mind. Bruce Lee was quoted in “Zen in the Martial Arts,” (Hyams, 1979) with saying “A good martial artist puts his mind on one thing at a time.”   

Linda learning a Jiu Jitsu technique from her teacher.

Linda learning a Jiu Jitsu technique from her teacher.

Many times I would arrive at martial arts training, and my mind would be drifting elsewhere.  This would interfere with my mental state.  I could not give my all to the technique I was learning because my mind was not in the present.  This hindered my training because I could not retain the information when the class was over.  

I train a lot better now as I leave whatever it is at the door.  I can tell from my experience that practicing Kime helps me retain information and train with enthusiasm.  The same thing can be applied to life in general by staying in the moment of whatever task you are doing from the most mundane to spending time with the family.   
 
Practicing Zen methods and tools to adjust your attitude and find yourself in any of the Zen states of mind mentioned above can attribute to a healthier quality of life.   It is my desire that these principles that I have reflected on in regards to Zen will make their way into my daily martial arts way of life.   

Linda and SiFu David.

Linda and SiFu David.

 

Works Cited

Hyams, Joe.  Zen in the Martial Arts.  New York:  Bantam, 1979.  Print.

“The Zen Way of Life, Buddhism.” ZenBegin. 2014. Web. Feb 2017

Sach, Jacky and Jessica Faust. The Everything Zen Book. Massachusetts: F&W Publications Company, 2004. Print

Wik, Adam. “The Four States of Mind.” Roadtoepic. 22 May 2012. Web. Feb 2017

Burk, Domyo Sater. Zen Living. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. Print

Bunkai and Me

* Gary recently tested for his Black Belt in Kenpo at Progressive Martial Arts Academy and this was written during his preparation process.    

 Among the many misgivings and general sense of discomfort that a middle-aged man might have upon embarking on a journey in the martial arts, is the necessity to engage a new vocabulary. Words of foreign origin that define what you train, where you train and even what is “hidden” within your training both fascinate and intimidate at the outset. Bunkai is such a word. Mysterious and powerful, meaningful yet elusive, bunkai has been a source of curiosity to me since I began my journey. I hope this is a sign of normal human learning and not just another personal inability of mine, but the sheer volume of material that I have encountered along my path has at times left me struggling to just remember foot placement, type of strike or the orientation of my opponent. This struggle has many times prevented me from truly engaging the material in order to gain a more nuanced understanding. At times I do feel like I am moving beyond mere rote memorization of my material to a place of greater engagement and understanding, only to then again find myself mired in an inordinate preoccupation with steps and heel orientation and points of exhalation. With this in mind, any chance to learn and engage this subject with a goal of discerning a deeper meaning can only be of benefit.

Gary (pictured in middle) with some of his instructors and training partners at Progressive Martial Arts Academy.

Gary (pictured in middle) with some of his instructors and training partners at Progressive Martial Arts Academy.

     Now would be a good time for a disclaimer: I am solely a product of FILKENJUTSU-KAI. Any biases, misconceptions or flawed analysis I bring to this work are purely the result of my ignorance and relative inexperience related to the martial arts. I hold no latent loyalty to a system, house or style.

    Japanese in origin, one recognized translation of bunkai is “analysis” or “disassembly” and is most commonly used to breakdown through demonstration the techniques performed in katas to show their practical application against opponent/s. Basically put; Here is your kata, it is made up of “X” movements, let’s take movement “X” from the kata and this is the how it could be used in reality (“Bunkai”, 2016). Another source defines bunkai as meaning “application” in Japanese. It refers to a type of training, usually performed as formal one-step kumite, in which the practitioner studies the application of the individual movements performed during kata by applying them as defenses against the simulated attacks of a training partner (“Kata and Bunkai”, 2016). Still another uses “The bunkai of kata teaches us the true meaning and relevance of kata as a whole.  As stated, bunkai means application, more specifically how can I use these moves that I am practicing to devastating effect against an opponent” (“The meaning of Kata”, 2016)

Gary and his daughter, Gracie.

Gary and his daughter, Gracie.

    The definitions vary slightly, but there is often passionate disagreement as to the relevance, origins and relative importance of the concept. To this end, however, there is a consistency in the references I encountered in that they all use kata as the backdrop for the study of bunkai. A working definition of kata is, “an exercise consisting of several of the specific movements of a martial art, especially a pattern prescribed for defending oneself against several attackers, used in judo and karate training.” (“Kata”, 2017). A more nuanced meaning would have kata originating from the practice of paired attack and defense drills by ancient Chinese martial artists. However, as the numbers of attacks and defenses being practiced increased the difficulty of remembering all of the drills also increased. An additional problem with the drills was the requirement for a partner to be present for all practice. Kata forms were created as solo forms containing the concatenated sequences of movements of the defensive portions of the drills. The initial forms being simply strings of movements, sets of rules were created to allow the creation of kata which could fit comfortably within training spaces (Toguchi, 2001). 

