lifestyle

The Reality: Routines, Time, Priorities, and Your Life

We are nearing the end of February, and you are probably comfortably out of the holidays and back into the grind of your routines. 

Your New Year’s resolutions have probably been squashed. You had tons of enthusiasm a couple of months ago but maybe now you are facing REALITY. You might think to yourself:

"Those dreams and goals I had were too lofty."

"I don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish what I want to accomplish."

You can’t make it to martial arts class, there is too much going on. You can’t get your workouts in because other stuff takes priority. You can’t meditate. You can’t spend time playing with your kids. You can’t walk your dog. You can’t meal plan, grocery shop, and prepare meals either!

I talk to students all of the time that tell me when they are on the mat training they are happy and inspired to make changes in all of the other areas of their life. They might be kneeling at the end of class during meditation, soaking up the vibes of the dojo, and thinking about how inspired they are going to be to make a change starting today.

BUT THEN, they walk out the doors of the academy back into the world and get caught up in the chaos of our culture. Before you know it, work, commitments to family and friends, iPhones, traffic, Facebook, Netflix, and so many other things start to battle for our attention again, and we might never even think about those plans we had while we were kneeling on the mat.

In fact, they tell me that often they won’t slow down and think about those things again until the next time they are in the academy. It happens with their martial arts practice too, they have full intentions of going home, making some notes on what they learned, practicing a little bit or going over the techniques in their mind, but then they walk out and never think about it again until the next class. By that time it’s too late - they’ve already forgotten the technique.

*A huge tip for this one, by the way, is to sit down inside the academy with your notebook and take some notes before you leave the dojo. Then pull out your notes before the next class and go back over them - even if it is right before class! We see students that have tons of success with this formula.

I hear you. I really do. But the reality is that you have the same amount of time in your day as every other human being on the earth. And if your day truly is too full to do the things that you said you’d do at the beginning of the year, the reality is that it’s not because you don’t have enough time, it’s because your true priorities are revealing themselves.

Your priorities are what you spend your time doing. We might say that our priorities are things like our family or our health, but if we aren’t spending our time in those areas, then they aren’t our true priorities.

So what are your priorities?

If you really want to know, keep a genuine time log for a week, but don’t change anything about what you do right now. Funny thing is, you probably won’t be able to stop yourself from changing just a little bit, because when you start realizing how much time you are spending on Facebook, or watching Netflix, you almost can’t help making some changes.

Some of the things that we are spending our time on might be out of our control, but are there any areas that are in our control? And sometimes other things are genuinely just more important.

I don't want you to quit your job and train all the time. I don't want you to skip out on playing with your kids to get a workout in.

But I do want you to just stop at the store and buy a few groceries instead of waiting in the drive thru line. I do want you to put your phone down and get a workout in. 

Your health is a crucial piece to you living a long, happy, and fulfilling life. You have to make it a priority too!

The question is do we just tell ourselves that we are too busy when there is actually quite a bit of free time in there?

Try your best to just track and not change anything about what you are doing. Then add up all of the time doing the different activities and discover what your TRUE priorities are.

Now, if you want to make a change…pick one of those categories that you’d rather not be spending so much time and allot that time to doing one of the things you do want to be doing. 

You have to curate your lifestyle. You have the same 24 hours as everyone else, you just have to decide how you’re going to spend them, and then do it!

The Underlying Reason We Never Change

We want to eat healthily…but we love good food.

We want to exercise…but we like to be lazy.

We want to quit smoking…but will probably just pick up another cigarette.

We want to quit drinking too much…but enjoy drinking.

We want to save money…but enjoy our lifestyle.

We want to eat more veggies…but chips taste better.

We want to read a book…but we love watching TV.

We want to take care of our planet…but still waste because it’s easy.

We want to live in the moment…but are always looking at our screens.

We want to be happy…but we are satisfied with just okay.

We want to make a change…but are ambivalent to do so.

Think about your own life and all of the things within it that you’d like to change. Do you see both reasons to change and reasons not to? If yes, you are not alone. This ambivalence is widespread for us humans, but the good news is that if you are at this stage, you are at least heading in the right direction.

