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What is Integrity?

Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

 This month’s word is “integrity”.

December is a great month to share what it really means.  I would suggest for you to share it during holiday dinners and gatherings to pass on lessons that you’ve learned along the way of your journey in life and see how you measure up.  Let’s first define this big word.


The Secret of Reaching Your Goals

Want to know a success secret that is behind many top achievers and martial artists?  Do you want to knock down goal after goal on your quest to martial arts greatness?  Then read on.  Because in this issue, I’m going to reveal a new “twist” on goal-setting that might just help you achieve a lot more.  In fact, it may completely change the way you think about goals.  Read on!

 The Two Parts to Achieving a Goal

      There are two parts to any goal: the destination and the journey. The destination, of course, is the end result you want to achieve.  It’s the next rank, tournament win, new stripe, improved grade, or whatever else you’re aiming for.

The journey, on the other hand, is the day-to-day effort you invest in achieving your goal.  It’s all the little steps that make up the path you take to reach your goal.

I like to think of the destination as the “big picture” and the journey as the “details”.

 Different Sides of the Same Coin

      Both parts are important.  They’re like two sides of the same coin.  So the key to harnessing the power of goal-setting lies in the middle.  You must always strike a balance between your day-to-day efforts and focusing on your final goal itself.

If you only focus on the end goal – without backing it with action – you’re simply a dreamer.  On the other hand, if you only  go through the motions day after day without direction or purpose,  you’re a drifter.  The secret of hitting your goals is simple: You need to avoid both extremes: don’t be a dreamer or a drifter.

Here at Babin’s Karate for Kids academy we spend a lot of time setting goals and visualizing results.   After all, you have to know where you’re going in order to get somewhere.  But this month, I want to focus on the other side of the goal-setting coin: I want to talk about the journey.

At first you might be tempted to think the reason to set a goal is to get that final outcome you want – the new rank, stripe, better grade, etc.  But oftentimes, you may discover that simply walking the path towards your goal contains the life-changing benefit you’re really after.  That your journey is what it’s all about.

 Take Time to Smell the Flowers

     Sometimes we get so wrapped up in achieving big things that we forget to focus on the moment.  John Lennon said, Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.  In other words, take time to be “present” with all the little things that make being a part of Karate for Kids so special.  I’m talking about things like…

The camaraderie and the great friends you’ve made… the feeling of accomplishment when you walk off the floor (or mat)…the simple routine of tying on your belt…the pride you feel when you move up a rank…the knowledge that you’re one of the few people on this earth who are part of an honorable and ancient martial arts lineage.  And so on.  The day-to-day of being a martial artist.

Big achievers know how to strike a balance between focusing on their long-term target on the one hand… and what they have to do on a daily basis to hit that target.  They keep the big picture foremost in their minds…while at the same time…doing whatever it is they need to do to hit that goal.

Super-achievers know the path is where you grow as a person, increase your skills and thrust yourself to a whole new level.  They also know that in many cases, the true value sometimes lies in the path itself, not just the destination.

 A Story You’ll Recognize

      Here’s a story to illustrate my point.  I’ll use something everybody will recognize: the classic movie, “The Wizard of Oz”.  As you’ll recall, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion each had a goal in mind.  Dorothy wanted to get back home to Kansas.  The Scarecrow wanted a brain.  The Tin Man wanted a heart and the Lion wanted courage.  After learning the Wizard of Oz could grant them their wishes, they set out on a journey to meet him.

After many days, they finally stood before the great Oz.  They meekly asked him to grant their wishes.  He said, I have every intention of granting your requests.  But you must first prove yourself worthy by performing a very small task.” 

And that’s where the journey began.  After many tests, they finally did accomplish this “small task” and delivered the broomstick to the Wizard.

But they soon discovered the Wizard really didn’t really have the power to grant their wishes.  Did that matter?  No. They finally realized they themselves developed these traits while on their journey.

Take the Lion, for example.  His goal was to have courage.  On the journey, he battled flying monkeys, confronted the Wicked Witch and faced his fears head-on.

So in the process of going for the goal, he transformed himself.

That’s why the wizard didn’t have to “give” courage to him.  The Lion developed courage himself. All the Wizard had to do was pin a medal on him to signify what the Lion went through and achieved.  Thus, the Lion did indeed get his wish in the end – but from a different source.  The journey held the true benefit he was looking for.

Now, you might think this is just a simple children’s story.  On the surface, it is. But if you take a deeper look, you’ll realize it reveals a very powerful truth:

While you may at first think your end result is what you want, often you’ll find that the journey itself contains the real, yet hidden, value. 

  Overcoming Challenges

      You may have started at Karate for Kids by admiring the black belts in our academy and wishing you had that rank, too.  And that’s great.  That’s your end goal.  But keep in mind that a black belt is just like the Lion’s medal: it stands for all the challenges a black belt has overcome.  Stuff like…

All the fears he or she has faced while rising through the ranks…

  • All the times he or she didn’t feel like going to class but pushed through anyway…
  • Tournaments they attended, challenging themselves where they squared off against competitors…
  • The times they’ve mentored lower ranks and helped them on their own journey…
  • The loyalty, dedication and perseverance they’re shown over the years…
  • The sweat, effort and personal sacrifice they went through to hit their goals along the way…
  • And all the other challenges they’ve overcome on the path to becoming a black belt.

That’s why the rank of black belt means so much.  Black belts walk the talk.

 Focusing on the Journey

     How you handle your journey – the day-to-day – predicts your success long-term.  You see, many people set a goal, stumble on the journey and give up.  They lose sight of the reasons they set the goal in the first place, forget to practice on a daily basis or never develop the perseverance to hit their target.  There are a million reasons some people don’t achieve much.  Basically, it boils down to this…

They don’t pay the price on a daily basis to get what they want.

 The Journey Separates The Serious From the Curious.

      How people handle the journey tells you a lot about their intentions.  Do they put in the effort?  Do they do what it takes to get to their goal?  Are they all talk?  Or do they back it with action?

A wise man once said, The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.

 Your Daily Habits Do Set You Up for Success

     The key to having a successful journey is in your daily habits

So I have some questions for you: What do you do in your daily routine?  Is it moving you closer or farther away from your goal?  What are you going to do today to get one step nearer to your goal?  What specific actions are you going to take?  All you really have is today.  What are you going to do with it?

It’s not enough to talk.  Anybody can do that.  It’s the doing that’s the hard part.  The journey is where you test yourself to the limit.  Be realistic in your goals and back them with  physical actions on a daily basis that propel you to your goal, step by step. 

No, the Journey Isn’t Always Glamorous

      It’s often said that The world wants to see the baby, but they don’t want to hear about the labor pains”.   That’s an apt metaphor because you really are “giving birth” to a new person along your journey.  Just like a snake shedding its skin, when you complete the path, you will emerge a different person.

Don’t believe me?

Then I challenge you to think back to the very first day you started as a white belt.  What were you like then?  Were you the same person?  Of course not.  It was the day-in-day-out that changed you.  Little by little, you transformed yourself into a new person – a true martial artist.  You may not have noticed the changes while they were happening, but they are real and they add up.

 Your Monthly Call to Action

      This month, I want you to focus on your daily routine.  How can you change it to help you reach your goals?   Think about all the little things you can do every day to get one step closer to your goal.  Of course, don’t forget about the big picture, either.  Remember to keep a balance between focusing on your target (goal) and doing what it takes to get there.

