Women

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

The Triumph of Human Intelligence Over Brute Strength

Jiu Jitsu represents the triumph of human intelligence over brute strength.”
— Helio Gracie

Helio Gracie is the founder of the famous martial art, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His son, Rorion Gracie, was my father's first teacher in Jiu Jitsu and the creator of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Helio's quote above is one of my all-time favorites, and this past Winter Break I even had it put on the wall in our academy. The thing is though, when people see this quote and the word "triumph" or are told that martial arts teach smaller people how to overcome someone bigger and stronger than them, they tend to think that "triumph" or "overcome" means "to dominate".

If you watch any footage of Helio Gracie fighting, you will see something much different.

In the following fight, notice how Helio is thrown like a rag doll a couple of times before finally securing a move that will render his opponent unconscious and win him the match. This match is narrated by Helio's son, Rorion.

You see, the primary goal of Jiu Jitsu is just to survive against your attacker. Ideally, that would end with you choking them unconscious so you can get up and get home safely, but it may be just protecting yourself until help arrives, or until such time that you can run away.

Recently, I heard of a scenario in which an untrained male (internet troll) is claiming that he could defeat female mixed martial arts fighters because of how much stronger and faster the average man is. A female MMA fighter decided to take him up on the challenge, and it was held at an academy (as such a match would probably never be sanctioned by any organization).

Take a look:

 

As a martial arts instructor, I have seen this exact scenario play out multiple times. We get the opportunity to see our female students, smaller male students, older students, or any of our students for that matter, train with brand new students who are just getting started.

When I was a kid, I witnessed my Mom choke out a local wrestling coach with the same choke Helio used in the above video. 

I remember at age 18 watching my wife (girlfriend at the time), control a man that outweighed her by at least 80 pounds (of muscle). He started the match telling her that he was not going to use his strength. About midway through the match, he said, "I take it back, I'm going to use my strength." It didn't help.

You see it isn't that size, strength, and speed don't matter. They certainly do, as we've touched on many times on this blog before. It's just that they CAN be overcome with training.

One of the key takeaways from the video above is how quickly the in-shape male runs out of gas. An untrained opponent is not conditioned to fighting the same way as someone trained will be. In fact, not even close.

I will always remember a student coming to train at our school here in Knoxville when I was a teenager. He was an Olympic marathon runner, sponsored by Adidas. Arguably, one of the most "in-shape" athletes on the planet. He can run 26 miles faster than almost anyone else alive. BUT, within 30 seconds to a minute of grappling, he was utterly exhausted - just like every other person that begins training in Jiu Jitsu. This alone is one of the most important reasons to train.

Solely by training martial arts on a regular basis, you are preparing yourself physically and mentally for an altercation that your opponent will be grossly underprepared for if they do not train. We will teach you to weather the storm, and when their gas runs out, your opportunity to come out on top or to get away will present itself.

The funny thing is, in the interview after the match, the man states that it went about the way he expected and that he dominated until he gassed. What he should have said is that he dominated until she dominated! While his strength and speed allowed him to win the early exchanges, it quickly deteriorated, to the point that he actually tapped out to the exhaustion. That means he gave up (defeated both physically and mentally) due to just exhaustion - not from being hit or submitted by something like a choke.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned Rorion Gracie creating the UFC. Well that was now 25 years ago. At this past weekend's UFC event (the two hundred and twentieth event), we got to witness this exact scenario play out.

In the main event for the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the world, Stipe Miocic weathered the storm of the fearsome striker, Francis Ngannou, to keep the belt and remain the UFC Heavyweight Champion. In the process, he set a new record for Heavyweight title defenses (3). The strikers are so powerful in this division, the fighters have an extremely difficult time keeping the belt for very long before someone else comes along and knocks them out.

Francis Ngannou was promoted as the most fearsome Heavyweight to ever step into the octagon with the most powerful punch ever recorded at the UFC Performance Institute. In his last fight, Ngannou knocked his opponent out with one punch - an uppercut so hard that his opponent was lifted off of his feet by the punch.

Ngannou came out swinging this fight too but had run into an opponent with a gameplan to avoid Ngannou's punches, use his wrestling and Jiu Jitsu to get the fight to the ground, and control him. Despite Ngannou's 20-pound weight advantage, he was unable to escape from underneath Miocic. He had zapped all of his energy trying to knock Miocic out and defending against the grappling positions with a lack of technique (he is still relatively new to the sport). 

