The Art of Winning Blog

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tolerance and Love

Over the past few days, since the Duck Dynasty story broke, there's been a lot of rhetoric on what freedom of speech is (it's the right to speak your mind without fear of imprisionment or death; it does not protect you from firing or internet trolls). There's also been talk about whether it's a civil rights violation. I actually went and read the law and I came to this conclusion: It's not a civil rights violation because he was not fired for his religion, he was fired for hate speech. I'd fire him too, if he worked for me. 

Then, in the past few days, I was personally accused of being a hypocrite because as a liberal (I must be liberal if I support QQLBGT folks, right?), I preach tolerance and now I'm not being tolerant. So let's be clear. I don't tolerate hate or abuse in any form. It's the action I am against, not the belief nor the individual. The truth is, I can't control how others feel or think (thank goodness). But I can influence the energies I allow in my sphere. So if not tolerating hate makes me a hypocrite, so be it. That label sits as easily as any other because it's yours, not mine. 

Guess what else? I love Duck Dynasty. I love that they end every episode with a prayer and that they eat and pray as a family. I don't choose that lifestyle but I love it. I guess that's another way I'm a hypocrite. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Process (musing by Mary Aitoshi)

I've been thinking a lot about process lately and I decided to write about it as part of my process of processing process. While it's possible to delve into a long-winded philosophical treatise on process, I'd rather not. Instead I'd like to take us on the mat (figuratively) to visualize a kata.
For today, let's use the Earth straight punch defense. The 5 Ds provide the outline for the process so let's add some flesh:
1. Discern: are you are and responsive to what is going on? Ideally you are ready for whatever happens: your hands are up, you are clearly communicating your intent, and you are moving lightly and groundedly on your feet. Do you see the punch beginning?

2. Defend: The fist is flying at your head, can you avoid impact? Ideally, you have moved purposefully to avoid disaster, set yourself up for success, and begun to effect your aggressor. You've also communicated to yourself that you are worthy of defending. 

3. Disrupt: Now that you aren't unconscious, can you capitalize on the gains of your defense?  Ideally, you are in good balance and your aggressor is not. If you can move, your aggressor can move. The goal of the disrupt is to force the aggressors next move to be one of self recovery, rather than aggression. You are now leading this dance and it's still not over. 

4. Deliver: If your aggressor is still fighting to be in this fight, it's time to finish it. Deliver your blow or blows designed to disengage or incapacitate your aggressor. Ideally, the fight will go out of your aggressor. Either because of intense physical or mental disruption. Your aggressor may realize you are not the victim they are looking for and turn tail. 

5. Discern: So what did your aggressor do? Is there anyone else that needs to dealt with, either another aggressor or an injury that needs tending? Ideally you can Bo clearly in this moment that you discern what needs to happen now without being overwhelmed by the events of the past or the future. Be here now. 

When you visualize the steps above, take note of how your mind related to the description. Were there descriptions that you skipped? Did you skip them because you were so confident in that step or because you were uncomfortable being in that space? Did you rush through to get to the end or did you hang out at the beginning? Did you stop in the middle because that was good enough? Did you get distracted or frustrated by my lack of physical descriptors? Take notice of every spot where you got confused, intrigued, frustrated, excited, etc. 

By analyzing our relationship with process on the mat, we can gain insight into ourselves off the mat too. Personally, I'm working on being fully and completely present in every moment. It means being open and even vulnerable and I'm learning to be comfortable with that.

What correlations do you find between how you process a kata and how you process conflict?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Becoming a Black Belt: Jesse Corwin Shafroth

Becoming a Black Belt

Jesse Corwin Shafroth

        To-Shin Do, I believe, is a way of prophesying peace, telling others that violence is not a way to conceive peace. I have learned that, and much more, from my mentors at this sacred dojo.