Gary with his wife and daughter at the PMA Christmas Party this past December.

Gary with his wife and daughter at the PMA Christmas Party this past December.

    So, with kata as the backdrop for the study of bunkai, we can begin to see where those passionate voices diverge. Ian Abernathy, a prolific writer on the subjects of kata and bunkai, states “The recording of information through physical movement is probably as old as mankind itself. Ancient cultures often used sequences of physical movements as a method to pass on their culture to the next generation. Part of this culture would undoubtedly be the fighting and hunting techniques that the group had refined and found to be most successful. Since combat is a physical activity, there can be little doubt that the most effective way for an individual to learn the combative skills of the group would be to copy the physical movements of those who were more experienced. The elders would demonstrate the various combative movements and the younger members of the group would try to emulate them. These skills would eventually be further refined and then passed on to subsequent generations. It is in this way that the first ‘katas’ would have been created.(Abernathy, 2012.) He records that during the 11th century, a number of Japanese warriors fleeing from the Taira-Minamoto wars made their way to Okinawa. Many of the Minamoto samurai took Okinawan wives and remained upon the island for the rest of their days. The bujitsu (specializations to the combat arts practiced by the military class prior to roughly 1600) of the Minamoto samurai had a large influence on the fighting methods employed by the Okinawan nobles. One part of Minamoto bujitsu that had an influence on the development of karate was the idea that all motion is essentially the same. Whether striking, grappling or wielding a weapon, the Minamoto samurai taught that all combative methods relied upon similar physical movements (like a left lead holding escrima sticks where the shoulder, hip and foot movement would be the same as in boxing. Lessons learned in parking lots are often the one’s that stick with you the best). An individual would be taught a particular physical movement and would then be shown how that movement could be adapted to achieve varying goals. The results of this combat philosophy can still be seen in modern day karate. It is not uncommon to see a single movement in a kata to be given several different applications. This use of multiple applications, whilst sometimes controversial, is historically correct. By affording a movement multiple applications the founders of what became known as karate ensured that great amounts of information could be contained in katas of a manageable length. The use of multiple applications also helps ensure a quick response in combat. This is because the practitioner has not learned many different movements for many different situations, which is extremely undesirable as the brain will have to sift through large amounts of information before being able to determine the appropriate movement. Instead, the practitioner will have learnt a relatively small number of movements that can be applied to many situations. (Goodin, 2006)

Gary and his SiFu (teacher), David Corrigan.

Gary and his SiFu (teacher), David Corrigan.

    I believe it can be said that Abernathy feels the movements made available/practical by the kata are the bunkai contained within. Could he in fact be stating that the bunkai of the kata is the platform for movement that could be applied directly to fighting/combat, not any particular movements themselves? This supposition is buttressed by the writing of Schmeisser who states that “in the west we tend to use the word "bunkai" as a blanket term for kata applications. This is actually an incorrect usage of the Japanese word. Literally translated,  the term bunkin karate kata refers to solo practice drills in China and Okinawa where these drills were practiced much like the scene from Enter the Dragon, where each person is amassed and executes the actions in unison. This was an Asian form of drill & ceremony for older times, Western armies used marching. Likewise, the kata could be practiced by individuals alone and was a form of moving meditation, physical exercise and a "text book" for martial arts where bunkai (literally "to disassemble") is used to analyze the form to discover alternative applications and techniques. Here a single form taught lower ranking soldiers might have a totally different meaning to the initiated higher ranking soldiers. Kata Bunkai has three ways of viewing Kata... Omote is literally "surface" so Kata Bunkai Omote is the first form of initiation, the surface application of the form that would be taught to the lowest ranking of soldiers. At the Omote level what you see is what you get, a punch is a punch, a kick a kick and block a block. Here kata forms the process of exercise and teaching basic fighting techniques.

An American military family. Gary's daughter, Gracie (also PMA Black Belt), pictured in top left is in the Air Force ROTC, his wife, Kat, is pictured top right and was a graduate of West Point, and Gary is pictured in the middle of the bottom photo with his son, Nate (US Army), and father who is a retired Navy warrant officer.

An American military family. Gary's daughter, Gracie (also PMA Black Belt), pictured in top left is in the Air Force ROTC, his wife, Kat, is pictured top right and was a graduate of West Point, and Gary is pictured in the middle of the bottom photo with his son, Nate (US Army), and father who is a retired Navy warrant officer.