You can view the steps to making a change as:

1. Someone needs to make a change, but they don’t see why.

2. Someone needs to make a change, and they see why, but also see reasons why things should stay the same.

3. Someone needs to make a change, chooses a path to move in that direction, and follows it (no matter what).

Today we are talking about step 2 - the ambivalence stage. This stage is where people get stuck for a long time trying to make a change. It seems with every step you take in the right direction, you are pulled back towards the other side by seemingly good reasons and arguments on why things should stay the same. We like them that way, and they are comfortable, easy, and enjoyable.

I’m here to tell you that is completely normal. Inside you though, you know that a change needs to happen. You know the lifestyle that you want to curate for yourself and long for it frequently.

When you’re ready to move from step 2 to step 3, you will finally make that change. When you are fed up with being ambivalent, you will pick a path out of your old ways and follow it. You won’t let the talk inside your head bring you back to sustaining the old habits. Until then, expect to remain stuck at the ambivalent stage.

When you are ready, willing, and able to move on, you will go for it. When you go for it, you will slip and fall and take steps backward. That is okay. You need to have an unlimited re-do button that you just hit over and over again (we call this the clean slate policy). You have to! Because if you are actually struggling with ambivalence, even when you finally decide to make a change, you will double back and fail. 

But what am saying you know this already, right? How many times have you tried to ________________? We often make statements like, “I’m not going to eat any more junk food.” But of course, we inevitably eat junk food (sometimes embarrassingly close to when we just swore it off). Without the clean slate policy, we just give up. We assume we aren’t capable of making the change and just quit…until we get fed up with ourselves enough to try again.

So, what have you been longing to change? Are you ready? Are you willing? Are you able? Are you fed up enough to finally say “I’ve had enough” and do something about it? This time, it’s not going to be a start and stop. This time when you decide to make that change, stick with it for life. Go down that path away from the old habit and no matter how many times you fall, get back up and try again.

“To Fall Seven Times. To Rise Eight Times. Life Begins Now.” - Daruma


Towards the end of this year, we will begin accepting both male and females into our nutrition and lifestyle coaching program again. Our next group will start on Monday, January 1, 2018.

Input your name and email address below to be one of the first to receive notification when we begin accepting this next group.

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Let Me Tell You About My Greatest Enemy!

In a short period of time, I will be in my mid-sixties.  Age is my greatest enemy, and as anyone my age or older will tell you; the things that once were easy have become a lot more challenging. 

Well, all enemies are the same, whether human, physical, or psychological.  What enemies are, are negative entities in your path of success.  So, how do you get rid of your enemies?  My answer to that is very simple;  simply confront them and defeat them.  Age is no different! 

One of the first things to do on the path of defeating age is not to consider it a factor at all.  I came to the realization, that I was spending more time worrying about the limitations of age than I was on the ways I could overcome it.  Once I got on the right road, I came up with a pretty successful framework for defeating the aging process, and adding to the time I will be able to train.  Here are a few things from the Corrigan master plan:

  1.  Work Backwards – Don’t start by comparing yourself to a 20-year-old.  First, compare yourself to those your own age and see how you fit.   Are you the same as them physically and mentally?  If you are “younger” than them – go lower.    For example, if you truly feel that at your age you are physically and mentally “younger” than someone 5 calendar years younger than you, then that is where you start.  Hold yourself to your “calculated” age standards.  Conversely, if you feel you are much “older” than your age – start there and work your way backward until you are physically and mentally fit as your peers. 
  2. Take care of your body.  Don’t train injured, baby the injuries. Rest.
  3. No Excuses – I hear older Martial Arts students say all the time (including me sometimes!) “at my age…,”  “I used to be able to….,”    “I'll never be able to…,” etc.  These are just excuses and self-limiters.  If you set the bar at 3 inches rather than 3 feet, then that is where you will stay.
  4. Stop trying to use “old man strength” – Listen, all this does is make you tired, and the bane of everyone’s existence.  You don’t have to win all the time to maintain your respectability.  Chances are, if you are “older” then all the young guys respect you, and want to treat you with respect.  Enjoy the respect, and stop hurting them with your desire to beat them.
  5. Supplement your training – Go to the gym, walk, run, move, stretch.
  6. Make time – I have a physician that I go to that has said to me for the last 12 years “ Man, I gotta try that, but I just don’t have the time!”  He is my doctor, but I know for sure that he will take the “dirt nap” before me.  Why? Because he is fat, out of shape, stressed and overworked.  I need to write him a prescription, but he’ll never get it filled. 
  7. Variety.  If you like martial arts, don’t limit what you study.  I often say that I am good at boxing, okay at Jiu Jitsu, excellent at Kali, and great at Kenpo.  Combined, I am satisfied.  The moral of the story is that you might just be training in the aspect that you will never be GREAT in, no matter what age you are. Seek things that you can excel at as well as those that you might just be mediocre in. Besides, variety makes you train differently and with all you got.
  8. Train as much as possible with younger people.  Enjoy their ability and learn from them.  Ask them how they are dominating you.  Learn ways to dominate them using your experience.
  9. Finally....Make martial arts a lifestyle.  That DOES NOT MEAN MAKE IT YOUR ENTIRE LIFE!  You have other things, like a family, a job, other hobbies, kids, grandkids, etc.  Make martial arts fit in your life, and use your training to enhance everything else you do.

