Tag Archives: Focus

Picking A Teacher



So you’ve decided that joining a Quilting Bee or taking up Bridge, is out and the Martial Arts appeals to you – Great!   You are now on a journey that millions the world over, at some point also started.  The first step is always the biggest and the most important.

Now, you have to determine which branch of the Martial Arts strikes a chord with yourself.

Is it a sport or an art that you want to best invest your time in?  Competition bound?   To what degree of physicality are you capable of – light or more strenuous?   Is it for self defence or more of an exotic interest that you’ve always had.

As you can see, there’s lots to weigh in on with your decision to embrace the Martial Arts.

Some of the more popular options you have in the Arts are; Karate, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Escrima, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, Iaido, Kendo, etc., etc.

Once you’ve chosen your art of interest, congrats, you’re in for a worthwhile journey of self discovery!   I’ll use Karate as an example interest as it is my primary field of study in the Martial Arts.

Now it’s time to locate a reputable school to train (dojo). The dojo on the corner is the handiest but sometimes it may not be the best choice.  It’s here that you must do your homework.  The internet is helpful as are personal referrals.  Go in and ask questions – is the atmosphere conducive to serious study?  Are the students enthusiastic?   Are the dojo’s hours of operation helpful?   Are the rates reasonable?   Can you take a limited number of free introductory classes?  Is the primary focus of the Instructor on selling you a Black belt over a few years guaranteed?  Is dojo insured?   Who does most of the teaching (a senior student or the Teacher)?   Is there a traceable lineage to the dojo’s Senseis?

These are just a sampling of the queries you must ask in order to determine if this is the dojo for you.  To often many of us have heard the horror stories of Karate schools (or other martial art schools) where the manager’s focus is on your wallet or where a long term contract is signed and no one pays attention to your progress until contract renewal time is coming up.  Hopefully those days are gone but just be aware anyway!

You’ve picked a dojo?  Ah, but did you pick your Teacher??  Very important, I should say MOST important!  This is the Sensei that you will entrust to guide you up the mountain path through mental blocks, physical trials, injuries, lots of sweat and plenty adversity.

A good Sensei will lead by example, he/she will have a Teacher above them as they will also have to learn and advance their own knowledge and pass onto you.  Unless your Teacher is in Okinawa or Asia, they will have a Teacher ranking above them.

A good Teacher motivates, inspires and takes pride in their students and thereby develops a healthy training relationship also.   Without asking, a good Teacher has respect from everyone just by being a true Martial Artist sharing knowledge, philosophy and the history behind this very exotic endeavour.

Anyone can be an instructor leading a class, counting and showing what has to be done.  A Teacher shows and teaches why it works and works with you to achieve your full potential in this lifelong interest. I would venture that for every 75 instructors, there is one good Teacher!

A great Teacher is hard to find and you will know one when you find one. Maybe they are at the corner dojo, but odds are you’ll have to seek one out a little further away, but well worth the effort once found!

Kouun o oinori shite imasu!

Yours in the arts, Gary Christensen

Pennell’s Karate Welcomes Gary Christensen

Left: Gary Christensen Right: Jason Pennell

It is with great excitement that I introduce you to one of my mentors, Gary Christensen.  Gary and I have trained together since I was a child and I’m happy to invite Gary to my blog where he will be sharing his personal experiences.  Gary has a tremendous amount of knowledge and I am humbled by his offer to share with us.

Thanks, Gary!

Top 5 Okinawan Weapons Part II: Tonfa. Umm – butter…

Okinawa's deadliest weapons, Part II.

Tonfa: sticks of death. But can they also churn butter? Yup, that's what I said. You see, a lot of people believe that the Tonfa were originally used on top of butter or cream churning bowls to… well, to churn butter. Is it true? No one really knows for sure. Okay, lets just assume for a second that they were indeed used to churn. What genius of a Japanese man discovered that they were just as useful for busting skulls? That my friend, is the million dollar question. I of course don't know for sure, but I'll take a stab at the answer.

It's somewhere around the 17th century in Okinawa, Japan. My man Yoshi works down at the local butter churnering shop. He's a good employee. Doesn't cause any trouble. Lets even assume that he was awarded employee of the month in the previous month, because he was able to churn that butter out like nobody's business. So what's so special about Yoshi anyways? Well it's a little know fact that he's a Shorin-Ryu Karate master! Of course he's a humble guy – so he keeps to himself the fact that he can pretty much kick serious ass. And besides, who needs to draw that kind of attention to themselves anyways? When you've got crazies like Miyamoto Musashi running around, challenging anybody and everybody to a “duel”. Oh, and by “duel”, what they really mean is bludgeoning a man to death with a modified boat oar. Don't believe me? Read about it here: How to kill a man with a paddle.

I digress – Yoshi just finished a long day at work. He's sweeping the floor and getting ready to leave, when suddenly two men enter the shop. Apparently they're a little 'put out' by the fact that last weeks shipment of butter arrived a couple days late and heaven forbid the shogun's weekly dinner party be inconvenienced by the negligence of a butter making peasant, right? Some people are so un-reasonable. I mean, the butter would probably have arrived on time — if it was ever paid for. It's tough to maintain a proper delivery schedule when Yoshi's boss has to work part time as a bar-back at the local geisha establishment because the shogun regularly skips out on his bill . Oddly enough, Yoshi often bumps into his holiness, while he's working dish slinging for minimum wage. He's usually dropping mad cash on saki.. .money that would probably be better spent paying past-due butter invoices. I'm just sayin.

Anywhoo, after a heated exchange of dialog, consisting of many statements like, “…gonna kick your ass” and “…you like being able to walk, don't ya?”, Yoshi decides he's had enough of these two “businessmen”. Yoshi apologetically excuses himself while he goes to “get the money” and searches frantically for something to use to beat these two dudes into bloody submission. After scouring the back room, he discovers that he's fresh out of anything obviously useful so in an act of desperation, he manages to crudely detach a couple of butter turning handles – read tonfa. Just in the nick of time too, because the two visitors decided to take it upon themselves to make sure Yoshi didn't hit the highroad and give them the slip. Upon busting into the back room, Yoshi suddenly discovered that he two very deadly pieces of wood in his hands. At first he thought that they should have been called boom sticks, but apparently someone in China had already taken that name after inventing something called gunpowder… apparently it's able to fire small lead balls through the air.. sounds like witchcraft to me… probably just a rumour. No other name made itself readily available, so Yoshi settled on Tonfa.

Today, the Tonfa is used worldwide in remembrance of those who kicked ass in the name of skillfully crafted food spreads. Personally, it's one of my favourite weapons. If it were socially acceptable, I'd dress myself fully in velvet and carry two Tonfa with me at all times.