AIK Kenpo Seniors: Whatever It Takes

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Whatever It Takes #1

As an adult training in the martial arts, you often find yourself in an odd position. You train, and it’s important to you, but the demands of life like work and family compete for your time and energy. Not everybody is lucky enough to teach martial arts as their full-time job, or to get into training as a kid when that’s all they have to focus on.

Life is balance, and your instructors and the martial arts community at American Institutes of Kenpo in Tucson understand that. We know that you’re not going to march into battle with a bunch of ninja and samurai. You’re probably not even going to use your training in a brawl or mugging. Modern life just isn’t like that.

As your martial arts instructors, it’s our job to give you tools through your training that empower and improve your life off the deck. It might happen (we hope not) that physical, combative self defense is one of those tools. More often, though, it will be tools like the theme for this month:

Whatever it Takes!

Whatever it Takes means pretty much just what it sounds like. If something is important to you, you make it happen. Ignore every excuse, obstacle, temptation or other thing that stands between it and you. Apply the tenacity and personal discipline you built here, combine it with the personality and priorities you came to us with, and conquer everything between you and your goal.

Winston Churchill said it well when he said “Never give up. Never give up. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever.” Forrest E. Morgan, author of Living the Martial Way said it even better when he advised giving the things you care about most a desperate effort – the kind of effort you would give to fighting for your life in war or against a criminal.

Doing Whatever it Takes successfully means developing two traits, both of which are part of your martial arts training with us in Tucson:

1. Focus – you must focus your attention on the things that matter most. If you try to do Whatever it Takes with absolutely everything in your life, you’ll burn out. Nobody has that much energy, time or attention. Spreading yourself too thin not only prevents you from doing Whatever it Takes, but it creates a habit and expectation of failure.

2. Determination – having identified the handful of things that deserve your full and undivided attention, you must go after them with absolute determination. Most obstacles between us and our goals are self-imposed: our doubts, fears and distractions getting in the way of our own successes. Applying the concept of Whatever it Takes to your most important needs and dreams helps you see them for what they really are, and thus defeat them and accomplish your goals.

Warning! – The Lie of Being Reasonable

As adults, we learn to be reasonable. Remember when you were six or seven years old, and you felt fine throwing a fit because you didn’t get what you wanted even if there was a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why? You didn’t care if it was nine on a school night, you wanted to watch The A Team and eat ice cream.

Of course, throwing a literal tantrum isn’t acceptable for adults – but that unreasonable devotion to your goals is a powerful tool.

We like to tell ourselves that there’s a difference between an excuse and a valid reason (typically the difference is that other people make excuses but we have good reasons). There’s some truth to that point of view, but guess what? Either way, something that should have gotten done got done.

Say you promised to help a friend at 7 in the morning. If you stayed up late watching Netflix and slept until 8, you might make a lame excuse. Or maybe you left on time but traffic kept you stuck until 7:30.

There’s a difference in the two reasons you didn’t show up, but no difference at all in the result. At the end of the day, you still failed to help your friend.

Whatever it Takes is about doing everything you can – including and especially proper preparation and planning – to make good on your word and turn your goals into realities. Try it this week with one thing and see what happens.

You’ll be amazed at how powerful this can be.

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Whatever It Takes #2

We warned you that studying the martial arts would take commitment and more than a few “gut checks” where you wonder if it’s really worth the challenge, commitment and discomfort required to make truly positive change in your life. You’re an adult taking martial arts, somebody who already has good and bad habits, positive and negative attitudes and a life’s worth of patterns that are as much a part of you as whether or not you like to eat vegetables.

Change is hard, even (sometimes especially) change you know is good for you.

So we’re going to ask you to do something hard. On the deck, we do this every day. You’ve already done more pushups than you thought was possible. You’ve punched harder and kicked faster than ever, learned patterns and forms you thought were too complex to memorize. Today – under the banner ofWhatever it Takes– we’re going to ask you to do something even harder than that.

Your assignment is in three parts:

Part One:Identify somebody you’ve wronged in some way. Don’t kid yourself – everybody has at least one person in their life who fits this description.

Part Two:Apologize to that person, sincerely, and find out how to make it right. It doesn’t matter if they accept the apology or not. What matters is that you looked the situation in the eye and admitted your part in it.

Part Three:Write a brief accounting of the experience, names changed to protect the innocent, and post it on our Facebook wall with the hashtag #WhateverItTakesAIK

Choose the person carefully. Some relationships, especially those with people who were a negative influence on you, aren’t worth resurrecting. But there are people in your life now, or who would make your life better if they came back into your life, who are worth the effort and gut check of a heartfelt apology.

Why Are We Asking You to Do This?

Our Bushido value for this training cycle isWhatever it Takes. Last week, we talked about how this means putting everything you have into a challenge. As a martial artist, you’re so used to doing this about physical challenges that you’re not really doingWhatever it Takes. Working hard is just part of your routine.

Unless you’re in the military or law enforcement, physical courage in the face of an actual attack isn’t likely to be part of your life any time soon. Also, let’s be honest with each other, there’s a tiny part of you that sort ofhopessome fool will try to attack you so you can unleash your Kenpo mojo all over him.

But apologizing? Admitting you were wrong and taking whatever verbal abuse the person you wronged has on deck for you? Then working with that person to mend what you broke?

That’s a whole new level of hard.