Becoming a Martial Artist

A few years ago, I wrote a post titled “Martial Artist or a Student of the Martial Arts?

I posed the question to my students trying to determine how they saw themselves. There were a variety of opinions on the topic, but today I want to discuss one way of looking at this. I had multiple people tell me that while they were training martial arts, they did not yet consider themselves martial artists because they were not living all aspects of their life like a martial artist would.

The next logical question would be: "How does a martial artist live?"

For this, let’s take a look at the eight aspects of the martial arts way of life that we have outlined for our students at Progressive Martial Arts Academy:

  1. Fitness - Are you living your life in such a way that you are a healthy and fit individual? Does your body function the way that it should?
  2. Health & Nutrition - Have you adopted healthy eating habits? Sleeping habits? Most of us know what we should be eating, and how we should be living our lives, but are we following that? This one can be tough.
  3. Meditation - Have you brought a little bit of meditation into your life? Again, you don’t need to be sitting on top of a mountain cross-legged to say you meditate. At this point, if you have not at least brought it into your life in small ways like taking a few deep breaths and living in the moment, you are ignoring so many studies that have proven its effectiveness.
  4. Yoga and Stretching - Unless you've been living under a rock, surely you've heard that this stuff is excellent! And you don’t need to be a yogi to benefit from it. A martial artist has to have some yoga or good stretching/mobility routines in their life to recover properly from their training and maintain a level of flexibility and body control that allows them to perform their techniques.
  5. Philosophy - Being a martial artist also means living your life with the philosophy of a martial artist. That means bringing kindness, humility, respect, and love to all aspects of your life and all people in your life. This philosophy includes things like avoiding fights and confrontations. Do you have road rage? Then you still have some work to do here.
  6. Striking Arts - Keep those tools sharpened. A good martial artist has something in their life that keeps their striking sharp. For some this is heavy bag work, for others, it might be traditional forms. These are two great methods for keeping your tools ready to go.
  7. Grappling Arts - You can’t ignore the groundwork either. You may not have taken the full fledge jump into a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class yet (if not, what are you waiting for!?), but you need to know how to defend yourself on the ground. Something like Jiu Jitsu takes many years to master, so the sooner you start, the better.
  8. Self Defense - Being able to walk around the world with confidence that you can protect yourself is what enables the martial artist to carry themselves the way they do. You need to be training with a focus on self-defense.

If you have 15 minutes, take a look at this TED talk below. Dr. Chang is discussing how to make hard choices, but she lays out a way of approaching life that can help lay the framework for becoming who you want to be - in our case today, a martial artist.

So, I'll ask you again - Are you a student of the martial arts or a martial artist? If you are still having difficulty labeling yourself as a martial artist, is there an area of your life that you can work on aligning your lifestyle with the items listed above?

Most importantly, keep training!


Do you need help "becoming a martial artist"?

Some of you may have a few of the items above taken care of because you have begun training in martial arts, but may still be struggling with the elements outside of the academy such as your nutrition and lifestyle. 

Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better, yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.

That’s why I became a Precision Nutrition certified coach - to help PMA students lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health…no matter what challenges they’re dealing with. I accepted my first group of students last summer, and recently had certified PMA instructor, Kristie Fox, get her PN certification so that we can take more students in the program. 