The fatigue allowed Miocic to cruise to his 3rd title defense, but gave the rest of us another clean example of overcoming strength. 

Tournament Breakdown (Videos)

PMA instructor, FILKENJUTSU Black Belt, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Blue-Purple Belt, Madelyn Fowler, competed in her first ever competition this weekend in Concord, North Carolina. After a few months of hard training in preparation, we picked out the NAGA North Carolina championships to be the battleground! With her being an instructor, we thought all of her students, training partners, friends, and family might like to see her matches!

We drove down on Friday night for weigh-ins, and Sempai Madelyn weighed in at 112 pounds and would fight in the 109-119 division (flyweights). After fueling up with a good dinner, we went back to the hotel to rest up before she'd compete on Saturday.

In her very first match, Madelyn demonstrated her skill and strength, executing a couple of takedowns before finishing with a perfectly executed guillotine choke. Our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students will recognize the final move, as it was the EXACT variation that was taught on Thursday night last week!

Then, in the No-Gi finals she was matched against a very tough competitor who put Madelyn in danger early in the match with an arm bar submission. Madelyn would escape and counter with an ankle lock submission to tie the score 2-2, and in the final seconds, her opponent achieved the side control position to win 4-2. This earned Madelyn the silver medal in the No-Gi division, but it would not be her last time facing this opponent!

Now exhausted from experiencing how quickly energy is drained by the adrenaline, nervousness, etc. it was time to switch to the gi. Madelyn faced another new opponent in her first match and planned to use her guard this time to control her opponent and set up an attack. After multiple close attacks, Madelyn won via referee's decision.

She would now face the same opponent that defeated her in the no-gi finals, in the gi finals! After analyzing Madelyn's first match with this opponent and another one of this competitor's matches, we decided that her opponent really wanted to be on top. So this match, we would let Madelyn use her strength and skill in takedowns to keep the fight standing and fight for the top.

She landed a beautiful ogoshi (hip throw) into side control to go up on the scoreboard and would later score an advantage point for a near guard pass, and these would be the deciding points in the match to win the gold medal!

Most importantly, Madelyn is leaving this competition with a tremendous amount of experience. We would be so proud of her regardless of her results, but the wins make it even more sweet! Her results were great on their own, but when you consider that this was a pure grappling competition and she spends more than half of her time teaching and training in a striking art it is even more impressive. 

She demonstrated mental toughness, skill, sportsmanship, and even the proper way to handle a loss all in this one tournament. We could not be more proud of her and the way she prepared for and then carried herself in this tournament.

How Brittany Lost 38 Pounds and 8% Body Fat This Year

Today, I want to brag on one of our students. I'm a little biased obviously, but very proud, so I'd like to take a minute to brag about my wife, Brittany Corrigan.

For those that don't know, earlier this year she was selected to test for her Black Belt in Kenpo and is now in the preparation phase, but the story I want to tell goes back to last summer.

One year ago, my wife came back to PMA to get back to training after giving birth to our second child, Auggie. Without going too far off on a tangent, let me just give so much credit to women for what they have to go through with pregnancy, childbirth, and the recovery afterward. I know we see some stories about some women snapping right back, but I've seen first hand how difficult it can be (twice!), and all I can say is WOW.

So one year ago, Brittany returned to training at 212 pounds, and at 6 feet tall her body fat was at 38% (yes, she's approved of me giving you all of these numbers!). Today, she is at 174 pounds, and 29% body fat- officially in the first level of healthy body fat percentage for women (read more about the different levels here - http://www.precisionnutrition.com/cost-of-getting-lean-infographic). Best of all, she has done it in what I consider the best possible way - slowly and sustainably.

Brittany didn't go on a diet. In fact, we just finished eating at Chuy's for our date night, and I watched her eat a burrito (slowly and mindfully - more on that later!).

Being a personal trainer and nutrition/lifestyle coach, I could've designed an exercise program and meal plan for her that would have helped her lose the weight and body fat even faster. But since becoming a Precision Nutrition coach a couple of years ago, I know that is not the ideal way.

I've seen it play out so many times, and surely you have too. I look in the mirror and realize I'm not quite in as good of shape as I'd like to be and decide to do something about it. Well, I've heard a lot lately about the ________ diet or this new _____________ workout that people seem to really get great results with. So, I think I'll try that!

A few weeks or months later, assuming I stick with the program, voila! I've lost weight and have gotten in great shape! Well good, I'm glad that's done with, that diet sucked! Or you know, I was getting sick of that workout!

A few months pass by...

