Whether you are a beginner or a “battle hardened veteran” of the martial arts, growing depends on desire. An intense desire to learn about oneself and one’s art is essential to truly progress. The drive to understand something simultaneously unlocked doors to further knowledge by pushing oneself beyond fear, beyond laziness, beyond excuses and beyond psychological barriers.

A student who is not really trying to learn about his art may think he has been studying 20 years. In reality, he has only been studying for 3 or 4 years because the remaining time was spent merely repeating what he already knew with no effort toward improvement, physically and mentally. One has to mentally strip away the hindrances and see the art as a child, through “new” eyes. Viewing an art as a child should bring questions to mind and open new paths for exploration. Don’t continue to spend time on what has already been developed through mindless repetition, but research to find what was missing during this development and build on what is already in place to continue to improve.

Cultivation of desire can put a student at the top of his field. One does not necessarily have to be born with special skills to achieve success. Hard work and the desire to develop and constantly improve can replace a lack of natural talent. Persons who are genetically skilled but never use their abilities can be surpassed by a student who has the internal motivation to learn and succeed.

Demanding Sensei

“Sensei seems to be in a constant state of perpetual dissatisfaction wish us because none of us live up to his standards.”

Is this person speaking about your Sensei or mine? The truth is probably both. I could easily say the same thing about Sensei Marlon. Sensei is never satisfied with me no matter how hard I try or how much progress I make. Sensei creates a sense of tremendous discomfort in me at times. But I know Karate training is not suppose to be a cake walk and that is has to be uncomfortable sometimes if I am going to grow at all. I just always keep in mind that it’s a technical dissatisfaction, not a personal dissatisfaction. You have to be careful that you don’t confuse the two.

One of the first things you need to know about a demanding Sensei is that he generally is demanding of everyone, not just you. It’s not personal. Students have a tendency to assume that he is just picking on them and they feel pressured. But let me ask you a question. Has it ever occurred to you that the most demanding instructors are the ones who push you out of your comfort zone and help you rise to a new level of competence? It is frequently the demanding instructor who will bring you the best in you. It is important and necessary to be open to what they have to teach you without taking their behavior personally.

Judgement Calls

Scenario #1

Marilyn is a college freshman. She has an apartment away from home for the first time. The creep next door wants Marilyn to go out with him, and thinks it is fun to tease her. He often jumps out of the bushes and grabs her from behind, or tries to steal kisses at the laundry room.

Women and undersized children are often harassed by larger, stronger individuals who see them as easy prey. The solution to this problem is basically psychological. The way to stop annoying behavior is to remove the gratification the antagonist receives from his actions. Refuse to go along with the game. Maintain a confident, assertive attitude. Avoid nervous giggling, whining, etc. Physical aggression can be checked by effortlessly breaking away from the harasser’s grasp. This simple action can unnerve the aggressor to the degree that he will leave.

Scenario #2

Roger is a top-notch karate black belt who expects- and generally receives- easy victories at the tournaments he attends. His friends wish he would lose now and then so he wouldn’t be so egotistical. One day Roger gets into a bar fight and kicks the drunk in the head. The man dies and Roger is arraigned on murder charges.

Scenario #3

Hank is 20 years old and athletic. He studied judo when he was a kid and has confidence that he can take care of himself. When confronted one day by a robber with a knife, he attacks the man and barely survives after emergency surgery.

Scenarios #2 and #3 could have been avoided. They are prime examples of errors in judgment. Swallow pride and walk away. Knowing when to use self-defense techniques is more important than the techniques that are actually used. Techniques for the self-defense can, and should, result in injury to an attacker. However, they should only be used in situations that seriously threaten life or well being.


“Martial arts have flourished in Asia as away to build the body and character. As schools have sprung up across the nation, Asian martial arts have become a new American sport. While schools have struggled to remain true to the ancient masters, commercialism has become an economic reality in order to survive. This unfortunate turn has dealt a serious blow to the very principles that have served as the pillars on which these centuries- old disciplines has stood. In some cases, concern for building a positive character has taken a backseat to physical prowess. Virtues like respect, loyalty, courage, and justice, characteristics on which the 16th century founders of Asian martial arts built their way of life, have unfortunately gone by the wayside in many cases. The ability to live by these virtues is a great test for the martial artist, the ultimate goal being the development of self-realization or perfection as a human being.

Respect should be earned, not demanded. A student should respect an instructor because of the skill, knowledge and code of ethics which the student hopes to attain. It takes courage to continue when one has failed. Courage gives the peewee competitor the inner strength to wipe away tears and continue. It makes it possible for the only female student to attend class where there is no encouragement. Loyalty is a concept of being faithful to ones comrades and instructors that is as old as time itself. Nations have been built or destroyed by an abundance or lack of loyalty. The one virtue that served as midwife to the tradition of Asian martial arts during the unjust medieval times justice. The outlawing of weapons and a continual brutalization of peasants led to the creation of a martial system whereby the body was conditioned and trained to serve as a weapon.

Building character and living by a code of ethics, not only increases confidence, but also prepares students for life. Martial artists need to teach each other how to live in harmony. The ancient principle or respecting one another needs to be recaptured.”

By kickboxing champion, Graciela Casillas


When Mike was three he wanted a sand box. His father said, “There goes the yard. We’ll have kids over here day and night. They’ll throw sand and it’ll kill the grass for sure.” Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

When Mike was five, he wanted a jungle gym with swings that would take his breath away and bars to take him to the summit. His father said, “Good grief! I’ve seen those things in back yards. Do you know what the yard looks like? Mud holes in a pasture. Kids digging their gym shoes in the ground. It’ll kill the grass.” Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

Between breaths when daddy was blowing up the plastic swimming pool, he warned, “They’ll track water everywhere. They’ll have a million water fights. You won’t be able to take out the garbage without stepping in mud up to your neck. We’ll have the only brown lawn on the block. Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

When Mike was 12, he volunteered his back yard for a camp out. As boys hoisted the tents and drove in the spikes, Mike’s father said, “You know those tents and all those big feet are going to trample down every blade of grass, don’t you? Don’t bother to answer. I know what you’re going to say- “It’ll come back.”

Just when it looked as if the new seed might take root, winter came and the sled runners beat it into ridges. Mikes father shook his head and said, “I never asked for much in this life – only a patch of grass.” Mike’s mother said, “It’ll come back.”

Now Mike is 18. The lawn this year is beautiful – green and alive and rolling out like a carpet along the drive where the gym shoes have trod, along the garage where bicycles used to fall and around the flower beds where little boys used to dig with teaspoons. But Mike’s father doesn’t notice. He looks anxiously beyond the yard and asks, “Mike will come back, won’t he?”

Summer is here. Children are one of life’s most precious commodities. Appreciate your children’s activities and spend time with them while you can.