Picking a Martial Arts Studio

Sensei Posted in Articles of Interest
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Graciously provided by our Guest Blogger – Mitch The Window Manager His reader “Mobius” sends in the following question:
I’m in LA and a regular reader of your wonderful blog (Mitch: Flattery will get you everywhere). I was hoping to get your help in finding a good place to get martial arts training in the area. The one place I’m talking to is asking ~$350 for 3 months, 2-times/week. I don’t even know what the avg price is around the area and your help would be very useful.
While this question is specific to SoCal, here are some tips that everyone should use when looking for a martial arts studio:
1. Technique – The first step in picking up martial arts is to decide which technique you want to study. There are literally dozens of martial arts techniques, and this web site has summaries on most of them. I take Tae Kwon Do, which is from Korea, but there are techniques from Japan, China, and even some home grown U.S. techniques.
For deciding which technique to pursue, I would answer two questions: what do you want to get out of the sport, and what are you physically suited for? For me, I wanted to have an exercise regimen that would help me lose weight, which means I needed something with lots of movement and kicking. I decided I wanted to do this even though – at the time – I wasn’t very suited for kicking since I had low flexibility. This means that my learning curve would be higher in TKD than other techniques where I would be more “natural”.
I started off not very good, but my body adapted – and is still adapting – for increased flexibility. At first I could kick only about waist high, but can now kick at head level. It just means that it took me more time to get there than others who walked into the dojong with natural flexibility.
In contrast, if you wanted something that wasn’t too strenuous, and would actually be more helpful for self-defense, a “grappling” martial art like Aikido or Hapkido would be ideal. Lots of older people take these styles since there is little strenuous movement, no attacking, and little if any kicking. And as “defensive” arts, they are actually more likely to come in handy in a back alley than a TKD spinning heal kick.
2. Cost – Here is what I look for: what does a membership cost at the local 24 Hour Fitness?
As noted above, I see my TKD class as an exercise regimen, so this is a good comparison. However, I also have developed friendships with both my instructors and classmates, and the dojong is actually a place to hang out and talk, as well as exercise, so it is also like a “club” in many respects.
My school works like 24 Hour Fitness in that they put me on a yearly contract and charge my credit card every month, which I find pretty convenient. I pay a yearly initiation fee and $110 a month, which is about the same as you are being quoted. The only difference is that my price is “officially” for three classes a week, although I usually go four or five – they don’t charge extra for the few of us that come more often.
The other thing to look out for are uniforms and rank tests. Usually for a “intro course” a uniform (gui in Japanese or dobok in Korean) is thrown in, so I would negotiate that in if it isn’t in your current offer. If you need more than one uniform (I do – I sweat like a pig), find out if you have to buy uniforms from the school (with their logo) or can save a little and get it on-line.
Most schools charge for rank tests, and this usually varies on the level of the test. For example, at my school the first rank test (yellow belt) is a $30 or $40 test fee. Down the road when you are ready for Black Belt, it is on the order of $300. Since I see this as my “hobby”, I just budget for these things, but it is something to keep in mind.
3. Reputation – The last thing I would look for in a school is the reputation and caliber of the school. Who owns it? Who actually teaches the courses? Is it a “belt factory” where they just churn people through as a business, or are they really serious about teaching both the physical and mental aspects of the martial arts? What size are the classes you would be in and what is the instructor/student ratio? For the day classes I take, there are usually only 3-5 students, so I get great workouts and individual attention. In fact, on some days when everyone else is busy, I get private classes.
This is a hard call, and is something you will have to ask current students about and talk to the people who work there. Note that many martial arts schools get the majority of their revenue from kids (i.e. sub-teens), so make sure that you are in a class that is reserved for adults. You don’t want to get into a situation like Seinfeld’s Kramer, where he was the only adult in his karate class.
The thing to remember is that if you do start a school and decide it is working for you, don’t give up – try another. Chances are there are dozens of schools from a variety of techniques near your home and one of them will be just right for you.

Are we there yet?