I look in the mirror, and huh? I seem to be getting out of shape (maybe even a little worse than last time this happened). But you know what? That program I did last time worked! Let's get back on it!

And repeat...

Most of us have gone through this process, and depending on your age, you may have done it over and over again throughout your life!

So what did Brittany do?

1. Martial Arts Training (2-4x per week)

Last year she got back to her martial arts training 2-4 times per week. This part is essential because finding a hobby like this can help give you a little extra motivation in the nutrition and fitness areas of your life because they will help your performance with your hobby/sport! I say 2-4 because we have two small children and sometimes life interrupts your ideal schedule for the day. It's critical that you consider this, or you can end up letting your whole plan be derailed by your normal life. If you plan a routine to get in shape that doesn't fit into the context of your real life, then it is not going to work. If you just make it work for the short term (90-day program just to get in shape, etc.), then you will go back to where you started before the program when it's finished.

2. Strength Training (3x per week) & Running (1-3x per week)

She does a simple strength training workout I've put together for her that includes body weight, cinder block, and TRX exercises. She does this 3x/week and does a shorter modified version at home if she can't squeeze in the whole thing. In addition to this, she runs 1-3x/week.

3. Nutrition & Lifestyle Habits

She has gone through a year of PN coaching learning habits one at a time that change key areas of her lifestyle but don't require her to adapt something that she cannot maintain.   These habits are things like eating slowly, stopping eating before she's stuffed, balancing her meals correctly, de-stressing, creating a good sleep routine, planning meals, and food prepping for the week. In the coaching program, she's learned about each habit, and built the skills to put them to practice. Best of all, she still gets to enjoy foods that she likes (like that burrito tonight)!

She has done it all in a way that is sustainable, and while she still has high goals for herself over the next few months preparing for her Black Belt test in December, she has adopted the habits that will prepare her for a lifetime of health and happiness.

I am incredibly proud of her, and can't wait to see where she ends up in December, and afterward. After all, Black Belt is just the beginning!

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!

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!

Women Should Train Martial Arts

I recently read an article that listed reasons, other than self-defense, that women should train in Jiu Jitsu, and while I can’t say that I agree with everything on that list, I whole heartedly agree with the message.  Women absolutely should train in Jiu Jitsu.  But I want to expand that view a little bit by saying that I think all women should train in some form of martial arts.

As most attacks against women are sexual in nature, going to the ground is usually the attacker’s end game.  Jiu Jitsu teaches you how to control a much larger opponent by using leverage instead of strength, and how to handle an attack that ends up on the ground.  But if grappling is not your cup of tea, I strongly encourage you to explore other forms of training.  The martial arts world is vast with styles and academies as infinite as the benefits they respectively have to offer.

Taking that first step, walking out onto the mat the first time, is the hardest part.  It can be intimidating to enter into something that has typically been seen as a man’s world.  When you rack your brain and think about famous martial artists, the go to answers are Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan or even Chuck Norris.  Women don’t typically make the short list.  But it’s 2016, and the martial art’s world doesn’t belong to the men anymore.  

Ronda Rousey, who made Dana White eat his words by becoming the first woman to fight in the UFC, started training in Judo, and it led her to become both an Olympian and a UFC champion.  Helen Maroulis, who was born at a time when the world didn’t recognize women’s wrestling as an Olympic event, won USA’s first ever gold medal in said event this year.  Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the world’s number one pound-for-pound female MMA fighter, originally trained in Muay Thai.  

When I first began my own martial arts journey in 2006, there were four women training at my dojo.  It was a good school with full classes, and yet, there were only four women training in the entire academy - including myself.  Ten years later, I train at the same school, but it has expanded both in size and population, and us ladies are starting to take over.  Women now make up 45% of its largest adult program.  Don’t be nervous about walking into the building.  Don’t be shy about asking for information.  Don’t be uncomfortable or embarrassed about starting your training.  You are opening yourself up to self-improvement and untold rewards. Be excited and be proud.

The list of motives I could give for why women should step out onto the mat is longer than that train you get stopped by on your way to work when you’re already running late: self-defense, increased confidence, stress relief, empowerment, self-actualization, a plethora of health and fitness benefits, discipline, camaraderie, fun.    

The reasons are limitless.  The options are endless.  The benefits, immeasurable.  Find the reason you want to train.  Find the art that works for you.  Find a school you love with instructors and training partners you trust.  Take that first step.  It’ll be worth it. 

