AIK Coach's Corner: Bravery

Coach’s Corner Blog - Bravery #1

For this month’s Coach’s Corner, we want to look at some words you’re already familiar with because you say them before and after each class you take at American Institutes of Kenpo in Tucson. Our Student Creed and Affirmations are as much a part of your training as the kicks, punches and kata you practice. Understanding why that’s so starts with understanding the words we say in unison.

Let’s start with the Creed:

AIK Creed

I intend to develop myself in a positive manner and to avoid anything that would reduce my mental growth or my physical health.

I intend to develop my self-discipline to bring out the best in myself and others.

I intend to use what I learn in class constructively and defensively, to help myself and my fellow man and never to be abusive or offensive.

The first line speaks to your intent as a student of the martial arts. After all, why would you sign up for all the work and pain of training if it weren’t to develop yourself positively? But we continue the statement by pledging to work not only on the fun and easy part of personal development (learning cool new skills), but by doing the hardest work as well: eliminating bad habits. Learning martial arts while maintaining self-destructive habits is like training for a marathon while eating lots of fast food -- you’ll make some progress, but not nearly as much or as quickly as if you approach the problem from both directions. Serious students of the martial arts do both.

The second line speaks to the core trait of all skilled martial artists: discipline. A true martial artist and warrior develops self-discipline for two reasons. The first you already understand. Without discipline, you won’t practice enough, work out hard enough or look your weaknesses in the eye. Your progress will be slow, if it happens at all.

But that’s selfish.

Warriors understand that they are role models for those around them. People admire and respect those who have self discipline, and some will seek to follow your example. Even if they never step on the mats with us, they will develop their own discipline to improve their own lives and relationships. This will happen even with people you barely speak with, and in ways you will never witness. That’s why discipline is so important.

The third line is about the Cobra Kai. You remember them: the bad guys from the original Karate Kid movie. Martial arts training gives you power. Some of that power is physical and potentially violent, but there’s also power that comes from being more focused and disciplined than the others around them. It can be tempting to abuse that power.

We must never give in to that temptation. Not ever. So we remind ourselves and each other every time we train, to help all of us -- even your teachers -- to remember to never become the Cobra Kai.

Our Affirmations serve a similar purpose, but they’re as much about energy and celebration as they are about internalizing important concepts. That’s why we separate them with claps: it elicits an empowered, energetic state of mind that we grow to associate with good training and with this closing ritual. The affirmations for AIK students are:

We are motivated. We are dedicated. We are on a quest to be our best!

Besides rhyming, which is cool, this helps us remember the qualities that drive success in the martial arts. When you look at Holly Holm, or Bruce Lee, or Jackie Chan you see the fluid motions and winning mindset, but those are the result. Motivation, dedication and an intense focus on the goal are what made those things happen. You can access those tools both on the mat and in regular life.

Quitters never win, winners never quit!

You’ve heard this often in one context or another, and it’s true -- to a certain extent. Quitting when things get hard is the main cause of mediocrity in humanity. As a martial arts student, you strive to be better than that every day. True winners in life do not quit. But “quitting” is more complex than that.

Tapping out during practice, or to avoid injury in competition is not quitting. Neither is sitting out of practice while injured until you’ve recovered fully. Those are examples of accepting a temporary setback so you can continue on your path toward your goal. Another example of not quitting is realizing that an activity or goal doesn’t serve you, then reassessing your direction to choose goals more congruent with your needs. This may look and feel like quitting, but it’s something winners do all the time.

As much as we hate to think about it, even quitting martial arts lessons doesn’t make you a loser. As long as you didn’t quit because it was hard or inconvenient, and instead quit because your training no longer served you -- and as long as you took the lessons of martial arts with you into whatever goals you set next -- you’re still a winner in our book. That said…

I will be an AIK black belt!

One truth of martial arts training: every day you’re either one step closer to black belt, or one step closer to quitting. Your teachers and their teachers are here to tell you from experience that being a black belt is pretty darn cool. We invite you, we challenge you, we double dog dare you to join us in that experience. So we remind you of that goal at the close of every class.

Coach’s Corner Blog - Bravery #2

American Institutes of Kenpo are the most recent (but certainly not the last) organization in a long string of martial arts training centers running back through New Mexico, California, Hawaii, Japan and China. In that history, the knowledge, wisdom and experience of countless instructors has informed the curriculum you learn in class.

One of those instructors is the nonpareil Bob White. He was kind enough to share some of his hard-earned knowledge with us today. The interview, and the workshop it was a part of, is long enough that you’ll see parts of it in Coach’s Corners again and again as you train and read. Today, we share our conversation about the Three Fundamental Ways to Fight.

AIK: There are Three Fundamental Ways to Fight?

Bob White: Sort of. There’s an infinite number of ways to fight, just like there’s an infinite number of digits between one and two…but it helps to come up with a fight plan if you consider those varieties parts of (or combinations of) three general categories.

AIK: Okay. That makes sense. What are the three categories?

Bob White: Defense, Counterfighting, and Entry.

AIK: Tell us about Defense.

Bob White: If you fight Defensively, your number one priority is to not get hit. Your options are to Evade attacks by not being there when the attack comes, to Block by meeting their incoming force with your defensive force, to Parry my meeting their force and riding it into a new position or to Eliminate Targets through zone defense.

Where martial arts training pays off most in Defensive fighting is helping you develop a means of educated anticipation.

AIK: Educated anticipation?

Bob White: It’s impossible to defend against something you don’t see coming, and very hard to defend against something you only see coming when the attack is actually thrown. Being a student of martial arts makes you a student of fighting. It lets you read body language and other small clues to anticipate intelligently what an attacker is about to do. When you can read an opponent’s intent, and not just his movement, you have extra time to fight Defensively.

AIK: Okay. Kind of like how if you want to win a race, moving faster is good but starting sooner is better?

Bob White: Yes. Exactly.

AIK: Great. How about Counter Fighting?

Bob White: People are usually the most vulnerable to attack when they, themselves are in the middle of attacking. They’re thinking about offense, not defense, and an effective attack means extending your body in ways that leave you open.

AIK: Like how Aikido and Judo both have throws that rely on an attack putting the attacker off balance?

Bob White: Yes. Just so. All of our Kenpo self-defense techniques are based on counter-fighting. The opponents makes a move, and our bodies are trained to respond with a chain of attacks that take advantage of the openings that creates.

AIK: Okay. And Entry fighting?

Bob White: Entry fighting is aggressive, focusing on offense. You close the gap and hit your opponent without getting hit yourself. Closing the gap is the trickiest part of this type of fighting, which is one reason we drill entries with our freestyle sparring techniques. It’s riskier than the other Ways of Fighting, but done successfully it can end a fight before it really starts.

AIK: Is one Fundamental Way to Fight better than any other?

Bob White: Yes and no. 

AIK: Yes and no?

Bob White: Fundamentally in an objective sense, no style of fighting is better than another. However, every fighter will discover that he or she is more comfortable and more capable with one kind of fighting than with the other ways. 

AIK: So, Defensive fighting is no better than Entry fighting, but you might be better at Defense than you are at Entry, and for me it might be vise-versa?

Bob White: Exactly. Also, it’s important to remember that the best way to fight is to be able to switch effortlessly, swiftly and effectively from one Way of Fighting to another. Different fights call for different reactions.

Also, it’s smartest to begin your training focusing on Defense and then move to Counter-Fighting and finally to Entry. Defensive fighting is safer than Counter-Fighting, which is safer than Entry fighting. So beginners should stick with the safest, regardless of what kind of fighting you ultimately end up preferring.

AIK: That makes sense. Thank you Sir.

Bob White: You’re welcome.

AIK:Should you want to contact Mr. Bob White for more information his webiste

Coach’s Corner Blog - Bravery #3

The Four Laws of Learning

In part one of our interview with Bob White, he shared with us the three fundamental ways of fighting, and how to decide which is better for any given situation. Mr. White was kind enough to give us a lot of information, so here’s part two of our talk, in which he talks about the Eight Laws of learning.

AIK: I’d always heard there were Four Laws of Learning.

Bob White: That’s for normal folks. Martial artists need eight.

AIK: Okay.

Bob White: The first one is Explanation.

AIK: Explanation?

Bob White: Yep. It’s the stage where somebody has explained a concept verbally, or in written form. For example, I might explain Delayed Sword by telling you what it’s a defense against and naming the individual strikes and blocks involved. Your written kenpo technique manuals include an explanation of techniques and kata.

AIK: Okay. And next comes Demonstration, if I remember right?

Bob White: Yes, indeed. Demonstration is when somebody shows you the concept in action. On the deck, this would be when an instructor performs the technique in the air or on an uke. Distance learning would show you a video.

AIK: On the deck, this stage often happens at the same time as Explanation. The instructor talks through the technique while he’s demonstrating it.

Bob White: That’s true. But that’s also one of the reasons he has to demonstrate it multiple times. Until a student understands how material is explained, he only gets a little out of seeing it demonstrated. It’s okay to do both at once, but don’t think you’re multitasking. Students go through each stage one at a time.

AIK: That’s a good insight.

Bob White: Thank you.

AIK: But hearing something explained and seeing it demonstrated aren’t the only things necessary for somebody to learn…

Bob White: Correct. Next comes Imitation.

AIK: Imitation? As in practicing?

Bob White: Yes. The student takes what he’s learned from Explanation and Demonstration and applies it in practice, Imitating what the teacher has shown. This is the practice section of working technique and kata in class. You might also think of math class in school. The teacher explains the concept, then demonstrates it in action. Later, he asks students to use the concept on worksheets or on the chalkboard.

AIK: I would think that there’s a bit of a loop here. While they’re imitating, the teacher might have to re-explain or re-demonstrate specific points to help them improve.

Bob White: Very good! Very little learning is in a straight line. That’s one of the frustrating things about becoming excellent at anything. But once a student is able to imitate well, it’s time to move on to the next stage of learning: Repetition.

AIK: Doesn’t Tony Robbins say “Repetition is the mother of skill?”

Bob White: Yes, he does. Zig Ziglar said “Repetition is the mother of learning and the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”

AIK: Nice.

Bob White: I think so. Repetition doesn’t mean the rote repetition of movement or thought. It means focused practice with the intention of improving your skill. You must repeat the technique of kata, the application of math, the skill of a musical instrument, consistently and with great attention. Otherwise you’re just wasting your own time.

AIK: Okay. That’s the first four stages of learning: Explanation, Demonstration, Imitation, and Repetition. I’ve seen these in a lot of places. What’s the fifth.

Bob White: Repetition.

AIK: Wasn’t that the fourth?

Bob White: Yup.

AIK: And it’s also the fifth?

Bob White: Yup.

AIK: Because it’s that important?

Bob White: Yup.

AIK: What’s the sixth?

Bob White: Repetition.

AIK: And the seventh?

Bob White: I’ll give you a hint. It rhymes with “Repetition.”

AIK: Is the eighth Repetition, as well?

Bob White: Yes, indeed.

AIK: So, the Eight Laws for Learning a Martial Art are:









Bob White: Exactly so.

AIK: I guess practice really does make perfect.

Bob White: No. Perfect practice makes perfect. Poor practice builds bad habits.

AIK: That’s a very good point. Thank you again, Mr. White.

Bob White: My pleasure.

Coach’s Corner Blog - Bravery #4

Coach Corner: Bob White and A Purpose-Driven Journey to Success

Back for a third Coach’s Corner is nonpareil Kenpo stylist and life lesson learner Bob White. Mr. White has spent his adult life making his today self better than his self of yesterday, and teaching others how to do the same with their own paths.

One of my favorite things about martial arts training is that most of what you learn isn’t limited to being helpful for practicing martial arts. Whether you’re in kenpo lessons here in Tucson for a a season, a few years, or a lifetime, what Mr. White has to say about success will help you wherever you apply it.

AIK: Thanks again, Mr. White, for joining us. We’re thrilled to talk with you again.

Bob White: Thank you for having me.

AIK: We’ve talked a lot about martial arts-specific training skills, but you mentioned something in a seminar about a Purpose-Driven Journey to Success. I’d love it if you gave our readers the quick version of what that’s all about.

