How we process fear

When studying self-defense, it’s important to understand just what you are protecting yourself from. Having an honest understanding of what you are facing is the key to honing a mindset relative to a problem at hand. In general, we don’t want to be controlled by our fear. What we should do is use our fear as an indication to be vigilant and prepared.

When self-created fears start to get in the way of good-natured vigilance, that’s when issues get overcomplicated. A general example from the martial arts is either lacking information or laying too much importance on the wrong information. In either of those cases, you’ll end up filling in the blanks with personal fears.

A tengu from lore, said to lure 
the faithful off the path.

In self-defense, we want to avoid being controlled by something that is not happening now.

That also goes for the fear of being seen as weak. This type of fear can put us directly in the line of danger (the “it-can’t-happen-to-me” syndrome).

It’s so important to find a balanced approach to processing fear. It is possible to find it in studying the ways we stay safe in the interest of the well-being of ourselves and others (self-defense).

…Or as my dad would say: “Don’t act like a darned fool: act for yourself, and act accordingly for those around you.”

Saturday leadership Training

Advanced movement skill training

Breathing for Self Defense

It’s so important to study breathing for self defense. When adrenaline rushes into your body and your heart rate goes up, body function changes, and you need to be able to use natural breathing suited to what is happening—whatever it may be. Honing this ability will help you control and direct your body energy to stay safe.

Studying martial arts for personal protection

The main reason I started studying martial arts was for personal protection and self defense. Teaching it allowed me to help others defend themselves, too. But I also train and teach traditional martial arts. Some people ask me: why specifically traditional martial arts?

The study of tactics and strategies that were used in feudal times is very important. The problem-solving skills of these warriors were incredible. Warriors of the past had certain experiences that allowed them to uncover important keys to staying safe and alive in a dangerous, changing environment. Studying the so-called classics enables me to see the bigger picture of self-defense.

Seeing the bigger picture of martial arts, in turn, allows me to train my students and people who come to my seminars in a complete, holistic way: not just “this-or-that.” I start students with the complete set of basics. Whether they’re advanced or beginners, they learn the basics, because that’s the foundation of my teaching method. Then we move on to different levels of skill and methods. I am always referencing the traditional ideas and methods as I lead the student through developing their own skills and finding a deeper awareness of themselves through mind, body, and spirit.

How learning martial arts makes you safer

A lot of people equate martial arts training with self-defense. While there is so much more to martial arts than that, the training statistically keeps people safer. And most of the reasons are not about punching and kicking.

Through the training, students learn to be more aware of their environment, are more conscious of risks and safety issues. Not fear-filled, but alert and able to negotiate around risks more of the time.

Martial arts training should build confidence. This is not empty pride, but confidence won through learning new skills, putting the work in and seeing the rewards. We get more connected with our bodies. These things cause us to move down the street differently, which makes us less likely targets. Women with martial arts training are less likely to be assaulted in the first place.

If an attack is initiated, the training provides us with immediate resistance: speaking up or shouting, pushing back, pulling away. These make it very likely that an attacker will break off the attack.

While you may never need the full range of skills to defend yourself, and there is so much more to martial arts than just defense, getting started will make you safer – less likely to be picked, and less likely to get injured if an attack happens.

Am I too old to start martial arts?

Learn martial arts at any age

Guest Post by Kerry Kokkinogenis

One of my favorite quotes, from an advanced practitioner of martial arts, is “The white belt is the hardest to earn; mine took 30 years!” Mine took me nearly 40 to earn. Other practitioners start as small children, as older adults, and at every age in between. Every age is a great age to start!

martial arts

As an adult, taking the leap to try something new can be hard. We might look foolish, we might feel not capable. These are feelings we are no longer used to. As much as we know that stepping outside our comfort zone is important, because it is hard, it is still scary. My first martial arts class was all the things we fear. I left feeling embarrassed and shamed? It was years before I tried again.

Taking a first class at Boston Martial Arts Center is comforting and welcoming. I was greeted with a friendly, smiling face. I was told the expectations and given tour of the facility, and then paired with a fellow student for my first few classes. The teachers break down the skills to manageable challenges, and encourage students where they are. Entering into this community of martial artists was easy and gentle. If it hadn’t been for that great beginning, I might have missed out on the last several years of learning and growing.


Why Should Kids do Martial Arts?

Guest Post by Cynthia Miller

Ready for class to start

“Can’t you just tell a kid who grew up doing martial arts?” I heard the gentleman say to a few of the other parents who were gathered, either arriving or about to depart after the day’s classes.

I had recently been pondering the benefits to children of all ages who practice some form of martial arts. Confidence and self-esteem, respect for yourself and others, physical fitness, self-discipline, sharpening of observation and decision making skills, positive motivation, leadership, patience, grace under pressure. The development of these qualities is ageless; the opportunities for life applications boundless. Signing up your child for martial arts may just be one of the best things that you ever do, as it will give them a skill set that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Before choosing the right class or team for your child, it may be in your best interest to make sure that they have some form of sports team insurance just in case an incident occurs during a competition or lesson. This is not only beneficial for your child, but for their team as well. Then you will be able to enjoy all the benefits that this sport can bring them.

