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Resolutions, Goals & Priorities

We are moving into November and the Holiday season. The Christmas Creep drives me nuts, but that is another blog. I am already focusing on goals and resolutions. Why? Because people are already asking about classes, training, diet, and exercise for the new year.


Setting goals involves decision making and setting priorities.

And, as cliche as it sounds, setting priorities is the number one priority.


Life is complex, there is absolutely no doubt about that. I see all kinds of people – friends, neighbors, family, students, clients – through my work and through the dojo.  All of them are facing some kind of complex decision every day. I know that sorting through priorities can seem an extremely daunting and difficult task.   Note: I said it can SEEM that way.

If you look you can find dozens of people willing to give you advise on how to make decisions. There are plans, maps, and all manner of options for doing this and they are useful.  I personally list pros and cons side by side on paper to help me weigh complex decisions. Regardless of how you make your decisions, the process becomes easier when we have set priorities.


What are Priorities?

Here are the common dictionary definitions:

n. pl. pri·or·i·ties

  1. Precedence, especially established by order of importance or urgency.
  2. An established right to precedence.
    1. The right of precedence over others
    2.  An authoritative rating that establishes such precedence.
  3. Something afforded or deserving prior attention.
  4. something given specified attention my first priority is-


  1. prime concern, first concern, primary issue, most pressing matter.  The government’s priority should be …
  2. precedence, preference, greater importance, primacy, predominance.   The school gives priority to …

A lot of words to say, “I want to rank what is most important.


Simple or Complex

That is what we are doing when we set priorities. We are determining what is most important in our lives. I hear you now, “Breathing, eating, staying warm…pay bills, fix the car, house…” Think bigger.

Most people would look at my life and lifestyle and say my priorities are many and complex. I do a lot of things, have a lot of responsibilities, and enjoy a lot of hobbies, all of that is true. My life is complex, but my priorities are SIMPLE and I think the priorities of most people are equally simple if they have really, deeply, thoroughly thought about it.

My Priorities look like this:

  1. My Children
  2. My Spouse
  3. Everything else.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love the dojo, training, working out, etc. I give a lot of attention to my diet and fitness. “Where,” they ask, “are your priorities for that?” What about work, paying bills, your dog?            It is all there – it is everything else.



Nothing should trump the needs of your children (not the wants, the needs). – NOTHING

Barring that, nothing takes precedence over your spouse and your relationship with your spouse. – NOTHING

But I have conflicts…

  • My child’s school function interferes with my training time.
  • I want to change jobs but it interferes with my spouses schedule and he can’t change.
  • Family dinner conflicts with my class.
  • I need more time to go back to school.
  • I need more time to go to the gym.
  • I need a new ____.

I know you have these conflicts, I have them all the time.  School functions and kid’s needs trump my training EVERY TIME. They trump EVERYTHING.  
The rest is like your Mother’s favorite rules list:

> Rule number 1 – Mom is always right.
^ Rule number 2 – see Rule number 1.


Conflicts in spouse priorities are both harder and easier. Easier because we can sit down and work out compromises with our spouse.  Sometimes we can both flex a little and find the middle ground. Harder because, sometimes, schedules and needs don’t have a lot of flex.

That can leave us feeling unappreciated and unhappy. Everyone wants their significant other to support them and help them reach their goals. Sometimes our spouses are too caught up in their own needs, sometimes they are focused on the needs of the kids, sometimes they just don’t have the flex to meet our needs, sometimes they have not prioritized.

In times like these, we might have to wait or compromise. If both people make it a priority, they can almost always work things out. BUT, It only works with communication.  If all else fails, my partner ALWAYS takes priority over my needs.

I know it isn’t always easy, and I know sometimes we find conflicts within that Everything Else category.  But I will say that Life is easy and happier when we simplify.



I encourage you to Prioritize your life.

Do it with your family, children, and spouse.

Then set your goals within your priorities.



If training and working out figures into your goals;

If leadership and education are part of the goals for your children (or you);

If diet and fitness are high on your list-

Call us at – (785) 201-5309.

We will be happy to help you plan to reach you goals and give you guidance on the way.


It is hard to know when to encourage kids to keep training, even though they are bored or want to do something else. As well as when to let them quit and help them find balance in other areas of their lives.Here is a great article for Parents discussing these issues on one of my favorite blogs, Ikigai Way:

The Tricky Path of Martial Arts Parents

9 January 17, 2012 by

It’s easy to pontificate about the complexities of being a Sensei. After all, they have the ability to shape lives for better or worse. Teaching can be a daunting task once you start taking it seriously.