– Chief Master Babin

How To Improve Your Technique

If you want to win more tournaments… spar with greater success …and take your martial arts skills to the next level…read on.  Because this month you’re going to discover how to improve your technique, no matter what level you’re at right now.  

Five Key Secrets

     I’m going to reveal five key secrets that, when you apply them, will make any of your martial arts skills much more powerful and help you get the very most out of what you’re learning.  Ready?  Here goes:

 Focus on the Basics

     I say this time and time again.  Focus on your fundamentals!  Out of all the techniques you learn, they are truly the most important.  Why?  The answer is simple: Your basic techniques (yes, even white belt moves!) are your foundation.  These moves form the base which all of your advanced techniques build upon.  Take a look at any top martial artist and I guarantee you’ll find someone who has drilled the basics so many times they’ve become second nature

     This is true in other sports as well.  Take basketball, for example.  Superstar Michael Jordan stunned fans with his physics-defying “air” on the basketball court.  His buzzer-beating three-point shots bordered on the unbelievable.  And his clutch wins shocked everybody – other teams included.  When you say the name “Michael Jordan”, you think “flash”.  But off the court, Michael Jordan was a very humble man who took the basics very seriously.  Here’s a quote from Michael Jordan himself:

“Fundamentals are the most crucial part of my game in the NBA. Everything I did, everything I achieved, can be traced back to the way I approached the fundamentals and how I applied them to my abilities. They really are the basic building blocks or principles that make everything work.  I don’t care what you’re doing or what you’re trying to accomplish — you can’t skip fundamentals if you want to be the best. The minute you get away from fundamentals, the bottom can fall out. You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that never changes will be your attention to them.

      “The fundamentals will never change. It comes down to a very simple saying: There is a right way and a wrong way to do things.  You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your fundamentals are wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.  Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”

     Wise words from one of the all-time greats.  Drill your basics repeatedly.  Get them into your blood so they’re reflexive.  And even when you move onto more advanced techniques, go back and hone your basics.  For example, other players were astonished when they saw Michael Jordan practicing free throws by himself on the court after a big game.  Now that’s what I call a focus on fundamentals.

Specialize In the Moves Meant for You.

     Specialization is a big key to success at Karate for Kids.  This is true of self-defense situations as well as rank promotions and competitions.  While you must learn all the moves we teach (and you do learn a lot!), down the road you can start to specialize more.  This means you can choose your favorite moves from everything you’ve learned from us.  You will develop your own “signature style” – your own “bag of tricks”. 

     Let’s face it: There are some moves that are simply more effective for you – as an individual – to perform than others.  Some techniques feel more comfortable to you than others.  That’s natural.  If you feel your sidekick is more effective than your round kick, then the next time you compete, rely on your side kick to get the job done.

     The reason specializing helps your technique is simple: When you focus on a small set of “go-to” moves and techniques, you can perfect them much more easily than, say, thousands of  different techniques.  It’s the old “quality over quantity” idea.

    In the book The 80/20 Principle, author Richard Koch reveals a fascinating universal law he calls the “80/20 Principle”.  Scientifically proven time and time again, the law goes like this: In most cases, 80% of results come from only 20% of your efforts.  For example, 80% of a business’ sales come from 20% of its customers.  20% of people in the country own 80% of the wealth.  20% of intersections create 80% of traffic jams. And so on.  You see this principle everywhere in life.  I bet if you did a study of our tournaments, you’d find that 80% of tournament wins result from 20% of available techniques. 

     Test this for yourself.  The next time you’re at a tournament, take note of the winning techniques.  I bet the same “bread-and-butter” moves come up over and over. When you focus on a  small handful of very effective moves, you can master them more easily.

      Bruce Lee said, phpaide.com “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” 

Strive for Simplicity

     Oftentimes, the simplest moves are the best.  Why?  Because simple moves waste very little motion.  They also are natural and intuitive.  If you’re in a self-defense situation, you want to choose the technique that will eliminate the threat as quickly as possible…and with the greatest chance of success.  Your basic moves fall into this category.  When trying to choose between a flashy, complicated move and a solid, simple move – opt for the simple move… especially in a self-defense situation!

Attend Tournaments

      I mentioned tournaments a moment ago.  I believe it really is important to compete. Why? Is it to come home with trophies and medals?  Is it for the accolades?  No.  The main reason is to learn in a new way.  In a tournament, you get to test your skills against a new opponent you rarely spar or never sparred with before.   This is much closer to a real street confrontation because you don’t know what to expect.  Your opponent will throw new moves at you from angles you’ve never experienced before.  This gives you a chance to fine-tune your skills, discover what works best for you and improve your techniques in a big way. 

Teach Others

    The final (and possibly the most powerful) way to improve your own techniques is to teach others.  Trust me: if you really want to learn something well, try teaching it to somebody else.   And if you really want to see how well you really know something – try teaching it to somebody else. 

     Here’s why this works: First, you get to analyze your techniques in-depth.  You’ll really understand the mechanics of the move (the “kinetic chain”). Second, you get more repetition on that technique because you perform it more when teaching it to somebody else.  Finally, you get to see the most common mistakes people make when performing a technique.  You can then avoid these same mistakes, too.

     Teaching is a huge secret.  Look at all the great masters in our art.  Is it any wonder they’re all instructors, too?  Advancing to the level of mentor and teacher is a natural progression in martial arts.  When you teach, not only do you enrich another person’s life, but your own techniques improve dramatically.  It’s a win-win.  (By the way, we have a special leadership program for students who would like to move up to a leadership role and start teaching others.  See me for more information!)

Your Call to Action

     This month I want you to focus on perfecting your techniques using the five methods I just outlined.  Above all, focus on your fundamentals this month.  They’ll make everything more solid!

—Chief Master Babin

Building Perseverance

When you think back through your Babin’s Karate for Kids career, isn’t it amazing how many people you’ve passed by?  These are the people who started the same time you did, but for whatever reason, took a “break” and just never got back into it?

Winning Through Perseverance

We often hear from member that they see past students around town.  They almost always ask, “Are you still at Karate for Kids?” My answer is always “of course!”  Then I hear: “That’s awesome.  I wish I had stuck with it.  I would have been a black belt, too.” (They always say this with a look of regret in their eyes, too).

While I’m sad they didn’t continue, it serves as a reminder of how far you’ve come.  It also reminds us how well we stuck to our goals when others fell by the wayside.  It’s a self-esteem booster for you.  And that really is the secret to being great in any endeavor – staying the course over the long haul.


Really, to be successful at Karate for Kids, you don’t have to be the strongest athlete or the most flexible person.  Or even have the toughest physically. No, when you start, none of those things matter.  What does matter is your ability to persevere.  Because in the long run, it’s not where you start, it’s where you end up that matters.

We Grow At Our Own Pace.

You’ve heard the old “Tortoise and Hare” fable, haven’t you? The Hare rushes through the race, sees the Tortoise way behind him and takes a “breather” midway through the race.  But not the Tortoise.  He knows he’s not as fast as the hare.  So he stays focused and moves at his own pace.  And to everybody’s surprise, he wins. That is the essence of “perseverance”.

Life Is Not a Sprint.  It’s a Marathon.

Like any other trait, you can develop perseverance.  The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.  Here are some of the powerful ways our training helps   develop your perseverance “muscles”.

Teaches You to Master Your Emotions.

