Martial Arts Memories – 1994 to 2008

Recently I used Legacybox, which digitizes your outdated pictures and videos, and I wanted to share the collection of martial arts pictures I received back. These pictures are some special moments from 1994 to 2008.

As a child, I loved all things martial arts and aspired to become a Ninja Turtle! It was my mom who thought instead of punching and kicking in the basement on my own, I’d be better off with formal lessons. So on my tenth birthday I was surprised with martial arts lessons and I haven’t look back. That love for all things martial arts has become my life and provides for those in my life. I’m also honored to share my love and knowledge of the martial arts with others. Though I never turned into that Ninja Turtle, I’m very grateful for what the martial arts have provided me and these pictures remind me of the positive influence and experiences one can have by practicing a martial art!

To view the album, click here.

Martial Arts Memories – 1994 to 2008

What Kind of Karate or Martial Art Do We Teach?

CTS-Google
This is the official crest of the Counterpoint Tactical System.

I had a nice conversation with parents about what type of Karate or Martial Art we teach at Ryer Academy. It’s a common question from people and as a member you might be asked by curious friends, so I thought I would explain what it is that we are teaching.

We teach the Counterpoint Tactical System. It’s a martial art founded by my teacher, Zach Whitson, and is taught in thirteen affiliated groups throughout the east coast and mid-west of the United States. The Counterpoint Tactical System is an integrated martial art for self-defense. The system’s largest traditional influence is Filipino Martial Arts, however, being an integrated martial art means we use elements of various arts based on range and strategy to have a balanced curriculum.

Our children’s curriculum is a minimized version of our Adult Counterpoint curriculum, organized in a tangible way for kids to learn. It is organized in five sections which are represented by our belt striping sequence: empty-hand techniques (blue), stand-up grappling techniques (green), grappling/ wrestling techniques (red), weapon techniques (brown), and verbal de-escalation techniques (black). This curriculum has proven itself successful in that we are able to teach a broad range and high level of martial arts skills. We are also seeing “martial arts kids” turn into “martial arts teens” and now becoming members of our adult program!

In a broad sense I say we teach martial arts, but hopefully next time you are asked what martial art or style of karate you take or your child takes, you’ll knowingly say, “…the Counterpoint Tactical System”.

Want to read more about the Counterpoint Tactical System? Visit the official website at www.tacticalmartialarts.com.

What Kind of Karate or Martial Art Do We Teach?

Teaching “A Whole Lot More”!

Earlier this week I sent out an e-mail about what martial art we teach and I received nice feedback. One parent responded with some insightful feedback that I loved;

Hi Josh! It’s funny, when people ask me about Ryer and why we love it, I actually don’t say any of these things! I say things like “it’s martial arts for kids as a vehicle for character development and learning about discipline,” and “in addition to martial arts kids learn how to handle bullying, to defend themselves and each other, to gain confidence, and to feel in control of their physical selves.” So, really, you are teaching CTS but you’re also teaching *a whole lot more.* ~ Very Best Regards, Laura

Laura is absolutely right and this was again reinforced this morning when I received more feedback from a parent. This parent had also asked about the descriptions of some of the “black stripe” concepts that I think make up what Laura meant by “a whole lot more.” These concepts are my interpretations of the Verbal Judo for Martial Arts schools that we have integrated into our curriculum. Here’s three of them…

Mushin = “a calm, cool mind and body”

Mushin is a Japanese term that directly translates to “no mind”. However in our academy we refer to it as meaning “a calm, cool mind and body”.

The idea we convey is that your Mushin is always on. You are trying to go through your day being calm all day long.

E-Guard = “emotional guard”

We have a saying the kids remember, “When I don’t get want I want, I stay calm.” The idea is that you are going through your day with your Mushin always on and there will be things that will mess with your calm mind such as not getting what you want, which could result in getting mad or sad. It could also be an activity that gets you super excited and you lose a little control. In those moments when your Mushin is being tested, we want our students to use E-Guard to remain calm and make decisions from a place of calmness… not emotion.

I recently had a mat chat where I compared “E-Guard” to the idea of protecting a castle. All kids love castles! We talked about one group being in the castle protecting it and then there’s another group trying to get in and take it over. The outside group is looking for the weaknesses of the castle “an easy way in”. The inside group is guarding the castle, but they too must know the weaknesses of the caste and look for ways to strengthen these weaknesses. Once the kids were intrigued by this description, I then said, “You are your own castle. We must know our weaknesses and then learn to strengthen them when someone outside of us is trying to attack; whether this is verbally or physically.”

L.E.A.P.S. = “Listening, Empathy, Ask, Paraphrase, Summarize/ Solution”

We want the students to think of LEAPS as a tool in their “mental toolbox” much like a hammer in a real toolbox. When you need to place a nail in a piece of wood, you go to your toolbox and get the hammer. When you have a misunderstanding or argument with someone like your parents, a sibling, friend, etc; then we go to our mental toolbox and use LEAPS. First we need to listen to the other person. We try to understand what they are feeling. If we can’t figure out what the problem is then we ask nicely. As the kids get older in the academy, we teach them to paraphrase and put the problem into their own words. You then reflect it back to the person in order to get them to confirm our understanding of the problem and from that we can hopefully solve the problem.

