Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Goals of Our Children's Program

This picture shows some of the benefits your kids will develop through their martial arts training with us.

It is easy to say our program achieves these objectives, but what is the proof that makes us different than other martial arts school in your area?

Develop Life Skills

  • Monthly Warrior Challenges - One way your kids will achieve these skills is through monthly Warrior Challenges. For example, this month (June) is Fitness. By completing this warrior challenge your kids will develop a lifelong attitude to good health, but they will also develop the discipline to complete the task and dedication by sticking to a goal.
  • Mat Chats - Another way your kids will develop these skills is through Mat Chats. These are short 3-5 minute discussions about our Martial Arts Principles and Values, such as discipline, respect, confidence, focus, integrity, and self-control. During these chats, your kids will learn ways to apply the life skill at home, school, and work.  We will also discuss how to use these skills in social situations, family interaction, and, of course, in the martial arts classroom.
  • Bully Situations - Your kids will first develop self-defense skills and then will develop the "cool" martial arts skills. Self-defense is our first priority and focus. This is the reverse of many martial arts schools that teach this in reverse and have students who can't really defend themselves until they are black belts or beyond. Your kids will learn how to deal with "bully" and "bad guy" scenarios from day one. Your kids will learn how to deal with a bully without having to create a physical altercation, but if needed they will have the skills to defend themselves against a physical attack. Your kids will learn a variety of skills from stand-up defense and ground defense.  They will learn skills to defend an attack without kicking and punching through wrestling and grappling, but they will have strong striking skills to use if needed against a "bad guy."

Achieving Goals

  • Sharpen Mental Focus - Goals don't have to be things that take your kids weeks, months, or years to achieve.  Goals can be simple. We teach your kids to break down a larger goal into smaller goals to make the larger goal easier to achieve. For example, one of our students has ADHD and is working on improving his focus. We consistently work with him and his parents to find ways to give him tools to help improve his focus. It may take years before his focus is equivalent to a student without ADHD. If we compare him to other students and set a goal to this standard, it would not be fair to him or the other students.  Instead, we set micro goals to help him learn to control his focus. We have found music is one way that helps him, so we turn on a very rhythmic beat in class to help direct his attention. He also has done amazing when asked to balance on a bosu ball and do kicks and punches. This requires hyper focus on this balance and allows him to filter out other distractions and concentrate on the task at hand.
  • Developing Discipline to Stay on a Task - There are many tools we use to teach your kids self-discipline. Each belt and level have specific requirements and skills that must be learned and practiced. Many times there are "Warrior Challenges" (see explanation above) that must be completed in order to earn the next belt. These requirements are always manageable and appropriate for the age of the student.  By meeting these requirements, your kids learn how to set goals and develop the discipline to complete tasks towards a goal.  Some tasks are more simple than others. Some may require a few days where others will require a few weeks of work to achieve, which will help your kids "develop the self-discipline to stay on a task."
  • Shaping a Generation of Leaders - Ultimately, our goal for your child is not for them to achieve black belt, but to develop the skills to be successful in life.  The path to black belt is a tool to help develop these life skills. Through the steps to black belt, your child will learn how to "plan and obtain long-term goals."   Here is what one parent said about our approach. "We just wanted to thank you for your martial arts approach and philosophy of ‘creating a generation of Leaders’.  [Our daughter] was one of 25 students that got invited to interview for the highest [college] scholarship awards. All three scholarships are looking for ‘leaders’."  -Parent of two Black Belt Students.  There daughter went on to be awarded this college scholarship.

Physical Skills

  • Practical Self Defense Skills - Developing self-defense skills is the priority in our physical skill curriculum. Your kids will walk out of every class with one more self defense skill in their tool box. Unlike many martial arts programs, our curriculum is constantly evolving, so that your kids will learn the most practical self-defense skills from modern martial arts.  (See "Bully Situations" above for a description of skills your kids will learn).

  • Coordination, Strength, & Balance - Your kids will naturally develop these physical skills in their classes. We tailor activities to develop these skills to your kid's abilities and age.  Younger students primarily develop these skills through balancing on our beam, crawling through the tunnel, and playing games that encourage running, jumping, stepping, balancing, and wrestling with parents. Your older kids will develop these skills through more advanced games and activities as well as through the practice of martial arts skills like kicking, blocking, and grappling.   