To be sure, the physical fitness aspect alone is important as we watch the dissolution of organized sports and dance as a regular aspect of school curriculum, as faded as the reference to the President’s Physical Fitness Test. If you want to help the situation, you could look into opening a Ninja Nation franchise. Ninja Nation promotes physical fitness for the whole family, not just the adults; if you’re really interested in finding out more about Ninja Nation, you can find their website here. In 2008, the United States Department of Health and Human Services issued the first comprehensive guideline on physical activity for children age six and older (Massachusetts revised its Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework in 1999). According to” About Physical Education,” the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, only six states require physical education in every grade (Massachusetts is one of them). Only 20 % of school districts require daily recess (Massachusetts is not one of them). Daily physical education is provided in only 4% of elementary, 8% of middle, and 2% of high schools.

Fewer than half of all children and adolescents are regularly physically active, which could be changed if more children were taking part in swimming lessons from places like Coast2Coast First Aid and Aquatics on a regular basis. Despite this, research by “About Physical Education” and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that youth who engage in physical activity perform better academically, have better attendance, have improved behavior, and have higher self-esteem. This is in addition to having health benefits that lower their risks as adults including higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and stronger muscles, lower body fat percentages, and lower levels of anxiety and depression. There are so many benefits to allowing your children to join a sports team, so it’s definitely worth trying to encourage your child to have a more active lifestyle. When they join a sports team, it’s likely that your child will need some specialized clothing that has the sports team logo on it. These customized t-shirts can easily be made by companies like Imprint. This can help them feel more involved in the team straight away.

So, if it could be said that most any children and youth sports can help to teach your child confidence, respect, and self-esteem in addition to developing physical fitness, why choose martial arts?

My answer to this came together as I heard my mind’s voice reply, “Yes, you definitely can tell a kid who grew up doing martial arts.” Because the context martial arts offers for kids to develop these qualities and values is larger than the lessons gained from the game, the team, the win; larger than the collection of desirable personal attributes. Martial arts help kids to study human nature. The venue itself helps kids to discover how to make “win-win” problem solving second nature. Kids who already move with ease in this arena as they work to improve their individual qualities and attributes will certainly have the advantage as they work to become successful adults. Even better, these are the kids who grow up understanding the value of owning collective responsibility and will know best how to build and protect resilient communities.

When studying martial arts to protect yourself

Martial arts at Boston Martial Arts Center

When studying martial arts to protect yourself, you first have to understand and learn how to use your body and mind effectively. Looking at the fundamentals arts of self-defense, there are tools that will ready your body to stay safe in a conflict. In each class, we introduce basic structure and forms of self-defense that will help you build your personal skill for a strong, natural self-defense method. Take your time to learn these tools and you will be a lot happier, and be safer for it.

Perception and Martial Arts

Sitting in a field, overlooking Boston area watching the sunset on July 4, 2015.

The other day I was driving by a state park in western Massachusetts and I happened to notice some deer. I pulled the car to the side of the road to observe them. The deer noticed me and didn’t move. They maintained eye contact for a long period of time, but they didn’t leave. I eventually drove off and the deer returned to grazing.

I noted that the deer did not consume extra energy by running off before they felt it was necessary. Also, once I left, they returned to their normal routine and continued eating.

In other words, they didn’t assume anything beyond the reality of what they observed.

When we train it is important to retain this philosophy – do not assume something is different than what it is by overlaying your emotions on your techniques. When you come into the dojo to train, do so with an open mind and allow the actual movement of training to guide you and not vice-versa. If you believe you can muscle through a technique then you have already lost because you have committed the wrong type of energy to your movements. As you free your mind of preconceptions, you can observe the world without intent and react accordingly – much like the way Nature works every day.

Kukishinden Ryu Seminar in Bojutsu, Kenjutsu, and Taijutsu

Join us June 13 – June 14 2015 at Boston Martial Arts Center for Kukishinden Ryu martial arts as we study bojutsu (moving with a 6-foot long staff), kenjutsu (working with a sword), and taijutsu (hand-to-hand)!

In the beginning, as with anything, we start with fundamental skills, perspective, and movements. When I first started with the bo, I struggled with hitting as hard as possible without getting hit. Later, with Kukishinden Ryu, I discovered more efficient ways of moving with and using the bo.

Learning to work with these tools will also give us new perspective on unarmed skills. What we practice in this seminar will give new depth to your practice and knowledge.

Boston Martial Arts Center

Photo by Jeremy Davis

This special two-day workshop on Kukishinden Ryu Dakentaijutsu, and Bojutsu and Kenjutsu. We will explore some of the details of the Kukishinden Ryu method throughout the weekend. We will also have a special online section on the Kuki Happo Biken methods presented by Stephen K. Hayes. This special resource will only be available for workshop participants. Join us for an unprecedented event.

Sign up today!