Go doWhatever it Takesto set the wrong things right. If you need help figuring out how, check with one of our instructors. That’s what we’re here for.

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Whatever It Takes #3

At the end of every class, we say our Closing Pledge: “Spirit! Honor! Discipline! Oss!!”

Like the other pledges you say (i.e. The Pledge of Allegiance, religious creeds and wedding vows), this pledge is a recitation of words that symbolize concepts you want to remember. With the Pledge of Allegiance, you say the words to remind yourself why it’s great to live in America. A religious creed reminds you of the values and history of your relationship with the divine. Our pledge gives you four tools for your lifetime toolbox.

Spirit(Seishin in Japanese)

Spirit means a lot of things to a lot of people, but in this context we’re talking about that “fire in the belly” that drives us to be better tomorrow than we are today. It’s a collection of values, attitudes and beliefs that not only motivate us to grow, but help us remember that growth is possible even when things are hard. Without Spirit, growth on and off the deck is slow because life gives us far too many easy excuses to live without improvement or even to slide back.

Honor(Meiyo in Japanese)

Martial arts – and most military traditions – make a big deal of honor, but again it has different definitions in different contexts. Our Code of Bushido is one way of expressing honor. In Renaissance Europe, honor sometimes meant getting into deadly fights over small insults. If our pledge, Honor means being honest with yourself. It means openly admitting where your training is incomplete, asking for help when you need it, and not falling into the trap of unrealistic confidence or arrogance about your abilities and importance. Without Honor, we too often find ourselves moving with purpose in the wrong direction, or alienating those who can help us on our journey.

Discipline(Kiritsu in Japanese)

We’re not talking about dropping to do 20 pushups for mouthing off in class, though that sort of thing is what a lot of people think of when they hear the word. Here, we’re talking about self-discipline: doing what you must even when it’s hard. This means hearing somebody give you constructive feedback without giving in to the urge to justify or save face. It means pushing yourself to practice that difficult technique after your favorite TV show just started, or to go out running even when it’s cold. Without Discipline, Spirit and Honor become merely good intentions. It’s through discipline that you turn them into the tools that sharpen your skills, tone your body and improve your mind.

Oos (Oos in Japanese)

We already mentioned this in a Coach’s Corner interview with Mr. Knight.(Coach’s Corner). Oos is something said for emphasis, used in conversation among Japanese people to say “Yes! I emphatically agree!” or “I really, really, really mean it.” In church, you might say “Amen” to mean the same thing. We use it to underscore both the importance of the other three words, and our commitment to living them.

So why do we say them at the end of class? You could argue that saying them at the beginning would help us remember why we’re on the deck and make the most of our time there…and you’d be right! But here’s the thing.

On the deck, surrounded by your classmates, with your teacher right there, you’re already primed to make the most of your training time. Practice and growth in a context built for practice and growth is easy. You don’t need to remind yourself of Spirit, Honor and Discipline. Those reminders are all around you, and often impossible to ignore.

We say them at the end of class so you can carry them off the deck and into your life. The truth is that very few of our students will ever kick or punch their way out of a dangerous situation (though most of you will use your breakfalls more than once to avoid injury). But the Spirit, Honor and Discipline you develop and build through your training can serve you in every part of your life.

It’s our hope that if the “taste” of those words is still in your mouths when you leave, that they will stay in your hearts until we see you again.

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Whatever It Takes #4 (Assignment)

Promotion time is coming. By now you’re already polishing your techniques and forms to the point that it annoys your family and friends. By now you’ve already had long talks with your teachers about the philosophy and history of your Kenpo and how it impacts your life. By now you’ve thought about your training – physical, mental and emotional – more than you’ve thought about your laundry, second cousin and favorite TV show combined.

It’s time to take all of that polish, thought and conversation and turn it into a single expression of your martial arts journey to date. By your blue stripe test, you’ll turn the product of that in for your teachers to read and review.

This isn’t a graduate school class, so we have no formatting rules or minimum page length. You don’t have to provide a bibliography in ALA format or set your page margins just so. Simply write something meaningful about this cycle’s theme of “Whatever it Takes” and what it has meant in your martial arts journey (and lifetime journey).

We do have a few basic requirements:

  • Include at least two references to something you’ve read or viewed outside of class
  • Speak from your heart as much as you speak from your brain
  • Please spellcheck it, and turn it in typed or printed
  • Do “Whatever It Takes” to make it the best report you can possibly create

We would also challenge you to take it one step further. Write it with as much lead time before test day as you can, then put it away for a couple of days. When you pick it up again, read it with an eye toward where you can expand your thoughts to include new ideas, innovative considerations, or other additions that will make it a better piece of writing.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, consider these three main themes that we’ve seen over the course of AIK’s history here in Tucson, Arizona:

  • A personal essay of your thoughts, growth and experience
  • A historical report about a specific event or individual
  • Writing about a current event and how martial arts values could have made the situation better

Whether you use one of those ideas just as we’ve presented them, or take one as a springboard for your own concept, or do something wildly different, is all okay. What matters is that you’ve thought about what you’ll write, then written it well.

Of course, if you have any trouble, you can always reach out to the instructors here at AIK. We’re here to help you with this part of your training just as much as we are with the kicking and the punching (though we admit most of us are better punchers than we are writers).

Best of luck with this assignment. We look forward to seeing what you create.

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