These are just a few samples of ways we will help your kids develop Physical and Life Skills and help them Achieve their Goals. With a Master's Degree in Education, you can believe that we have the knowledge and skills to help your kids blossom.

Thank you, Kovar Systems for developing this poster and Mr. Fariborz Azhakh for sharing.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sexual Jokes have no Place in the Training Hall

I know my audience is small for this blog post, but I feel it is important to write. If only for my benefit...
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Sexual harassment, sexual discussion, inappropriate comments, etc are no place for a martial arts classroom. Be it women teasing or joking about men or men teasing and joking about women.

I have been studying martial arts for 24+ years. I get that it is a male-dominated sport. I get that when guys get together in a group, locker talk happens. But I also know that men know when it is inappropriate.

So for the record, in the middle of an organized class, with or without women present, this is inappropriate, and will not be tolerated in my academy.

I have been a pilot for 16+ year. I was a professional female airline pilot for 6 years. There was a no tolerance rule for sexual harassment, and so it didn't happen. Let me restate that another way. 4000+ hours alone in a locked room with most often a male, and sexual harassment didn't happen! The only two incidences I had, in 6 years, were with a customer service agent and mechanic, and those were with other people present.

I was a Federal Flight Deck Officer (Federal Law Enforcement Officer). In training, I was the only women in my initial and recurrent classes. No sexual harassment or joking was present. It was a professional environment and everyone treated it as such.
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I have been a martial artist for 24+ years. Yes, I have been discriminated against because of my gender throughout my martial arts career, and this is mostly the reason I run my own martial arts school instead of being affiliated with a group of schools. But that is not the topic of this blog post. This blog post is about direct verbal harassment, joking, and negative statements made about sex and a women's body. In 24+ years teaching and studying stand-up martial arts (Karate, Kenpo, Tai Chi, Muay Thia, Kali, etc.), I have not had a problem with sexual comments in the dojo.

The only time I have experienced sexual harassment, joking and comments in a martial arts classroom in during Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. And it has happened more than once, at more than one school, and with more than one instructor. I have been attempting to learn BJJ for the past 6 years. I have had attended two different schools, but because of sexual comments and lack of good, respectful training partners, I have been limited to train pretty much just with my husband.

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So why do BJJs school allow this type of talk and disrespect to exist?

When I came home from my last group training session, I was furious. Not because of what was said, but more because no one stepped in to say the discussion was inappropriate, and after repeated requests, nothing has being done to curb the behavior. Worsley, two instructors joined in on the inappropriate joking that was started by a student. Several men look uncomfortable about the discussion and looked at me for some reason - for support, for me to take a stand, or for confirmation that is was inappropriate or okay to talk this way? I don't know why men do this instead of speaking up themselves. I had already that evening verbally requested the teachers to be more polite in the presence of a lady, and since that didn't seem to take effect, I choose to hold my tongue during the second round of inappropriate discussion.

Instead, of making a scene in the middle of class, I came home and had a discussion with my husband about the situation, who also practices with this group of men. I researched my feelings to find out what others have done in the past, and I reflected on my choices for the future.

This is an ongoing issue, with no final solution.  I did found this blog article that 100% sums up my feelings and frustrations.  Please read, Sexual Harassment is a Problem in Jiu-Jitsu, But you Don't Have to Accept it by By Averi Clements, Jujitsu Times, August 10, 2016.
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In Summary and Most Importantly 

To my lady students, mom students, girl students, (and male students for that matter),

Please know that sexual harassment and joking of any kind has no place in our academy and will not be tolerated. We are a welcoming group that shows respect to each other. As an instructor, I will do whatever I can to make a student comfortable and feel respected in class.

I will do what I can to continue to advance my jujitsu knowledge, as long as it is beneficial for me. Luckily, my husband is pretty good at jujitsu, so I have at least one good training partner to work with. And, lastly, if you are a female student of ours, we will do everything we can to help you advance your jujitsu knowledge, skills, and rank.