I look at To-Shin Do as an analytical and scientific art. For example, whenever I encounter another ninja attacking me during a free response round, I pause the world around me for just a few seconds, and analyze my attacker(what is he/she going to do, how can I stop them from doing that action?). My teachers at the dojo have helped me create this power and I have learned much from it.

To-Shin Do is also a means of protecting others as well as yourself. I find myself becoming more and more aware of my environment around me, looking for any troubles that could potentially physically and or mentally disturb me and the others around, as to stop them from happening. Either with my words or physical response, I always seek to make myself, along with others, comfortable in their current state. It seems now, with about four years of training, an aura of safeness surrounds me and those who love me.

Many people believe that martial arts is a means of just killing everything around you for your own safety-I myself have met many people who have said this to me countless amounts of times-, though To-Shin Do says otherwise. Reciting a line from the Code of Mindful Action...“I protect life and health, I avoid violence whenever possible”...I do this every day. When I do get angry with someone, I do not attack them, but rather revert to my original state of calm. This was something else I was taught, for as a small child, I believed that violence was the only way to solve problems. Thanks, again, to To-Shin Do, I have seen the other side of things.

To-Shin Do has changed me. Forever. I now think more clearly and I feel  healthier. My agility has increased tenfold and I feel as though I have taken four years of analytical quizzes. Though now I am ready. I have studied my mental notes for quite a time now, and I believe I am ready for the test. The “Big One”. My Black Belt test; the test that is superior to all tests. Why? 

Because I am intelligent. 

Because I am ready.

Because I am a Ninja.        


To see Jesse test for his black belt, join us at Winter Warrior 2014 (2/28-3/2).,-sat,-sun)/

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lisa Turner's Black Belt Essay

Levels of Learning: comprehension, synthesis, and how I learned not to care about cool
By Lisa Turner
            I sat down to write my essay, intent on producing a grand thesis, an eloquent

