I Can Be Courageous! I CAN develop my COURAGE muscle!

Next month’s theme: I CAN BE COURAGEOUS!

Training in the martial arts is all about overcoming obstacles. Whether defending oneself against an attack, or fighting an inner voice that keeps us from being the best we can be, we are overcoming obstacles.

Every time we want to make a change, whether in our behavior or in our mindset, it takes courage. It is always easier to continue on the path we’ve always been on, keeping the habits that we’ve become comfortable with.

This month we’re asking parents to spend time helping their children develop courage in different ways.

If you can become aware yourself when you allow fear or insecurity to cause you to hesitate, or not do something you really want to do, you will be better able to model courage for (and talk about it with) your kids. Even though we aren’t developing awareness for our challenges this month, we encourage you to do exactly that.

We want to be guided by love in how we live our lives. Many think the opposite of love is hate. In truth, the opposite of love is fear. If we can get a handle on our own fears, we can better help our children navigate and overcome their fears.

Going deeper

Adults, I’d like to encourage you to go deeper in eliminating fear having control over your life. Journaling is a great way to get to know who we are and what makes us tick. If we look at our negative emotions, there is often a fear underlying them. If we find a fear that is behind whatever negative emotion we’re trying to deal with, we can then tackle the fear. 

Many fears can be overcome just by looking at them, and seeing the lie behind the fear. For  instance, behind many fears is a lie that we’re not good enough, that we aren’t worthy, that we aren’t loved. So tackle the lie and know that you ARE good enough, you ARE worthy and you ARE loved! You may find your fear evaporate, and with it the negative emotion.

Obviously, this has limited application — but be brave and use it where is applies!

Having courage to overcome our fear enables us to try new things, grow, and thrive.  

The stronger our “courage” muscle becomes, the less impact fear will have over our lives. The best way to develop our “courage” muscle is to exercise it!  Just to clarify: we’re never going to eliminate fear; what we CAN do is develop our courage to be stronger than our fears and insecurities.  

Most importantly, celebrate when you or your child are brave this month!

Every small choice you make adds up to a positive or negative effect!

Every small choice you make adds up with all the other small choices you make and together they all have a big impact!

Remember learning about compound interest in school? We don’t see too much evidence of the compounding effect in our bank account, with interest rates so low. But many of us have been stunned to see how much we will be paying over time for that house we bought. 

Compounding over time means that small amounts, or small choices add up to have a big impact.

It can be a good impact, like from choosing to take the stairs whenever possible, and choosing the salad instead of the fries. Or it can be a bad impact, like having a soda with every meal, hitting the snooze button again, or not looking up from the phone to say hello to your friends and family!

This month’s theme is about building the habit of choosing the hard thing over the easiest, or the BEST option over a good one. Every small choice you make is building toward a habit. You want to make sure you’re heading to a GOOD habit!

“I can do hard things!” is a really important message for your kids to learn. And you can be their best example. 

Building good habits is hard. Building the habit of always choosing to do the best thing you can do, is hard. It’s just not natural. It’s natural to find an easy way out or to procrastinate. 

Talk with your kids about the choices you’re making. You really want the cheesecake for dessert, but that fruit salad is a really delicious healthy alternative! You need to get to the bank but it’s closing soon; do you get ready to leave right away or decide to wait for another day? Let them know that you are working on making the hard choices.

Challenging yourself everyday may seem like a waste of time and energy. But you are building habits that will really have a big impact. One minute of strengthening your core every day may seem totally worthless. 

But small things add up! And you’ll find it easier and easier to make the BEST choices in the future. And so will your kids!

The wonderful thing about putting in the effort towards developing a habit? It becomes a habit! At some point, you just don’t even have to think about it, but it becomes automatic to choose the best option in every moment. 

 

 

Adaptability, like every other characteristic, is not fixed!

Help! My child has an inflexible temperament!

We’ve been focusing on flexibility this month. It’s really a wonderful opportunity to focus on growing the trait in ourselves as well as in our kids!

