Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What's your motivation?

Getting Started
I first became interested in martial arts in my late teenage years. I had viewed the requisite number of Bruce Lee movies (wow!), knew a couple of boys who had learned some Taekwondo and Karate, and even a girl whose father was a local Judo instructor, but at no stage did I think that martial arts were something "for me".

Then one day when I was 15 or 16 I was talking with two friends who were also state-level gymnasts. A new guy had started training with them who had a black belt in Karate, and in under a year he was performing some "level 8" (i.e. very advanced) moves. This was unprecedented. I thought, "This is interesting": I had cottoned onto the idea that the martial arts hold important keys to learning transferable skills.

My friends and I agreed that it would be cool to learn a martial art, and that we would all definitely do so while at University. When I checked back with them a few years later, their interest had evaporated -- What about the pact? -- but I was motivated to begin.

Means, motive and opportunity
In crime fiction a character needs means, motive and opportunity to be considered a suspect. These criteria also apply to taking up any new activity, such as learning a martial art. Here's how:

Means: You need enough time and money. For the un(der)employed, money may be a barrier; for those with significant work and family commitments like me, finding the time is the limiting factor. In both cases, when starting out, taking one class a week has the advantages of easing you in gradually, and should be affordable and possible to schedule.

Opportunity: You need to find an instructor whose class you want to attend and who is prepared to take you on.

Motive: This is the big one: Motive (motivation) is incredibly important, because not only will it get you started on new activities and expose you to new experiences; it is the main thing that will keep you going once the novelty wears off.

In the modern consumerist world there are any number of other things that you could be doing with your time (and money), so much of the remainder of the article will outline the aspects of the martial arts that I have personally found appealing and commendable.

What's my motivation?
When I went to my first Classical Judo class, at the age of 22, I was impressed by the abilities of the instructor and senior students and how they taught. I had always thought of myself as clumsy, but this was of no interest to my instructor. I was transported away from my everyday concerns, and fully absorbed by the task at hand: How to fall safely. Soon I was making progress, and within six months I was hooked.

As a beginner, I appreciated that:
  1. The instruction was impressive, and different to what I was used to from school and University
  2. The practice sessions were absorbing and flowful
  3. It was challenging, but I was able to make fairly steady progress
Over the next few years, as I started to attain some degree of proficiency, I began to appreciate the gains that I was making in technique and fitness, and my motivation changed. I had progressed from being a naive beginner to a slightly less naive student. By now I had some idea of what Judo and Jiu-Jitsu were about. Having scratched the surface, I was keen to dig deeper.

As a committed student, I enjoyed:
  1. The opportunity to keep refining and extending my skills
  2. The friendships that I was making through martial arts
  3. Learning realistic self-defence
  4. Improving my concentration, coordination and fitness
  5. The rush of competing in occasional tournaments
  6. The challenge of trying to apply my martial arts training to non-martial arts situations
As an example of transferring skills to other situations, one day I went kayaking with some expert kayakers. I had never been particularly good (or bad) at kayaking at school, but on this occasion I closely observed the experts, mucked around a bit, and then the penny dropped, first for my body, and then in my mind. I had understood a key point, that power comes not so much from the near hand, but from the far hand -- and I was doing it. One of the expert kayakers looked over, pronounced me "a natural", and invited me on the "Murray Marathon" (a multi-day long distance kayaking event). I declined, but was thrilled that my study of martial arts had trained my observational skills and intuition about levers so well.

Now, as a more grizzled student of the martial arts, and also as an instructor, my motivation continues to evolve. In addition to the points listed above, I want to:
  1. Teach my students well, and learn through teaching
  2. Help popularise the martial arts, and promote quality teaching
  3. Learn something every time I train
  4. To find connections between different aspects of my training, between the various martial arts, and between my training and my life
Those are some of my motivations, older and more recent. What are yours?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Welcome to Martial Arts and Modern Life

Hello, and welcome to my blog about martial arts and life.

I intend to write a lot about the martial arts, not in isolation, but primarily how lessons learned in the training hall can be applied to other aspects of life, including:
  • Getting along with others (at school or work, as part of a family, and raising a family)
  • Ways to learn and ways to teach
  • Transferability of skills from one area to another
  • Drawing on cultural traditions other than one's own
  • Creativity and Imagination
Plus anything else that seems a) interesting, and b) at least tangentially related to the martial arts.

I will not be attempting to teach martial arts online, because it is dangerous without proper instruction. I will accept no liability for any harm sustained (or inflicted) by anyone after reading my blog.

On the other hand ...
If you want to learn martial arts find a good class. If you live in Melbourne, Australia I may be able to make some recommendations.

Even better, come along to my class!

My Martial Arts Cred
I started learning Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Classical Judo in 1993, and have been training consistently in these martial arts ever since. I started teaching my own class in 2005, and had been acting as an assistant instructor for several years before that. I hold a 4th degree black belt in classical Judo and a 3rd degree black-belt in Jiu-Jitsu.

I have taught Jiu-Jitsu and Classical Judo to many young adults, teenagers, and older adults, some of whom had previously trained in other martial arts, including: Aikido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Olympic Judo, various Karate styles, and Taekwondo.

In addition to my continuing study of Jiu-Jitsu and Classical Judo, since 2002 I have also been studying Hung Kuen Chinese Boxing (a form of Kung Fu), and hold the rank of 1st Degree Master (1st dan equivalent).

Although these are nowadays primarily empty-hand arts, I have also studied elements of various weapons as part of these styles, plus additional 

 I am interested in other martial arts and have dabbled -- i.e. taken a few classes or attended seminars -- in Aikido, Aiki-jiu-jitsu, Capoeira, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Judo-do, Ken-jitsu (traditional Japanese sword), Karate, knife-fighting, Krav Maga, Olympic Judo, Sambo, stick-fighting, Chen style and Yang style Taijiquan (Tai Chi).