Gracie Hall: Why I Train Martial Arts

I train martial arts for many reasons: self-defense, fitness, strength, and countless other benefits training provides. The main reason I continued training, though, is that it gives me something to live and work hard for. Besides my loving family and good health and fortune, much of my life has been unstable. My military family moved around a lot, and I never really knew where I fit in or what I was a part of. Sometimes, I’ve even thought I wasn’t good at anything. I have felt like a disappointment in the shadow of my incredible older brother, I’ve felt worthless when being used by boys who made me uncomfortable, I’ve had a terrible self-image, I've struggled with my faith, and I've felt lost.

I used to find stability in terrible, unhealthy ways, and I became someone I wasn’t proud of. In fact, martial arts came to me when I was at my lowest point, and everything changed. Training renewed my entire perspective, not only letting me become someone I love, but also showing me that this person had been there all along. It gave me a much better self-image, confidence, pride, and something I know I am good at, and will only improve in time. Most importantly, it gave me something to have faith in, and something to let me know it’s okay to have faith in myself.

Martial arts training is my stability, because even if I won’t always be able to physically train, the morals, principles, and confidence they teach are ways of living that I can believe in. Martial arts are a way of life, PMA is a family, and I am someone so lucky to be a part of it, it really saved my life.

It's What You Do That Defines You

I’d like to discuss how Batman relates to my journey in martial arts.

In one of my favorite movies, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” there is a part in which the maniacal Joker has rigged two boats to blow up, one filled with innocent passengers and the other with criminals. He gives each boat a trigger that will blow the other up, but both will explode if no one takes action. Of course, this situation sparks a huge debate amongst the two boats about who should get to live. In an extremely powerful scene, a huge, scarred, and angry-looking criminal approaches the ship captain with the trigger. He says, “Give me that trigger, and I’ll do what you should have done ten minutes ago.” The captain shakily hands him the trigger, and the criminal throws it out of a window.

Now you’re probably thinking, “What did that possibly have to do with martial arts? There was no fighting!” Naturally, I have learned techniques, forms, attacks, defenses, and other fighting skills in the time I’ve been at PMA, but martial arts has taught me a much more important lesson: To ignore labels.

In the movie scene, everyone expected the criminal to blow the other ship up simply because he was wearing the orange jumpsuit. Instead, he chose the higher moral path. He was not his label. This concept is something I’ve had a hard time grasping throughout my pubescent time in public school as I tried to be someone I thought would make me cooler. Instead, it sent me down a bad path and caused me to lose sight of what kind of person I wanted to be.

When I started lessons at PMA, my self-esteem was rock-bottom. I never imagined I would be where I am now. As I grew as a martial artist, my vision began to clear, and I saw the parts of myself that weren’t so great as well as the ones that made me “me.” Martial arts pulled me off of a bad path and set me firmly on one full of light and success.

Now, I’m independent, confident, and I strive to be the best person I can be. As difficult as it is to ignore the judgments and opinions of others, what really matters is what you think of yourself and being the kind of person you want to be.

You are not your label.  You are not a dork, nerd, loser, four-eyes, fatty, dummy, jerk, wacko, ugly, or anything else you may have been called. Everyone is made up of too much, good and bad, to be labeled. Labels don’t define you; it’s what you do that defines you. So, just like Batman, do what makes you the best you can be!

Madelyn Fowler: Why I Train Martial Arts

I am training martial arts for all of the same reasons now that I listed on my application when I first signed up: self defense, I like to keep in shape, and I think it’s fun. All these reasons are over simplified as I now see, but they all still motivate me to train, just now in a more complex, deep way.

Had you asked me to write this a couple of years ago, I would have answered nearly the same as I am now: I feel empowered just being here at PMA, and empowered knowing that I am leading my own journey in self perfection. I feel strong in my abilities, a feeling I have never felt through any other outlet. I also feel confident and unique; this is something I am doing all by myself. Though I am part of a team, my journey is different. I am different.

Now that I’ve taken the Black Belt Test I can add more to this answer. The weekend I went through helped me not only find out who I wanted to be, but who I was, and how to accept that person. I’ve always had a self image problem. Through three days of sweat (gallons of it) and tears (not as much as sweat) and no make up (the longest I’ve gone in years) I felt totally cleansed and pure. I looked at my pale, beat up face and thought, “I am pretty. Not the make up.”

So in short, martial arts broke me down and gave me the ability to see myself at my deepest level, something I sadly couldn’t do myself. Martial arts makes people, not just warriors. I am forever indebted to my [Filkenjutsu] family.