AIK Kenpo Juniors: Sincerity

Kenpo Juniors Blog - Sincerity#1

One of the more interesting parts of the Bushido Code is how it includes both truth and sincerity on the list. For a lot of people, these words are synonyms. Those people aren’t always wrong, but in Bushido we draw a line between the two to help develop two different aspects of the warrior.

Truth we handle during another training cycle. Today we’ll talk about sincerity, which Lee Sprague defined as truth in action. Where truth is being honest with your words, sincerity is being honest with your actions.

In school, doing an assignment quickly at low quality might technically fulfill the requirements your teacher gave, but sincerly you know you could have done a better job. By showing less than you are capable of, you aren’t being honest in your actions.

At home, you might tell your parents that a friend’s parents will be at home when you want to spend the night or go to a party. If those parents will be active and supervising, that’s sincere. But if you know they’ll just be in a back room ignoring whatever you and your friends get up to, you’re being less than honest.

At the dojo, you might do 100 pushups. All those pushups with poor form isn’t sincerely exercising. It’s being dishonest by letting yourself be less than your best. Doing each will full, mindful execution is the sincere way of living in that moment.

With your friends, do you apologize sincerely when you hurt their feelings or make some other kind of mistake? Or do you just mumble “I’m sorry” without really thinking about it or meaning to make a change?

Sincerity is an incredibly powerful tool because it lets you know you did the right thing at the right time. Even if the results turn out to not be what you wanted, or didn’t make everybody happy, or proved you made a mistake...that’s okay. A focused effort based on doing your best after sincerely thinking about the situation is never the wrong thing. It’s the best you can do in the moment, which is all any of your teachers, instructors or parents ask of you. When you know in your heart you’ve done exactly that, a lot of the worry and distress that are part of life (especially teenage life) tend to fade. It gets replaced with confidence, because you know you’re on the right path no matter what others might say.

One problem with sincerity is that it’s one of the hardest values to get help with. The difference between giving 100 percent of your effort to something and giving 90 percent is often impossible to see from the outside, as is the difference between giving a truthful answer that fully answers a question and giving a truthful answer that’s meant to mislead. Worse, it’s possible to be dishonest with yourself about how sincere you’re being about a given situation.

It’s weird.

The best thing to do is to cultivate the habit of asking yourself twice about a decision. Sometimes the first answer you give yourself (Yeah, I did my best on that report) is the answer you want to be true. But when you ask yourself again, you get the answer that really is true. Sometimes you have to ask three or four times, especially if the less true answer lets you do or believe something you really want to do or believe -- but you’ll know when you arrive at what’s actually real.

Then it’s just a matter of acting on that reality, that truth, with sincerity. This isn’t as easy as we just made this sound, but it’s exactly that simple.

Parents’ Corner

Like we mentioned, sincerity is a challenge to teach and learn because it’s so internal. Dealing with truthfulness, you can look at an objective part of reality and double-check whether or not something your child says is true. With sincerity, you have to rely on your teen’s word. It’s the difference between checking to see if a 5-page book report is five pages long, and checking to see if the report is the very best possible report your child could have done on that particular book.

Honestly, this one stumps us a lot of the time, too. Our best advice is to use the socratic method: teach by asking questions. You can find out a lot about the effort, thought, and attention somebody gave to any decision by asking about how they arrived there. Ask “What was the most interesting thing you learned in that book?” for example, would help you guage how much thought your teen gave to the report.

This is something you already know from years of parenting, but it never hurts to see a skill applied elsewhere. As always, if we can be of help in any way at AIK in Tucson, just ask one of our teachers. We’ll always give you our sincere best effort.

Kenpo Juniors Blog - Sincerity#2

There’s a story from Zen that illustrates sincerity in action. As with most places where you will find monks, a Zen monestary is full of people who claim to be generous and selfless. This generosity and selflessness is often sincere, or at least the desire to be generous and selfless is sincere. But this story is about a monk who truly was sincere in that generosity and selflessness.

One evening, the Zen master Ryokan was sitting at the foot of a mountain in a tiny, spare hut. A thief snuck in only to discover the master had nothing to steal. Ryokan caught him there and said “You may have come a long way to visit here. You should not return emptyhanded. Please take my clothes with you, as a gift.”