Over the years we’ve talked a lot about how important it is to have a growth mindset. 

If any of you were with us last winter, we even played a video for the little ones to help them understand the concept (remember Mojo?)

Having a growth mindset is not just about learning and developing academic skills. It has to do with EVERYTHING! We may have been born with an aversion to change (who wasn’t?) We may naturally avoid conflict (again, who doesn’t?) We may find it hard to talk to people we haven’t met before (starting to see the pattern, or is it just me?)

We can grow in every facet of our life, personality, temperament….

As a bonus, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you know that transformation is an ongoing, lifelong process.  Another way of describing the growth mindset! (We just know who to thank for the positive changes!)

So, how can I help my child learn adaptability?

If you are not a Christ follower, please forgive this short wandering into “religious” territory. But if you ARE a Christ follower, it’s important to make sure you teach your children that their IDENTITY is in Christ. 

They are not what they do, how they perform, what people say about them, or ANYTHING else! God loves them more than they can even imagine. That knowledge becomes an unshakable foundation and gives them the freedom to grow in every area. 

How do we grow the most? Through failure. (Or sometimes learning from someone else’s failure.) But it we never fail, we really are not growing. We’re staying comfortable in what we know. 

When we know we are beloved by the God most high, and even better, when we know he wants us to grow and learn, we can learn to be comfortable in new circumstances, with new people, learning and trying new things.

Anything a bit more concrete?

Actually, the more adaptable you are, the more adaptable your children are likely to be. Try to see where you display discomfort with change. Remember the oxygen mask – it’s much easier to help the children if you’re breathing easy.

Each child is different, so the first area of adaptability for a parent is to discern the differences in each of your children, and treat them differently. If one is excited about a new thing and can’t wait to get started, great! 

But have patience and understanding for the one who needs more time to adapt. Allowing children to build self-confidence, and not pushing them into situations where you know they will fail, before they are ready can help ease them into a new mindset.

Self-confidence, but struggle and failure, too

Aware that it might sound contradictory, your goal is to encourage self-confidence, but once they have some, allowing them to struggle.

You know your own child and where to find the balance. (For you Christ followers, you always have access to the Holy Spirit to help guide you!)

We build self-confidence by struggling, and overcoming, and realizing we CAN do something we thought we couldn’t. Failure can lead us to find another way, look at things in a new way.

Spend time with others

We can become inflexible when we’re alone and used to doing what we want when we want. The more time kids spend with others, sharing possessions, learning how to get along and resolve conflicts (with adult guidance when necessary), the more flexible they become.

Baby steps?

If flexibility is something you really want to work on, you can artificially introduce changes to help your child learn to adapt to changes. 

If that’s you, you probably already know the areas your child is inflexible about. Are there some small changes that you can implement to give your child “practice” at overcoming resistance to change? Small changes, over time, will make it easier for your child to handle the big changes that will inevitably come.

To learn more about developing Flexible Thinking click here.

 

 

Intensity – Taking it to the next level

We’re ready to take it to the next level!

Everyone knows that karate is good at developing focus and concentration. And those are, indeed, important skills to have. 

Life can be so overwhelmingly distracting, that we can all use an extra ounce of focus to keep us on track.

For the next month we’re going to be increasing intensity. We’ll be working on a relatively simple set of moves, called san dan gi. Three moves: 3 moves on the receiving end, 3 moves on the attacking end. 

This relatively simple set of moves are the perfect opportunity to encourage focus, concentration, and increasing intensity.

So what is intensity?

 Intensity refers to the level of force, power, strength; but in this case, we’re also going to use it to refer to the level of focus, or concentration.

Yes, when we’re working out, when we’re doing power reps, we want to see a high level of power, or giving all you’ve got. Think: “I’m going to go as hard as I can”.

When we’re working on techniques, like san dan gi, we want to see total focus, and attention to every detail.

Karate is all about the details

Every movement, every stance is very precise in Okinawan Goju Ryu. It is in part how character is developed: paying attention to every detail, not being ok with good enough. 