We are planning to accept a group of students to begin their program on Monday, July 31st with Coach Kristie.

Interested in starting this one year program this summer? 

You can find more information about our nutrition and lifestyle coaching program here:

http://www.pmaoakridge.com/nutrition

Then, send me an email to join the presale list; you’ll save up to 45% and secure a spot in the program. We like to reward the most interested and motivated people because they always make the best clients. 

And, you’re more likely to get a spot. To give clients the personal care and attention they deserve, we plan to only open up the program twice a year. In the end, if you’re ready to change your body, and your life, with help from the world’s best habit changing program, this is your chance.

If you're ready to join the presale list now, you can do that here:

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My Trip to Rio

On May 19, I took off with my wife, Brittany, and oldest son, Charlie, on what would be the trip of a lifetime. We spent 10 days in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil visiting my close friend and teacher, Felipe Costa, his wife, Ana, and his son, Bento. Charlie and Bento were born just 2 weeks apart and despite living almost 5,000 miles away are great friends!

I thought for the blog this week I'd share some of the posts and memories that we shared on Facebook throughout the week, all collected in one place!

Taking off from McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, TN!

Taking off from McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, TN!

Day 1:

It's only been one day in Brazil, but we are having an incredible trip! 

We came back to Felipe's house and unloaded/rested then took a long walk down Copacabana beach and Ipanema beach to Ana's parents' house where they cooked us a wonderful traditional Brazilian meal - feijoada.

So happy to be reunited with our friends!

So happy to be reunited with our friends!

Ana's parents were so welcoming, and cooked us a wonderful meal!

Ana's parents were so welcoming, and cooked us a wonderful meal!

Day Two: Today we visited the botanical garden, the lagoon where the Olympics were held, and ate at a really nice Brazilian steakhouse. Bento and Charlie's friendship is really cute (as you'll see!).

We love this family so much! And are enjoying every second of time with them in their home, on the other half of the earth!

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So today while visiting the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden we got to see a variety of wild monkeys! That by itself is really cool.

Now, while watching the monkeys, one of them snuck up on us, jumped in the stroller, and stole our unopened bag of snacks. He then took it up into the tree, shared with his friends, and later they all came down to retrieve the ones that they had dropped - even taking them from our hands!

 It's crazy how you can be in one of the largest cities in the world and just a short walk away from the jungle.

DISCLAIMER: you should not normally feed animals in the wild or in a zoo, both for your safety and their health!

Day 3: This morning we took Felipe's son, Bento, to school and then spent the day exploring downtown Rio de Janeiro. We also went by Felipe's academy, Brazilian Black Belt, Terere's academy, and watched Professor Ricardo De La Riva teach De La Riva at De La Riva Jiu-jitsu!

Visiting Professor Ricardo De La Riva's academy!

Visiting Professor Ricardo De La Riva's academy!

On the way home tonight, we were picking up some Acai for dinner and ran into a group of kids walking home from Jiu Jitsu class. Felipe stopped them and asked them some questions about their training and then "fought" one of them in the street. 😊

P.S. - Authentic Acai is much different than the frozen bricks sold in the United States! Charlie still enjoyed it, and Bento LOVES it! Charlie is also a big fan of the subway we have discovered.

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Day 4: Today we visited the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. It has an amazing view over Rio de Janeiro. This was one of our favorite moments so far.

Then Charlie and Bento went to Jiu Jitsu class! This was Charlie's first official Jiu Jitsu class and how cool is it that it was in Brazil?! 

Afterward, Brittany and I stayed to train too. Felipe's academy, Brazilian Black Belt, is awesome and has a great group of people of all ranks to train with. You can tell who their teacher is because their technique was great, and the culture was good too!

Our Portuguese is improving little by little!

Day 5: We woke up early this morning and hiked to one of the Horto waterfalls! The water was freezing but we had to jump in!

Then later in the day, we visited the Christ the Redeemer statue which was voted one of the seven wonders of the modern world in 2012! Another unbelievable view of the city of Rio.

Then we packed up to spend the weekend in the beach town of Armação de Búzios (another city in the state of Rio de Janeiro).