Image result for sexual harassment in BJJ

More background info on my decisions:

Please, no hate or opinion on what I should have done. You were not there, and my choices were the best choice for the situations, at that time.  I could go on all day about the sexual discrimination in Utah. Yes, California, Texas, Washington, and other martial arts friends in the US, it is repressed here in Utah. I know what I am going up against every day as a woman who pushes the cultural norm, but back to the original topic of this post.

Many would recommend I quit studying jujitsu or go to another school. I do not want to quit, and why I desire to learn jujitsu is not the discussion of this blog post either. I have looked into other schools, but even my husband made the comment that they are all that way.

I did some research in my area to see if any of the BJJ schools have women BJJ Black Belts. Nope, nil, NONE. No pictures and no listings for female BJJ Black Belts in my area. There may be a female BJJ Black Belt hidden somewhere in Utah, but I couldn't find one. I couldn't find a Brown belt either, and I could only find two Purple belts listed (one who trains at her father's school). Actually, I am the second highest ranked female BJJ martial artists "listed" in Utah. I know there are several other BJJ women of my rank, but I tried and I could only find two females of a higher rank. Hum, I guess I know why...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Learning Struggles - I get it.

I struggle learning? I struggled learning how to read and spell in elementary school. I struggled learning how to land an airplane (but after much study and practice, I finally got it). As an airline pilot, I struggled learning systems of new airplanes and would have to study longer and harder than everyone in my class. I struggled to enjoy sparring as a young Orange Belt new to sparring in karate. And now I am struggling to learn more advanced Jujitsu skills.

Sometimes I wonder if my learning struggles are a result of my learning characteristics or my teacher's failure to teach effectively. Or maybe a little of both. I know I learn slightly different than the majority. As I reflect, I realize I definitely pick and choose my instructors whenever I can. If an instructor fails to be able to modify, adapt to a learner, or teach multiple ways, then I struggle. When my own money is paying for that instructor, then I find an instructor that works for me. In the past when I haven't had the chance to choose my instructor than I have dug deep and used the martial arts principle of Perseverance (or was it me being stubborn). Either way, maybe this is why Perseverance is my favorite principle.

I could go on about my learning struggles for a long time, but instead, let me tell you that I get it.

I GET IT if you struggle to learn.

I GET that not everyone learns the same.

I GET that as an instructor I can't just teach one size fits all.

I GET that I need to tailor my teaching style for you.

Maybe all my struggles in learning are the reason why I imaged I would be a teacher when I was a young kid.

Maybe that is why I completed the process to become a Certified Martial Arts Instructor (under ACMA).

Maybe that is why I became a Certified Master Aviation Instructor (CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, MCFI).

Maybe that is why I went to school to learn about teaching and completed my Master's Degree in Education (M.Ed).

If you are struggling to learn in one of my classes that I am teaching, please let me know. I will take the time to figure out how you learn best.

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Here are some links about learning styles:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why There are no "Masters" in this School

Let's have a discussion about the culture in the martial arts about "idealizing your martial arts instructor." This culture is extremely common in many martial arts schools and occasionally shows its ugly head in our Academy. I feel it is important and address why we don't have this culture and why we need to keep it out of our Academy!
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The Courtesy Bow is a sign of equal respect (not a sign of submission)

Examples of Idealizing your Master

If you have friends in the martial arts outside our academy you will see this often.
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  • Someone you meet may ask, "What is your lineage. Who is your Master? My Master studied directly with ...." And then they usually proceed to tell you why their Master is the best.
  • Or you may hear someone throw out rank or title, "My Instructor is a 6th Degree Black Belt, and has defeated ...."
  • The first school I trained at always talked about the school owner like he was a mythical legend. As an instructor, I was told that I needed to explain in every class why Mr. X was so great. Since I was Mr. X's employee, I followed this requirement, but it was something I never agreed with.
  • My first main instructor (under in Mr. X's school) sadly only had the opinion that his style and his instructor was the best. (Best style and instructor for him maybe, but best for all?). He would commonly say, "Kenpo is the best martial art in the world." He would commonly put down other martial art styles and would say, "Well, I defeated so-in-so, so our style is better. Mr. X is the best martial artist in the country." Sadly this culture passed to me and it took many years to overcome this mindset.