    In our ancient Asian army we would have our "NCOs" (Non-Commissioned Officers) or "Sergeants" (if you are a civilian) who would be initiated into the Ura Bunkai, Ura literally means "Behind" and it is what is behind the form. Here techniques are not just techniques, a Juji-uke (cross block) and pivot may be a trap and break or throw. This is the "secret" teaching of the kata. And finally our last level of initiation is for our "Officers" this is called Honto Bunkai. Honto literally means "true" or "truth" for the largest part, and because few Karateka wrote down their teachings much of Honto Bunkai has been lost to history, but this is where the intentionally "hidden secrets" in kata are laid bare. 

     So in our ancient context, bunkai actually means analysis of a subject by detailed dissection or disassembly of the whole. In practice, when we suggest possible applications of the techniques, we are actually discussing "oyo" or possible examples. The term "bunkai" would then suggest that we are taking a kata apart, analyzing the movements and then attempting to discover all the possible applications. This attitude is important when practicing kata bunkai: there is never just one possible application, just numerous applications of which some are most likely best.”  (Schmeisser, 1999)

    Deliniations or stratifications of bunkai are found throughout the subject writings. It would seem that the classification is level is determined by the experience level of the practitioner. An interesting take on this delineation is offered up by Collins, “Many times throughout history in both Okinawa and China this level of initiation was used due to armies having conscripted soldiers. Many of the documents which survived to present day are written in a form of metaphor that served as a code. Understanding these metaphors was part of the Honto Bunkai level of teaching though not directly related to Kata where strategy and tactics could be concealed in the form at the Honto level. One claiming to know the secret codes would have to be initiated at various levels. This of course is like an ancient form of security clearance. That prevented misuse of knowledge by those who would seek to overthrow their leaders” (Collins, 2014).

     Another take has the levels of bunkai taking on an ordinal ranking. Level I is the simplest and most apparent. It is always singular in range. Striking, blocking and kicking rule the understanding of this level. Strength and speed along with emotional involvement occur. Level II involves basic combinations, plural in scope. The techniques begin to link discovery of technical continuity. Level III is the advanced or compound combination. Himitsu, unseen movements, become apparent at the physical level. Level IV is where internal and external consciousness begins. The overall picture forms on all levels. Personal perceptiveness and development occur. Level V is concerned with internal manifestation and the transition of secret knowledge. At this level one experiences wholeness, Chi and true spiritual wisdom. Levels I-III can be taught, IV and V must be experienced (“Levels of Understanding Karate and Bunkai”, 2015).

     Jesse Enkamp breaks this stratification down along similar lines, but with more of a modern practitioner bent. He believes greater commitment and engagement is what affords someone the enlightenment to move beyond Omo to the Honto level of bunkai, not purely someone’s place in the hierarchy.  It would seem that he is promoting willingness over necessity, seeking over finding (Enkamp,          )     

FILKENJUTSU KAI's most recent Black Belt candidates, Gary Hall and Linda Davis.

FILKENJUTSU KAI's most recent Black Belt candidates, Gary Hall and Linda Davis.

    As a black belt candidate, I have benefited greatly from the opportunity to research a particular facet of the martial arts. The Venturi tube of physical preparation required for the test (practicing material, physical conditioning) doesn’t necessarily lend itself to studious thought and research into something beyond the reach of the fist or foot.  My research into bunkai has provided me a great opportunity to seek answers to some questions, but more importantly, I think, it has generated tenfold more.

Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man's inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! 'Have courage to use your own reason!'- that is the motto of enlightenment.      ― Immanuel Kant
Absorb what is useful, discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own. - Bruce Lee
Gary, with some of his PMA family on a hike in the Fall of 2015.

Gary, with some of his PMA family on a hike in the Fall of 2015.

     My academy, dojo, Family, does not countenance hubris or self-aggrandizement. As it is, the path is too long, the way too humbling to sustain these feelings. Rather, my journey has presented me with a canvas onto which I have been able to realize a better me through work, and a sincere desire to improve. The years have passed so quickly; a rush of relationships, experiences and emotions that I didn’t think at my age and station in life I would have the opportunity to experience again. I remember distinctly my emotions as I took my first step onto the mat: excitement, trepidation, curiosity.  The intervening years have brought joy, satisfaction, frustration, and a true concern for the well-being of my friends and training partners (which to the outsider seems incongruous because of what we do to and with each other on a regular basis). Now, 5 years later, as I prepare to step onto the mat for the latest challenge in my journey, my emotions are still: excitement, trepidation, curiosity.  My SiFu posed this question some time ago: Do you consider yourself a martial artist? I remember being confused and very uncertain as to how I felt, thinking that I didn’t know what level of competence was necessary to answer in the affirmative. As I write this, the indecision is gone, replaced by a quiet, but firm confidence. I do consider myself a true martial artist, not because of reaching some arbitrary skill level, but because of how my training makes me feel and the lessons I have learned on the mat that carry over to the rest of my life. Patience, greater empathy toward others, and an honest appraisal of my inabilities are all direct byproducts of my training. I have learned to be more at peace with these inabilities being acceptable parts of me, and while always wanting to improve, I feel I am now better equipped to enjoy the process without an eye towards the “bottom line”.