Day 6:

This morning we visited Felipe's grandmother and her good friend Lola (who was Felipe's nanny)! Afterward, we spent the afternoon on the beach in Leblon before picking up Ana, Fernanda (Ana's sister), and Michelle (Felipe's long time friend, and Jiu Jitsu Black Belt) and driving to Buzios!

The classic drink on the beach in Rio - Matte!

The classic drink on the beach in Rio - Matte!

We arrived to find out Felipe and Ana had surprised us with a house that was actually on the beach. We woke up each morning and opened the back door to a beautiful view of the beach and could step right off the patio and walk onto the sand.

After grabbing some dinner and lemon pie (Lemon pie is Felipe's favorite dessert and he swears this place has the best Lemon pie in the world - we all agreed!) in downtown Buzios, Felipe and I decided to jump in the COLD ocean, you only live once! 

Day 7:

On our first morning in Buzios we took a walk on Geriba beach before heading out for some breakfast at a delicious local bakery. Brazilian breakfasts typically have lots of bread and cheese. Delicious!

We then went back to the house for naps. That afternoon we walked to Ana and Fernanda's cousins' place for some Acai.

We went out again Friday night for some bruschetta and pizza and of course, more lemon pie!

Day 8:

Today we woke up, went out for breakfast, and walked down to a different beach in Buzios where we spent the afternoon swimming, playing and relaxing. The water felt great and Charlie really loved it!

At the end of the day, we walked down to another beach in Buzios to eat dinner watching the sunset on our last night in Brazil. That was followed up by some lemon pie downtown of course!

Day 9:

This is our last day in Brazil! Brittany and I woke up to see the sunrise over our beach and I spent the morning reading.

Once everyone was awake, we ate a wonderful breakfast at our house and walked down to one more beach to say goodbye to Buzios. And grab one more bowl of Acai!

We then drove back to Rio and packed up to come home. Saying goodbye brought tears to everyone, and we can't wait until we see each other again!

This was a trip we will never forget. Our friends live in a beautiful place, but it was them that made it so special. ❤️

All pictures from this trip were taken on my iPhone. It's so fun to be able to capture these amazing pictures with something we take with us everywhere and that fits in your pocket!

Life is Life

One night while talking before a concert my family and I were attending, my Dad asked me about one of our advanced students that has been missing from class. I told him that I had not seen him in awhile but had spoken to him and knew that work was really getting in the way of his training.

My Dad said well make sure he knows we understand and to just get back to training when he can. “Life is life,” my Dad said, “and martial arts is all about life.”

All of us can relate to this message. Sometimes things just get in the way of your training. This is absolutely normal. We just have to make sure we get right back on track when we can.

That might seem like an easy piece of advice, but it can be extremely difficult. When things get in the way, it is easy to let other things that aren’t really in the way seem like they are. You may miss a week or two of training for any number of reasons, but then those reasons aren’t there anymore and you continue to delay your return to training. You may have originally missed because of the snow, work, an injury, vacation, family commitments, the list goes on and on, but now you are missing because of laziness, fear of being out of shape, fear of not knowing all of your techniques, or being behind.

We all need to remember that the first list of reasons that actually got in the way are normal and completely understandable. Life is life. It’s going to happen! This is training in the context of a real life. The second list is where we have to be mindful. The second list is where the “no excuses” mentality needs to come in, or Nike’s “just do it” motto. When it is time to get back on the mat, or get back to your diet, or back into your routine - JUST DO IT.

In that moment more than ever we cannot psyche ourselves out. Turn off the brain for a little while because in that moment your power to reason usually will work against you! Because it is easier to stay home, you may convince yourself of a sound reason to do it. You can convince yourself to just get back on track tomorrow, or the next day. But don’t!

The decision to take the easy path might give you pleasure or enjoyment for that one moment. The decision to take the harder path will give you happiness and fulfillment for a lifetime.

See you on the mat!

Purpose

In everything we do in life, having a sense of purpose is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of any activity. The presence or lack of purpose can make or break your success. Stay with me, and I will tie this together with martial arts, New Year's resolutions and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Let’s start with the latter. In January of 2015, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier came into their fight with a significant amount of “bad blood,” and the feud between the two of them was frequently marketed to sell the program. Jon Jones was the reigning champion of the Light Heavyweight division and was ranked as the number 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Daniel Cormier was undefeated coming into the fight and posed a significant threat to Jon’s belt because of a great wrestling background and intense style.

Jones dominated most aspects of the bout - including the clinch and takedown portion that DC, as a wrestler, should have capitalized on. The champion won the fight via unanimous decision and continued to show us that he is one of the best fighters, if not the best fighter, we have ever seen. What I want to discuss is that immediately following the final bell, Jones made a tasteless gesture towards Daniel Cormier. Jones himself described the act as "classless" in the post-fight interview.

The reason I bring this up is to discuss the purpose of the gesture (which is probably pretty clear - to insult his opponent and show his dislike for Daniel Cormier) and also his purpose for fighting in the UFC. If his purpose is solely for selfish gain (money, fame, pride, testing his abilities, etc.), then I guess the “classless” gestures don’t matter much. If he is fighting for a purpose bigger than himself (being a role model/inspiration, providing for his family, etc.), than I think his victory would be sweeter without the negatives gestures. The same goes for Ronda Rousey, who flipped off an opponent after defeating her, and the countless other fighters we’ve seen make unsportsmanlike gestures or remarks after the fight.

Before I go any further, this is not a judgment of Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, or any other fighters. I have never fought in a Mixed Martial Arts fight, so I wouldn't understand how high the emotions are running. Maybe these gestures are adrenaline-fueled reactions that just come with the territory. I understand the trash-talk leading up to the fights to build excitement and sell tickets, and I know that sometimes they honestly don’t like each other (which seems to be the case this time). I also get that some fighters might have to build up this dislike to go in the cage and fight with enough tenacity to pull off the win as some people would find it difficult to hurt another person intentionally.

You can see that Jones has at least thought about the impact he can have outside of the octagon if you listen to or read some of his interviews and statements. In one such instance, Jones discussed another great fighter who returns next month, Anderson Silva, and the effects of his two devastating back-to-back losses to Chris Weidman:

“It was just sad. I know how long Anderson Silva’s been working to be who he is…It’s not supposed to end that way. What I’m hoping is that people remember Anderson for all of the magnificent things he’s done, all the lives he’s touched, all the people he’s inspired, and I’m hoping that Anderson just stays away from the sport and continues to be an inspiration outside of the octagon. Not fight again. Anderson can do seminars, he can do motivational speaking, he can help all the kids in Brazil. I mean, he’s such an idol. His greatness has just begun.” (http://mmajunkie.com/2014/02/jon-jones-hopes-anderson-silva-just-stays-away-from-the-sport)

So if Jones has the same ambitions for his career, is giving the “suck it” symbol to his opponent after the fight the way he wants to be viewed? What about Ronda flipping the bird? In both of these instances, there was a lot of bad blood leading up to the event, and the gestures came after an intense fight, filled with emotion and adrenaline. So my question is, would you enjoy these matches more without the “classless” remarks and gestures? Or do you think they are just part of the game? If the purpose is to inspire others and improve lives, I think doing so with the respect and discipline of a real martial artist would make a bigger impact than petty retaliation.

My brother, Nick Corrigan, once fought a professional Mixed Martial Arts fight, and he gets more amped by adrenaline than anyone I have ever seen (as you will see if you watch this video). At the end of the fight, however, you will not see any “classless” gestures. Instead, you will see him help his opponent up, shake his hand, and go back after the fight one more time to make sure he is ok. That image inspires me ten times more than watching an athlete getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars flip the bird or give the “suck it” gesture after winning their fight.

In case you haven't seen it, here’s my brother’s fight - it’s an old video I uploaded on MySpace many years ago so I can only get it to play in the FireFox browser -

https://myspace.com/pmaoakridge/video/instructor-nick-nicki-spandex-corrigan/8963284

So for your resolutions, have you considered how purpose could help you stay motivated? I think it’s been well documented how much we fail when it comes to our resolutions. Most Americans have good intentions, even if they aren’t “resolutions,” for the New Year, but studies say we will have lost that vision by Valentine’s Day! Maybe knowing your purpose can help this year.

