Karate pushup
It's no secret that small actions can lead to major consequences. As martial artists, we all once took the time to get started and take our first class. That initial training session captured our attention enough to set us on this path towards improvement, whether that be gaining the skills to protect ourselves or reach a new level of good health. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced student, you will want to keep in mind these tips. Get ready to dramatically impact how well you study, train, and even teach!

1) Change Up Your Training Environment

What's the purpose of a bedroom? It is a space optimized for rest.

What's the purpose of a kitchen? It is a space optimized for preparing food.

Imagine how ridiculous it would be to have a toilet in the middle of the living room or a stove in the bathroom. Though these may be the obvious things incongruent with the purpose of the room, there are smaller nuances that can subvert a room's most important purpose as well. When we tack on these detracting details, the effectiveness of the space is diminished.

A TV in the bedroom can cause your subconscious to expect entertainment at the time it should be preparing for rest and a cramped kitchen layout can make efficient food prep difficult.

Let's shift our focus to our martial art studio now.

What's the purpose of that space? Each studio may have a different answer. When teaching, the purpose I assign the space is to instigate positive change, self-improvement on a physical, mental, or spiritual level.

The tricky thing about positive change is that it requires you to confront the edge of your comfort zone. A good teacher can guide you towards growth, however it is up to you to make the leap to new levels of performance. One of the small yet powerful things we can do to shake up our base of comfort is to change our training environment.

You easily become more self-aware while drilling forms due to no longer having the visual cues of our familiar dojo walls. Self defense tactics are matched with better adaptation to the terrain you are standing on.

Get comfortable with the uncomfortable and you will find massive improvement awaits. Let the change in your environment become a catalyst for self-improvement.

2) Accept Perspective and Seek Guidance

We often think of martial arts as a solo activity. That, my friend, might be one of the most erroneous beliefs one could have however.

Rather, martial arts training is one of the largest collaboration projects you can imagine. It spans across multiple generations and multiple groups of people. Even if we are all rehearsing the same patterns and ideas, we each have differing experiences, mental dispositions, and physical body types that influence the methods we prioritize and how we interpret them.

The more we can grow in our own ways and glean the purpose of techniques and concepts as usable best by ourselves, the more we can all improve.

In other words, take the time to talk to your classmates and teacher.

While you're at it, don't forget one of the easier ways to "listen" to somebody from across the world or from another time — read a book or watch/listen to a recording. This is also a wonderful opportunity, especially if the study material comes as a recommendation from your teacher!

3) Don’t Lose Your Why As You Focus On Your What

Everybody has various reasons for why they got started in martial arts. Some people were bullied, some people were inspired by Bruce Lee or Billy Jack. Regardless of why you began, there must also be a reason why you have continued thus far.

Perhaps you stayed because you simply enjoyed the environment you trained in and the empowerment you felt.

Perhaps you stayed because you found a depth to your training you hadn't felt elsewhere.

Perhaps you stayed because you discovered the enjoyment of uniquely challenging yourself.

Regardless, don't let go of that reason. This will be the pilot light to the burning pit of passion inside you.

Life happens. Work schedules change and prioritize get reorganized. During those times when you start feeling your motivation for your craft wane, look back and remember why you have come so far.

Mastery isn't easy, but it also isn't complex. Maintain your intrinsic motivation.
Hold your head up and walk on.

4) Pay Attention to the Small Details Left Unsaid

Sometimes the most important lessons from your teacher are those left unsaid. Learning how to learn and how to make techniques work is a skill in and of itself.

The sooner and better you learn how to observe weight distribution, intention, and the other nuanced links between postures and movements, the more effective your training sessions will be.

The chasm between your performance and your teacher's is often little more than excellence in the small details and the repetitions necessary to solidify them. As you are in class, observe closely!

Of course, just because you are swimming in a pond filled with fishes doesn't mean you are catching them. After noticing the nuances that make your techniques operate better, record the details via video, audio clip, or written note.

5) Strategic Development Versus Speedy Progress

Us martial artists can be an impatient bunch. We often believe all we need to do to improve faster is train harder. While that isn't always entirely wrong, we also have to understand that ideas need time to assimilate properly in our minds and wearing the body down to failure isn't the only way to improve. Rushed success can be failure in disguise.

What we can do to improve our training is ensure we are working on the most productive things in a dedicated manner. Rather than devolving into generic thoughts of simply "getting better", pinpoint what is the most crucial and fundamental skill or attribute for you to work on.

This is the time to take a critical evaluation of yourself.

If you are gassing out in sparring, is it that your cardio isn't up to par or is it because you are holding on to too much tension during the rounds?

If you don't feel powerful while executing kicks, ask yourself why. Is it because you lack the muscular development to make a powerful impact or is it because you are off balance and alignment and end up diffusing the power of the kick by moving backwards each time?

Perhaps your focus needs to be improving your balance and developing a rooted feeling in your stances or perhaps it is to reduce wasted motion during your strikes.

Look at your current difficulties and strive to find the most fundamental aspect of the problem you can improve.

These are the skills which will have wide spanning benefits in the rest of your training and help guide your progress in the best of ways possible.

To check out the original five tips to seriously improve, click here!

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Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Hayward Nishioka has been campaigning for judo in the United States to harvest more shodans (1st degree black belts) Shodan literally means student. It's analogous to being a freshman in college. It's not the end but the beginning according to Jigoro Kano, the Founder of Judo.

