Some Q@A for New Students – A Reminder for Martial Arts Vancouver
1.Why Bow? Bowing in the dojo represents and is a sign of respect and tradition.
2. Why do we meditate before and after class? Upon hearing the instruction ‘zazen’, which means to assume the correct zen posture and ‘mokuso’, which means to begin meditating, we begin our meditation practice. Before the class begins we need to prepare our mind, body, and spirit for learning the martial arts. Through the posture and breathing method we center ourselves, clear our mind of distractions and focus on the present, preparing to give a full 100% effort for the duration of the class. Through the relaxation and tension of the lower abdominal muscles, which the Japanese call the hara/tanden, we learn to increase our energy, alertness and focus. In traditional terms by concentration on the center/hara and alternating tensing and relaxing the muscles correctly in co-ordination with the breathing, we are learning a method to build more spirit and energy. Meditation is also one of the methods we use to acquire knowledge and understanding of ourselves and subsequently knowledge and understanding of others.
After class we need to acknowledge that class is over and we begin to return to a normal, calm, and peaceful state. We often use this time to simply sit and breathe without thought and absorb the moment. We may also use this time to re-affirm an objective. The trick is to use the concentration on the breath exclusively as a method to rid the mind of unnecessary thoughts that intrude upon our practice. We develop the discipline through this practice, which takes time, and we learn that becoming empty is actually fully absorbed; empty but full. The practice at the dojo, due to time constraints, is introductory and can be developed more with discipline and extra practice. For a fighter, learning to control their thinking and emotions is a critical component in their championship quest.
3. Why say OSU? Saying Osu is one of the practices at the dojo that builds spirit and community. The translation of this Japanese term indicates its purpose. Literally, Osu translates to mean acknowledgment and yes, and figuratively it means accepting the spirit of challenge. Of course in martial arts and in life there are many challenges and we, as practitioners of this art, understand and acknowledge that fact. Osu, is often said at the appropriate time with sincerity and spirit. Often it is said at the beginning and ending of class. The competitive fighters often use this word as a mental cue to prepare for battle before the fight. It switches the spirit on.
4. How and when do we bow? These are the basics. We bow prior to entering the dojo, before class, after class, prior to engaging a partner, and after engaging a partner. It is a sign of respect.
Bowing styles vary and what is more important than technique is the spirit of the move. The style of salutation varies slightly with the class and the material being taught. In weapons class, for instance, since the material being taught has a Filipino origin, the bow is of a traditional Filipino style that is common in weapons based systems. In Muay Thai class the bow starts with the traditional Thai style and ends with the Japanese bow that finishes in the ‘ready stance’. This style of salutation is unique to our tradition and roots. In the Pankration and Submission Wrestling classes, in respect to this arts’ Japanese roots and pioneering methods, we use the traditional Japanese style bow. Upon entering the dojo, we bow with the Thai and Japanese method which finishes with the ready stance. Again, if someone came from a different background, perhaps visiting, and performed their method until our style became ingrained, then that is fine. The Thai and Japanese style bow is coincidentally the same style that GSP currently uses in his UFC entrances, and this method represents the respect he shows to his styles roots.
5. Where do I put my personal belongings? Shoes can be put in the shoe rack or in the changing rooms. All other personal belongings including gear should be kept in the changing rooms. If you must keep your sparring gear handy, then you can store it in your bag in the dojo underneath a chair. The chairs are for visitors to sit on. There should not be items scattered around the floor and on the chairs. A little attention to cleanliness is required. The best place for your items, is, naturally, in the changing rooms.
6. Why do we use attendance cards? Upon enrollment all students are asked if they can practice a minimum of 2-3 times per week and do some review or home practice on their off days. This is a basic requirement that will ensure progress. We do offer classes 6 days a week in the day and evening. We also have an upstairs training facility that is frequently available for extra practice. Uniquely we provide a lot of training options so people can fit the martial arts practice into their lives effectively. If people practice as instructed, then results are strong, which is the goal. The benefits of the practice are many and varied and worth the effort. Some people have extenuating circumstances which are individually discussed but the basic requirement is the standard. Some very motivated students train multiple times in the day; as this is a requirement for serious competitors and students. We use the unlimited method to help people fit the practice into their busy schedule and to help the serious student get excellent results. The art is a study and gets the best results with consistent self-discipline. It takes time to develop the habits. If someone gets away from the positive habits, they are encouraged to get back on them.
7. What are the initial student evaluations? At about the 3 month mark, on average, a student typically would be ready for an evaluation. For Pankration/MMA the white belt pre-test should be done and prepares the student for the complete test, which may be a few months away. For Muay Thai the while and yellow evaluation prepares the student for understanding the basics and prepares the student for sparring and the full test subsequently. For Cardio Muay Thai Kickboxing, the Level 1 evaluation is done and this prepares the student to have a good foundation, develop skills and make progress.. Setting goals is important in starting martial arts and lifestyle improvements. Once goals are achieved, then new goals are added to build greater accomplishments, self-esteem and confidence; coupled with respect and courtesy.
Good luck! OSU!