Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On Forgetting

Have you ever forgotten something...keys, glasses, phone numbers, names, online passwords? In my household, we are always searching for our car keys. There is often a scramble to find our keys and to remember where we set them down. Inevitably, this happens when we are already running late. It does not help that our cats like to play with keys until they slide underneath a piece of furniture.

Why do we forget?

One of today’s best known memory researchers, Elizabeth Loftus, has identified four major reasons why people forget:

1. Retrieval Failure
Have you ever felt like a piece of information has just vanished from memory? Or maybe you know that it’s there, you just can’t seem to find it. One common cause of forgetting is simply an inability to retrieve a memory. One explanation for why
retrieval fails is known as decay theory. According to this theory, a memory trace is created every time a new theory is formed. Decay theory suggests that over time, these memory traces begin to fade and disappear. If information is not retrieved and rehearsed, it will eventually be lost. One problem with this theory, however, is that research has demonstrated that even memories which have not been rehearsed or remembered are remarkably stable in long-term memory.

2. Interference
Another theory known as interference theory suggests that some memories compete and interfere with other memories. When information is very similar to other information that was previously stored in memory, interference is more likely to occur. There are two basic types of interference:

* Proactive interference is when an old memory makes it more difficult or impossible to remember a new memory.
* Retroactive interference occurs when new information interferes with your ability to remember previously learned information.

3. Failure to Store
We also forget information because it never actually made it into long-term memory. Encoding failures sometimes prevent information from entering long-term memory. In one well-known experiment, researchers asked participants to identify the correct U.S. penny out of a group of incorrect pennies (Nickerson & Adams). Try doing this experiment yourself by attempting to draw a penny from memory, and then compare your results to an actual penny.

4. Motivated Forgetting
Sometimes, we may actively work to forget memories, especially those of traumatic or disturbing events or experiences. The two basic forms of motivated forgetting are: suppression, a conscious form of forgetting, and repression, an unconscious form of forgetting.

In my own martial arts training, I have experienced retrieval failure, interference and failure to store.

Retrieval Failure: I have stood ready to compete in kata and my mind went completely blank. How does my kata begin? A few weeks ago at a Honbu training session, my instructor announced the bo kata we were going to practice. I must have made an inquisitive face with my eyes raised slightly to the left. My instructor laughed and told me that since I was looking up to the left...that's where my kata was stored. It took a few seconds to remember or retrieve the information.

Interference: We study two very similar bo kata Tokumine Nokun Ichi and Tokumine Nokun Ni. I was learning Tokumini Nokun Ichi and I almost had the pattern. My instructor decided that I should compete with Tokumine Nokun Ni in an upcoming tournament. I quickly learned the second kata and to this day Tokumine Nokun Ni is my favorite bo kata. However, Tokumine Nokun Ichi is hard for me to remember. It was as if the second kata bumped the first one from my brain.

Failure to Store: Have you ever left a class/seminar with information overload?

Any thoughts on forgetting?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Most Important Thing to Bring to a Martial Arts Seminar

You signed up to attend a martial arts seminar. After making the necessary arrangements (transportation, time off from work, childcare), it is time to pack your gear bag. I include the following items:

Sparring Gear (if required)
Water Bottle
Notebook and Pen
Instant Ice Pack
Band Aids
Power Bar / Granola Bar

I have forgotten items. Once I even picked up my husbands obi instead of mine. I had to make last minute stops for water or naproxen. A few times, I had to borrow weapons when I left my kama, tekkos or nunchaku at home. The items in the above list are all important but I would not consider any one the most important.

In my opinion, the most important thing to bring to a martial arts seminar…is an open mind. You need to be ready to listen to new ideas, receive the information, and recognize the possibilities. Have you ever overheard participants say, “Well, I do the technique this way”? Have you seen seminar participants practicing their way instead of trying the new technique? If participants are not willing to explore new ways of thinking, they are missing a great opportunity.

When attending a seminar, pack you gear bag with all your necessary items. However, most importantly…remember to bring an open mind.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"It is wrong.... tell me why it is wrong."

I overheard my husband Tom saying this to the black belt testing candidates. Tom explained to the students that if they knew why it is wrong it would help them correct the problem. When the students stopped and thought about why...they knew the answer.

When students first begin learning karate, they are shown how to do a technique. We practice, drill and tell them how to do the movement. At this point in their training, a long discussion or analysis of a technique might be too much information for the student. They need to know how the technique should be done. As the student progresses, the instructors demonstrate and describe techniques. The students continue to practice with added discussion or analysis from the instructor.

Tom was pushing the students to think about the techniques. He could have easily told the students what needed to be corrected and why. It is time for the students to think about their practice on a different level. Small changes in body position and weapon manipulation mean big things in application. Practice looking at the bigger picture. For example, if a bo position is off center line, the correction may not be to adjust the hand position but to correct a wide/short stance.