But it goes deeper. The longer you train in karate, the more you learn about the parts of the body and how they can be affected by a strike or block. When you learn the precise moves, you are also learning about anatomy and vital points, and how to get the most out of every movement you make. 

Intensity vs Concentration

When it comes to Intensity, we want to see 100% effort given in class. Each day may bring a different level of what your 100% looks like, but be sure to bring it all.

Going through the motions will not benefit your body or your mind. Be all in.

Concentration is developed in karate quite naturally because it is so difficult. The moves are counter to what comes naturally, so even to walk or stand may take full concentration.

How can you help your children develop concentration?

The truth is, like most things, it’s through actually DOING things that you develop concentration.

We try to use some games and exercises in the karate school that develop focus. Simon Says turns into Sempai Says. Especially when the words don’t match what the senpai is doing (“senpai says touch your knees” is the instruction but the senpai touches his elbows), that helps to increase concentration.

Here’s an article with a number of ways to develop some pretty great skills in children.

Even listening to stories helps kids to develop focus.  We’ll use picture books to help the little ones develop focus and listening skills.

Love is patient, love is kind

We’re all at least somewhat familiar with the popular poem from the bible that is often read at weddings.

It’s interesting that the very first descriptive word of love is patience. Hmmmm, must be that it’s a pretty important aspect to love.

What do we need patience for?

I know no one actually has to ask that! 

We all come as a mixed bag of good stuff and not so good stuff. You have to take the not so good stuff along with the good stuff, or else you’ll be very lonely.

Yes, it’s true people can change. But the ONLY person YOU can change is YOU. So you need to get used to that not-so-good stuff in your friend. And maybe have a little compassion for what they have to put up with in you – to help motivate you to work on something you know irritates your friend.

Is patience a muscle?

In January we showed the kids a Class Dojo video which teaches a growth mindset. It’s really important to understand that we all can grow and changed and that who we are is not FIXED. 

In the video they had the brain doing exercises to get stronger in math.

But we can think of everything we want to improve as a “muscle” that can be exercised.

How to exercise patience?

The next time you’re late and stuck in traffic, think “this is a perfect opportunity to exercise my patience muscle.”  Ok, that may be like jumping straight to world champion muscle building.

How about the next time you’re waiting in the grocery line behind someone who’s having trouble searching for all the loose coins in her large tote bag?

Or when your child is all excited about something that he is desperately trying to tell you about, but having a hard time spitting the words out. Breathe, give him time to collect his thoughts (and exercise his own patience muscle) without jumping in and forming the words for him.

Every problem is an opportunity

That’s one of the mottoes that Sam Lariosa, our mentor in Michigan, lives by. Every problem is an opportunity.

In this case, every time you naturally would go to losing patience, is an opportunity to build your patience “muscle”. Take advantage of it, develop it, and it will impact everyone around you.

Kids learn from their primary teacher – YOU. And they learn more from what you DO and how you ACT, than what you say.

So as you’re strengthening your patience muscle, they’ll be watching and learning as well.

One more note

If you want to help your child develop patience, give them opportunities to exercise their patience muscles.

Intentionally providing opportunities to wait for things is an act of love to a child.  We need to learn patience and self-control at an early age. Start small, and they’ll learn.

For a short article on teaching kids patience, click here.

Take advantage of Warrior Week! It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss

What’s so special about Warrior Week?

Hopefully people enjoy coming out and gathering with greater numbers than they normally do, whether it’s to watch a grading, attend a shiai (tournament), or enjoying all the delicious food there always is at our potlucks!

But Warrior Week can be a unique opportunity to learn some life lessons.

Be prepared

Being invited to grade offers a lesson in planning and preparing: bringing in the required paperwork, completing required written tests and character sheets. As your children get older you can begin to shift the responsibility over to them.

(We apologize for the delay in some grading invitations going out this time.  Thank you weather! We’ll allow extra time to get your paperwork in.)

Shiai (for us, it means friendly tournament!)