summation of all that I've learned over the past four years. My mind was busy, rich with words and crafty ideas. But when I tried to write, nothing would flow. I was so stuck in thought, I couldn’t get to action.
            It was a fitting metaphor for the best part of my training: realizing that, when it came right down to it, “learning” had less to do with mental constructs, and more to do with dirt time—the sheer amount of days, weeks, months, on the mat. 
            The more I trained, the more my body, rather than my mind, learned the technique. In free response, it became less about thinking and more about perceiving—a curious blend of thought and intuition. When I keep my mind soft but alert, and let my body respond, things go better. (Not surprisingly, this is true off the mat as well.)
            In Bloom's Taxonomy, a system of classifying learning objectives, learning is loosely categorized into six stages: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. I was curious how my ninjutsu training fit into this system. Here’s what I found:
            The first step, in Bloom’s system, is knowledge. This stage is all about memorization and learning terms, facts and procedures. This came in very hand with the Student Creed and the Code of Mindful Action—and, to a certain degree, the initial introduction to each Element. Angles, names of Kata, meaning of the words To Shin Do, the kiai for each Element, even the procedure of bowing in: it was all about memorizing the appropriate series of movements and positioning of the body.
            When I first heard the entire Code during one of my earliest classes, I felt overwhelmed, like I’d never learn all those words. I’m a smart cookie, but memorization is not my strong suit. I was sure I’d be the only person in the history of To Shin Do to be denied a black belt because I couldn’t memorize the code. So when I received my brown belt, and got to say all those words—start to finish, with no mistakes—it was as almost exhilarating an experience as passing the test.
            (As an aside, I noticed something interesting when I took my first black belt class; after years of saying the long, complicated and involved Code, the black belt Transformational Powers synthesize all the concepts in the Code, and become quick, efficient and direct—much like the attacks. Hmmm. Very sneaky. I think there’s a metaphor in here.)
            In Bloom’s construct, after knowledge comes comprehension—an understanding of how, when and why a concept works, and what its primary function is. In my training, this meant understanding core principles, like how to use my frame and skeleton, how to properly position my feet, how to align my body in the appropriate kamae, when to apply a lock, when to run. For me, this also included a layer of physical comprehension: an embodiment of the technique in which I not only “got” it with my mind, but also felt it in my muscles, bones and tendons.
            The next step is application, or actually using a series of movements in the context of attack. I also learned to modulate the intensity of the application, so my response was appropriate to the attack (and, more importantly, to the skill level of the attacker). For me, this was dirt time—the sheer repetition of attack/defend/attack/defend that allowed kata and kamae to move downward from my brain, and sink into the cells of my body. Over time, my mind did less and less, as my flesh and bones actually memorized the technique.
            After application comes analysis. This had many levels for me. In the analysis stage of learning kata, we broke down an attack into different parts, noticing that a slight shift in kamae could change the attacker’s onslaught, or how the correct placement of an knee here, an elbow there, could disrupt the attacker’s skeleton. During free response, especially randori style, I learned to quickly analyze the situation. Over time, I also learned that my clever brain was essentially worthless when a bunch of black belts came charging at me with shiny knives. So my body learned to do what Bloom calls analyze, what Mr. Hayes calls “discern” and what I think of as “intuit” or “move with initiative and courage.”
            Synthesis is next. For me, this is where the magic really happened. Like analyzing a situation, synthesizing involved making rapid choices of response.  At this stage, I put all the parts together—kamae, kiai, disrupting the attacker’s skeleton, and so on—to create a new pattern. This is when my brain started to soften and widen back, and my body really started to take over; I could feel my skeleton and muscles and hara in unity and alignment, operating as a system and not a bunch of disjointed parts. I felt less like a marionette, all wooden angles and joints bouncing chaotically, and more like a fluid, comprehensive energetic being. For the first time, I started to feel like I looked cool. Interestingly enough, I also started to not care so much that I looked cool.
            Evaluate. This is where the blessed, cursed test DVDs came in. For a bunch of years—maybe the first three—I practiced invisibility during my tests and didn’t buy the DVD. Then I realized how much I was missing by not watching myself during free response. Over the last year, I’ve been buying them, studying them, and learning where I can improve; it’s especially helpful to watch them right before a test. This little exercise has also proved to be enlightening in terms of how I react. My humiliation over mistakes made has diminished. I’m less in my head, and more in the enthusiasm of the moment. I like it when I occasionally look  supercool, but it’s not a tragedy when I (frequently) don’t. And I enjoyed the freedom that followed when I admitted out loud that I totally freak out before free response.
            But I guess that’s the point. For me, I’ve learned that it’s not about thinking, it’s about feeling. It’s not about winning the battle or defeating the attacker, but about mastering the inner self. And it’s not about how cool I look, it’s about how authentically I move—both on and off the mat.

To see Lisa test for her Black Belt, please join us for Winter Warrior weekend,-sat,-sun%29/.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Aidan O'Brien Turner's Black Belt Essay


