The Value of Competition

Are you one of those people who love to play a sport or a game to see who wins?  Are you driven by the idea of testing yourself against others to see who is best?  Does winning matter “a lot” to you? 

If so, then I would describe you as a competitive person.  Some people find great motivation in competing, while others shy away from it and avoid it whenever possible.  I would suggest to you that if you are one of those people who avoid competition, you might wish to reconsider, and here’s why.

Being Thankful

I love to set big goals and work hard to achieve them!  It drives me to succeed and forces me to work hard to earn the things I want.  Being driven and motivated is awesome and can take you very far in life.  But, sometimes when you are going so fast and are so focused on a goal or set of goals, you can miss the small subtleties of life.  One of these is stopping for a moment to “count your blessings.” 

Is it Kenpo or Kempo?

For those who have been around Kaizen Karate for a little bit, you understand that our system is comprised of several key components, one of which is our kata, master form, from the International Karate Connections Association (IKCA).  But, I have been asked, is the IKCA system Kenpo (with a ‘n’) or Kempo (with an ‘m’)?  Lets discuss which is correct.

A Vital Piece of Equipment

The practice of karate can be extremely hard on the body.  We train to fight and in the process can get hit or kicked, causing bodily damage.  We choose, however, to practice sparring while wearing protective gear.  This gear allows us to use actual contact against our fellow classmates, while minimizing the damage done with those attacks.  Most students learn good control as they gain more experience, so it is extremely vital to wear protective gear especially when working with less experienced practitioners.

One of the most important pieces of equipment you can use to protect yourself is probably the cheapest and one that might not seem to be that important.  It is the mouth guard.  The mouth guard has been a staple piece of protection in the martial arts and boxing for a very long time and for good reason.  

If you are not wearing a mouth guard, you could potentially damage or knock out your teeth, you could break your jaw, or cut your lip.  Furthermore, you can reduce the risk of getting a concussion while wearing a mouth guard if you are hit in the head or jaw.  These are all excellent reasons to wear a mouth guard.

Remember, we don’t wear protective gear because we are giving our opponent a license to hit hard.  We wear gear in case we accidentally hit too hard or don’t use good control.  To that point, you can never predict when an accident will occur.  But, we all know that Murphy’s law tends to show itself when you are least ready for it.  In other words, it will be the one time you don’t wear a piece of protective gear that you will be hit in that spot.  Make sure it is not your mouth!

Furthermore, keeping your protective equipment in good working order is important.  For the mouth guard, make sure you rinse it with warm water after every class and let it air dry before putting it back in your bag.  Occasionally, it is a good idea to let the mouth guard soak in mouthwash (like Listerine) to remove germs, odors and make it as clean as possible.  That being said, the mouth guard is relatively inexpensive, so replacing it often is a good idea.  

There are many kinds of mouth guards on the market, and they all offer different advantages and disadvantages.  I really like the double-sided mouth guard.  I find it very easy to use, and gives a superior level of protection.  

Be smart about your sparring.  Always wear your protective gear, and make sure it is in good shape.  Doing these simple things might be the difference in avoiding a painful and unpleasant injury.

-Coach David-

Find your Motivation

What motivates you?  How do you get yourself going when you are feeling tired or low?  Some people are motivated by their own internal drive to improve.  Some people are motivated by other peoples’ successes.  Finding your motivation is a key component to success.  It allows you to train longer, train harder and keep pushing yourself when others would not.  

A lot of people find listening to music very motivating.  You will often see famous athletes listening to music to either calm themselves before their events, or to help pump themselves up to do their best.  Likewise, running with headphones can be a very effective way to motivate yourself to run as you can lose yourself in the music and distract yourself from feeling fatigued. 

So, try an experiment.  Next time you are preparing to work out, try listening to a motivating song right before you start.  Or, if you don’t normally wear headphones while working out, try it and use a playlist that you think might motivate you.  See if your effort improves for that workout and how you feel during and afterwards.  This could be the kick in the pants that your workouts needed to go to the next level.

Below are a few songs I find motivating, and if you listen to the lyrics, you might be inspired too.


“You’re the Best” by Joe Esposito

Try to believe

Though the going gets rough

That you gotta hang tough to make it

History repeats itself

Try and you’ll succeed

Never doubt that you’re the one

And you can have your dreams.

You’re the best!  Around!

Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down

 

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

It's the eye of the tiger

It's the thrill of the fight

Rising up to the challenge of our rival

And the last known survivor

Stalks his prey in the night

And he's watching us all with the eye of the tiger

 

“Titanium” by David Guetta

I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose

Fire away, fire away

Ricochet, you take your aim

Fire away, fire away

You shoot me down but I won't fall

I am titanium

You shoot me down but I won't fall

I am titanium

 

“Here Comes the Boom” by P.O.D.

Is that all you got?

I'll take your best shot.

Boom! Here Comes the Boom!

 

-Coach David-

Climbing Mount Everest

The journey to blackbelt is a long expedition, full of many ups and downs.  The process is meant to be difficult and isn’t for the faint of heart.  One can say that getting your blackbelt can be a lot like trying to climb Mt. Everest (the highest mountain in the world).  Let’s explore those similarities.

For both of these tasks, most people would consider them unattainable goals.  They are ‘beyond’ the reach of most mere mortals.  But, although they are big undertakings, they are doable.  They require planning, training, persistence and determination, and with proper training and proper guidance, they are achievable. 

In both cases, the proper gear is essential.  In karate, having your complete uniform is not just for the look, but also to help you understand how you are doing.  Listening to your gi pop, and hearing your belt swish back and forth can be instrumental in refining technique.  Having the proper sparring gear is key to protecting yourself and your partner so you can progress without injury.  Just like you wouldn’t want to climb Mt. Everest without your gloves, you wouldn’t want to show up to class without your uniform, belt and all your sparring gear. 

For both tasks, lots of time needs to be invested in training at home.  For karate, practicing your base techniques in a mirror and against a bag/dummy is essential to hone your skills.  Likewise, working on your kata at various paces and repeating the sequences is mandatory for improving your moves. 

One of the biggest similarities to achieving these two feats is having the proper guide.  For most people, they are trying to accomplish something they have never done before.  Having someone to show you how to do it is essential!  Not only will they help you avoid mistakes, but also they can show you the optimal way (through years of experience themselves) on how to proceed. 

While you are at the base of the mountain, you cannot see all the terrain towards the top.  However, your guide who has been up to that level, has seen the terrain up towards the peak, and knows what it is like.  Their job is to come back down and help you navigate knowing what lies ahead.  As you get to higher and higher levels, you will see and understand details that you couldn’t possible see from the lowest level.  Let your guide help you as you ascend and you can avoid pitfalls that you didn’t even know were there. Listen to your guide’s advice and follow it, and you will help yourself find the best way to make progress.

Climbing up Mt. Everest is a very difficult challenge and can be deadly.  Although there is usually very less risk of death in obtaining your blackbelt, it is a very difficult and demanding task.  You need both physical and mental discipline, and a strong will to get to the top.  With the proper guidance, a positive attitude, and a huge determination to never stop trying, you can accomplish what most people think of as impossible.  Keep climbing!

P.S.  There is a big difference between a guide and a Sherpa.  The guide will show you how to do it and help you plan your way.  He will lead you but not do it for you. The Sherpa is there to haul your stuff, literally carrying your weight for you.  In martial arts you definitely need a guide to show you the way, but you need to do all the heavy lifting yourself, as there are no shortcuts to blackbelt.

-Coach David-

7th Annual Spring Tournament - 5 Tips for Success

Every year Kaizen Karate hosts 2 intramural tournaments.  Our Fall tournament geared towards intermediate & advanced level students with a focus on katas & sparring.  The Spring tournament is a much bigger event where all ages and belt levels are allowed to compete.  Students must compete in at least 10 tournaments by the time they reach black belt rank as this is a part of our curriculum.

The following are some tips for success at the tournament:

1. Show up early & stay late - it is important to arrive at least 15min before your ring time to allow time to go to the bathroom, stretch, and warm-up.  Ideally, you should arrive about 1hr before your division starts so you can get settled and mentally prepared for the competition.

2. Get a good night sleep & eat a healthy breakfast - getting plenty of sleep the two nights prior to the tournament is critical so your body is fully rested and ready to perform!  Eating a healthy breakfast is also a very important part as you need to fuel your body with the best foods possible so you can compete at a high level.

3. Hang around the black belts & ask questions - make sure to find the highest ranking black belts and ask them any questions you might have.  Look for students and instructors who are experienced and watch what they do, how they compete, and take plenty of notes in your karate journal.  

4. Compete in the divisions that make you nervous - avoiding competitions that make you nervous will not get you any closer to black belt.  For example, if you do not like the sparring completion then work with your instructor and develop a strategy on how to do well in the sparring division.  Your instructor will be able to train you and give you advice on how to do well.

