Saturday, October 16, 2010

Want your belt promotion? Market my school

hmmm, how do get more students through my door?

I was surging martial art websites the other day and stumbled across one that just got under my skin. It was sweet site; professionally developed, custom graphics, flash- everything a large and commercial school needs.

There was a link for the rank requirements and I clicked on it. I am always curious to see what other schools require at different ranks and wanted to see what theirs were. I was looking at the Jr. ranks (kids) since I teach kids as well. They had the basics: know a self defense technique, understand basic dojo etiquette, and a couple fitness requirements. Then there was this:

Support your dojo: Bring in one friend to watch or try karate.

In the words of Hannah Montana: youwantmetomarketyourschool say what? Don’t get me wrong, I am all for making a living teaching martial arts. Who doesn’t want to get paid for doing something they love? If I thought I could pull it off, I would. But martial arts is a very competitive market these days; there is a school on every street corner. So I understand needing to market. I understand needing to be creative. I get all that. But I have a major issue with making it a requirement for rank promotion that your students market for you.

Exactly how does bringing a friend to class demonstrate your skills in the martial arts? Rank promotion should be based on your development as a martial artist, not as a marketing tool for your instructor. After all, you are already PAYING for your instruction. You are paying to learn the art, and your promotion requirements should be based on what you are being taught. In essence, at this school, you have the privilege of paying to do recruitment as well.

Gordon Gekko would be proud.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Christian alternative to Tai Chi?

The blog Martial Development posted a rather funny entry about SloFlo, the Christian alternative to Tai Chi. But MD posted a serious question at the end: Why do Christians NEED an alternative to Tai Chi? What is it that they have an inherent issue with?

It seems to me that the wheel is being repackaged as something else. In fact, Sloflo's website states, "SlowFlo is the Christian Alternative to Tai Chi using movements from the Yang Long Series combined with sentences of praise and worship in American Sign Language"

So Tai Chi is non-Christian, but it's okay to borrow movements from the Yang 108? And I got totally lost with the American Sign Language thing. Are all Christians deaf? But I digress.

I practice Tai Chi and Qi Gong. I am not 100% sold on the whole Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) thing. I believe in Chi, but not necessarily in all the great claims that are attributed to it. But does that mean I can't still do them and benefit from them? Does it mean I need to create something new because it doesn't quite match up to my religious beliefs? Despite my lack of complete acceptance of TCM, I do feel the benefits of my practice. I feel more calm and more energetic. But I didn't need to create a new system that aligned with my beliefs to do it. I just discount that parts that I don't necessarily agree with and move on.

So if anyone can enlighten me as to what it is about Tai Chi that is so scary, please do.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Are Buddhists always happy?

I was surfing the other day found this Venn diagram:

It’s based on Google’s search as can be seen to the left. And that got me to thinking, why do people think Buddhists are always happy?

I blame this guy:

His name is Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism (kind of like the Pope to Catholics). A Google image search will turn up ZERO pictures of this guy with anything but a smile on his face.

I think people believe Buddhists are always happy because when thinking about Buddhists, people think about monastics. As in, live in a monastery and protected from the pressures of everyday life. Sure, if we could all just focus on our spiritual practice and not have to worry about anything else, we’d all be smiling too.
People also assume that all Buddhists are somehow magically endowed with calm and peace of mind. What people fail to realize is there are very few of those Buddhists around. Most of us struggle through life like everyone else. We have to deal with job pressure, family life, mortgages, braces, flat tires, traffic, etc. And like everyone else, we deal with those things in varying degrees of calm.

Psst: a secret. Buddhists are human. Buddhists have emotions. Buddhists are not always happy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Show me how you do that!

Teachable moments show up at the most unexpected times.

My eldest daughter is eight and she loves to play “karate”. What that has historically meant is that she attacks me and then we end up wrestling. But this year, my wife and I wanted to enroll our four year old son in martial arts. The problem with that was cost. MA classes in our area are ridiculously expensive. So after a confab with another parent feeling the same way, I volunteered to teach my son and hers. Then my daughter decided she wanted in, and her best friend (the sister of the other boy) also joined. So now I have a class of four. But I digress.

While goofing in the basement today, my daughter tried to hit me. And I responded the way I always do; I parry her attack, grab her arms, and “kick” her in the legs. But instead of just attacking again, today my daughter says, “show me how you do that!” This was new, because she has never asked how I do something. But since I am actually teaching her now, I guess she felt it was appropriate to ask. How could I let such a teachable moment slide past?

We took moment from goofing and jumped into our horse stance. I then had her show me a middle block. I then had her punch at me. I blocked. Then I had her punch again. This time, I used the ‘advanced’ interpretation of the movement and parried her punch and followed it with a strike to her arm. I showed that when are playing, I parry and grab with one hand and then instead of striking her arm with the other hand, I grab it. I SO wanted this to become a lesson in the old adage that “a block is not a block”, but I figured that was too much information at this point. Patience, instructor, patience. It all comes in time (a teachable moment for me as well).