Black Belt Essay
By Aidan O’Brien-Turner
Aidan when he started training.
As I go through life I often think back on the code of mindful actions and the eight transformational powers. They make a crucial part in most of my decisions. Though they all are helpful, I find that six certain transformational powers and codes are especially helpful in my daily decisions and choices.
The first one, see the value of each moment, helps me find that rarely anything is a waste of time. This can help me when I’m doing things like boring school work. All I have to do is remember all the things I’ve learned and how important they are. I can also think of how I would operate in the world as an adult without these tools. Then I can get back to work and think of it as a good use of time, not a waste of time.
Also, if I get in an argument with one of my friends or parents, I’ll think it’s a huge waste of time. Sometimes it is, in which case I’ll drop it, but most of the time it’s not. When it isn’t, I’ll think what would happen if they didn’t know what hurt my feelings and kept doing it (usually on accident, of course). Also, it almost always clears something up. Either I was mean to them and I didn’t know it, or they were mean to me and they didn’t know it. Once I remember this, I’ll let them know what’s bothering me or ask what’s bothering them.
The second one is say the right words. This helps me keep important friendships with people. If I’m about to blurt out a retort or a sarcastic comment, I’ll think about how I would feel if they said that to me. I also think about what would happen to our friendship if I say that. It’s usually not that good, so I hold my tongue. If I am deciding weather or not to say something that could feel negative, I all most never say it.
Also, if someone is feeling down or needing support, I try to find words that would comfort them most. If they’re sad, I’ll try to cheer them up. If they’re just having a rough day, I’ll give them some words of encouragement. If they’re mad at me or someone else, I’ll ask them what they need or try to make it up to them. And if nothing’s wrong, I’ll still try to compliment them on something if they’re doing a good job at it.
The third one, see things as they are, helps me realize what’s really going on. Sometimes when I hear a rumor or see an argument, I’ll think I know what’s going on, but the reality of it is really very different. In this case I usually get pretty watery and observe the situation before I get all fiery. This helps me to not get fooled by any silly story.
Also, if a story seems unlikely, I try not to just assume that they’re lying. I consider the fact that they might be exaggerating, telling a white lye, telling the truth of an unlikely story, or just saw the situation differently. Assuming someone’s lying is a good way to get one in trouble.
The fourth one is I avoid the dull contentment of gossip and small talk. This helps me and others feel good. If I tell something bad about someone behind their back, it might spread and they might feel bad. Also, if I say something bad about someone, the person I say it to might not want to be friends with them. And if the person hears, they might think that other people think the same way about them, and soon become very sad and lonely. That person could also think that people were spreading other untrue rumors about them.
Gossip can also hurt you and make you feel bad. If you say something bad about another person and they find out, they might not want to be your friend. You might also feel very guilty about it. If the person you tell is a friend of the person being gossiped upon, they might feel like they shouldn’t be friends with you. If this keeps happening you could lose friends at a very quick rate. People would mistrust you, and might spread gossip about you to. Gossip is a bad idea if you want to keep strong friendships.
The fifth one, I avoid the negative affects of worry, doubt, and regret, reminds me that you have to take care of yourself before taking care of others. It is more important to avoid the negative affects, as it says in the code. The negative affects can, for me, include anger, jealousy, and selfishness. These are not good qualities to have whatsoever.
When one has these characteristics, life can be difficult for them. They might not get good jobs, and might not have strong friendships. Most people, including myself, tend to get nervous around these people and might not want them in their life. This person might then get angrier, more jealous, and more selfish. This would create an ongoing circle, is not a good way to go though life.
The sixth line is I avoid causing alienation, doubt and division among others. It makes me realize how powerful words can be. But the worst thing about them is that once they’re said, there’s no taking them back. Saying words that can push someone out of the group or make them less confident in their abilities should just never be said. Even if you don’t mean them, they can still be harsh and cause trouble. Thinking about the affect your words will have on someone is a good strategy for one who wants to make and keep friends.
To see Aidan test for his Shodan, 1st Degree Black Belt, please join us at Winter Warrior Weekend, Feb 28-Mar 2.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hiring for Office Ninja

We are excited to announce that Casey has landed a full time graphic design position. The even more exciting news is that it means we are now hiring. We can do a full time or multiple part time positions. The Office Ninja is the glue that connects the office and the mat. 

Position Summary:
The Office Ninja is a demanding position that requires your best, not just in your job, but also in your life. The successful Office Ninja leads volunteers and staff with confidence, enthusiasm, and grace. The Office Ninja drives organization and looks for ways to improve processes and procedures. The Office Ninja leads a person from Prospect through to Student and shares Student responsibilities with the Head Instructor.