A very dear friend and sensei of mine the late Allen Johnson, may he rest in peace made a home at Emerald City Judo. In Redmond, Washington.

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Competitive Edge Karate
Photo Courtesy: Jackson Rudolph

Team Competitive Edge, coached by Jackson Rudolph, Reid Presley, and Cole Presley, has become one of the premier teams in the sport in recent years. The team consistently takes home individual overall grand championships and they are the reigning U.S. Open ISKA Team Demonstration World Champions. Moving into the 2022 tournament season, they have made a huge move to deepen their roster and add seven junior competitors to the team. The new additions range from proven champions bringing their talents to the squad, some skilled workhorses who have previously joined the team for the Team Demo division, and some promising young stars who will be making their debut in the black belt division this year. Keep reading to learn more about each of the new additions (ordered alphabetically).

Gavin Bodiford

Gavin Bodiford

Photo Courtesy: Kellie Austin Bodiford via Facebook

Bodiford is twelve years old and hails from Lebanon, Tennessee, a product of Premier Martial Arts Lebanon (formerly known as Success Martial Arts Center), where the Competitive Edge coaches have all earned black belts. He has five years of martial arts experience and was the 2020-2021 ProMAC Southern Region Champion in four divisions. He also finished the 2021 NASKA season in the top ten for creative, musical, and extreme forms and weapons. Bodiford is one of the competitors who has stepped up for Competitive Edge in the past, joining the demonstration team to help them secure the 2021 U.S. Open ISKA World Championship.

Riley Claire Carlisle

RC Carlisle

Photo Courtesy: Mallory Parker Carlisle

Carlisle (pictured with coach Sammy Smith) is a 10-year-old rising star from Starkville, Mississippi who has been training for four years. In the underbelt division, she has won grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and numerous regional events. She holds multiple divisional and grand championship titles from the ProMAC circuit, and has amassed over ninety divisional wins in recent years. She is moving into the black belt division in 2022 and looks to continue her winning ways.

Kodi Molina

Kodi Molina

Photo Courtesy: Priscilla Molina via Facebook

Molina is a 13-year-old world champion from San Antonio, Texas with 10 years of martial arts training under her belt. She has won many grand championship titles on the NASKA circuit, and has claimed world championships from NASKA, ISKA, ATA, and WKC. At the 2021 U.S. Open, she became the reigning ISKA world champion in 13 and under girls creative/musical/extreme weapons. She is a versatile competitor who can win with extreme bo or kama routines, performs beautiful traditional forms, and is a solid point fighter as well. She is an active member of her community and participates in a variety of leadership programs, making her a great role model for younger members of the team.

Michael Molina

Michael Molina

Photo Courtesy: Michael Molina via Instagram

"Super Bomb" is the 9-year-old brother of Kodi, who is a world champion in his own right. In his seven years of experience, he has already won a variety of titles across multiple leagues, including NASKA overall grand championships at the 2021 Battle of Atlanta and AmeriKick Internationals. Since he began training at the age of two, his regimen has included strength, speed, agility, and conditioning training at "Rojo Dojo", where a number of world champions and national contenders gather to train. He is known for his incredible performance ability, always putting on a show when he graces the stage.

Gavin Richmond

Gavin Richmond

Photo Courtesy: Bobby Benavides

Richmond is yet another world champion being added to the Competitive Edge roster. The 13-year-old from San Antonio has been training for five years and has accumulated several grand championship titles, including wins at prestigious events like the Diamond Nationals and U.S. Open. The young star is a well-rounded athlete, not only because he competes in a variety of divisions at sport karate tournaments, but he also finished in 7th place in the pentathlon at the 2021 AAU Junior Olympics which included the high jump, long jump, 100m hurdles, 1500m run, and shot put, resulting in him being named an All-American. He is currently recovering from a knee injury, but his high-flying routines will be back on the mat soon.

Madalynn Wiersma

Madalynn Wiersma

Photo Courtesy: Gabrielle Dunn

Wiersma (pictured with coach Gabrielle Dunn) is another rising star moving up from the underbelt division who is expected to make waves in the black belt division. She first moved up into the black belt ring at the WKC world championships, where she won her first world title. The 9-year-old Georgia native was the 2021 Underbelt Competitor of the Year for ProMAC and she secured underbelt grand championships at the Battle of Atlanta and U.S. Open this past year.

Elijah Williams

Williams is a 16 year old from Lebanon, Tennessee who trains at Premier Martial Arts Lebanon. His eight years of martial arts training has culminated in black belts in Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. He is on an upward trend as a competitor as he has started breaking into the top four in his divisions, which are some of the most stacked on the NASKA circuit. Williams has been a great asset to Competitive Edge in the past, stepping up to fill in for team demonstration, such as in the world championship effort at the 2021 U.S. Open.

The Competitive Edge coaching staff told Black Belt that they are thrilled to take their roster to another level with these moves. They believe that these new players will create the perfect storm to win more overall grand championships now, strengthen the team demo, and build a great foundation for the future of the program.

Jose Also
cdn.vox-cdn.com Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
The seemingly ageless Jose Aldo won his third straight fight at bantamweight Saturday claiming unanimous decision over Rob Font in the main event of UFC on ESPN 31. Font started well against the former featherweight champion working behind a strong jab that kept Aldo on his back foot and allowed Font to consistently land sharp punches. But with 30 seconds left in the first round, Aldo threw a stiff left jab and immediately followed with a powerful straight right hand that dropped Font though time ran out before he could do more damage.
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