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.

Let Your Guard Down: Don’t Be Afraid Of Imperfection

Being successful in any aspect of life does not mean always being right, always winning, and always doing things by yourself.

It is okay to not know an answer. It is okay to lose. It is okay to ask for help. It is even okay for these things to happen when others expect them not to.

This barrier that people put up and think is making them appear to be all-knowing and perfect, is actually the thing that not only adds unnecessary stress and anxiety to their life, but keeps them from reaching their goals.

The mindset we should strive to develop is giving a perfect effort, but being okay with a less than perfect result. Trying is good enough, and then we can learn from and build from our experience. You don’t have to pretend you know something that you don’t. You don’t have to be afraid of losing or making a mistake.

On the mats, this mentality pops up and every student would get so much more out of their training if they could eliminate it. Every time I see a higher rank begin “coaching” their training partner at the slightest sign that the lower rank student might be doing something well, inside I am cringing and shaking my head in disappointment. Don’t do this. It’s okay to lose to or get help from a student that is a lower rank than you. It only means that this student is also receiving good training - it does not mean that anything is wrong with you.

In fact, you will get better by allowing these circumstances to happen and getting the most out of them.

Your fear of losing is putting you in a position to lose more.

More growth comes from situations that we don’t know what to do, accept that, and then learn from it, than when we put on an act as if we know what to do.

You are not perfect, and you never will be. Neither am I, or anyone that I have ever met. Except my wife, of course. (Hey b!)

You will not get things right on the first try, but try anyway.

You will not know every answer, don’t pretend like you do.

You will need help from other people who have experienced what you are experiencing, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

 

FAQ: Why Do We Train Barefoot?

This is a common question we get from new students. What is the deal with not wearing shoes!? Do I have to take my shoes off?

The practice of training martial arts without shoes goes back really far but actually has a much more logical purpose to it than just tradition. While it is traditional in most of the arts we teach to train without shoes, it is not uncommon to look back in history and see some arts that train with shoes on.

In many Chinese arts, practitioners often chose to wear shoes and most believe this to be because of the rocky or uneven land that they would sometimes train on. Whereas maybe on the island of Okinawa or the beach in Brazil, students were training on soft sand or grass and would choose to train barefoot. Practical.

And hey - we know Bruce Lee’s shoes were an iconic part of his image, so he obviously wore shoes often when training!

You could even argue that it is beneficial to train with shoes on so that you know what it feels like if you have to defend yourself while wearing shoes. And it is definitely different! For this reason, we take out students outside and train with shoes on sometimes.

So why do we choose to go without?

The two most important reasons are hygiene and safety.

1. Hygiene

We ask that students wear shoes to and from the dojo and remove them just before stepping onto the mat. We teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and spend a good amount of our time grappling on the mats, and therefore need to keep them sparkling clean.

In fact, the mats you train on at PMA are some of the cleanest you will find around the world because we put so much focus on this. Some of our students and teachers that have visited other academies around the world report that they often are training on layers of dust, hair, and dirt!

Please clean your feet, wear shoes to the dojo, and remove them just before stepping onto the mat to keep as many germs, dirt, etc. off of our mats as possible!

*Please remember to throw some shoes back on if you are going back out to your car or something! And if you see a student coming in from outside barefoot, consider giving them a gentle reminder to help keep the mats clean. You can send him to this link to read up if needed! 

And if you want to wear the official flip-flop that most students in Brazil wear to and from class, get yourself a pair of Havaianas! The added benefit of a flip-flop is you can slip it on easily when using the restroom or stepping off the mat to run out to your car during class. Even running into the restroom barefoot in the middle of the class will bring germs back onto the mat.

2. Safety

With kicking and grappling being taught, getting hit with a shoe does much more damage than a bare foot!

Training without shoes enables us to make a little more contact on our kicks with each other, and have far fewer accidental injuries when grappling because we aren’t being hit with any hard heels or steel-toed boots!

Now, with all of that being said, some students need or prefer to wear shoes. When that is the case, there are some safe shoes that you can wear and train martial arts. We just ask that you follow a couple of rules:

  1. Only wear your training shoes on the mats. Never wear these shoes off of the mats or you start bringing in all of the junk we are trying to keep off the mats.
  2. Wear the right shoe for the job. While practicing striking arts, you will need a shoe that is designed to allow you to pivot your foot freely. If you wear a shoe with too much grip, over time you may find yourself with a knee injury. While practicing grappling arts, we ask that you wear a soft shoe, designed to keep your partner safe - such as a wrestling shoe! These are not good for striking. They are designed to grip the mats more effectively, which gives you the ability to drive your weight into your opponent more effectively and your foot not slip out from underneath you.

For striking, below you will find the shoe we recommend. When I was a kid, my father’s academies did not have mats on the floor yet and students trained on concrete, or industrial carpet and these were the shoes that they chose for training - 

https://bushidomartialarts.com/products/bushido-shoe

For grappling, any wrestling shoes should do the trick!

In closing, I personally have grown up training barefoot, and I love it. Getting to feel the ground beneath you while training strengthens your balance and stabilizer muscles that will help prevent injuries when you have an occasional misstep or step off of a curb funny. I now hate wearing shoes!