Less discussed is the role parents play in the development of young martial artists. The decision making of parents can drastically alter the length, quality, and value of a student’s training.

karate kids

Over the years I’ve gotten to interact with parents of all variety; their priorities in the dojo have been just as varied. Some parents consider martial art training a convenient alternative to day care. After all, in martial arts the child gets physical activity and regimented social interaction. These parents will generally use the dojo as a drop off point while they attend to matters elsewhere.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are parents who watch attentively every class. In fact, some find it difficult not to interact with their child if they see any misbehavior or waning focus. These parents essentially have one foot on the training floor.

Mixed in between those two stereotypes is every gradation you can think of.

For this article, let’s focus on parents who play an active role in the martial development of their children and explore some of the heftiest hurdles they’ll encounter while participating in their youngster’s unique journey.


The Motivation Roller-Coaster

It’s astounding watching students as they fluctuate between utter infatuation with martial arts and abject horror at the prospect of training.

This is true of artists of all ages and experience levels, but never is it more palpable than with children.

A parent’s job is easy when the child is enthusiastic. It doesn’t take much work to get them packed into the car and off to the dojo. However, when that enthusiasm drifts, training day can turn into an epic slew of whining, pouting, and negotiations.

The trouble doesn’t end at the dojo door either. Once the child is out on the floor their techniques and stances tend to have the precision of a wet noodle. Every drill becomes a chore and making faces in the mirror becomes a much more attractive alternative to paying attention.

The parent, seeing this, is left to wonder if the Sensei is noticing the behavior or losing patience. They then have to decide if it’s right to chime in and try to whip their child back into place.

The parent also has to wonder if they are driving their child too hard. What if school, activities, and training are just too much?

Managing the motivation roller-coaster can be daunting. As a Sensei the mission is clear – continue teaching the student for as long as the parent brings him/her, or until they are old enough to decide for themselves. For the parent, knowing when to push through resistance and when to give in is a psychological puzzle, the solution of which requires further discussion.


The Setback Conundrum

What is one of the biggest complaints about traditional training in the modern world?

The proliferation of rank.

Nowadays a black belt is something easily attained by any neighborhood 12 year old. If you pay enough and show up enough, you’re good to go.

The modern day psychology of reward-at-all-costs has created an interesting paradigm in the world of martial arts. Many schools have integrated inflated rank systems, filled with a myriad of stripes, belt colors, trophies, and patches. The purpose of which is to provide a steady stream of external rewards in order to keep students satisfied.

Of course, the fees associated with such programs also helps the profitability of the school, but that’s not our concern here.

Let’s assume for a moment that the majority of the general populace accepts the idea of steady-stream-rewards.

In contrast, let’s analyze one of the most powerful tools of an old school dojo: failure.

In many old martial circles you’ll hear the phrase “Nana korobi, ya oki”, which means “Seven falls, eight getting up”. The phrase is used to indicate a broad sense of resilience throughout life, but is acutely demonstrated in martial arts training. Not only are you literally thrown down in martial arts, but you also experience roadblock after roadblock as you attempt to improve your body, mind, and spirit.

One of the most top secret aspects of being a Sensei is intentionally setting up challenges for students to overcome. A good Sensei doesn’t want to spoon feed everything to students; instead they want to encourage effort in the right direction.

This is one of the fundamental crossroads where Eastern and Western cultures tend to clash. Eastern aloofness and Western directness can react in a destructive way, ultimately causing a student to grow agitated and quit, or they can result in a powerful combination of external knowledge with internal inquiry.

So…how do parents fit into all this? They need to be able to watch their children fail and encourage them to get back up and try again.

Certain pressures will tempt a parent not to engage in this practice. The first pressure is from the child him/herself. Failure never tastes good, and the child will want to quit repeatedly. It can be a tough slog to get them to push through. The second kind of pressure is societal and ego based. Some parents refuse to see any fault in what their child is doing, even if a Sensei does. Furthermore, if an egotistical parent sees other children progressing faster than their own they will have the tendency to accuse the Sensei of favoritism, poor teaching, or other kinds of incompetence. At that point, they can allow their child to quit without any sense of guilt or fault.

Navigating these subtle psychological factors can be challenging.


Recognizing Bad Teaching

Let’s make things more complicated. As mentioned above, a parent needs to be careful not to fall prey to their own ego and the emotional swings of their child. This includes not projecting fault onto a Sensei if success isn’t immediate.

But what happens when a Sensei actually IS at fault? Believe it or not (but believe it), there are a ton of shoddy Sensei out there.

Sometimes instructors have to be tough on students. As stated earlier, putting up intentional roadblocks can help students overcome their own perceived limitations and teach them qualities of resilience, determination, and self confidence (that all too buzzed word in martial arts circles).

But a lot of Sensei aren’t so altruistic in their motivations. Many are guided by how much money a parent has given, how many sponsored events they’ve attended, and other even more nefarious factors.

Sometimes it’s easy for perceptive parents to pick up on the difference between a tough teacher and a bad one. Let’s take a look at some common red flags bad teachers may exhibit:

    • Militaristic dominance over students, including insults, injury, and abusive regimentation.
    • Touching and feeling of an uncomfortable variety or in a manner that clearly isn’t related to technique.
    • Explicit favoritism, providing perks to students that are above and beyond the norm of their rank.
    • Probing comments about a student or parents relationship life, physical appearance, or dating life outside the dojo.
    • Excessive grouping of students into pay tiers, sometimes through the addition of many special “clubs”.

Unfortunately, bad behavior often manifests itself in more subtle ways. Teachers with unscrupulous motives tend to be good at hiding it, and only after months or years of analysis will a parent catch on to the true motives of the teacher.

There’s no easy solution to this problem. Parents simply need to keep involved and keep their eyes and ears open. Most of all, they need to be honest with themselves where the problem might lie.


Letting Go

Most instructors hate to admit it, but some students simply aren’t cut out for long-term training. Martial arts can be arduous, thankless, and boring. Not everyone was born to fall in love with them.

As mentioned above, one of the core responsibilities of a parent is to help their child push through those times of low motivation and setback. Sometimes this can equate to literally/figuratively dragging the child to the dojo.

How then is a parent to know when it’s time to let go?

As you might have guessed, there is no easy answer. Sensei, of course, will recommend you push through any and all obstacle

s because they know the lofty value of long-term training. They want your child to have a life enhanced by the arts (or they want your money – remember, there are bad teachers too).

Parents, on the other hand, need to help balance all aspects of the child’s life. Kids are samplers by nature; they tend to enjoy an activity for awhile, get bored, and move on. Of course, pushing through that sampling tendency is what turns a good young student into a great mature student. But what if it isn’t sampling, and the child would be much better off elsewhere?

Of course, you can split time between martial arts and other endeavors, but then you run the risk of overwhelming an already tight schedule.

The best overarching advice I can give in this regard involves “the spark”. Development in the arts is unique for every single person that engages in practice. If a parent is observant, they might see certain shifts or sparks in a child’s development. Unexpected moments of intensity, focus, self defense skill, good behavior, courtesy, etc etc. If a parent sees these things and believes that the arts are turning their child into a better person, pushing through resistance might be appropriate. If they are not seeing any positive gains, or even negative tendencies of bullying, disobedience, disrespect, etc., it may be time to move on.


Grazing the Surface

Being a dojo parent can involve complex psychology (I’ve seen it). It can be just as complicated for the young student (I’ve lived that).

Sometimes parents can be creative with solutions, such as joining the class themselves. If they are on the floor, it’s easier for them to ‘lead by example’, and of course the child recognizes that since a parent is nearby behavior is a requisite of class. But ultimately, nothing external will be a permanent solution. The parent and Sensei can guide and inspire, but they can’t decide what’s in the heart of the student.

The problems and solutions I’ve offered here are just a hint at the broader picture. If you are a Sensei, parent, or student, the more you learn about long term success in the martial arts the better equipped you’ll be to deal with twists, turns, and roadblocks along “the way”.

An Often Discussed Topic – What is a Black Belt

No matter what art you study, check out this link about what having a black belt really means from, one of my favorite judo authors and sites.


What Does a Black Belt Really Mean?

By Neil Ohlenkamp

Daito Ryu Jujutsu

Here is a video that looks at some of the roots of out art. It shows a great many techniques that are very similar or the same as what we do. There are discussions of how to train with a partner and of the real world applicability of jujutsu as well as the benefits of practice for mind, body, and spirit. It includes interviews with teachers and students in Japan. Turn in the closed captions to get English subtitles.

Injury Healing

Here is a great video on healing injuries. They begin by talking about the fact that an injury may cause a small amount of damage but the resultant inflammation may increase the damage by 5 times or more.

It is a bit technical, a lecture by a doctor, and a bit long. Here is the gist list for those of you who don’t have time to watch.

  • Reduce inflamation as fast as possible
  • RICE – Immediately use Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Stop what you are doing immediately, Ice 20-30 minutes many times a day, intermittent compression, and elevate at intervals.
  • Maximize your Vitamin C intake by taking it several times a day with food.
  • Maximize your protein and vegetable intake, reduce carbs and acidic foods.
  • Try adding Protolytic enzymes
  • Use NSAIDS – ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, etc.
  • Start rehab early, but avoid weighted and heavy stress.
  • Use stretching and gentle, focused muscle contraction.

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