Bob White: I’d be happy to. That talk provides a basic formula for success. I apply it to martial arts, and when I speak I attach its pieces and parts to martial arts training…but really you can apply it just as easily to learning the violin or having a happy marriage. Basic principles are basic principles, and you can apply them everywhere.

AIK: That makes really good sense, sir. What is the top-level basic principle for your Journey to Success?

Bob White: There are two: a definition, and a starting point. Defined, my formula for success is Basics, plus Conditioning, plus Unity. Expressed as an actual formula, it would look like this:

Success = Basics + Conditioing + Unity

AIK: Okay. Just like any other formula, like how you reminded us earlier that Force = Mass times acceleration.

Bob White: Yes, but let’s touch on that definition again in a moment. Before we start digging into that and what it means, we need to arrive at a common starting point.

AIK: What’s that?

Bob White: For your starting point, you need to define what Success means to you. The definition I gave consists of the components and tools that will help you achieve success. But you can’t drive someplace without knowing where you’re going. Before you begin your success journey, you need to define what “success” looks like.

AIK: So a new student might define success in Kenpo Training as “Earn my black belt?”

Bob White: Yes. Though “Develop the skills and attributes necessary to pass my black belt test” might be better. It’s more specific, and specificity makes for more easily defined and attained goals.

AIK: Fair enough. And once you’ve defined that, you can apply the three components of the formula toward reaching that goal?

Bob White: Exactly.

AIK: So, taking that goal we just set, how does Basics come into it?

Bob White: Basics consists of consistent improvement in the building blocks of those skills which contribute to your goal. Seeking a black belt, you see to the basics by becoming a faster, quicker, stronger and more knowledgeable fighter. If you goal was to learn to draw, you would see to the basics by developing your physical drawing skills, knowledge of technique and mastery of different media.

AIK: I suspect you’re about to mention “practice.”

Bob White: Yes. Practice is one of the ways you develop your basics. So is attending class. So is asking questions of your teacher, other experienced students and your training partners. We live in a golden era for developing basics, because you can also ask YouTube and other corners of the Internet. As long as you’re careful about who to believe, there’s a limitless amount of information available at any time of day.

AIK: So we develop our Basics by learning about them and continuously striving to improve in how well we understand them. How about Conditioning?

Bob White: Conditioning is making yourself mentally, physically and emotionally capable of sustaining the kind of success you want to achieve. Achieving success takes hard work over the long haul, and you need endurance if you want to have it.

AIK: And conditioning means putting yourself in situations that fatigue you today, so it takes more to fatigue you tomorrow?

Bob White: That, certainly. Also, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that lifestyle matters a lot. They say you can’t soar like an eagle during the day if you hoot with the owls all night.”

AIK: Well, maybe when we were 19.

Bob White: Ha! Maybe, but even then we were better off when we took care of our bodies, minds and spirits. And once you hit that big three-oh, your diet, sleep patterns and exercise make a huge difference in how much it takes to fatigue us.

AIK: So a healthy lifestyle plus actively pushing your limits creates the conditioning you need to succeed?

Bob White: Just right. Now we come to Unity, which may be the hardest component to create.

AIK: What’s unity?

Bob White: Unity means creating a peer group that’s unified in their desire to improve and succeed. You know the story about the bucket full of crabs?

AIK: Is that the one about the bucket full of crabs in a market, where if one tried to climb out, the others would pull it back into the water?

Bob White: That’s the one. A lot of our friends and family are like those crabs. Unity is about surrounding yourself with people who will help you grow. It’s hard because sometimes it means spending less time with people we feel we owe something to. I’m not saying you should never spend time with those people – especially if they’re family. I am saying you should spend less time with them, and more time with the people who will help you grow.

AIK: So, like-minded people who want to go in the same direction as you?

Bob White: Or people you disagree with vehemently, but want to pursue the same kinds of success. Argument and competition can be great motivators. The key is to keep yourself in a group that will support your success and help you celebrate it.

AIK: Okay. So Basics, Conditioning and Unity applied over time can equal Success.

Bob White: Yes. There’s more to it. I teach a whole class on it, but that’s the top level.

AIK: Thanks so much, Sir. As always it’s great to have you.

Bob White: Great to be here.

Should you want to contact Mr. Bob White for more information his webiste

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