Archive | March 2012

I’m Not Bob!

Someone recently asked why I don’t do jujitsu. I replied with my usual litany of reasons, or excuses if you will, and got a reply I didn’t expect: “Bob does it.”

That’s correct! Bob does practice jujitsu. But I’m not Bob.

Bob and I are similar in age and train under the same instructors, so does that mean we’re the same? Of course not!  

Just as I don’t expect my writers at work to perform at the same level just because they have the same job title, neither can each karateka be expected to be at the same skill level at each rank.

I hire intelligent people and then provide them all the same training when they start. But each writer comes with their own set of skills, aptitudes, and drive that is unlike any other. It’s these differences that I, as a manager, have to account for when training and assigning work.

Everyone brings different things to the mat, just as we do to the workplace. Some students have prior martial arts training; some are natural athletes; some have little physical skill; and some have been sitting on the couch for years. Some are interested in weapons, some are not; some love kata, others sparring.

Just as my mom spent my elementary years asking teachers not to compare her children, we should keep in mind that comparing employees or students to each other isn’t fair or appropriate.

Sure, there are certain expectations at each level, and instructors or managers have a right to expect a certain level of proficiency. But sometimes even those expectations aren’t met, while other times expectations are exceeded.

Can comparison be used to motivate a student or employee? Absolutely! But only if you know the people well and it’s an appropriate pairing. Otherwise, you’ll be comparing pickles to motorcycles.

As for my jujitsu training, I will return to classes after Friday’s Shodan test. But even then, please keep one thing in mind: I’m not Bob.

Working Kata, One Movement at a Time

Last night in Brown & Black Belt Class we worked on kata step-by-step, one movement at a time.

Hanshi called out the slow cadence, with a pause after each step or block or strike. When we sped up, we paused after a short series of movements.

When kata is broken down in this way, the content of the form can be studied. One punch. One block. One kick. That’s all that matters. Not the movement that came before, and not the movement that will follow.

Moving one step at a time ensures each technique is completed before moving on. I could focus on the most important movement, the one being executed at the moment. And by putting everything into that one movement — all my power and all my speed — I was reminded that each movement should be a stopping movement, the one that would end the fight.

Working kata for content is a great way to perfect each kata movement, in sequence, at 100% power, and is an exercise suitable for any kata and any level of student.

Still Under the Influence

“Go to bed. You have work tomorrow.”

It was 10:30 when the message popped up in my chat window.

After a couple of exchanges of “What’s new?” I dutifully logged off and went to bed.

Was the message from my boss? No. Sibling? Parent? Nope.

Then who wields such influence that I follow instructions almost immediately? Coach Mark Saylor, my high school track coach.

I graduated over 30 years ago and it’s been a few years since I’ve seen him, so maybe it’s surprising that I still take direction from him. But then again, maybe it isn’t.

Inducted into the Illinois Track & Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1997, Coach Saylor created a strong sense of “team” in a sport based upon individual events. No small feat, as you can imagine.

Track & field events, for the most part, are individual competitions. It’s one athlete competing against everyone else, team members included. But the sense of team, of being one family, was always there.

We cheered each other on and celebrated successes together. We suffered defeats, fortunately not many, together. A Championship was a celebration for all. A loss was painful for each and every one of us.

We thought nothing of calling Coach on a Friday evening, and many times dropped in at his home for visits. We were always welcomed by both Coach and his wonderfully tolerant wife. Really – who wants their husband’s team dropping in after she’s had her wisdom teeth pulled? Yet we were graciously greeted, and never turned away.

I took my son to meet Coach Saylor a few years ago; I thought it was important that he meet the people who shaped me. I was surprised to hear, “Hey, Austin. Do you know who this is?” when the old scrapbooks and stories came out, but I probably shouldn’t have been. He was always our team’s biggest cheerleader!

Coach and I reconnected through the magic of technology awhile back, and we chat across the miles. Picking up where we left off 30+ years ago, his advice, interest, and encouragement continue. More than once he’s given me a much-needed pep talk when I was doubting myself. After all, the path to Shodan at this age has its challenges!

He reminds me of the tough girl I used to be, of the work ethic I possessed as a 17-year old, of the refusal to give up. When he tells me I can do it, I believe him. When he said he was proud of me after a miserable showing at a corporate challenge event last summer, I knew he meant it.

In return, my respect for him continues to grow. He was my coach 30 years ago, and even though I’m no longer running he will always be my coach. I’m grateful for his influence on the young woman I was, and I’m blessed by his continued support and encouragement in my latest adventures. He still has my best interests at heart, including when he reminds me I need to get some sleep!