The Silliness of Kids!

The Silliness of Kids – Children and Martial Arts

kids karate 250 The Silliness of Kids!

Sifu Declan Lestat is the founder and chief instructor at The Forge in Minneapolis, specializing in Jeet Kune Do and Lau Kuin Kung Fu. He is a student of world renowned JKD instructor, Sifu Lamar M Davis II and a proud member of the prestigious Five Thunder Chinese Martial Arts Association. His website can be found here at www.theforgeacademy.com Here he speaks about children and the martial arts…..

I spend a lot of time teaching children. In fact, my time is probably split 50/50 between children and adults at the moment. As much as I love teaching adults – there’s always something new to challenge me when training a fighter of police officer – I’ve always felt that, when it comes to martial training, we have a lot to learn from children.

I’ll explain.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spoken with an adult who, when they find out what I do for a living, shows great interest and enthusiasm for martial arts. More often than not, they’ve even trained in an art some years ago. Unfortunately, within minutes of their interest catching light, the flame quickly dims as real life dumps a bucket of water over their aspirations. I’ve heard it all, and you probably have as well:

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I’m too old to start all that Bruce Lee stuff now.

Where would I find the time?

I’d never be able to do that, I’ve got a dodgy hip (Back, knee, shoulder, whatever)

I haven’t got a clue where to begin, I’d look stupid!

I can’t afford it right now. Maybe after Christmas (Easter, holidays, etc)

I have asthma

I’ve got two left feet!

I’m too tall/short/fat/thin/female

The list goes on, and I’m sure you could add to it with reasons you’ve heard too. It’s not much different for existing students who hit a plateau, or are about to be challenged in a new and different way as they advance in grade. It’s important to note at this point, that these reasons aren’t always excuses. They’re often genuine beliefs and fears held by the grown up in question, so I’m not passing judgment on anyone who offers a line similar to one of those above. Just making an observation.

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Now, compare this to children. Children are notoriously unreasonable, in my experience. Wonderfully unreasonable. Over the years, I’ve trained children of all ages who you would never expect to see in a martial arts class. And if they were grown ups, you probably wouldn’t.

I’ve trained kids with learning difficulties and physical disabilities (From the partially sighted to the asthmatic). I’ve trained kids who were overweight, and some who were skinny. Some were tall, some were shorter. I’ve taught kids with anger management issues, dyspraxia, various degrees of Aspergers syndrome, and diabetics. I’ve had burly junior rugby players sharing the mats with dainty girls who would have loved to have frills on their uniforms (I actually had that request!)… This list, too, goes on.

But whatever the challenge, the child has seen what we do as martial artists, and said to their parents “Gimme some of that!”. They just want to have fun and train. Their personal shortcomings don’t even enter into their decision making process. Like I said, they’re wonderfully unreasonable. Not to mention unrelentingly optimistic.

But of course, they’re just children and aren’t old enough to know better.

As we continue our journey in the martial arts – or if you’re thinking of starting your journey – I suggest we do our best to not know better. We may just surprise ourselves.


The Role of Jiyu Waza

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The role of Jiyu Waza

When people first come to study Aikido, Jiyu Waza, or freestyle movement is the first thing that impresses them about the art. When done correctly, it is fast, dynamic, athletic and skillful, making both people involved look like they know what they’re doing! What is the actual point in doing Jiyu Waza for the Aikido practitioner however? It is unrealistic practically and somewhat choreographed between those involved.

Jiyu Waza has many learning elements within it, both from the point of the Shite (doing the technique) and the Uke (receiving the technique). Aikido in general does not have competitions, and so in a way, jiyu waza is our form of competition between the shite and uke. Techniques are performed from a certain attack in a more dynamic way than regular basic training, allowing for improvement from both partners. The job of the uke is to receive the technique and then get up and attack again as soon as possible. The role of the shite is to perform the technique well and effectively, in a dynamic way, and to respond to the uke’s speed in order to avoid being hit. Jiyu Waza in this way then becomes a game of cat and mouse, where, although the partners are working together to improve technique, endurance and ukemi (falling), an element of competition can be introduced with who can perform the techniques faster, or get up and attack quicker.

Jiyu waza as already said should be kihon waza or basic techniques, but done more responsively and dynamically. This is not an easy task and there is a tendency to want to do jiyu waza quickly when training begins. This can lead to sloppy techniques as well as injury as a level of control is lost in relation to kihon waza. Having said this however, simple jiyu waza and free movement should be taught fairly early in my opinion as a way of improving ukemi. From my experience, people are comfortable doing a fall if given time to prepare for it, yet when they are asked to do the same fall within a technique, find it difficult as the control has been taken out of their hands. Jiyu waza can allow that control to be taken away, but at a slow pace to start with, allowing the uke to fall from different throws, different directions and different partners in a safe and controlled way. The pace can then be built up gradually, until eventually we see examples of near perfect jiyu waza with awesome ukemi from uke, and awesome technique from shite.

Jiyu waza is there to improve technique, endurance and falling as well as adding an element of pressure to regular training. It should be built up from a fairly early grade to improve ukemi and ensure that the aikido does not become too static or rigid.


What does it mean to achieve black belt?

 What does it mean to achieve black belt?

 

What does it mean to achieve black belt?

For many studying the martial arts, black belt is the goal to work towards, and even those who have little interest or knowledge of martial arts have some idea of what black belt means. If I am speaking to someone new and the topic of my training comes up, inevitably the first question that is asked is whether I have a black belt or not. What does it really mean to be a black belt however?

When people learn you have the rank of black belt in one form of martial art or another, there is the general thinking that you can handle yourself well in a fight, and are in fairly good physical condition. This may well be the case, yet the idea of the black belt is more than this. The black belt means simply that you have not given up, you have worked hard and acquired a certain level of skill in the chosen art. I remember being told once that a high percentage of people stop doing martial arts after achieving black belt, as for them, the goal has been reached. They have the certificate, they have the black belt, and they have the right to say they are black belt. For them the goal has been reached. This is the wrong way to look at it in my opinion however. Black belt is simply the second step on a very large flight of stairs! The first step is making the decision to study a particular martial art, choosing to go up the grades and progress which in itself can take any number of years. Black belt is simply the second step, recognizing some technical ability, but recognizing more than you continue to come to class, work hard and seek to improve yourself. Black belt is not the destination, it is just one pit stop on the very long journey…

With the rank of black belt comes responsibility as well. You are there to set an example to other students who may well wish to achieve their black belt one day. You may start instructing and imparting the knowledge that has been acquired over the years studying your martial art. All this comes with responsibility to represent your art, and to set the tone for other lower graded students.

The black belt itself means very little, but it signifies that perhaps you are ready to study the art in more detail, and acknowledges the hard work and effort put into your training. As already said, it is just one stop on a very long journey :). An interesting discussion with more detail on this can be found here

As always thanks for reading and feel free to get in touch with any topics you’d like to see discussed via the comment section below or at dan@themartialview.com

Thanks 🙂