The thief was confused, but he took Ryokan’s clothes and ran away into the night.

Naked, in the cold mountain air, Ryokan looked at the sky. “Poor fellow,” he said to himself, “I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”

This story illustrates a true sense of generosity and selflessness: not only giving all he had to somebody who didn’t deserve it, but wishing he could give more. More, it illustrates the challenge of living sincerely with what you say is important to you. A lot of students say they want a black belt, but choose to play video games instead of practicing. A lot of boyfriends or girlfriends say they “love” each other but act selfishly instead of with their partner’s best interests at heart.

And let’s not talk about politicians and sincerity any more than absolutely necessary.

During this month, we’re going to ask you to do a little experiment in sincerity by combining it with another Bushido value. Choose any value you’ve learned about in your training so far. At least one day each week this month, live your day being as good an example of that value as you can be. Try to focus every decision around that value, and to let it be a part of your every action.

If you choose courage, open the door bravely and be brave when finishing your math homework. If you choose compassion, eat your lunch compassionately and show kindness when changing your clothes. If you choose discernment, be discerning in your choice of YouTube videos to watch and wise with the words you choose when talking with people.

If this is your first cycle with AIK, choose to practice your martial arts with sincerity. Ask yourself each time if you are truly giving the training all the focus you can give, truly asking yourself if you’ve remembered it as well as you possibly can.

At the end of each day, think hard about how sincere you were with that value. How much of yourself did you give? How close to completely committed were you, as compared to Ryokan? While you’re at it, how sincerely are you thinking about how sincere you were?

Sometime during the end of the month, talk with a parent and with one of your instructors about what you learned with this practice. There’s no pass or fail or right or wrong. This is an exploration. What matters is what you learned or saw from the experience.

Parents’ Corner

The story of Ryokan has a deeper element for people who want to think and discuss it further. The object lesson on sincerity is obvious, but doesn’t the thief “have” the moon just as much as Ryokan does? Different scholars have different answers as to why a criminal might not be able to perceive the beauty of the moon with the same joy and appreciation as a master of meditation, but the particular answer isn’t as interesting as the questions. It might be worthwhile to ask your teen about it and see what they think. It could make for interesting dinner conversation. It could even help your child learn even more about sincerity.

Kenpo Juniors Blog - Sincerity #3

Enrichment Topic - Methods of Execution

You’ve probably noticed by now that in kenpo and other martial arts, learning what to do is only the first step in mastering your material. The second step on the road to true martial arts skill is to examine how you do it. There’s a huge difference between a front kick thrown with only physical precision and a precise front kick thrown with accuracy, passion and intent.

You will spend the rest of your life as a martial artist digging deep into different aspects of what this means. We’ll start, though, with the physical nature of any given move. When you throw an inward block, are you moving in a straight line? Or are you moving your arm in a slight arc? When you punch, are you emphasizing the outward motion or the inward? These methods of execution are how Master Ed Parker described first learning the how as well as the what of delivering a martial arts movement.

To describe the methods of execution for all possible motions in kenpo, Master Parker named 20 different methods. These included hammering, thrusting, whipping, lifting, looping, round-housing, hooking, clawing, poking, stiff-arming or stiff-legging, pecking, flicking, scooping, shoveling, slicing, scissoring, butting, biting, gouging, pinching, squeezing, ripping and tearing.

Many of these applied to only a handful of very specific moves, but seven of them are very common. They’re what Master Parker called the “7 Major Methods of Execution” and they included:

Thrusting -- delivering a move in a straight line

Hooking -- swooping upward or downward

Whipping -- moving losely, then tightening at the end

Round-Housing -- delivering a move in a curved line

Slicing -- moving shallowly through a target

Hammering -- striking as if you are a hammer hitting a nail

Clawing -- digging into the target, especially with fingers

Choosing a specific method of execution can mean the difference between two strikes. For example, a front kick uses the same basic set of motions: raise the knee, extend the leg, make impact, retract the leg, lower the knee. If you extend the leg and make impact using a thrusting motion, it’s a front thrust kick. If you extend the leg and make impact using a hooking motion, it’s a front snap kick.

It’s good to begin exploring methods of execution by working through your basics. Look at your blocks, hand strikes, kicks and movement basics and figure out which method of execution works best. See how they change if you alter the method of execution. Once you’ve played with that for a while, look at the more complex parts of your training like techniques and katas. Does altering a method of execution make a technique more effective? Would another method of execution make it less effective? Would it remain just as effective, but change how it was effective, or what it would most effectively protect you from?

One of the great things about kenpo is how deeply you can experiment with its parts to discover new things about the martial arts. Methods of execution is one of the ways you can experiment.

Parent’s Corner

We’re talking about methods of execution this cycle because it pairs well with Sincerity as a value. Both are less about what somebody does and more about why somebody does it. It’s a lens through which you can view any decision or action and consider the motivations behind it.

From a family safety standpoint, you can talk with your child about methods of execution and sincerity as a way to teach her how to read the behavior of other people. Whether it’s at a mall, on the street, in school, or at a party, the method of execution with which somebody moves, or talks, or interacts with people tells a lot about that person’s intentions. Learning to read that in body language and voice tone is a key part of situational awareness -- the first line of self defense. We recommend talking to your teen about this, and practicing in malls or the theater or in other places, using method of execution and sincerity as ways to view the world through a tactical lens.

As always, if we at American Institutes of Kenpo can be helpful with this just let us know.

Kenpo Juniors Blog - Sincerity#4 (Assignment)

Testing time is coming up soon. If this will be for your first belt promotion, talk with your instructors and fellow students about what to expect and how to shine on your testing day. If you’ve had a few tests already, it’s your chance to become something of a leader class by helping less experienced students prepare. And, as always, it’s time to perform your values assignment as part of demonstrating your mastery of the mental and ethical aspects of your Kenpo along with your physical and combative skills.

The value for this cycle is Sincerity -- Truth in Action. You will practice this value via the Power of Apology. Apologizing sincerely to somebody for something you’ve done wrong is extremely powerful. Sometimes it mends a relationship that was broken. Other times it allows two people to move forward on a project or task they couldn’t collaborate on before. Once in a while it doesn’t fix the relationship, but it does let you move on with a clean conscience.

But the apology has to be real. It has to be sincere. Which is why apology is such a good way to practice sincerity.

Often, when asked to apologize, the “apology” is via a half-hearted “sorry” or some kind of non-apology like “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry that happened.” This is not sincere. It’s not Truth in Action. It’s using words to manipulate people into feeling the way you want them to. A real apology, a sincere apology, has four steps:

State clearly what you did to wrong the person you are apologizing to

Explain in real terms how you think that person must have felt when you wronged him or her

Apologize specifically for your actions and decisions

Say how you will avoid making the same decisions in the future.

So, instead of saying “Sorry,” or “Sorry, but….” with no real eye contact, you are saying “I’m sorry I used the word ‘Retard’ as a joke yesterday. I forgot that your brother is mentally challenged and that must have felt like I was insulting somebody you loved. I will think more carefully about which words I use.”

Your assignment for this cycle is to give a real, sincere apology to three people in your life. You could apologize for something that happened years ago and try to fix something that’s been broken for a long time. You could apologize for something recent that’s still kind of painful to think about. You could even apologize for hurting somebody during the month of the assignment. What you choose matters less than how you go about it. Once you’ve completed your apologies, be ready to talk with your instructors about it. They’ll be eager to hear what you’ve done and what you learned from it.

Parent’s Corner

This assignment needs more guidance than many others for two reasons. First, help your teen choose challenging apologies. Sure, apologizing sincerely for an accidental foul in some after school basketball technically counts, but it won’t build the skills and character we intend like apologizing to an ex girlfriend for breaking up in an insentive way. Or apologizing to you for not keeping a promise about chores. Ultimately, the decision of who to apologize to and how should be up to your child, but gently guide him toward challenging apologies.

Second, it’s a sad truth of life that some people aren’t worth apologizing to. Some relationships just don’t do either person in the relationship any good. There’s plenty to apologize about in those relationships, but really apologizing just extends the life of something that should be left alone. As a teen, your child probably doesn’t have as many of those relationships as we do in our adult lives, but help steer her away from those apologies as best you can.

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