It’s easy to give in to momentary impulses and derail your hard-won efforts (like the hare).  Take dieting, for example.  One of the biggest blunders is saying, “What the heck, this one time won’t hurt.”  People give in to a momentary whim and before you know it, a snowball effect has happened.  That one slice of chocolate cake turns into two pieces of chocolate cake.  Then a piece the next day.  And so on.  Your emotions can lead you astray if you’re not careful.

Learning how to master your emotions through the martial arts helps you to develop perseverance and fuels you with a willingness to carry on to reach your goals, no matter what the cost.

A martial arts blogger named Logtar says that martial arts training teaches you to develop your second mental wind.   “This is the part of us that determines whether or not we quit, keep going, or intensify our efforts during difficult times”, he says.  Once you discover what stops you, you can then find ways to overcome those obstacles.

Another benefit: when you are master of your emotions, it’s easier to avoid very dangerous whims of the moment like drinking, smoking and other risky behavior!

Helps You Focus on the “Big Picture”

Whenever you feel discouraged, it’s usually because you’re focused on the present moment…or the immediate challenge at hand.  But when you step back and realize your  current obstacle is only a tiny hiccup on the path to a bigger goal, it puts things into focus.

We help you concentrate on the big picture.  You then gain something very important: perspective.  When you step back from your challenge and see it from a better point of view, it builds your perseverance because you can see the big picture – the forest, not just the trees.

Instills a Lifelong Mindset of Learning and Growing

Take a look around our academy.  All the higher ranks you see are people who have embraced learning and growing.  They’re people who put aside their egos, learned to be humble and adopted a “beginner’s mind”.  They know that every single day there is always more to discover about martial arts.

You’ll meet more and more people like this the more you rise through the ranks.  In fact, I would argue that you can’t make it to the rank of master without great humility as well as believing “there is always more to learn”.   (I’ve also noticed most true masters in any field – not just martial arts – are humble deep down and always strive to improve themselves.)

Yes, your higher ranks are an incredible resource for you.  Talk to any of them to share your concerns and discuss your challenges.  Ask for their advice and find out how they broke through their own barriers.  What did they do to take it to the next level?

Babin’s Karate for Kids Teaches Triumph

Success leads to more success.   Everybody knows that.  But to achieve anything great in life, you must first know what it’s like to accomplish small goals.  You have to start small and work your way up.

Since martial arts presents and ever-increasing series of challenges (stripes, belts, ranks, techniques, etc.), it’s a perfect way to flex your “personal victory” muscles.  Every day, week and month there is something to conquer, a new technique to learn or a new challenge.  You feel what accomplishment is like.

It might be something simple, like a self-defense technique.  Or it could be something more difficult, like winning at a regional tournament.  Whatever the goal, when you achieve it, it leads to greater confidence and carries you through to more success.

Then, when you confront an even bigger challenge, you can say to yourself, “Sure, this seems tough right now.  But so did winning at the last tournament.  And so did earning my blue belt.  In fact, those seemed almost impossible at the time.  I know I can do this, too.  I’m going to press on”.  Small victories add up to big success.

This constant series of challenges is what makes Karate for Kids so fun.  But it is also why it can be frustrating at times.  It’s NOT easy.  That’s why martial artists are viewed as such elite athletes.  And it’s also why it’s so rewarding personally when you hit your goals.  There’s no better feeling in the world.

Develops a Winning Attitude

We’ve all heard the phrase “A black belt is just a white belt who never quit”. How true this is.  A lot comes down to your attitude.  Studies reveal those who are positive live longer, enjoy more relationships with others, have fewer health problems and enjoy more successful careers.

This is one of the big reasons we help instill a “black belt attitude” in all our students – it’s a critical ingredient in developing perseverance.  After all, what is a winning attitude anyway?  Self-talk is a big part of it.  When your internal voice is positive, it leads to greater action.  On the other hand, when your self-talk is negative, you become your own worst enemy.  Those with negative attitudes defeat themselves before they even get out of the gate.  We show you how to turn “can’t do” into “can do”.

But The Most Important Point of All….We Will Never Give Up on You!

If you do your part by attending classes regularly, practicing, listening and staying focused – we’ll do our part.  We’re going to thrust you to a whole new level – physically as well as mentally.  We’ll stand by your side during those tough times and never give up on you.

We’ve seen it all here.  Family struggles, money issues (and who doesn’t have some of those these days!), frustration, brick walls, etc.  All of our higher ranks have gone through the same struggles.  Just remember if one person can do it, so can another.

Wise Advice From a Higher Rank

Here is a valuable piece of advice.   “You have good martial arts days and you have bad martial arts days.  The more you progress, though, the more the good days you’ll have.  Stick with it and you’ll see”.

This is great advice.  So this month I want you to be aware of your  “perseverance muscles”.  Go that little bit extra this month. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things”.

Practice perseverance and you’ll be amazed at the results.

—Chief Master William J. Babin


The Seven Top Benefits of Martial Arts for Adults!

While we focus on the benefits of martial arts for kids a lot at our academy (they’re obviously a big part of what we do), you’d be amazed at how many adults have seen the benefits their kids are getting from our program and said, “What about me?  I want to try martial arts”. So here is a list of the top six benefits of martial arts for adults!

Benefit 1.)  More Energy and Greater Productivity

A while back, billionaire Richard Branson (of Virgin Atlantic fame) invited a group of 20 people to his Caribbean hideaway to discuss plans for a charitable foundation.  At the meeting, a participant asked Branson point-blank: “How do you increase your productivity?” In other words, “how do you get more hours in the day?” Branson sat back in his chair, pondered the question for a moment, then said, “Exercise”.   He said exercise keeps the endorphins going, the brain functioning well, and by exercising, he can achieve twice as much in a day by keeping fit.  He said working out gives him a whopping four hours of extra productivity every day.

If one of the world’s busiest, wealthiest and most powerful people can find time to exercise, can’t you?  Of course you can.  And what is the greatest exercise around?  You guessed it: martial arts.  Martial arts helps burn fat and calories, builds strength, strips away stress and gives you a little “competition” in your athletic life.  But the one thing that separates Babin’s Black Belt Academy from most other forms of exercise is that it keeps exercise interesting.

Think about it: lifting weights and burning hour after hour on the elliptical machine gets boring pretty fast.  Not martial arts.  Since it has an ever-increasing series of challenges (belts / ranks, competitions, weapons clinics), it keeps things fresh.  You learn new skills and techniques all the time.  All the while, you don’t even realize you’re exercising!  But walk out of class – wow! – you feel invigorated, the endorphins are flowing (as Richard Branson points out) and the time flew by!

That’s why people who choose Babin’s Black Belt Academy for exercise tend to stick with it longer than most other types of exercise.   Also don’t forget martial arts is a group activity: you have “positive peer pressure” to stick with it and a group to help give you that little push to stick to your exercise goals.  I can’t think of a better way to boost your daily productivity, overall energy level and fitness than our martial arts program.

Benefit 2.) Discipline and Focus

In our ever-connected world of iPhones, iPads, blackberries and other smart devices, we’re multi-tasking more than ever before.  On top of that, people demand our time, compete for our attention and we’re forced to shift focus constantly.  As a result, we have a harder and harder time following through on tasks and staying on track.   Yes, our digital, button-clicking culture is changing us rapidly.  As anthropologist Amber Case at a recent TED conference said, “We’re all cyborgs now.”