See you on the mat! With clean bare feet! 😉

Listen

Hearing is, of course, one of our primary senses, but I recently watched (and listened to!) a TED talk that got me thinking about the importance of how we listen. Take a look if you’d like:

It seems as though we are losing our ability to listen, and it is hurting our ability to fully comprehend and understand other people, other concepts, and other ideas.

For the past week, I’ve been observing people in conversation as much as I can and watching how many of them genuinely listen. Sadly, it is usually evident that while one person is talking, the other is more concerned with what they are going to say, or what is going on in their world, than what the person speaking is saying.

Try it out with yourself first, and you will see yourself planning what you are going to say before the person you are speaking to is done. Before you know it, you will be impatiently waiting for them to hurry up and stop talking so that you can start talking.

That, of course, is normal.

What is happening in our world and our mind is what is most important to us, but we are missing out on opportunities to connect with those around us more fully, build more meaningful relationships, and accomplish more amazing things. We can’t do any of these things if we don’t understand each other.

This past weekend, thousands of young people marched all over our country, and lots of discussions are going on around the topic of gun reform. It seems as though the most crucial component we are missing though is listening. If I take a minute to look around on my social media networks at what people think of these issues, it is crystal clear that no one is listening to anyone with a different opinion than their own. We all feel as though the only way to win is to yell our personal opinion as loudly as we possibly can.

What happens?

All of the people that feel the same way as we do “like” it and “share” it. And all of the people that don’t feel the same way comment back, yelling as loudly as possible how they feel about it.

Arguing is not the problem.

Arguing can be so beneficial to solving problems and coming up with fantastic solutions. But arguing is worthless and futile when no one listens. When we listen, arguing can lead to resolutions.

Of course, it is entirely natural to believe what you think is right, but typically the answer to a lot of our problems is found somewhere in the middle and less on one side or the other. 

We have to recognize that so much of what we think  (and as pointed out in the video, so much of how we listen) is influenced by filters such as culture, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and intentions. Pay attention to how you may listen to what someone says and instinctively have reactions against what they are saying sometimes before even thinking it through.

These are serious discussions that we need to be having. Which means now more than ever, if you want to accomplish things, resolve conflicts, have better relationships with everyone you encounter in life (hey, and even master your martial arts!), I encourage you to "empty your cup" and listen.

Confidence Developed Through Training

I’d like to share with everyone a message I received from one of our female students this week. Afterward, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for an important announcement!

Random fun story:

Last night I was the designated driver for a part bachelor party and part everyone get together for dinner and drinks. We parked in a random, not particularly well-lit garage. At the end of the night, the guys decided to continue the festivities and catch an uber back home.

So I was going to drive myself and another girl home. Her husband was not keen on us going home by ourselves. Honestly, I got annoyed and was trying to insist that we were fine.

Long story short, after thinking about it later, I realized that while of course, bad things could have happened, I felt capable of defending myself. I mean had the guy walked us to the car, I was more equipped to fight back than he was!

I’m not a fearful person, AT ALL! Mostly, I am just stubborn.

But last night was the first time I felt confident because of my skill set.

It was even hard to catch that I felt that way. I had to think about it for awhile because my actions were not any different than normal. I always would have resisted help because I’m just stubbornly independent and just would’ve believed that nothing was likely to happen.

In the deep parts of me, however, there is something slightly different now about how I feel about it.

These kinds of messages are some of the most fun for me to receive. I have also talked with female students after something physical actually happened, and while of course, I am incredibly proud of them for capably defending themselves, I would have much-preferred nothing ever happened.

We were talking last week about one of the differences between men and women training martial arts. Both will receive the confidence like in the story above in feeling capable of defending themselves, but it is a much more important skill set to develop for women.

Why?

For men, the majority of situations that we could find ourselves in could be avoided by not getting drunk, and keeping our egos in check. For example, I know that chances are much smaller that I’ll ever be in a street fight because I feel totally secure in walking away from some angry person that’s had a bad day (or life) and is taking it out on me.

We know that walking away from a fight is the best answer, for many reasons, but one of the most obvious is that you never know what could happen. The opponent could pull out a knife or gun for example and change the whole scenario!

For women, however, they are preyed on much more frequently than men. They can feel just as strongly about walking away from a fight and still be much more likely to be attacked than their male counterparts.

Therefore, we view empowering women with awareness, self-defense skills, strength, and confidence as one of our most important jobs.

 Female Black Belts at PMA!

Female Black Belts at PMA!


With that said, I’d like to announce our next free women’s self defense seminar on Saturday, April 28th from 3-5 PM!

As a treat for our blog readers, this is the first place we’ve announced the seminar because these fill up really quickly. You can reserve your spot now at the link below (it’s free, but a $20 deposit is required to hold the spot).

This edition of our popular women’s self-defense courses is going to focus on worst-case rape scenarios. We will spend the majority of the seminar on the ground learning how to survive and ultimately get away from the attacker.

It is open to ages 13 & up as always, but parents should keep in mind the mature content of the seminar when registering their children and we will require that a mom or female legal guardian participate in the seminar also.

Due to the content of this seminar, we will need to limit it to just 20 participants. Tell your friends, and don’t wait to sign up! Once we email this out to our database, it can sometimes fill up within a few minutes.

More info and register online:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/evade-escape-now-to-gain-safety-a-womens-self-defense-seminar-tickets-44235078310