An Office Ninja:
   * Tunes the administrative engine so everything runs smoothly
   * Engages people in the art
   * Makes people feel welcome
   * Helps people commit to the path
   * Loves organizing
   * Believes in To-Shin Do, Stephen K. Hayes, and themselves
   * Wants to make a difference

Key Measures For Success:
   * 24-hour turnaround on Prospect processes, including follow-up calls and data entry
   * 24-hour turnaround on Student processes, including follow-up calls, initial paperwork, and billing.
   * Net gains in student counts monthly
   * 80% conversion from Prospect to Student
   * 100% calendar accuracy
   * All monthly events are on the website at least 1 week before they occur

   * Development and Execution of Prospect Processes
          Enrolls new students
          Follow-Up calls and emails
          Appointment scheduling
   * Database management
   * Development and Execution of Enrollment Process
   * Including cancellations and holds
   * Managing Monthly Tuition Billing
   * Marketing for Events
           Internal flyers
   * Event registrations
   * Scheduling
            Maintains paper and online calendar
            Liaison with students and staff for private lesson and special event scheduling
   * Retail
           Manages retail display 
           Suggests new items for ordering
   * Purchasing
           Budgets and buys office supplies
           Budgets and buys janitorial supplies
           Budgets and buys gi as needed

Required Knowledge/Skills/Abilities:
Business writing and etiquette
MS Word
MS Excel
MS Publisher
Database management
Customer Services skills
Excellent phone skills and manners

Required Education/Experience:
Some college preferred

Expected Hours:
30-40 hours per week
*Could have some of these hours as an Instructor for the right candidate*

Starts at $8-$9/hour plus bonuses (generally becomes $10-$12/hour)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Getting the Most Out of Training

By: Kim Kitsutoshi Stahl, 3rd Degree Black Belt, Chapel Hill Quest Center

When I talk with newer students at the Chapel Hill Quest Center, I'm sometimes asked for suggestions on how they can make the most of their training.  Good students are always looking for practices they can do regularly to learn their material, retain it, get the most out of it, and to achieve their personal training goals.

I like to structure my training.  Specifically, I always have a set of goals I'm working on.  They vary, and I review them about twice a year to make sure my goals are still appropriate, add new ones, or make any needed changes.

To achieve my goals, I have a longstanding practice that organizes my training.  I take one regular weekly private lesson focused on my fundamental Taijutsu skills and curriculum. (I may take others from different expert instructors to learn specific weapons or skills, but I have one regular lesson scheduled that happens rain-or-shine).  That weekly time gives me an instructor watching my progress, addressing specific issues, providing continuity and consistency, and keeping me focused on the fundamentals and on my curriculum to ensure that I'm making progress.    

Having my bases covered in a private lesson lets me use class time to experiment, to try techniques with as many different partners as possible, to see what works and how it works, and to get a lot of feedback through trial and error.  I don't have to worry about getting the class teacher's attention because I can always save my questions for my lesson at the end of the week.  Class time becomes my workshop or lab because my "class" is my private lesson time.   Sometimes it also works out the other way; I'll learn something in class that I really want more focused attention on.  So I'll use that lesson to get a deeper understanding of the class material.

I always appreciate hearing about training practices that work for other students and instructors.  This is one that has worked for me since I started training, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

5 Ways to be a Great Training Partnerl

By: Sensei Ian Sanderson

An uke, a mannequin, and a limp noodle walk into a bar…”

The self-protection aspect of our martial art is fundamentally about learning realistic responses to realistic problems in order to ensure that we get home safe and sound. However, in order to learn how to overcome these problems, we must first do our best to re-create them every time we train. I believe this is one of the most difficult- yet most necessary- tasks that lie before us every time we step on the mat. The feeling of the dojo is very different than that of, say, a downtown side street late at night. The dojo is where we learn to deal with what might happen on that little side street, but how do we close the gap between these two radically different contexts? Most of us are not the kind of people whose lives are led with the pursuit of violence in mind. Rather, we structure our lives as best we can in order to create for ourselves and loved ones a sense of peace, safety, and security. This of course is something to be desired, but the drawback can be that many students have had little to no exposure to personal physical violence scenarios. Yes, I called this a “drawback”- in the sense that it leaves us with a unique challenge: If many of us have had little to no exposure in our lives to aggressors wishing to do us bodily harm, how do we realistically- yet safely- re-create that role as a training partner?  Ironically, the ‘techniques of losing’ can sometimes be more difficult to learn than the techniques of winning. There are many ways to meet this challenge, but as always, we should start with the kihon, or fundamentals. 