For example, hitting a weight loss goal can be tough when all you are looking at is the number on a scale. If you stay focused on the reasons for being healthier and getting in better shape, you might find it easier to stay on track. That is why we put so much emphasis on the Martial Arts Way of Life in the Corrigan family and at Progressive Martial Arts. Remembering that it is a way of life helps to keep us motivated to get back on the mat every single week!

Black Belt might be one short-term goal, but martial arts training is SO much bigger than that. If you miss class one day, get back on the mat the next. If something disastrous happens in your life that causes you to stop training for an extended period, get back on the mat as soon as possible. Make exercise part of your lifestyle, and you will reap the benefits over and over in every aspect of your life - living healthier, happier, being more confident and content in everything that you do. In the big picture, whatever your ultimate purpose is for your life, health, happiness and confidence should help you be even more successful.

Happy New Year!

Goals: When to Use Them and When to Lose Them

We all set goals. We set S.M.A.R.T. goals (more on that acronym later). We set STUPID goals (that one isn’t an acronym, just emphasized). Some goals we achieve, and some we don’t. The problem is, between the goals that we never achieve and the ones we achieve at first but lose afterwards, we end up with a net growth of close to zero! Let’s take a look at how to set the right goals, know when to use them, and know when to lose them.

SMART Goals

Learning how to set SMART goals was really helpful for me. For those that haven’t heard of this before, SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. This is a method of setting goals that is taught in many different branches of study because goal setting is useful in almost any activity, career, or lifestyle.

A specific goal means taking the time to think about the details, rather than setting a general goal. For example, instead of saying, “I’m going to get back in shape,” you could say, “I’m going to join Progressive Martial Arts Academy and train 2-3 times per week.” :-) We want to lay out a plan for our goals to help achieve them.

A measurable goal is just what it sounds like. Make your goals things you can measure. This enables you to actually track your progress, which will keep you motivated. For example, numbers on a scale, waist size, money in savings, and time spent with loved ones can all be measured to give yourself some numbers to check.

Setting an attainable goal means setting goals that are possible to achieve. For me, it means setting smaller goals along the way that help me see that I am growing closer to my ultimate goal. This will increase your confidence and determination to reach that final goal. The obvious martial arts connection here is the colored belts we use to measure progress. Imagine how much more difficult it would be to get from white belt to black belt if there weren’t any belts in between (it used to be that way)! The other colors are extremely useful for tracking our progress, seeing our progress, and feeling like we’ve made progress at each level. All of these smaller progress indicators will help you reach your BIG goal.

Realistic goals come back to being attainable. This doesn’t mean you should only set small goals. In fact, the big goals are sometimes the easier goals to achieve because you want them so badly! Have you ever completed a big task and felt so good afterwards that you said, “That was a lot easier than I thought!” Chances are the task wasn’t easy, you were just highly motivated to do it.

Timely means to put some timeframes on your goals. Sooner than someday, though! Don’t use the “someday” word, although this one has to tie into the rest of the points. For example, saying you want to achieve your Black Belt in 2 years could be very unrealistic. This is both something that is ultimately not your decision, and highly unlikely depending on the martial art that you are training in. On that note, I don’t recommend using belts as your goals to try to achieve a belt by a certain time. For weight loss, timely also means in a “reasonable” time. It’s best to shoot for between a 1/2 pound to 2 pounds per week. Any more than this is not encouraged.

When to Use Them and When to Lose Them

Goals are great to use in the beginning of a journey. The first few weeks of working towards a goal are usually the most difficult to get through. During this period you are breaking bad habits or building new ones (usually both) and this can be both very challenging and very frustrating. This time is where many people lose motivation. During this period, if you have set some SMART goals, they might just be the motivation you need to keep going.

Have you ever reached a goal only to lose the progress you made shortly afterwards? Of the thousands of people that have tried the famous BeachBody workouts (such as P90X or Insanity), most people don’t make it through (because they are challenging!). But of the few people that do, all of them that I have met have fallen back to where they were before the program within a year of completing it! The problem is that most short term programs usually aren’t maintainable. If you can’t maintain what you did to reach your goal after the program finishes, you will likely fall back to where you started.