 Liberating. 

Bunkai: to analyze a kata. FILKENJUTSU-KAI: to analyze one’s self.

Gary and his Black Belt candidate partner, Linda Davis, after receiving their Black Belts on February 19, 2017.

Gary and his Black Belt candidate partner, Linda Davis, after receiving their Black Belts on February 19, 2017.

 

Works Cited

Abernathy, Ian. Bunkai-Jitsu: The Practical Application of Karate Kata.NETH Publishing. 2012. Print.

“Bunkai”. Shotokan Karate Training. 2015. Web. 17 January 2017.

Collins, Ron. Black Dragon Ninjitsu. Lilu.com. 2014. Print.

Enkamp, Jesse. “The 3 types of Bunkai (Omote, Ura & Honto).” KaratebyJesse. 2016. Web. 1 February 2017.

Goodin, Charles C. “The Why of Bunkai: A guide for beginners”. Classical Fighting Arts, Issue 8, 2006. Print.

“Kata”. Dictionary.com. 2017. Web. 17 January 2017.

“Kata and Bunkai”. Kyokushin-Kan International Honbu. 1 December 2016. Web. 27 January 2017.

“Levels of Understanding Karate and Bunkai”. World Sansei Karate and Kobudo. 2015. Web. 4 February 2017.

Schmeisser, Elmar. Bunkai: The Secrets of Karate kata. Damashi Publications, 1999. Print

“The Meaning of Kata”. Seishin Shotokan Karate. 2011. Web. 27 January 2017.

Toguchi, Seikichi. Okinawan Goju-Ryu II: Advanced Techniques of Shorei-Kan Karate. Black Belt Communications, 2001. Print.

Confidence vs. Overconfidence

In most athletic endeavors or any endeavor for that matter, mastering the fundamentals is probably the most important thing you can spend your time doing. The difficulty is that this isn't usually the most exciting activity. However, it does pay off in the end.

One of my favorite examples of this is Peyton Manning, and he is a legend here in East Tennessee so his story resonates well. You can find a video of Peyton practicing the same footwork drills in high school at Isidore Newman School, in college at the University of Tennessee, in the NFL while playing for the Indianapolis Colts, and at the end of his career before winning the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. He stayed committed to the basics throughout his whole career no matter how many records he had broken and understood the game as good or better than anyone to ever play. 

Sometimes it's easy to look at someone that is at an elite level and assume that they got there because of luck or some natural talent. And while those things certainly help, you will often find a bunch of hard work and a commitment to basics as well.

You will experience difficulty with sticking to basics though because as you begin to master them and have success, there is a tendency to become overconfident. You may start to tell yourself that you have mastered them and don't need to work on them anymore. When it comes to physical movements, though, once you reach a level of mastery, you must maintain it. 

Think back to the last time you saw an undefeated team or athlete come out, play sloppy, and have their first loss handed to them by someone who is obviously not as talented. How does this happen? Sometimes they just had a bad night, but often overconfidence has snuck in, and they may have stopped doing some of the things that helped them achieve their position in the first place.

Check out this video of one of the kids on my Youth Brazilian Jiu Jitsu team. This particular student stays driven throughout the duration of every practice. If I tell him to practice the technique 100 times, then he will do it 100 times without question. In fact, he did just that with this basic armbar from the guard. 

My student, Connor, is the one in the black gi. You will see him control the posture of the kid on top of him, using his arms and legs to keep his opponent close. Then he will pull one arm across the centerline, pivot his hips, and pass a leg over the head of his opponent. This movement puts him in a position to break/hyperextend his opponent's arm and the other kid taps out to avoid injury. I also love that he applies the submission carefully not to harm the other child, and immediately gets up to console his opponent afterward. The genuine spirit of a martial artist is demonstrated here.

He is a white belt in this video, and this is his first tournament, but he trained hard and stayed committed to practicing the basics during class every day. Now as he advances, I will be curious to see if I can keep him as committed to his foundation as he was before this first tournament. 

The fun thing with kids is they believe in the technique right off the bat, whereas adults can often be skeptical. Adults tend to wonder if the move works or if the movement will work for them, and they hesitate, not trying or committing, and thus, failing. 

So in your practice, seek to walk this line between confidence and overconfidence. Stay committed to the basics, and it will increase your confidence. Master the fundamentals! And hey, maybe even try to act like a kid sometimes!