To this end, I’ve outlined below five ways that will help you safely and authentically step into the role of an aggressor, without actually becoming one:

1. Punch them in the face!”

In other words, strive to deliver realistic attacks in all their forms. This may seem obvious, but since we’re always training with people we don’t actually want to hurt, we can easily fall into what I call a “compassion trap”. Let me explain this. In our maintenance of the idea of being a good person, we feel that it’s not a nice or compassionate thing to actually try and punch any acquaintance, friend or family member in the face. In pretty much any other context, this would be true.  But, compassion is too often confused with “niceness”. In the context of the dojo, this is especially important to remember. If we have a vested interest in helping ourselves and our fellow practitioners learn realistic methods of self-protection, we must be committed to delivering realistic attacks. Too much concern over “niceness” (i.e. punching the invisible parrot on your training partner’s shoulder, or punching the air in front of their face) can in fact be detrimental to a student’s growth, as it can build false memories of success. So, in the context of learning realistic responses to realistic problems, the most compassionate thing we can do is…punch them in the face! Remember: Ideally, nothing we do in the dojo is “fake” or “pretend”. It’s all real- just merely slowed way, way down to ensure safety.


2. Wow, that would really hurt.”

In other words, imagine what that knee in the ribs or punch to the face would really do to a human body…and respond accordingly! Training slowly is beneficial in many ways; it can allow us to train realistically yet safely, and it allows us to see all the many subtler aspects of our technique, giving us greater insight as to how to improve. However, it can also lull us into a lack of mindfulness of what we’re actually attempting to safely re-create. We can forget what something would feel like were it happening at full speed. When this happens, we’re losing (at the least), one half of the entire fight dynamic- the tori might be applying proper techniques, but if the uke isn’t responding with what would actually happen to their bodies were it at full speed, the techniques might seem as if they didn’t work.

3. “This is a fight!”

Keep moving.  A fight is not a series of static, frozen, ormechanical movements. It is a constantly changing dynamic relationship.

4. “First time, every time.”

Retain the energy of the first attack at the tenth—imagineeach time that you don’t know what’s about to happen, even though you do. Repetition is absolutely necessary in order for our bodies and minds to fully integrate the principles of winning we’re striving to achieve. At the same time, we also know that repetition creates patterns, and those patterns can in turn create(once again) a lack of mindfulness as to what the point of what we were doing was in the first place. In other words, we can go on auto-pilot. After we’ve been practicing a kata or drill for a few minutes, one part of the brain wants to say to another part “Ok, I get it- I’ll go through these motions and you think of the presentation we have to do in the morning.” Or, if you are receiving a technique over and over that hurts a little or otherwise makes you uncomfortable, your body will begin to pre-emptively sculpt itself in order to avoid feeling the technique again.  

In this case, the technique has been verified, so slow down, don’t go to a “tap”, and stay in the fight.

5. “There’s only one ninja in the fight…”

…and as the aggressor, it’s not you. Put your tori skills aside as you act as an ukeThere can be an irony to improvement along the path: as we improve our body awareness and learn how to integrate our movement (and this improvement doesn’t take long to see), it can be harder to be a good training partner because we can start moving in a way that your average street attacker would likely be incapable ofRemember that in real time an attacker would not likely have the time or the skill to make intelligent changes to adapt well to our techniques. As an uke, remember the concept of “That would really hurt”, and make your ukemi awesome so you can feel confident receiving techniques and going to the ground. One of the very best “go-to” ukemi skills you can have: Practice going down to a back rock-over from a standing position.