The shiai are an important opportunity you don’t want to miss. Watch your son or daughter carefully to see if they are behaving up to your expectations and if any emotions are coming up during the tournament. How do they handle winning? How do they handle losing? Did something seem unfair to them? The drive home will be a wonderful opportunity to address all of these things. Many critical life lessons or skills have only rare opportunities to develop or address. The shiai during Warrior Week might be one such time.

If you are an adult karate-ka — this is an opportunity for YOU, too! Notice what comes up, what feelings arise. Maybe you’ve never been to a shiai and you’re nervous about going. Why? What’s that about? Push yourself! Broaden your experience! Maybe the opposite is true. You can’t wait to go and kick butt! Really? Examine that!

Let’s eat together!

We want to encourage everyone to come to the potluck on Saturday. It’s always a great time to socialize, have the kids “on stage” (developing courage!), as well as learn new things about karate, our specific style, or some other topic we feel is important to share with you.

All students are asked to wear their gi to the potluck (pants and a t-shirt during lunch, adding the gi top and belt after eating), as we will have the classes do demonstrations after we eat.

Looking forward to a great week next week!

 

 

 

Karate makes us strong inside and out

We spent the last month focusing on strength during our mat chats. Karate makes us strong inside and out.

As school got under way we encouraged all of our students to

START STRONG!

We let them know that it is up to THEM to make this school year the BEST YEAR EVER!

And the easiest way to start strong? With a good attitude!

They can make a good impression right from the beginning! (Just SMILING is HUGE!) And it is up to THEM to be READY to learn and to do their BEST.

We told them: The world and everything in it is changing so fast that it’s really important to be a good LEARNER! You will be learning throughout your whole life.

Our dojo kun ends with: “I’m on a quest to be my best!” That means giving 100% at school.

The best way to do that is to get excited about school and make the DECISION to start strong.

When you go in with a positive attitude, the odds are very high that not only will you end up doing well but you’ll also enjoy it!

Everything we do in karate makes us stronger. But what’s most important is developing

strength on the inside.

It also matters what you USE your STRENGTH for.

Just like you don’t want to use your physical, outer strength to break a kitchen chair even if you could — you also don’t want to use your inner strength for the WRONG reasons.

We have a “knower” inside that lets us know when we’re doing something wrong.

It’s usually a whole lot easier to just ignore that voice.

Sometimes that “knower” nudges us and points us to do something that we don’t want to do.

It’s definitely a whole lot easier to just ignore that nudge.

We need to use our inner strength to change course — to stop doing what we know is wrong. Or to DO something that we know we OUGHT to do but just don’t feel like it.

THAT’S what developing inner strength is all about — being able to follow how our inner “knower” directs us, instead of just ignoring it.

Anyone can exercise and develop outer strength – that’s fairly easy to do.

But inner strength is a lot harder and takes focused effort to develop.

We talked about listening to our inner voice to help us do the right thing.

There are several ways to help us

hear that inner voice.

Here are two ways:

One way is to just SLOW down and be QUIET. Our culture can reward staying busy. It can be hard to just stop and listen. It’s not just being quiet (we can be quiet when we are distracted by something around us or focused on a game). But we want to be quiet and LISTEN to what’s going on inside of us. Taking a deep breath can help us stop and do just that.

Sometimes we just need to stop and listen to what someone is telling us. In our busy-ness we can block out other people, like mom or dad, or a teacher, who could really help us.

The second way to help us hear our inner voice, is to know WHO we are.

By that I mean, what kind of person you are – what your values are – what’s important to you.

Who are the most important people in your life? What’s most important to you? Those people and those things, help to define us, help to shape who we are.

Your mom and dad are really important: they are playing a large role in shaping who you are. When you are having a hard time knowing what is the right thing to do in a situation, knowing that can help. You can ask yourself “what would mom or dad think is the right thing to do?”

When we know who we are, and who is shaping us, we can answer the question “what’s the right thing to do?” without asking anyone. We just need to be still, and listen to our inner voice.

 

Another word for

character 

is inner strength.

When you’re physically weak, it might mean you can’t do the things you want to do.