Reasons Why Our Academy Doesn't Idealize Masters 

Coach CW and I believe it is important to understand the history and heritage of the martial arts, but we don't bring this "idealizing" culture into our academy for many reasons.

First, we have had so many instructors over the years that it would be impossible for us to "idealize" one "Master" instructor.

Image result for bow to senseiI started martial arts in 1993 at the age of 11 Years Old and since then I have countless hours of informal training attending conferences and workshops under many "Masters" from many styles. More formally I have trained with instructors and received rank in:
  • Kenpo Karate - 16+ Years training with several "Masters"
  • Jujitsu - Currently, 4+ Years training with two different schools and several "Masters"
  • Kali-Eskrima - 2+ Years training with three primary schools and several "Masters"
  • Tai Chi - 4+ Years and three "Master" instructors all from different schools and lineages
  • Shaolin Kung Fu -2+ Years training 
  • Muay Thai - 2+ Years training 
Coach CW started training in the martial arts in 1976 as a young kid, but because his family moved a lot, he had to start over as a white belt several times with new instructors. This gave him a wide variety of experience in the martial arts. As a young child, he didn't think to keep a log of all his instructors for his Martial Arts Resume, and now 30 years later, many of his instructors have disappeared from martial arts instruction. Here is some formal training he can recall:
  • 1970's & 80's - Kodakon Judo under Navy Instructors in Houston, TX, and Corpus Cristy, TX, then Oklahoma City, OK and then Wichita Fall, TX
  • 1980's Tae Know Do - Harrison, AR 
  • 1980's Shodokan - Harrison, AR
  • Late 80's & Early 90's Jujitsu - San Fransico, CA in High School and College
  • 1990's Alabama - Mixed Arts School with Judo, Jujitsu, Karate in College
  • More recently, additional training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

Over the years, we have developed a midset and philosophy that you can learn from any martial arts practitioner, no matter their "rank." As it was explained to Coach CW as a young child, being a mentor or instructor is not about rank it is about having knowledge and the ability to pass it on well. We believe a good knowledgeable instructor is more important than the rank or title of that instructor.

Happy Training,

Sifu (Teacher) S

P.S. Sifu means teacher. "Sifu actually means someone who teaches you a kind of skills or techniques, which can be a kind of material arts, a kind of musical instruments, etc." (

I don't like the sound of Ms. First Name and Mrs. Last Name is too formal in today's society, so I chose Sifu First Name. (It was actually informally awarded to me at the rank of 3rd Degree, but that is only a tradition in one style and not a requirement for the title). To me, Sifu does not mean Master. I am not a "Master" and will never be one. Even when I am a 10th Degree Black Belt, I will not be a "Master." Why? Because I am always learning and making my martial arts better. "Master" to me means you have learned all you can learn.


If you would like more information and a different outlook on this subject, please watch this video by Stephen Kesting from (caution - offensive language).  Let me say that I do not agree with everything he says, but I do respect his opinion.

Two of my opinions differ from his include (1) the use of respectful titles like Mr. Ms. Sensei, Sifu, Coach, etc and (2) showing respect by not wearing uniforms with another school's name on it. I have reasons for these opinions and without getting into a full debate, it is because I teach life skills to youth and I believe these are ways to instill the value or respect which translate to other areas of life outside of the martial arts.


Here is a write up by Stephen Kesting explaining his video.

"OK, this is going to be controversial...

At first I wasn't sure whether to release this or not - after all, it'll certainly upset some people (I'm bracing for a nice round of hate in the Youtube comments for example).
But [xxxx] it, the truth hurts and somebody has to point out that the emperor isn't wearing any clothing... 

Here are just some of the things we sounded off about...
  • The increasing deification of instructors
  • Mandatory use of titles like 'master' and 'professor'
  • Scams and cons in the BJJ world
  • 'Self Defense' jiu-jitsu clubs that don't spar
  • Forcing students to buy specialized training gear
  • Other bad things coming from traditional martial arts clubs to jiu-jitsu

Caution - Adult/Offensive Language

Click here to watch (or just listen to) 

Are Traditional Martial Arts Values Ruining Jiu-Jitsu on Youtube