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?

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