When we talk about character we’re talking about the inside. To be strong in your character means you’ve adopted good positive character traits.

But saying you think honesty and kindness, for example, are good character traits isn’t enough.

You need to be strong to be able to live up to what you know is right.

Our character is judged by what we do when no one is looking. With no fear of getting caught, how do we behave?

That’s where we have to develop strength.

It takes strength to be honest even when no one would ever know if we lied.

It takes strength to be kind even when we don’t feel like it and no one that matters to us is around to see.

Training in karate helps us be strong – inside AND out.

Karate is Continuously Building Courage

I just found this post in drafts!! Ooops….that makes it even later than it was back in mid-September when I wrote this!

9/16/18: I’ve gotten behind on posting our mat chats to the blog. We finished up COURAGE a while ago, but really, it never ends!

For some children just walking in the door takes courage, while others need to be partnered with someone twice their size to feel nervous. 

We have to feel afraid if we are to develop courage. Contrary to some children’s beliefs, courage is not the absense of fear, it is rather the ability to push on and do the right thing regardless of fear.

Warriors of Grace Karate provides a safe environment in which children (and adults) can be introduced to fear.

No, we don’t intentionally cause fear on the karate floor. Fortunately, we don’t have to. We humans are pretty good at coming up with fears and anxieties all on our own. 

Every new experience comes with the potential for feelings of nervousness. When on a self-defense journey, the new experiences come frequently. 

What we don’t do, is allow fear or nerves or anxiety to stop a student from learning and growing. In effect, we make them push through. We help them to develop courage.

Image result for images for courage

How did we talk with the kids about courage?

Here was the first mat chat:

Let’s start with what courage IS — it is doing the right thing

Regardless if you are afraid to do the right thing

Regardless if you don’t feel like doing the right thing

Regardless of whether you WANT to do the right thing.

We might think courage has to do with not being afraid

But it’s not — it’s doing the right thing ANYWAY

Whether you’re afraid or lazy or just plain don’t feel like it!

You might think it takes courage to do something dangerous (something that might be stupid!)

But we don’t care at all about developing the ability to go against everything inside of you that is telling you NO —  that’s not courage, that’s just letting our enemy getting us to do something we know isn’t right.

Doing the RIGHT THING — THAT takes courage! It’s not going to come naturally or easily, it’s something that has to be worked on  – with effort. That’s the kind of courage we’re going to be talking about for the next month.

 

Our Words Are Very Powerful

We have been focusing on RESPECT for the last month. While respect covers many things, we have honed in on the importance of the words we use!

What is respect?

We started the month out by asking the kids  to define respect. You might want to ask them and see if anything “stuck”!

We asked “What does it mean to respect someone?” (We steered them to “it means you think something good about them and that they are important to you.”)

We asked “Should we respect everyone?” (Hopefully that gets a resounding YES!)

And finally we asked “How do we show respect?”

If you have this conversation and your mind goes blank, think: using please and thank you; not doing or saying anything to hurt them; following directions right away; doing what is asked with a  good attitude :-)! These are all ways we show respect.

What’s the most important way we respect the karate school?

Ok, trick question. I bet you answered “by taking care of it!” And you’d be right. Which goes to show it can be tricky to ask a question with an answer in mind!

What’s the first thing we do when we enter the dojo?

Now you have it! Yes, we bow in. For Okinawans, that is how they show respect. 

So we talked with the kids about how habits can help us keep a positive mindset – in this case, every time we bow in, we remember how important our school and everyone in it is. We are reminded to be ready to learn and try our best.

We also started them on the habit of thanking their parents (or whoever brought them) for taking them to karate class. We didn’t focus it on enough to create a habit — maybe you can remind them!

How do we respect our bodies?

One week we focused on taking care of ourselves AND others by keeping our bodies clean! Yup, this time of year we always seem to need a reminder that our hot stinky bodies need to be washed regularly!

Our words are very powerful!

We ended up in the same place we started: in order to show respect to people, we need to make sure we don’t harm them with anything we do or SAY.

It’s important for us to recognize how powerful our words are. They can lift and encourage, or tear down and destroy. We’ve all been on the receiving end of words that have stayed with us a very long time. 

Words are funny in that they can’t be taken back. Even after apologizing, you can’t unhear the words. 

They are also funny in that words have different impacts on us. Negative words are very heavy, sticky and take many more positive words to begin to undo damage.

That’s why we need to be so careful about what we say.

QUICK to listen, ssllooww to speak!

Have you ever been “listening” to someone while you’re thinking about what you’re going to tell them? You’re so focused on what you’re going to say next that you really don’t hear a word the other person is saying?

That’s how we get into trouble and say things we wish we hadn’t! 

That’s not respecting ourselves and it’s not respecting others. We are missing out on what the other is saying — it could be really important! — and we’re not giving the other person the benefit of listening to what they have to say,

But when we really LISTEN to others, and really try to understand what they’re telling us, not just waiting for a pause so we can say what we’re thinking about while they’re talking — then we’re REALLY respecting ourselves and others.

Try this week so be QUICK to LISTEN and sssllllooowww to speak. See if there isn’t a change in your interactions with others.

Especially for Little Ninjas and Golden Dragons:

It’s really hard to talk about respect with the little ones. It’s easier to require them to ACT respectfully, and they understand that their are rules and they’re learning to follow them.

Respect is easier “caught” than “taught” so that’s why we have all the structure and codes of behavior for karate class. 

We did share the story of The Mouse and the Lion.  When the mouse showed the great lion a huge amount of respect, it softened the lion and the mouse was let go. 

Indeed, the recipient of respect again had the opportunity to respect the lion by chewing through a net that had trapped the lion! 

Respect and gratitude are cornerstones to a happy life!

 

April mat chats all on making honesty a part of your story

Make it YOUR story

Honesty isn’t just a trait that we choose to put on once in a while. Rather, it’s a way of being that we choose to make part of our story.

Using a story

In April we focused on story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf with our youngest students. We readily see that being honest or not follows us around and affects our relationships. The only way we keep the trust of those around us is if we are honest in ALL things. 

Extracting the answers

With the older students during the month of April, we tried to pull ideas from them. Starting with what honesty means, through qualities of an honest person, to what they might choose to do in specific situations. We tried to get them to really interract with the idea of honesty and what it means to them. 

Sometimes we can be numb to ideas that we hear frequently. Hopefully the older kids were sparked into considering ideas longer than just during the mat chat!

Writing your own story

When we spend time thinking about tough questions, we are writing our story.  It can be so easy to just float along, going through the motions of all of the daily tasks we perform.  But that doesn’t give us much control over what happens in our story.

If you think of the storyline of your life as a road, you want to make sure the road you’re on is going where you want it to go. A road goes somewhere; takes you somewhere if you follow it. When you turn off the road, you’re not going to get to where you were going. 

It’s important to understand that you’re always writing your story, whether you’re aware of it or not. Our job is to try to get our students to be more aware of what story they are writing. 

Yes, but karate?

You might be thinking “how does karate help?”.  When you focus really hard on learning which hand goes where and when it turns and switches with the other hand, you are writing a story that includes a perfectly performed move with the bo. When you don’t focus and just stand and move however you want, you don’t end up with a story at all. Or you end up with a bad story that’s hard to follow.

The struggle is ok

The story doesn’t have to be completed right away! The plot twists make it more interesting and in the end more satisfying! The important thing is to keep working towards the original story.

What does this have to do with honesty?!?

Whether you’re learning a new kata, or developing a lifestyle, it’s the constant dedication to the story, or the road, that’s important. Just because you tell the truth once does not make you an honest person. The reverse is true: just because you lie once does not make you a dishonest person. 

In writing your story you want the thread to be consistent. (Oh no – another metaphor! No, I won’t pull that one!)

The final word

Encourage your child to consider how he incorporates honesty in the story he’s writing. Encourage your older child to journal. There’s no better way to see the progress in our story than by writing it down!