As a result, one of the rarest and most valued character traits these days is focus.  And this is where Babin’s Black Belt Academy training helps.  It gives you a short break from digital demands, improves your powers of concentration and helps you really focus.  This can even alleviate many of the negatives associated with our digital world.

Our martial arts program teaches focus and concentration through rhythmic breathing and relaxation, step-by-step repetitive movements, personal attention, positive reinforcement, adherence to etiquette and rules (structure), group reinforcement and a sense of belonging.  For these reasons, we help build focus and concentration better than exercise alone.

Benefit 3.) Goal Achievement

While many of us in our professional lives set and strive towards various goals, many times these are career related, not mental and physical, as they are in martial arts.  You see, our martial arts program provides a comprehensive training program that clearly outlines your goals and development.  Your mind and your body are part of the formula every stop along the way.  Martial arts takes you from square one and offers clear milestones along your path.

Whether you’re 5 or 50, a white belt or a black belt, you’re always working on goal achievement and towards a sense of personal victory.  And the results of goal achievement take me right onto the fourth benefit…

Benefit 4.) Self-Confidence

Think confidence is just for kids? Think again.  Studies find a strong correlation between adults with self-confidence and career advancement, success in relationships and productivity.

And here, too, our martial arts program helps.   As you make progress through the belts, you become more confident in your ability to defend yourself.  And this confidence comes through in the boardroom as well as the street.

Our martial arts program also helps you build confidence by encouraging you to succeed.  This is one of the great benefits of martial arts at any age. When you’re self-assured, you approach more challenges with a can-do attitude, and as we all know, confidence goes a long way in breeding success.

But above all, I can’t begin to tell you how much confidence it gives you to know that you can handle yourself in any situation. Which brings me to my next big benefit…

Benefit 5.) Self-Defense

The Department of Justice reported almost 5,000,000 violent crimes in the United States last year.  It can be a dangerous world out there, and this is especially true when the economy is struggling.  How do you defend yourself?   The answer is simple: martial arts.

All martial arts are certainly fun to do as an exercise and keep your mind off the physical exertion you’re experiencing, but don’t ever forget that you’re also building self-defense skills as well.  We will help you improve your agility, balance, endurance, flexibility, and even your strength.  It teaches you how to defend yourself physically as well as how to avoid physical confrontations in the first place.

And as I always say: “If you’re going to spend your time exercising, why not learn a skill at the same time?  And if you’re learning a useful skill, why not learn a skill that can save your life – or the life of a loved one?”

Benefit 6.) Great Family Activity

More often than not, one parent is driving one child to soccer, and the other parent is driving to gymnastics. Parents are sitting on the sidelines, talking on their cell phones, visiting with the other parents and just trying to kill time while the kids are doing their activities.  Yes, it’s great that parents act as the cheering section, but there can be more, much more.

You see, it’s really easy to sit on the side and say “Why isn’t Johnny kicking higher, blocking stronger, focusing better?”   Or, “I can’t believe you had trouble breaking your boards in class today.” You see, it always looks easier than it really is from the sidelines!!

One of our parents (now a black belt himself) Vince Birdwell said, “I would watch them (his two kids) workout, then on the way home ask them why they weren’t yelling louder, kicking faster, punching harder and so on.  Then I enrolled, and shortly after I started I went home and apologized to them because now I understood how challenging it really was!”

Another parent, Michelle Millman, watched from the sidelines for a few weeks before she decided to join in.  Her comment, “I wanted to get in on the fun I saw my kids having”. Michelle and 2 sons have earned their black belts.  The youngest, Leah, will test in July for the 1st degree.

The examples go on and on.  But the MAIN BENEFIT for parents and kids training together is very simple.  Babin’s Black Belt Academy and Karate for Kids helps close the generation gap in families. Imagine working on the same curriculum (obviously how the material is introduced and taught is different for adults and kids) but you have a common basis for setting goals, training, advancing in rank, tournament competition and supporting one another.

We have many families—parents and kids—that have all earned their black belts.  It doesn’t get any better than that!!

Benefit 7.) Leadership

Your Call to Action

Martial arts offers so many benefits to adults of every age, it was difficult to list them all.  You might be thinking of a few more – some of you might have experienced.

I want to close with a great quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“The credit belongs to those people who are actuallyin the arena…
who know the great  enthusiasms, the great devotions to aworthy cause;
Who at best, know the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst,
fail by daring greatly…
so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls,
who know neither victory nor defeat”.

And if you haven’t yet tried our classes give it a shot.  See why so many people – of so many different backgrounds and abilities – look to Babin’s Black Belt Academy & Karate for Kids for all these benefits and more.

Also, I would appreciate you forwarding a copy of this e-mail newsletter to one of your friends, family or work associates.  Help them see what our program is truly all about.  It may be the biggest favor you do for them this whole year.

— Chief Master William J. Babin

How Attitude Alone Can Work Wonders!

“If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit

I discovered an amazing video on YouTube you just have to see.  It shows an animal behavior expert named Kevin Richardson roughhousing and rolling around with full-grown, adult male lions.  This man possesses a special gift when it comes to interacting with dangerous animals.

Confronting the Predators–As the lions saunter through the African bush, Kevin walks right up to them and begins to pet them.  No hesitation, no cautious approach.  The huge lions circle around and rub up against him like giant housecats.  And make no mistake: these are wild lions.  Massive and powerful, these predators become as gentle as lambs in Kevin’s arms.

Kevin knows lions.  Dubbed the “Lion Whisperer”, he runs a sanctuary for big cats in South Africa.  He takes in injured cats, nurses them back to health and rehabilitates them.  Animal experts the world over were amazed when a young lioness was filmed with Kevin jumping in a lake and swimming around!  (How many cats do you know that like water?)

A Special Magic–Of all the feats Kevin has demonstrated with lions, possibly the most astounding involved a young lioness named “Pelokghale” who recently gave birth to cubs.  Of course, a lioness’ mothering instincts are among the strongest in the animal kingdom.  They rarely allow other members of their own pride around their newborns, much less a human.  When Kevin announced he was going to approach Pelokghale and her cubs just days after she gave birth, people were shocked.  The risk of serious injury was very high.  But to everyone’s surprise, not only did the lioness accept him; she even seemed to enjoy his company.


Everyone was even more shocked when the lioness actually nudged one of her newborn cubs over to Kevin, offering it to him! Never before has this behavior been witnessed. Yes, Kevin has an extraordinary ability to win over deadly predators and earn their respect.  How does he do this?  The answer is simple:

His Attitude!   “Kevin’s confident attitude is key to his relationship with these predators”, the narrator of the video says.  “His projected self-assurance and calmness somehow allow him to enter into their world”.   Of course, Kevin has spent years working on his attitude and developing this confidence.  (Don’t try this at home.)

But this isn’t the only story I’ve heard about attitude winning over predators.  About ten years ago, a movie called the Ghost and the Darkness was released.  It told the story about man-eating lions who stalked workers building a railroad line through the Tsavo region of Africa.   One of the main lion trainers on the set was a tiny French woman (about 5 feet tall) who commanded the lions with ease.  In the words of one of the cameramen, “She was incredible.  You would have thought she was ten feet tall when she worked with those lions.  She had the big males eating out of the palm of her hand; she was in total control.”   Her secret?  According to the cameraman, it was all in her attitude and the way she carried herself.  She walked into the cage with no fear.

Animals Sense Fear–Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, warns his clients that the way they carry themselves is picked up by their animals.  When an owner consults Milan to help with a problem dog, Cesar discovers that in almost all cases, it’s the owners who “signal” their dogs to behave badly.  At the root is usually a lack of confidence, indecision and meekness.  These signals are viewed by animals as weakness.  And when you are seen as weak, an animal tries to dominate you.

In some cases, an owner’s timidity is caused by their hidden fear of dogs.  To overcome this, Milan has a simple exercise: He takes his client into the middle of a huge pack of dogs – which include intimidating pit bulls, German Shepards and Rottweilers.  When he senses his client’s fear, he tells them to keep their posture erect and “act like you’re the most popular person in high school walking down the hall”.

Instant Results–After the owner adopts this posture at home, they witness an almost instant transformation in their dog’s behavior.  Dogs that were unruly before step right in line.  Dogs that would hog the couch, now give it up without a fight.  Dogs that guarded food, snapped or growled become calm and submissive.  But there’s no magic here.   It’s all a result of the attitude the owner projects and the way they carry themselves.   The right attitude can work wonders.

Milan points out that you have to be the leader.  Only then will your dog become calm and submissive.  He says, “The most important thing we provide every day is that we are the pack leader, that we set the rules, the boundaries and the limitations, and then we love. Most people get a dog because they need somebody to love. So they are going after what they need, not what the dog needs.  And that, to me, creates instability immediately, and the dog sees the human as a soft energy.  They don’t follow the lovable leader; they follow a dominant one.”

Can This Work for You? If a confident, self-assured attitude works with some of the most deadly predators on the planet – as well as our four-legged friends – can it work for you?  Can you use the same secrets on the street, at the office, at school, in tournaments or in competition?   Of course.  Having a self-confident attitude helps you in relationships, in the workplace, at school as well as on the street in self-defense situations.   Developing a calm, confident attitude is one of the life skills we teach at Karate for Kids.  But the best results are achieved indirectly: The more martial arts skills and techniques you have under your belt, the more confident you feel.  The more confident you feel, the more calm and self-assured you’ll be around other people.  It’s simple.

Unstoppable Self-Confidence! Look at higher ranks who have trained at our academy for many years: Do you notice how calm they are?  Do you notice their self-assured manner?  They seem to have an attitude of “I can handle it” or “Don’t even think of messing with me”, don’t they?   See, it’s not just the physical techniques we teach that help protect you.  The more you grow at Karate for Kids, the more you’ll realize it’s the life skills and mental conditioning that pay the biggest dividends over time.   One martial arts instructor put it this way: “As you age, your physical skills can diminish.  But as long as you keep training, your mental conditioning, state of mind and confidence keeps getting stronger”.   That’s one of the secrets of our program here at Karate for Kids that many people don’t grasp until they’ve trained for a long time.

Avoid Becoming a Target–You often hear us say “Don’t be an easy target.”  What does this mean in practice?  Well, one of the best ways to avoid becoming a target is by being alert, staying aware of your surroundings and walking with confidence.  In other words, attitude.   That’s because like all predators, human attackers are opportunity seekers: they look for the easy strike or the weak one in the pack.  See, a potential attacker makes a split-second mental decision when he sizes you up: “Should I choose this person to attack? Does this person look like they might fight back?  How do they carry themselves?  Could I get injured? Is the risk worth the reward?”

One of the big secrets to avoiding being a target is by carrying yourself in such a way that an attacker would rather move on to somebody else rather than confront you.  This does NOT mean flexing your muscles, showing off your skills or being threatening.  It means calmly walking with confidence and letting them know you’re aware of them.  The more confident you look, the greater the risk to your attacker, and therefore, not worth their time or effort.

What Works in Nature, Works in Our World, Too. This is how a confident attitude can pre-empt attacks.  Bullies sense fear in the same way animals like dogs and lions sense fear.   It’s often said that the best martial artists never have to use their skills.  One master said, “It’s always my students that get to use their techniques – never me”.  Do you know why that is?  The answer is simple: masters project an aura of confidence that says, “I can take care of myself.  Move on to someone weaker.”

Just like it took years for Kevin Richardson to develop the attitude to charm lions, it takes time to develop your attitude and street-savvy, too.  Just keep training, attend every class you can and keep building your skills.  And before long, you’ll have the self-confidence of the Lion Whisperer!

–Senior Master William J. Babin

An Amazing Story of Life Skills in the Midst of Heartbreak

“Men are respectable only as they respect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

All of our life skills, like discipline, honor, integrity, courtesy and respect, form the bedrock of traditional martial arts.  These values set us apart from any other sport or activity and define what it means to be a martial artist.

We teach these life skills on a regular basis.  We say, “Have honor and do the right thing.  Act in a dignified way.  Show respect for others”.  And so on.  But the best way to teach these life skills is by giving you concrete examples.  So this month I want to reveal…

A Stunning Example of Respect – In the Middle of Tragedy

If you want to see a real life example of people demonstrating life skills, look to the Japanese people and how they acted in the days following their triple tragedy: killer 9.0 earthquake, massive tsunami and nuclear meltdown.  With chaos and devastation like that, you’d think all the rules would be thrown out the window: Every person for him or herself.  Right?  Wrong.

While reporting from Japan, the news media noticed something very different in the way the Japanese people were reacting to events.  Something surprising.  Something different from all the other disasters they covered in the past: There was no looting or lawlessness in Japan.  Instead, there was order.  Right after the tsunami, people – many of whom lost everything themselves – volunteered to look for survivors.  They set up shelters and cared for the wounded.  Restaurant owners served free food to the community.  And grocery stores and other markets actually cut prices.

Jack Cafferty of CNN pointed this out and posed the following question on his blog:  “Why Is There No Looting in Japan?”

After all, he explained, looting is something we see after almost every tragedy: people looted after the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, after floods hit England in 2007 and after Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf region in 2005 (as well as when sports teams win like the Bulls and the Lakers).  Anyway, Cafferty posted the question on this blog and waited for answers.  The results were fascinating.  Although he received more than 130 answers, most of them share a common theme.  I want to share some of the best ones with you.

The Best Answers to Why People Don’t Loot in Japan

Natasha said, “The Japanese are resourceful, innovative people with a great sense of national pride.  While watching the devastation in Japan is heartbreaking, it’s so refreshing to see the civility of people within the calamity they are facing”.

Russ answered Respect for the rights and property of others, something that is seriously lacking in the USA?  Having worked for some weeks in Japan in the past, I was always amazed at the courtesy and respect shown to others.  One could even see store workers practicing bowing before the stores opened to customers.”

RedBow said,  “It is their up-bringing!  They are taught to honor and respect their elders”

Judy replied, “I was at a business hotel in Tokyo years ago and I will always remember this little observation. Every floor has the fire extinguisher in the hallway, just the can sitting on the floor. Not in a cabinet, not chained to anything, no need to break any glass. It will not cross anyone’s mind to steal it, kick it, or move it.  I admire their disciplinary culture and it is very much needed at a time like this.”

Jim said, In Japan the people share … beliefs, respect for learning, and respect for each other.”

Ron said,  “We have seen American cities and Mid-Eastern cities looted during disasters. It is refreshing to see respect for each other in Japan.”

