Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My little black book.

My name is Tom, and I am a prolific note-taker. I keep a little notebook with me wherever I go, solely for writing notes to myself. Sometimes they are reminders to do something later (I used to try to keep a specific book just for that, to keep this one "pure" but I tend to lose/forget it.) but it is largely an idea repository.

Ideas don't always conveniently materialize in class. Often, it is while I'm walking from the car to my office, or while reading a book or article. Meetings are often great inspiration for me to retreat into my mind and think about Tang Soo Do. For this reason, the little black book pops out and I can record my thoughts quickly for a later time.

I've encouraged readers to keep a training log in the past. I combine my training log with my idea log to keep them in the same book and cut down on the number of Moleskine's I'm carrying around at any given time.

How do you get into the habit? Here's a few pointers I'd like to offer:

Carry it everywhere.


This is the key to getting in the habit. How else do you take advantage of those moments when your brain actually has a great idea? Trust me, saying to yourself "I need to remember that" does not work reliably, if at all. This is why I like the notebook sized Moleskine. It easily fits into a jacket or back pocket. Sometimes, I even slip it into the front of my dobohk in the pouch created by the uniform fold and belt.

Carry a Pen, too.


Well, duh. Can't write an entry without a pen. Get a pen you like, and keep it with your notebook at all times. Besides, carrying a pen makes you look prepared and industrious, not to mention ready for self-defense.

Write!


How often do you avoid writing things down because it's "not important enough" or "you'll remember it later?" Write it down, even if it is just a snippet, so you remind yourself later. Maybe you have an incomplete thought... Who cares? The journal is for your eyes only, and no one else will judge it. If it really bothers you later, cross it out and put a note next to it like "sorry, i was drunk."

Don't be shy. As soon as class lets out, get out your notebook and write what you can. If you are at a seminar, respectfully ask the instructor if you can take notes. They may say no, especially if this is the first time anyone has ever asked. If so, tough it out and remember key points to write down during a break. I can't tell you how many gems have slipped out of my head as I go from one breakout session to another at clinics.

Look at it during downtime.


Yes, you have downtime. At lunch, waiting in line at the grocery store (sure, put your list in their too!) sitting at a red light, waiting for a meeting to start, number 2 moments, whatever. Looking at what you've already written down serves to remind you of your great ideas, and to get the juices flowing for a followup entry. And since you have your pen with you, maybe you've got enough downtime to add a few more notes as well.

Expand on it later.


Often my notes are to spur later thought, or notes for when I'm preparing to speak to a group. I may take a short entry and decide to blog on it later, add it to my research, etc. Either way, revisiting your material is a great way to connect seemingly disjointed thoughts into something more coherent for later use.

Go buy a notebook. Start using it. Thank you.

Failure


“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”


who said it?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

a time for concepts and a time for techniques

This month, I'm set to visit some friends in Chicago and teach a nunchaku seminar. Nunchaku have a special place in my heart. I've been playing with and using them since I was about 10 years old. It was a bonding between my dad and myself. As a teenager, my dad took karate classes and his instructor would show a few tricks with the nunchaku. The 1970s were the peak of nunchaku mania in the US, and my dad was part of that trend.

When I was 10, I found my dad's hiding place for his nunchaku and asked if he could show me a few moves. After all, I was 10 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had assumed the role of nunchaku ambassador to my generation. He flipped them around a few times, and then proceeded to give me my first of two lessons: forward and reverse figure eights. Practice this technique, he advised me, and everything else will come out. (For those of you wondering, the 2nd lesson was how to bounce the nunchaku off the leg without needing an ice pack.)

Fast forward about 11 years, and I'm taking martial arts as an adult. My instructor gives me a staff to practice with in class. Shockingly, we practiced the same thing: Figure eights. Repeatedly. Eerily enough, his advice was the same. Everything comes back to those figure eights and their planes of motion.

My instructor taught me to use the staff on a more conceptual level, reinforcing his lessons with concrete examples. In other words, he didn't show us 20 tricks and then try to improve them. Instead, we spent time focusing on using gravity, momentum and leverage to our benefit and then would use a technique to teach that lesson. In fact, most of our time was spent on what he called "dexterity skills." I always thought this a bit odd given than our instructor was not one to spend time on frivolity.

It took me a few years to wrap my head around this way of thinking. As I teach staff and nunchaku now, I find myself returning more to this method of teaching. To me, the weapon is not the lesson. In fact, the weapon is a prop for the lessons I want to teach. It is the applied version of the planes of movement. Learning to appreciate how the weapon travels along these planes, and how to transition from one plane to another with smoothness, efficiency and power. From there, take those lessons to everything else: staff, chain whip, rope dart, whip, sticks, empty hand techniques, and more. Learn from feeling and experimentation.

That's what I hope to share with my audience in Chicago.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I'm not dead.

Just a lot going on. Moving one studio to a new location, getting married and looking for a new job all at the same time.

I've had a severe case of writer's block over the last month, and am still having a hard time putting the concepts in my mind into words. I have 3 or 4 topics that I want to write about, and just haven't done much with yet.

Stay tuned. (Or just check your RSS feed.)

Monday, April 7, 2008

MHA and attitude

To paraphrase Master H from this weekend:

If you (as a blackbelt) aren't learning something new every time you step on the floor, you only have yourself to blame.


Master H has a way of being very firm and direct, yet fair. That's one of the many reasons I enjoy training with him when I can. It's something I've been trying to tell my yudanja, and making it far more complicated than it had to be.

It was worth 7 hours of driving to hear.