Despite the fact that my husband and I are both instructors in the same dojo, we are not often on the training floor at the same time. I have mentioned in previous posts that we train parallel. We have the same instructor but did not take the same classes. When I was a kyu rank student, Tom tested for shodan. He taught classes at the Honbu and made sure he was never my class instructor. Tom wanted my training to be my own. When Tom opened up his dojo, there was no opportunity for us to train together.

I liked Tom's question to the 1st kyu students. It reminded me of the concept Instructor as Guide.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Karate Kids

My husband opened his dojo in 1995. I can recall the first two students like it was yesterday. Two neighborhood boys walked the two block up the street to the karate school. We had one mirror, an unfinished ceiling and ugly red flowered carpet left over from the building's bar days. The outside of the building needed new siding and a ramp needed to be installed. You can check out the before and after pictures of the dojo.

It has been 15 years since the first student walked through the door. There have been many kids that took karate lessons over the years. Some kids train for a few months and others for a few years. A few will earn a black belt while other will only last until 9th kyu. We had good times but we also experienced tragedy and loss.

Lately, I have bumping into a few of the kids who took karate with us. I have seen former students at the grocery store, in a mall, on Facebook, at a birthday party, at a indoor football game and even at a community theatre production. Some people I recognize instantly because it has only be a few years since I last saw them. There are some students that I have not seen for over 8 years. Since many years have gone by, I sometimes do not recognize them because they have changed so much.

Children have more opportunities now then when I was a kid. When I was young, sports teams started around 6th grade. Cartoons were only on TV on a Saturday morning. I loved visiting my cousins because they had Pong. There were no soccer clubs and we did not ask to learn karate, dance or gymnastics.

Take for example my daughter. I enrolled her in Gymboree when she was 18 months. It was a Mom and Me class. It was designed to help with socialization skills. What I didn't know was that it was more of a Mom clique. I only lasted one session because I hated it. My daughter took dance lessons for a year, started soccer at 5 years old, choir, Girl Scouts, K4J, saxophone for a year, bible school, two seasons of basketball and community theatre for 5 years. A few weeks ago, she asked if she could give up the saxophone to learn the electic guitar. We went shopping around for lessons and equipment. We walked in a music store and she announced "I want an Amp!". We are still in the inquiry stage on the electric guitar.

A lot of kids with pass through the doors of a karate school. Some will stick with it while others will move on to other activities. As instructors, when we teach a class of kids, we do not know how long they will be in the dojo. It is my hope that their time in the dojo makes an impact no matter how long they train. Perhaps the wrist grabs they learned the first few months of class will be a useful tool one day. Maybe they will remember the kind words of encouragement after they demonstrated an individual kata. It just might help them give a speech in school.

Over the next few months, we will be attending a graduation and two weddings of former "karate kids". I am honored to be invited and look forward to the events.

There is only one downside...It does make me feel a little old. :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blog-Keeping / One Word

I need to spend some time working on my blog. Blogger has a new template design feature that I have been trying out. I think I am finally settled on the navy blue color scheme. I am still updating my link list. If you have a martial arts or acl blog and would like to be included on my blogroll...please leave a comment or send me an email.

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Last month, we asked the shodan candidates in our dojo to tell us what black belt meant to them. Each candidate handed in a one page essay. Recently, I read about Jillian Michaels, star of The Biggest Loser, who stated in an interview "Karate Changed My Life".

One of those "right decisions" was taking a martial arts class -- something which literally changed her life. "Karate saved my life," she says. "It all stopped the day I broke two boards with a kick."
In my own experience, I believe karate has changed my direction a few times. I was a green belt student when my husband decided he wanted to start his own dojo. This decision was the focal point of buying/renovation an abandoned building to convert into a house/dojo. There have been times when it has not been easy. A few years ago, my husband suffered severe third degree burns on his leg. I was completely overwhelmed. It was not easy taking care of a toddler, my husband, the dojo and working full time. My family, the dojo and my karate friends helped us through this difficult time.

For me, I would describe karate as a constant.

How would you one word...your martial arts experience?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Get Uncomfortable

I was fortunate to attend an excellent training seminar taught by Kyoshi Bill Hayes this past weekend. Major Hayes is the author of “My Journey With The Grandmaster”. I walked into the session with a notebook and pen. I took several pages of notes but it was not enough to capture the amount of information presented. I simply could not write fast enough.

At one point in the seminar, Kyoshi Hayes told us to…

“Embrace complexity.”
“Embrace discomfort.”
“Embrace uncertainty.”

After hearing these words and reflecting on their meaning, I realized I needed to examine my training. In fact, it may be something we all need to do. I asked myself the following. How comfortable are you? Are you satisfied with what you know about your martial art? Have you stopped actively seeking information? Do you make the necessary adjustments due to injury or age? Do you look beyond the surface?