Sonny said, Japan is a nation that thinks in terms of the collective good. They realize that when one suffers, they all suffer. Every member of society is afforded respect, simply by being a member of society.”

Paul replied, “From what I understand it’s because Japanese culture is all about being humble and respecting others.”

Bizz said, In Japan they are taught at birth manners and respect for their country.”

Kim said, “The Japanese society is based primarily on honor and dignity.  Unlike our Katrina disaster, the Japanese don’t see this as an opportunity to steal everything in sight.  The so-called civilized world can learn much from the stoic Japanese”.

Tom said: The Japanese are raised with self-respect and respect for others. Their honor is of more value to them than a television set.”

Donna said, “I lived in Japan for 3 years.  There is a real sense of community and family with respect for themselves and other people that you don’t see anywhere else.  It is passed down to them by their parents.”

Kathie said, Love and respect for each other!”

Larry said, I was blessed to visit Japan several years ago on business.  I was told if I lost my wallet in downtown Tokyo, the person who found it would make it their mission to return it to me intact.  These people are very gracious and kind.”

Kea said, One word: Respect. The Japanese culture has been infused with morals and ethics for centuries. Children grow up learning respect at home and at school, and these lessons follow them throughout life.

Are You Seeing A Pattern Here?

CNN’s Cafferty summed it us as the Japanese being true to their moral code even in the darkest hours”. What is this moral code?  The answer is simple:  Respect.  If you ever wanted to see how the value of respect works in practice – in the real world outside our academy, demonstrated by an entire people, look no further than the Japanese and how they are dealing with their tragedy. This is precisely the type of respect we at Karate for Kids strive to instill in our students! Is it any wonder Japan is one of the originators of martial arts?  Is it a coincidence that Japanese society reflects these same martial arts values of courtesy, respect, dignity and honor? It doesn’t surprise me at all.

The Meaning of Respect

What is respect?  Respect means “taking someone else’s feelings, needs, thoughts and ideas into consideration”.  It also means admiring others and honoring their wishes and knowledge.  Finally, when dealing with others, you take their position into account.  For example, you treat your instructors, teacher and parents differently than you do your buddies.

As you saw from the Japanese example, living with respect brings many advantages to you.  People reach out to help you more.  More opportunities present themselves.  Society works more smoothly and you can put your trust in others easily.  And when you earn the respect of others, you can look forward to better grades, more friends and a better career, no matter what path you choose.

So here are some solid ways to demonstrate respect:

How To Develop Respect

  • Answer up with, “Yes, Sir” and “Yes, Ma’am” when speaking to others (especially senior ranks).
  • Bow in before you step onto the floor.
  • Attend classes consistently and get to class on time
  • Keep your uniform clean, pay attention in class and listen to your instructors.
  • Stand at attention like a black belt before class begins and avoid horseplay.
  • Treat your seniors and juniors with honor – the way you would like to be treated.
  • Take your schoolwork and academics seriously.
  • Respect school rules and policies (like no gum-chewing in class or running down the halls).
  • Treat your classmates in a kind, courteous manner (ex. listen while classmates share their ideas and thoughts).
  • Pitch in and volunteer for activities in class.
  • Do not tease, mock or bully others…ever!
  • Offer to help out with chores at home.
  • Mind your parents and treat your siblings the way you would want to be treated.
  • Respect other family members’ property and feelings.
  • Keep your room neat and organized (this also shows respect for your possessions).
  • Heed home and family rules (such as curfews, etc.).
  • Treat your body with respect: Eat right, avoid junk food, avoid risky behavior and exercise regularly.
  • Take responsibility for your behavior.
  • Stand up for your own viewpoints with your peers.
  • Show discipline, follow-through and commitment.
  • Stick to your goals and work towards them.
  • Honor your commitments to others, show integrity and set a good example.
  • Respect your own decisions and respect yourself.

We should all strive to emulate the incredible example of respect (as well as honor, dignity, courage and grit) that the Japanese people are displaying while dealing with their multiple disasters.  They are truly a shining example for the world and show how to embody the martial arts value of respect.

–Senior Master William J. Babin



Setting and Acheiving Goals for Education

Okay, time for a goal-check.  Back in January, I passed along 37 goal-setting tips to help you set goals for 2011.  One of those tips was “checking your progress along the way”.  This is a great time to do that.

Checking Your Progress

How is your progress? Are you visualizing what it will be like to achieve your goal?  Do you reach out for help when you need it?  Are you persevering?  Are you moving closer to your goals and keeping them in your mind all the time?  My goal as your martial arts instructor isn’t just to teach you powerful techniques.  It’s also to hold you accountable and give you that “professional push” to succeed in life. So I hope you’re on track to achieving the goals you set back in January. Now we’re going to turn our attention to some new goals for the next couple of months.  Namely, goals for education and school (if you’re not a student, set a goal for work or career).

One of the things that surprises most people – especially new Karate Kid parents – is the strong connection between Karate for Kids and good grades.  But it makes sense when you look at some of the ways our training supports academic achievement.  Here are some of those reasons, briefly:

Teaches Goal-Setting – As you know by now, we teach students to set goals, write down what they hope to achieve and visualize the desired outcome.  Instructors also teach students to tackle large or difficult goals by breaking them down into a series of smaller steps (or bite-sized “chunks”).  This is excellent training for academics, too.  Students learn that any achievement in life is a step-by-step approach and that the secret of learning something complex is actually easy if you take things one small step at a time.  Tiny steps combine into big achievements.

Karate Kid training also improves concentration and focus. Students learn to calm their minds, shut out distractions and focus on the task at hand.  Even kids diagnosed with ADD / ADHD see a marked improvement after our training. This pays off in the classroom because students absorb more and their behavior improves.  This leads to quicker, easier learning and a better attitude (and don’t forget: teachers grade attitude, too!).

Handling Pressure – Our Karate Kid students receive constant feedback on forms, self-defense techniques, sparring moves and other skills.  And when they’re ready for a promotion, they’re judged publicly.  This experience helps them stay calm in stressful situations – like tests at school.  A student who can handle being tested in front of dozens of people can certainly handle a spelling test!  This leads to a more secure self, the ability to accept criticism openly and being comfortable in their own “skin”.  Handing testing pressure is a very important skill for scholastic success.

Perseverance – Karate for Kids teaches the values of hard work, positive choices and extra effort.  Students quickly discover there is no way to “shortcut” your way to black belt.  You have to work hard and have perseverance.  This pays dividends in the academic world, too.  For example, the ability to face a problem head-on and stick with it until the task is finished.

We Reinforce Your Efforts – One of our main goals is to help your child become a well-rounded individual – somebody who can meet the challenges of life head-on.   This encompasses social skills, athletic skills and academic skills.  Part of our training reinforces your efforts and messages about schoolwork – for example, the importance of getting good grades, listening during class, respecting authority and always doing your best.

With that said, let’s turn our attention to some goals for the next couple of months in school.  If you’re a student I want you to think to yourself:

1.)    Where am I now when it comes to grades?  Which area / topic / subject could be raised to a better grade?

2.)    What is the ONE thing I could do immediately to improve my grades?

3.)    What specific steps could I take each day to accomplish that? (For example, could you read one more book a week?  Could you spend an extra 15 minutes on math each day?)

4.)    What are the payoffs for doing that?  How does this benefit you in the short-run and long-run?  (This gets you motivated).