Remember, there is no paradox: The more seriously you take your training, the more fun it will be!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Breathe a Little Deeper by Jay Hogan

Breathe a Little Deeper

Who we are is best remembered when we shine. As individuals we strive to accomplish different goals in life. I think it is both important and definitive which goals we set for ourselves. The path of accomplishment is different for all. I have found that To Shin Do is a crucial path for me. Since I began training in 2009, I have been advised, instructed, supported and celebrated by my teachers and training partners. I have always felt encouraged to do my best as well as find new ways to appreciate what I am learning.

Many years ago a friend told me he had just received his black belt in another martial art. I was both impressed and somewhat envious. I told him I wished I could do that. All he said was, "You can". This was my first step. I only needed to take it. Once I decided what I wanted I still had to find where to get it. My daughter found the Quest Center through the internet. We watched a level 3 class before our first lesson. I was immediately certain that I had found the right path for my martial arts training. I am still not clear why I was certain. I just was.

I find that To Shin Do allows for a dialogue rather than an argument based on force. I have gained confidence in my ability to take control of a situation rather than dominate it. To me controlling a situation means constantly adapting the response for the current situation. Dominating the situation comes from a predetermined idea to overpower (smash and destroy). The ability to control allows for more possible (and perhaps favorable) outcomes. I consider To Shin Do to be a martial art placing more emphasis on the situation rather than the tactical victory. It is a kinder, gentler art. This awareness has also made me a kinder, gentler person. I find I have more compassion and courage as a result of my training. Both are essential to the art of winning.

Of course I have had a few moments of self doubt. How could I learn to recite the Code of Mindful Action? There are too many words to remember. For me the Code of Mindful Action was easier to remember once I started to contemplate its meaning. This has had the desired effect to encourage me to consider how I want to be in life.  I find I often recall a specific portion of the Code when it is relevant to a particular situation. 

I have also doubted my ability to learn and demonstrate my To Shin Do kata. I have watched my senior students perform techniques that I thought were too difficult for me. Backward break falls from a hip throw, cartwheels and dive rolls have all seemed to be obstacles. Now they are my techniques. The self doubt that blocked my way forward has melted away through good instruction and perseverance. The future is still cluttered with self doubt but the power of the doubt is diminished by accomplishment. I believe in myself. I can accomplish my goals. 

I have found it is useful to re-evaluate my goals from time to time. A straight forward goal like getting my black belt has expanded to include who I want to be when I get it. This includes both my skill at To Shin Do and how I interact with people in general. The movement through life (like in combat) should always be adjusted based on the current situation. The change is inevitable but making things better is the art of winning. This is why I train.

For me the reward for training is both short and long term. Many people focus on the long term goal (like getting the next belt or shodan level). As I have trained more over time I find I can better appreciate the short term reward. I enjoy looking for the incremental improvement that comes with each class. It is the everyday success that keeps the training interesting and fun. I always feel better after training. Dojo time improves my concentration, mood and general happiness.
All of these training accomplishments have been possible because of the good support and skill of my training partners. I have worked to develop trust and to be trustworthy as an uke. I am grateful for the time and effort given to me by each person I have worked with in the Dojo. 

I have found an art that encourages me to be better in many ways. The way I see the world has become more detailed, practical and accepting. They way I see myself has changed in the same way. I will strive to conduct my life with compassion and integrity.

I have found a path, a group of friends and a desire to get a bit more out of life. Who wouldn't want that? I am left only to consider the way forward.... and take a deep breath.

To see Jay test for his Black Belt, please sign up for Winter Warrior 2014

Stephen K. Hayes Pro Shop

1501 Lee Hill Road #18|Boulder, Colorado 80304|Phone: 303.440.3647|Email: