Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Monkey Trap

Ah yes, the good old monkey trap.
My parents used to tell me this story a lot when I was young.  The monkeys were too agile and clever to get caught by hand or with the typical traps hunters used.  So they devised something that would work every time - the monkey trap.

By putting a banana in a heavy glass vase, with the opening big enough so the monkey could reach in but not big enough for the monkey to pull its fist out.  The monkey grabs the banana...and is stuck.  The hunters walk up with a net...

If only the monkey could just let go of the banana, it could be free...

Sound familiar??

All of us are victims of the Monkey Trap from time to time.  Like the monkey, we become fixated on something, tangible or intangible, that we want.  We just won't let go - can't let go - and the thing we want ends up causing us harm.  We are too blind to see past our own wants and desires and accept the fact that some of the things we want (or think we want, anyway) just aren't good for us.  Some of the most common things we can't let go of were recently reminded online, and I share the list below:

1. Limiting Beliefs - anything you believe that is holding you back.
2. Dwelling on the Past - Life is to be lived IN THE NOW.
3. Worrying about the Future - Everything is going to be Fine. Trust me.
4. Negative Self-Talk - If you don't believe in yourself, who will?
5. The Need to Impress Others - Let them love you for who you already are.
6. Complaining - It's better to just get on with things.
7. The Need to always be Right - Accept that you are human too.
8. Resistance to Change - Learn to go with the Flow.
9. Blaming Others - It probably isn't their fault either.
10. The Need for other people's approval - The most important respect is Self-Respect.

I am guilty of holding on to all of these from time to time - some far more often than others.
Maybe you are, too.  By not letting go, we prevent ourselves from the happiness we say we really want.  An important step in personal growth is acknowledging this - and then working to improve on it.  Happiness is a journey, and we must keep moving to keep making progress.

What's YOUR banana?
How can you learn to let it go?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Fighter's Life

I was watching the 2015 movie "Creed" again recently and there's a part in the dialog that I keep thinking about.

Rocky: Why would you want to pick a fighter's life when you don't have to?
Adonis Creed: I been fighting my whole life.  I ain't got a choice.

Rocky goes on to tell him that it's always a choice.  However, I am not so sure I agree.

I've been involved in martial arts now for more than 35 years.  It's been my life's journey as a student, now a teacher, across a variety of martial arts styles.  At the right times in my life, the right teachers have appeared to guide me to the next stage of my development.  Even the times I thought I would stop training or focus my energies on something else - I just couldn't.  It's in my DNA.  I feel like I've been fighting my whole life.

The journey started with me wanted to protect myself from the frequent beatings I got at school.
I was small, with a disproportionately big mouth (which I still have).  I was an outcast, unpopular and poor at sports.  Picked last when I was picked at all.  I got beaten so much that the school would let me out 15 minutes early in the afternoon so I could get most of the way home before the other kids got out and chased me down.  It usually worked.

Martial arts gave me the confidence to stand up, even when I got knocked down.  It gave me the confidence to set and achieve my life's goals.  Martial arts ultimately brought me to Japan (where I still am and expect to remain).  It gave me a place to belong.  It taught me to have pride in myself and not to be ashamed of my past as a foster child.

Now, martial arts is a way to help my students have the confidence and drive to accomplish their own goals and achieve their own success.  It is about paving the way for the next generation of teachers who will go out and share what we do with their own students.  It's about changing the world - one black belt at a time.  It's about giving back, for all that martial arts has done for me.

I am going to be 50 years old this year.  I'm still fighting.  I think I always will be.  I just don't know any other way to be.  I'll be fighting against bullies.  I'll be fighting against myself.  I'll be fighting against my past and my demons.  I'll be fighting for recognition, for self-respect, for my pride.  I'll be fighting to make a difference.  If you are reading this, I expect you will be too.

What are you fighting for?
What are you fighting against?

Friday, April 08, 2016

The Buddy System

It's great to have a buddy.  Many of us fondly remember school outings where we were paired with someone and expected to take care of our buddy, just like our buddy took care of us.  This kept everyone from getting lost and (hopefully) helped us make a few new friends along the way.  PADI also uses the buddy system for divers, to ensure safety and help make scuba diving as enjoyable as it can be.

I am also a big advocate of the buddy program in martial arts.
It takes a lot of courage to walk through the door of a new dojo for the first time.  Even for those of us who have done it most of our lives, there is always just a little nervousness.

Buddies are different than mentors (I am a fan of mentoring as well). Mentoring implies partnering with someone senior to you, while buddy implies someone you already know who is at the same level as you are.

Bringing a buddy with you to check out a class is a great thing to do.

Moral Support at the very minimum, having a buddy with you can often be the spark that gets you to finally try a class, even if you have been wanting to do so for some time.  Your buddy gives you moral support so you don't have to feel as uneasy during the trial lesson, and they are there with you for the journey once you start.

Sense of Perspective some schools can be very focused on new student recruitment, and couple their trials with a heavy-handed sales pitch or a long-term signup commitment.  It is nice to have a buddy with you who knows you to make sure you make the right decision.  Martial arts classes have the power to help you transform your life, but you need to choose wisely.  A good buddy can offer you sensible advice.

You are Both At The Same Level at the beginning, it can be a bit intimidating, especially if you have no prior martial arts background.  Learning the basic movements, even tying the belt, can be frustrating.  Often times you feel like everyone is watching you...  With a buddy, you are both at the same stage of the training, and this can be very comforting.  Years later, you can reflect on how far you've come together - one of the most wonderful feelings of all.

Inherent Sense of Trust Martial arts involves trust, since we don't want to get hurt during the training.  Going with a buddy helps make this easier since you know each other and can depend on not going all out or having a "Rambo moment".  Over time, of course, you will develop this trust with your other brothers and sisters in the school, but at the beginning it helps to know you can work with someone who won't hurt you.

Deepening Friendship Martial arts training is not like going to play tennis at a tennis school or playing baseball in the park.  Because we practice fighting skills, the training is always a bit edgy and intimidating.  In FMA, our arts are based on the blade, so we frequently train with weapons and in close-quarters.  I have found that having a buddy deepens our friendship significantly -as though we have gone to boot camp or basic training together, prepared for war.  My brothers and sisters in martial arts are much closer to me than my friends from other social circles could ever be.  Bringing a buddy can help deepen your friendship to one that will last throughout your lifetimes.

Martial arts is a journey, and journeys are always best undertaken with a buddy.

"We start together we finish together"