Once you have those answers, you need to do one last thing – you guessed it! – write your goals down.  Remember: a goal without a plan is simply a dream.  The only way to move your goal into reality is by crafting a plan and getting it on paper.  Once you’ve done that, it’s time to take action!

With that in mind, I want to pass along a few tips to help you improve your grades.  These tips will work whether you’re in grade school, middle school, high school, college or beyond.  They’ll even work to improve your career, too.  Let’s dig in:

Improve Your Grades These Eight Ways

Limit TV time.  TV is the biggest time-waster on earth.  I know families who eliminate TV and videogames during the school week when their kids are struggling with grades.  Think about it: If your grades aren’t up to par, it makes no sense to throw away time on TV or videogames. Use your time wisely and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Limit Device Time. Almost everybody carries a smart phone, iPod, Nintendo DS or other device these days.  That’s fine in most cases.  But like TV, they can distract from your schoolwork.  If you’re studying for the big test, for example, and your iPhone blips with a new text message, it’s tough not to stop what you’re doing and read it.  Then you get drawn into a long back-and-forth conversation and before you know it – poof! – there goes your train of thought.  Same thing is true with phone calls, email, and other interruptions.  Protect your valuable time. It’s a scarce resource.

Go On a “Low Information” Diet – We’re now in an “information overload” society.  You can find out in real-time when a quake hits New Zealand or riots break out in Egypt.  There are big benefits to being connected, but also one huge downside, too: lack of focus.  New York Times best-selling author Tim Ferriss has a solution.  He calls it the “low information diet”.  It’s simple: limit your intake of information and only focus on what really matters right now…to you.  Ferriss questions how events half-way around the world or celebrity gossip really impact your life.  A constant barrage of incoming stimulation is one of the biggest causes of stress and lack of focus these days.  Eliminate needless distractions and watch your grades soar.

Get plenty of exercise.  Fortunately for you, this is simple.  It means attending class as often as you can.  It also means practicing at home and attending tournaments.  Studies prove the more exercise you get, the better your academic performance: blood flow and circulation improves, more oxygen is delivered to your brain, memory gets sharper, stress goes down and concentration improves.  You’re on the right track being enrolled here.

Eat right.  Okay, I know this is tough when you’re rushing between classes, trying to make it to class on time or pulling all-nighters to study.  But giving your body the right nutrients does pay off when it comes to academics.  Your brain simply can’t function at its full power when you starve it of nutrients.  For example:, some people look to sugary “energy drinks” or soda for a quick pick-me-up. But after a very short boost, the “crash” that follows leaves you more tired than before.  Junk food works the same way: you’ve skipped a meal or two and your blood sugar is low.  You see the golden arches and it’s calling your name.  Avoid it.  Instead, eat small meals every few hours and feed your body the “good stuff”.  Remember that every single molecule in your body is built from the food you eat. It’s true: You literally ARE what you eat.

Sit in the front.  Here’s a little-known tip passed along by someone I know who… a.) was accepted to an Ivy-League school  b.) finished college with a 3.97 GPA c.) made the Dean’s List every semester.  This tip is simple but works magic: If you have the opportunity to choose your seat, sit right smack dab in front. Right in the middle.  Why? First, there are no distractions and you can see everything easier.  It’s harder for your mind to drift off.  Second, most under-performers sit way in the back so they can goof off.  You want to avoid them.  Finally, the teacher (or professor) will make eye contact with you the entire time.   So when it’s time for extra help or a little favor, they recognize you.  So, if you have a choice, see if you can sit right in the front.  The best seat at a concert is also the best seat in class.

Hang With Geeks. When you hang around with successful people, do you know what happens?  Right: you’re more successful.  So hang with the smart kids.  Emulate how they approach school and homework.  Adopt their thinking.  A huge myth is that success in school is about “being smart”.  It’s not.  That’s a cop-out.  Success in school is about working hard, staying focused and knowing the ins-and-outs of how to approach things.

Reach Out for Help – If you really fall behind, get a tutor.  And you don’t have to look very far.  There are lots of fine students here at our academy.  See if one of them will tutor you.  It’s a win-win for you both: They’ll make a few extra dollars and you’ll reach your goals in school faster.

We’re now in the final push towards the end of the school year. Let’s finish STRONG.  Follow my tips and start getting your goals in place!

– Senior Master William J. Babin

How to Use the “Shark Theory” to Stay Focused!

Can you believe spring break is right around the corner?  It seems like just yesterday we mapped out our goals for the year.  (How are you doing on your goals, by the way?  Are you still on track?).
Anyway, now that spring break is fast approaching, I want to pass along five key tips to help you stay sharp – whether you’re inside or outside the academy, out of town or even on vacation!

Keep the Momentum Up!
Top athletes understand you lose fitness when you miss a workout.  Some pro bodybuilders, for example, notice muscle loss after just three or four days of skipped training.  The reason for this is simple: Your body never stays the same.  At any given point in time, you’re either gaining muscle or you’re losing muscle.  You’re either increasing your flexibility or losing it.  You’re getting stronger or getting weaker.  You’re always moving in one direction or the other. That’s why inactivity is your enemy.  The secret of lifelong fitness and martial arts skills is consistency.   Experts agree that a little bit of effort spread out over time makes a much bigger impact than massive effort all at once.   You must keep moving forward. I call this the “shark theory”.  That’s because sharks have to keep swimming in order to breathe.  If they stop moving, water won’t pass over their gills and they can’t survive.

Use It or Lose It.
Whether or not you’re going on vacation this spring break, you can use these tips to avoid backsliding when it comes to your martial arts progress.  Let’s face it: You’ve worked hard and have come a long way since you started.  It makes no sense to give up your gains just because you’re out of town.  (You can also use these techniques on days the academy is closed).  So here they are:

1.)  Maintain Your Mindset –
Believe it or not, the biggest loss you face on vacation isn’t your strength, flexibility or cardio (although they DO diminish  – even with just a week off).  No, your biggest loss is your mental edge.  Many people simply lose focus when they’re out of town.  The good news is this: All it takes is a little focus to sustain your skills and it starts with your mindset.  Instead of allowing yourself to mentally “check out” on vacation, stay focused on your goals.  Remember: You’re a martial artist anywhere you go.

Runners are famous for staying in the “training mindset”.  No matter where they are, many runners stick to their normal schedules and find a little time to run.  Do the same.  Besides, people who have active vacations report feeling more energized, rejuvenated and rested than those who lazed around for a week.

2.)  Practice Your Techniques
While some of our techniques aren’t possible without a training partner, there are many moves we teach that require no special equipment at all.  This means you can practice them literally anywhere.   Forms are a great example of an exercise you can do almost anywhere.  If you don’t have room for forms, practice segments of the form and you can maintain your strength by doing basic bodyweight exercises like push-ups, dips, crunches and squats.  You don’t have to go crazy, either.  Just “activating” those muscles for a mere 20 minutes helps maintain muscle mass while you’re out of town.  And at the very least, you can stretch to maintain your flexibility.  Maintain your muscle memory when you’re out of town.

3.)  Visit Another School
This is one of the all-time great things about being a member of the American Taekwondo Association: wherever you go in the world, there’s an academy full of “future friends” waiting to train with you!  Our organization is a world-wide—known as WTTU and STF out side of the United States.

If you’re out of town for an extended period, visit a “sister school”. Not only is attending an out-of-town Karate for Kids academy a great way to stay sharp on vacation, but it’s an awesome way to meet new people, too!  A quick tip: Before you leave town, go to ataonline.com and find an academy in your vacation area.  I will then call ahead and introduce you to the head instructor and let them know of your pending visit.   I can even find out about the class schedule and special events that you may want to attend.  No matter where you go in the world, rest assured there is an ATA, WTTU or STF Karate for Kids Academy for you can train in.  (Incidentally, people who move across the country or even overseas report that connecting with a Karate for Kids Academy is a great way to ease the transition.  You’ll meet a bunch of new people with similar interests, goals and family values.

4.)  Use Creative Visualization
Did you know you can actually improve your technique even when you’re not physically performing your moves?  It’s true.   Athletes from many different sports use “positive visualization” to enhance their skills.  Here’s a true story that illustrates this point: An American soldier in Vietnam was an avid golfer before the war began.  During the war, he fell into enemy hands and lived in a tiny cell for more than seven years.  After he was finally free, he couldn’t wait to get back to the States and play a round of golf.  To everyone’s shock, his first time back on the course turned out to be the best round of golf he ever played!

People asked how he kept his skills so sharp during his years as a POW.  Did he have access to a golf course during his captivity?  Did he practice his putting?  Of course not.  The soldier revealed that he mentally played golf in his mind over and over, year after year on imaginary “courses” during captivity.  (This was also one of the ways he coped with his horrifying experience of being a POW).  So, in spite of not picking up a club for years, he was still “practicing”.  His body then fell back into its groove when he was back on the real course again.  Amazing, isn’t it?

Positive visualization can be a big help to your goal of improved technique.  The U.S. Navy Seals are famous for positive visualizing, too.  Like the other tips I’ve passed along, you can do it anywhere! 

5.)  Schedule a Private Class
Finally, if you’re going to be out of town soon, schedule a private lesson.  Together, we’ll map out a specific plan of some basic drills and exercise so you don’t lose an ounce of your hard-fought fitness and you can stay sharp on your vacation.  When you get back, you won’t miss a beat!  Follow these tips to stay sharp and maintain your forward progress!

Don’t forget, we have videos of the current curriculum posted to our website, so even if you don’t have space to workout, watching it will help to keep yourself sharp.

—-Senior Master William J. Babin

Courtesy: Your First Line of Defense

“It’s difficult to find a courteous person today who isn’t trying to sell you something” – Unknown

Federico Freire was glad to be home.  The Marine had just completed two tours of combat in Afghanistan, where he fought terrorists and helped keep our country safe.  He deserved a little rest and relaxation.  So, on Christmas Day he decided to take his wife to the movies.  They both looked forward to a fun evening.

How It Started
Shortly after the show began, two rows of unruly teens started shouting at the screen and talking loudly on cell phones, disturbing other moviegoers.  Federico politely asked the teens to be quiet and “have some respect for others”.   Instead of respect, what he got in return was a barrage of curses and insults.  His wife, Kayln, quickly called the manager, who then booted the teens from the theater.

Laying In Wait
Those teens had a surprise up their sleeve.  Later, when the couple walked out of the theater, a group of 15 teen girls with a grudge were waiting for them.  They surrounded Kayln, intimidating her and threatening to beat her up.  Federico grabbed his wife and ran into the parking lot, looking for their car.  But it was too late: another group of 60 teens had already formed around them.  As the mob closed in on the couple, they chanted “Fight! Fight!  Fight!” Suddenly, a dozen teens started attacking the couple.

Fortunately, a good Samaritan had been watching and intervened, keeping the frenzied crowd at bay.  This gave the Freire’s a chance to escape.  By the time police arrived, the crowd had swelled to 300 people, who all watched the attack and did nothing…except for that one brave soul.

A few days after the incident, Federico was interviewed by the local news.  Disheartened, he said, “Coming back to the States and seeing the criminal activity…it makes me wonder: what am I fighting for?”

Could Have Been Avoided
This tragedy could easily been avoided.  How?  Courtesy.  Those teens could have realized they were disturbing others and simply quieted down.  But instead, what started as a simple request – “please quiet down” – quickly spiraled out of control and ended up with two people in the hospital.  That’s the impact of courtesy.

A Growing Problem
This incident underscores a disturbing trend in our culture: a  growing lack of courtesy.  We see examples all the time: Grainy video of kids fighting after school or in the classroom…people insulting each other and “getting in each other’s grills”…people getting harassed over social media like Twitter and Facebook…MMA fighters “talking trash” or disrespecting their opponents before a big fight…road rage…and the rampant use of profanity and confrontation.  If you didn’t know better, you’d think discourtesy is actually becoming a value in our society!

But here’s the problem: discourtesy in words can quickly escalate into discourtesy in deeds.  That’s because most fights start with words.  Then tempers flare.  Words turn into physical contact – like a push.  And then fists fly in every direction.  So, as you can see, courtesy isn’t just about “good manners”.  And this is how it ties in with martial arts. Courtesy is your first line of defense.

What Is Courtesy?

But let me back up a minute here and define courtesy.  The best description I’ve heard is:  Authentic politeness, good manners and respect for another’s feelings or point of view”.

Courtesy is a social “norm”.  It’s a way of acting that allows society to function normally.  Courtesy helps prevent misunderstandings and missteps from happening.  Here’s a great quote about courtesy from John Witherspoon, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence.  He said, …the manners of a people are of consequence to the stability of every civil society…if there is a general corruption of manners, there can be nothing but confusion”.

Is There Still a Place That Teaches Courtesy and Respect?
Yes, there is.  Right here in our academy.  You see, in traditional martial arts, courtesy is one of the cornerstones of our training.  The reason is simple.  Martial arts originated in the East.  And since  these cultures place a high premium on courtesy, honor and respect, it’s only natural that martial arts embraces these values as well.  (If you want to see a great example of this in practice, visit Japan or South Korea.  You’ll be amazed at how polite and courteous the average person is compared to Americans.

Benefits of Courtesy
Why should you be courteous to others?  Is it worth the effort?  Yes.  Courtesy benefits you in many ways.  Here’s just a few:

1.       Being courteous sets you apart from other people.  You instantly stand out from the crowd and people remember you.

2.      Being courteous demonstrates you’re a leader and shows you have self-control.

3.      Being courteous shows you’re humble and want to avoid confrontation.  Remember: most fights start with words.  Courtesy is your first line of defense.

4.      You’ll make more friends.  People want to hang around with others who treat them in a decent, civil manner.

5.      Finally, what goes around comes around.  Although there’s no guarantee, when you’re courteous, other people usually treat you with more courtesy, too.

Here are some simple ways to show courtesy:

1.       Use polite language.  Your parents are right: “please” and “thank you” can do wonders.  Also, refrain from using profanity (swearing).  There’s no need to use it.

2.      Use “I” statements, rather than “you” statements.  Ex. “I’m not comfortable doing that” is better than “Are you really going to do that?” Using “you” statements makes people feel more confronted.

3.      Respect other people’s personal space.  When people invade your personal “bubble”, it makes you feel uneasy.  Keep your distance and realize cultures have different norms on how close they feel comfortable.

4.      Respect other people’s time.  People are busier than ever these days.  Don’t place undue demands on their time.

5.       Finally, this one is simple: Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  The golden rule has existed for centuries because it works.

So this month, with our focus on courtesy, we want every student in our academy to be a shining example of what courtesy means in practice.

– Senior Master William J. Babin

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