It could be easy to fall into the trap of feeling comfortable. We go to the dojo, run through material, and memorize patterns then move on to the next kata or weapon. I hear students saying "I know X or Y".

If we feel comfortable…Are we still learning? Are we receptive to new ideas? Or are the blinders put on?

If you have the opportunity to attend a seminar by Kyoshi Hayes, I highly recommend attending. Make sure to bring paper and a pen…you will need them. If you have not read the book “My Journey With The Grandmaster”, I highly recommend reading it. It will change the way you think about training.

It is time to “Get Uncomfortable”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Pain In The.....


My foot aches. There are moments of stabbing pain when I am stopped in my tracks. I know what is causing the pain. I know what triggered the pain. I am resting, icing and elevating my foot when I can. Thank goodness for my can of spinach. I am not eating the spinach. I froze a can of spinach to use as an ice pack. It is perfect because I can roll it along the bottom of my foot.

Several years ago I went to the doctor for the pain. They took x-rays and determined it was plantar fasciitis. From the

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, which runs across the bottom of your foot — connecting your heel bone to your toes.

Plantar fasciitis causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.

I was offered a cortisone injection...which I declined. My sister had the same condition and informed me the shot was more painful than the condition. The doctor recommended a series of exercises, ice and anti-inflammatory medication. In a few weeks, my foot was feeling better.

As a last resort, surgery can be performed to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone. It is usually only done as a last resort when other treatments fail. My sister had this surgery done last year. Her foot is feeling better. Since I have no intention on having foot is rest, ice and elevation for me...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Black Belt Superpowers

You train, pass the test and are awarded a black belt. Your instructor hands you a new, shiny black belt. The sky opens up and you are bestowed black belt superpowers. You are invincible and fear no man.

This is NOT what happens when you receive your black belt. In fact, it is the complete opposite.

You train, pass the test and are awarded a black belt. Your instructor hands you a new, shiny black belt. The black belt is in your hands and almost immediately a thought stream enters your mind - I am not ready. I need more time. I should give it back.

Then you remember that black belt is the beginning. If you look up 1st Dan in the Dictionary of Martial Arts by Louis Frederic the word is described as Student. You wear your belt with the understanding that we all have more work to do learning and discovering.

It is about the training.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mean Girls Strike Again

There is only one more week of school. For the most part, fifth grade has been relatively uneventful. My daughter has a group of friends she sits with at lunch and recess. She is active in soccer, basketball, girl scouts and K4J. The boy that was nasty to her in fourth grade switched schools at the end of last year. The environment at school was not ideal but it was getting better.

Two weeks ago, we decided to buy our daughter prescription sunglasses. Both my husband and my daughter are nearsighted. The first thing they do when they wake up in the morning is reach for their eyeglasses. I am farsighted and only need glasses for reading. My eyes are extremely sensitive to light and I always wear sunglasses when I am outside. We understand the importance of sunglasses and the problems with being nearsighted. Tom and I wanted to make sure our daughter had functional sunglasses for the summer. The optometrist did not recommend Transitions and clip-ons would not work with her current frames. Prescription sunglasses were our best option.

It took two weeks for the glasses to arrive. My daughter was thrilled when we got the call that her glasses were in. The next day she was so happy taking her sunglasses to school. The students are allowed to wear sunglasses at recess. She set her glass case on the lunch table and got in line to buy food. When she returned to the table, her new glasses were gone. She knew one of her “friends” had her glasses because she saw the case in a girl’s lunch bag. My daughter told the girls to give her back the glasses. The mean girls/”friends” screamed they did not have the glasses and pointed their finger at some boys. One girl eventually threw the glass case at my daughter and said, “Take your cheap glasses”.

My daughter was so happy with her glasses on Friday. Today, she would not even take her sunglasses to school.

I think my daughter stood up for herself when she demanded her glasses be returned. I want her “friends” know that what they did was not o.k. Tom and I discussed our options:

Talk to the teacher.
Talk to the principal.
Talk to the girls’ parents.
Let our daughter handle it.
Do nothing.

My vote is a combination: Tom and I should talk to the teacher and our daughter should talk to her friends.

4.5 days of school left.

Did I mention I can’t wait for summer vacation?

Note: The mean girl mentioned in today’s post is the same MG from the post “A Message to Mean Girls”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"You are as old as you think you are."

I was on the phone with my Dad and he told me about his day. He mentioned that he did a good deed. He explained that he helped an elderly couple. Dad was outside on the lawn and a car stopped in front of the house. The couple was lost and asked for directions. My Dad gave directions but the couple still seemed lost. The woman asked my Dad if he would lead them to their location. Dad agreed and led the couple to their destination.

My Mom took the phone and said, “The youngster is helping the elderly couple”. I had to ask the obvious question “How old were the people in the car?” My Dad did not know but he was certain they were older than he was.

My Dad is 79 years old.

Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are. ~ Muhammad Ali