Try this for analyzing a program before you start:

What if we lay out not only intermediate goals and plans for the timeframe we think it will take to reach our ultimate goal, but also a maintenance plan for after we do? With fitness I think this is a lot easier than we make it. Find some exercise that you enjoy doing, and then follow a healthy but maintainable and enjoyable diet and you are all set (just kidding, I know it’s not always that easy). If we have to do a workout plan to achieve our goal that we won’t be able to maintain afterwards, let’s NOT do it! Wouldn’t it be better to lose that 20 pounds over the course of a year if it meant it stayed off for the rest of our lives?

The same applies to martial arts. If you set your sights on Black Belt as your goal, and follow a training plan to get there that you aren’t going to maintain once you achieve it, will it really be worth it? If your goal was just to scratch it off a bucket list, then that answer may be yes. But if your reasons for achieving your Black Belt include growing as a person, learning to defend yourself, being more confident, and getting in the best shape of your life, then you won’t be happy to learn that those benefits will all disappear within the first year of quitting your training.

The Answer

What if we learn to set SMART goals for the items I just listed (growing, defending yourself, confidence, fitness, etc.) at the beginning of our journey? Then, as we grow closer to reaching the goal that we originally set out to achieve, we wean ourselves off of using goals and learn to just enjoy what we’ve achieved. We become motivated to maintain what we have because of the value it adds to our lives. If you learn to set smart goals, enjoy the journey, enjoy the training, and then enjoy the benefits of reaching your goal, you will continue to reap the rewards for the rest of your life. Remember the name of this blog - The Martial Arts Way of Life.

In a sense we could call these lifestyle goals. We set small goals towards making something part of our lifestyle - healthy eating, fun exercise, spending time with loved ones, relieving stress, getting (and staying) out of debt, and the list goes on! Then once we have made them a part of our lifestyle, the goals disappear. You are now motivated by the joy that you get from living a positive, healthy life with the people you love. This phenomenon is what occurs on the mat. It may take you many years to make it to Black Belt, but once you get there you realize that it was only the beginning of the journey, because now the rest of your life is in front of you. You used the goals in the beginning (white to brown) but then ditched them and just enjoyed the lifestyle once you got there (black).

On a final note, we should never stop growing. So once you have achieved a goal and integrated it into your life, remember to move on to another area that needs growth (or reduction!).

"In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it." - Robert A Heinlein

Martial Artist or Student of the Martial Arts?

I asked the question on our Facebook Page recently:

“Are you a martial artist or a student of the martial arts?”

We had a few people brave enough to post their answers publicly, some sent me an email and others were discussing the question before and after class. I think our students were split about 50/50.

The students that answered, "we are all martial artists," liked the idea that anyone that habitually practices the martial arts should be considered a martial artist. Habitually being the key word there. For example, someone that drops in on a class here or there wouldn’t be considered a martial artist as they have not really adopted the practice into their way of life. One of my black belts, Terry, made the suggestion that if you practice the art with passion you are a martial artist.

On the other hand, some students were suggesting that they must reach a certain skill level (such as Black Belt) to be considered a martial artist. Their humility was telling them they had not yet mastered the art enough yet to be considered an artist.

The argument to this was that even someone that is not very skilled at “art” can be considered an artist if they paint/draw/etc on a regular basis and have passion for their work.

So what is the answer?

Obviously, what I think is right is the “correct” answer. (Just kidding!)

I think everyone was right in this circumstance. Every person training martial arts is on his or her own journey. No matter what stage of that journey you are on, you should always maintain the mindset of being a “student.” At the same time, I consider all of my “students” debating this question “martial artists.”

If you care enough about this activity that we are all practicing to debate whether or not you can call yourself a martial artist, it must mean something to you!

Whether you are a white belt that has only been training for a few months or a black belt that has been training for many years, if you have adopted what this blog is all about as your own than you are a martial artist - “The Martial Arts Way of Life.”

What is “The Martial Arts Way of Life?” To answer this I think you have to ask yourself why you are training martial arts? If the answer is to better some aspect of yourself, than you are on the right track.

Whether that is you increasing your confidence in your ability to protect yourself and your family, increasing your mental focus, getting in better shape, or becoming a more kind and peaceful person, we’re all here for one reason – to be better. That’s what it’s all about. What makes it a way of life is that we will never achieve perfection; we will just always strive for it.

So martial artists, let me ask you this:

“Why are you a student of the martial arts?”