Another idea from LEAPS is to teach the kids the idea of “Active Listening” using both our ears and our eyes to listen when someone is speaking to us or when they speak to others. This will improve listening skills as well as show respect.

Teaching “A Whole Lot More”!

What Makes A Martial Arts System Effective?

ef·fec·tive
adjective \i-ˈfek-tiv, e-, ē-, ə-\
: producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect

An effective martial arts system should produce practitioners that possess the skills to protect themselves and their loved ones in every phase of civilian armed and unarmed self-defense.

As a practitioner for over twenty years, I’ve been asked many times what I believe is the most effective martial arts system. First you should understand what your martial arts system was intended for; i.e. sport, tradition or self-defense. While some martial arts systems are effective in a controlled environment or intended to respect the conditions of the past, I define an effective martial arts system as one that lives in today’s world against today’s threats. Some martial arts systems have changed originally being designed for self defense, but morphing into a sport. Be sure to get a firsthand look at the way the martial art system is presented and a school’s approach to the training. Here are four general guidelines that have helped me determine what makes an effective martial arts system.

  1. An effective martial art system should take an inexperienced individual and develop high levels of skill.

In the Counterpoint Tactical System, we have a carefully designed curriculum that systematically guides a practitioner through entry level skills to advanced skills. This curriculum is setup as blocks. Once a practitioner learns the blocks they are able to easily connect and build with them. Many martial arts have no curriculum to develop skill sets, leaving naturally gifted practitioners to demonstrate the effectiveness of their martial art. I question if this effectiveness is the result of the martial art or the person’s natural ability. In order to be considered an effective martial arts system, the system must improve the practitioner’s skills regardless of their ability or lack thereof.

  1. An effective martial arts system should teach a practitioner to use their skills in a spontaneous situation without rules or regulations.

Many martial arts systems are based on knowledge of memorized patterns. While this initially has value, the intent of any effective system should take a practitioner to a level where they can deal with any situation. I have studied a system where a majority of the training is spent memorizing techniques only to never use the techniques in actual sparring. To be considered an effective martial arts system, the tactics you train must translate to sparring. In the Counterpoint Tactical System if a technique cannot translate to sparring then it is discarded. On the flip side, I have practiced a martial art with much less memorization and it was effective only because of the vacuum it existed in. Realize that if you are practicing a martial art where you can’t strike an available target at any given time; you should question the system’s effectiveness.

  1. An effective martial art system should teach practitioners the skills to survive in all ranges of combat against single or multiple opponents that could be unarmed or armed.
Watch Master Zach Whitson and Joshua Ryer demonstrate some of the modern skills of Close Quarter Gun vs. Knife that is part of the Counterpoint Tactical System.
Watch Master Zach Whitson and Joshua Ryer demonstrate some of the modern and effective skills of Close Quarter Gun vs. Knife tactics that is part of the Counterpoint Tactical System.

This is one guideline that really sets many martial arts apart. To be an effective martial arts system it should deal with all ranges of combat. In addition, it should have modern weapon considerations like knife and gun tactics.The founder of the Counterpoint Tactical System, Master Zach Whitson, has established the approach of starting from your feet and striking, then grappling from your feet, and lastly ground fighting. He states that, “Mobility and the aptitude to stop a threat with a single decisive strike is the most important idea on the street with multiple opponents and weapon considerations.” There are many martial arts systems that focus on one range of combat or defend against only one opponent. While the system might be effective in that controlled environment, this is not the world we live in.

  1. An effective martial arts system should promote a lifelong practice rather than a short career.

To be considered an effective martial arts system it should be a system that can be done at various stages of your life. As we age we lose physical attributes like strength and endurance. Though we can rely on these attributes for many years, eventually you will need something else. In the higher levels of the Counterpoint Tactical System, internal martial arts becomes a focus teaching practitioners attributes like refined technique, breathing disciplines, and increased mental awareness. These attributes will complement your aging body and allow you to protect yourself and your loved ones well into your older years.

While there are other factors one could list, these are four general guidelines that I have found and have led me to my effective martial arts system. I hope that you will find yours!

What Makes A Martial Arts System Effective?

Ryer Academy’s June 2015 Word of the Month

The Word of the Month at Ryer Academy for June 2015.
The Word of the Month at Ryer Academy in Shadyside for June 2015.

Every month for the last several years we highlight a word that we discuss during our Kids’ Martial Arts classes. We write the Word of the Month (WOM) on the whiteboard in the main lobby of the academy accompanied by a quote that carries some significance. In the past we have discussed words like respect, passion, and patience. The words are chosen to inspire and make the students think. More importantly, we encourage the kids to apply the word’s meaning throughout the month. The word of the month for June 2015 is “Continue”.

Last month Mr. Joel recommended that I should outline my thoughts about the WOM each week, so I’d like to give some direction to our conversations this month.