5. Always look for ways to improve - after the event is over sit down and think about what you did well, what did not go as planned, and what areas you can improve in.  Most students want to win a trophy at a tournament and that is a great thing to do, however, not winning can be just as valuable if looked at in the right way.  Talk about your performance with your instructor after the event and ask them how to improve and you will be sure to get even better!

Here is a video from one of our past tournaments:

-Coach V-

I Do

When you want to get really good at something, you need to put in a lot of time practicing it.  It doesn’t matter what that thing is, time is the key ingredient.  Some experts tout the 10,000-hour rule.  It states that if you want to master something, you need to spend at least 10,000 hours practicing it.  That is a lot of time! 

Karate is no exception.  In order to become really good, you need to spend a lot of time learning and then practicing your skills.  Time is the magic ingredient that most people overlook.  Some students are naturally gifted or extremely athletic when they start learning karate.  Those students find a lot of success early, and can sometimes quickly move up in rank.  The problem is that they miss out on the ‘seasoning’ that occurs when you spend time at a level.  You can gain an awful lot by repetition at a given level.  Furthermore, as your mind experiences more and more, it helps you to adapt and grow in a way that shortcutting the process will not allow. 

All this time you need to put in involves a serious commitment to your art.  At some point, this requires you to stop dating karate and marry it.  This is to say that you need to go all in.  Spend the extra time and do the little things.  Don’t try and rush through the different stages, but instead embrace them and get out as much as you can.  You need to enjoy the journey and not focus on the destination.  That isn’t to say you can’t set high goals and go after them, but you will find it works best if you are enjoying the process as it occurs instead of being fixated only on the final result. 

So how do you go about making sure you put in enough time?  Prioritization!  You need to make sure your karate training and class time are amongst the top of your list as far as priorities.  If that is the case, you will be able to make sure you have time to attend class regularly, and you will have time to practice what you are taught.  If it isn’t a high priority, than you will find it very difficult to put in the kind of time necessary to obtain the highest levels of rank.  

Everyone wants to be a blackbelt, but very few are ready to put in the commitment needed to get there.  Don’t be one of those people.  Look karate squarely in the eyes and say, “I do”.  Your commitment will allow you the time to become a fantastic martial artist, and will be a relationship that will last a lifetime!

-Coach David-

Returning from Injury

All athletes have one thing in common – they get injured!  Injuries happen to practically everyone at some point in their athletic career, and knowing how to deal with them and come back from them is very important.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience in this area but I am happy to share it in the hope of saving someone else time and having to go through a long comeback.

The first thing to note is that as you age, your body is less resilient and takes a longer time to recover.  Your body also gets more brittle and less flexible so you have to take more time to care for it.  Recovery is important. 

The idea in recovering from an injury or illness it to take the slow and conservative route.  Hopefully you are dedicated enough to karate that you will be doing it for a very long time.  Spending additional time recovering and getting back up to speed is just a drop in the bucket in the scheme of your lifetime. 

Depending on the severity of the injury your recovering from, there could be setbacks on the way back.  Try not and let them get you down.  Slow, steady progress will win the day and you will be back to your usual self in short order. 

Some specific tips that might help during the process (once you are past the initial acute stage) are:

•  Apply heat to the injured area before working out and apply ice to that same area after finishing working out.  Heat will help loosen things up allowing for more freedom of movement and ice will help reduce inflammation afterwards allowing for additional recovery.

• Allow a long warm-up time.  Arrive early and never do any extreme motion without working up to it.  I always warm-up before the warm-up, but I allow extra time when I am recovering from a specific issue.

• Consider massage to the area.  Injuries can lead to scar tissue or knots building up inside you.  Massage can be a great way to reduce these and give you a wider range of motion.  Likewise, if you don’t already own a foam roller (you really should), get one!  This can be a great way to manually massage the area and help reduce the risk of re-injuring that area.

• Get plenty of sleep as that is when your body’s natural repair ability happens.  Getting an additional 30 or 60 minutes of sleep can make a huge difference.

• Drink plenty of fluids (especially water) to help flush the toxins from the body and keep yourself hydrated.

Think of returning from an injury like reeling in a big fish.  In fishing, you need to go slowly and methodically otherwise you risk the fish getting away.  You need to make some gains and then rest, and make some more gains, etc.  Don’t expect your body to comeback to normal all at once.  Give it some time to get back to its normal ways, and you will find yourself back and better than ever in no time!

 -Coach David-