Week 1: What does the word continue mean? Why are we talking about it?
During week one, we will get to know the word continue. The definition of continue is to persist in an activity or process. The reason I’d like to talk about the word continue is because some of the kids made a commitment of respect in May. I wonder how many would continue doing it and who would not.

Week 2: What happens when we continue to do something?
During week two, we will talk about the benefits and the drawbacks of continuing to do something. We will highlight what happens if you continue doing something good as well as what happens if you continue doing something that is bad.

Week 3: What are things that we should continue to do and not do?
During week three, we will ask the children about some individual things they should continue to do and also if there is anything they should not continue to do.

Week 4: What have we learned about the power of continuing something?
During week four, we will review what we have learned and the power to persist in a certain activity or process.

Be sure to continue to follow us here on my blog and learn more about the words of the month at Ryer Martial Arts Academy!

Ryer Academy’s June 2015 Word of the Month

Master Zach Whitson’s 40th Year In The Martial Arts

Pittsburgh 2015 Spring Martial Arts CampThis past weekend my dojo, Ryer Martial Arts Academy, hosted our annual Spring Martial Arts Camp. We host these training events three times a year in Pittsburgh and every event features the instruction from Master Zach Whitson, the Founder of the Counterpoint Tactical System. This camp occurred on the exact month and year of Master Z’s 40th anniversary of formal martial arts training and we set out to surprise him with a very special gift. In addition to the gift, I wrote a short speech expressing my feelings about his great achievement. Though I could have winged it, I knew I would get emotional as Master Z means so much to me, to my academy, and to my fellow CTS family across the country. Here is the actual speech from the presentation…

“If you didn’t know March of 2015 marks forty years of formal martial arts training for Master Z. This is an incredible and inspiring commitment. In preparation for this presentation I started thinking what he has accomplished in forty years? To the best of my knowledge, Master Z has cross-trained in over a dozen different martial arts. He oversaw the establishment and operation of two schools in New Orleans. He has traveled nationally and internationally to teach martial arts. He has earned master level in not just one system, but two and a grandmaster level in Cacoy Doce Pares. At this point he has taught hundreds of students, if not more. And finally he has carefully devised and been recognized as the Founder of his own martial art, the Counterpoint Tactical System. This is a just a few of his accomplishments and I know there are more to come!

But what really moves me is that one man’s passion and drive in the martial arts has forged a community (some of which you see right here before you) of other like-minded martial artist who might not otherwise have met. Because of your continued effort, you have inspired others to pursue the arts and effectively change their lives for the better.

I don’t think a commitment like that should go unnoticed! With that being said, that community you have built has come together to present you this gift. We congratulate you on forty years in the martial arts, hope for another forty years, and we thank you for such a commitment!”

Thank you again Master Z for all you have done and continue to do! To view a video of the presentation, please click here.

Master Zach Whitson’s 40th Year In The Martial Arts

Don’t Speak Ill of Others

“Do not speak ill of others, no matter what, otherwise you will be like the old Chinese saying, ‘You can see the faults of others quite clearly, but cannot see the dirt on the back of your own neck.’” ~ Grandmaster T.T. Liang

T-T-LiangThe above quote is from a book I just finished entitled, Steal My Art: The Life and Times of T’ai Chi Master T.T. Liang. It was a wonderful read and I hope to write a review of the book in a future post. This quote has stuck out this week as I’ve been on my way. First I will admit that I am guilty of speaking ill of others. By writing about it, I feel it helps me work through my thoughts as well as make a statement of how I hope to handle situations in the future.

I don’t feel I’m one to speak ill of others insensibly, but I’ve caught myself when a situation with another person doesn’t go the way I planned. My initial feeling is to be angry or frustrated at the other person and also with myself for letting it reach that point. Sometimes I let the emotion get embedded in my day or maybe even longer throughout the week, affecting other areas of my life and my teaching. I’ll find myself sharing these emotions with people around me, possibly to people who don’t even know the other person. And while I think talking about your feelings is a valid way to work through difficult situations, I’ve really started to be aware of how I’m talking and who I’m talking to.

I have three goals I’m working on when it comes to situations like these. First, I’m trying to avoid the emotions altogether that are attached to the situation. If I do get emotional, I want to take some time to think and approach it calmly at a later point. I once asked Professor Pedro Sauer how he handled situations like this and he said, “Always take twenty-four hours before reacting.” Simple, but great advice!

Secondly, I want to only talk about the situation to the person directly involved or discuss my approach to what Grandmaster Liang calls an intimate friend, “…these are the people with whom we have a close affinity. No matter what they or we do, no matter if we are together or apart, such friends always care deeply for each other.” By talking to an intimate friend, I’m able to get a different perspective with less risk of spreading ill will or adding to the gossip mill.

Finally if the situation or person in question comes up in conversation with someone other than an intimate friend, I want to respond positively no matter how I personally feel.

I know all of this is easier said than done, but now it’s out there and with practice I know I can at least get better!

Don’t Speak Ill of Others