Sensei Posted in Articles of Interest
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This article is courtesy of Barry our new Guest Blogger!
One of the things that is true about most of us is that our thinking is linear. We start here, we end there. Time lines, graphs , charts, lifetimes. Things have a begining and an end. I read somewhere that a problem with the Hubble space telescope (what a fingerprint on the lens? I’m not sure) allowed space physicists around the world to make requests for data that the telescope COULD gather (which was diffrent from what it was intended to gather? I guess?) that allowed them to pinpoint, within a decimal point and an amazing amount of zeros, the begining of the universe. Thus proving The Big Bang Theory and Genesus in one fell swoop. Wow a begining. and, If we extrapolate that into the future, an eventual end. Ok. Linear. Good to go.
My favorite song from Dinsey’s Lion King is “The CIrcle of Life”. Uh oh. Non linear thinking. what’s up with that? Well, I believe stuff isn’t really linear at all it’s circular (elliptical actually. I think) Eienstien suggested that if you left a point and traveled in a straight line from that point you would eventually come back to that point from the other side.(I’ve known some people who argue like that). That’s pretty much a circle by anyone’s definition (more correctly an ellipse I think, certainly not a pure circle, but then I’m no mathematician).
My point is: no we are not there yet and we never will be so shut up and enjoy the ride. “what does that have to do with anything? ” you ask. (I certainly do, just where the heck are we going with this?) Well it has to do with our expectations. Once again the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. A result. An end. Most of us know someone whose lives “peaked” , ended really, in high school and they’ve just been running in place ever since. Their “victories” lived and relived again and again till the grandkids get tired of hearing about it and disapear into their Ipods. But for most uf us life just continues to be a revisiting of similar challenges but with (hopefully) different results, that is if we’ve continued to grow and evolve and get on with stuff. A re-cycling (or re-ellipsing) of stuff so that maybe we get it righter (certainly never right) every time we go through.
I”ve been thinking about this because of my seemingly endless battle with this cancer thing that I’ve been harping on in these blogs I’ve been writing and I find myself wondering “when will it end?”. (How will it end is more important I think. The “when” I don’t think I want to know unless it’s like 50 years from now), I’ve managed to be a bit of a coward and not go in for my latest blood test (although I’m going to suck it up and go this wednesday) because I didn’t really want to know. That’s linear thinking at it’s finest (if it’s this then that must mean this and then bla bla bla to the end). But the truth is that everyday is a chance to start over again and cycle through the stuff and get it righter this time so that tomorrow I can start all over again.
Thus continually circling and circling like a Hawk above a Hare. Only the Hare isn’t the goal. The goal is to keep on circling. No line, no end point, no real objective (oh boy, We western, goal oriented, management by objective, carrot and the stick, linear thinkers really have a problem with that) except to just keep circling, cycling and ellipsing for………ever, thank you very much.
It has occured to me that the secret to eternal life is to wake up in the morning. E v e r y morning. To not look to the future but to look at the present, to not look up and out but to look down at your feet where you may be stumbling over treasure, to listen to the beat of your heart as proof of life and to continue without fail to breathe in and out. Mostly though I just want to keep to the circle, keep to the cycle and keep it elliptical because that’s what’s keepin it real.
(I applogise to all those English majors out there who had some trouble with my use of righter rather than more right [hey, It’s my post , I get to make the rules] and any misspellings. Spelling is highly overated and is like Math skills just a way for prissy little prims to show off. I also credit the Tao Te Ching for the metaphysics and my own sense of the absurd for the point of view)

Be careful out there in Cyberspace…

Sensei Posted in Identity Theft
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Security vendor Sunbelt Software detected the site Tuesday, March 21, and reported it to eBay, which worked with the local ISP to have it taken offline. The site probably collected the information through phishing attacks or a Trojan horse virus that plants keylogging software on users’ PCs, said Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt. Source.
It’s a whole new world, and the cold war seems to be heating up again. This time though it isn’t governments fighting but hackers (in sympathetic countries) and corporations and individuals that are waging war. Some old Russia/Eastern Block countries and China are quickly becoming the biggest threat to the western world. We have our share of ‘Western” hackers but some of the most damaging and ruthless phishing and hacking operations are coming from the east. In a recent case a Russian web site was offering eBay account information for as little as $5.00!! Prices ranged from $5 to $25 per account. Luckily eBay was able to get the web site shut down. The web site was offering to sell stolen customer account information and a handful of payPal accounts. Armed with these false customer accounts, a scammer/hacker could easily post items for sale, collect payments, and then never deliver the goods.
But remember only the web site was shut down, the hackers that were running the site still have all of the information and they are looking for a buyer…Even more so then in the physical world we have to be careful to protect ourselves, be diligent and aware of our surroundings. Like old credit cards online accounts that you don’t use or haven’t used in some time should be deleted to reduce your exposure to identity theft.

Bruce Lee vs. The Karate Kid!

Sensei Posted in Fun Stuff,Tags: , , ,
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I couldn’t resist!

Actor Jet Li sued over Fearless

Sensei Posted in Entertainment
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Action star Jet Li has been sued for his new movie about a late Chinese kung fu master. The late master’s relatives say it dishonors and misrepresents his life. Jet Li’s name has been added to a March 7 lawsuit, filed by Huo Yuanjia’s grandson (Huo Shoujin), against producers and distributors of the movie “Fearless” because he “not only played the lead role but participated in the making and production of the movie”. Huo Shoujin does not want the movie to be released worldwide. Huo Shoujin also wants the film to be pulled from theaters in Asia and is demanding a public apology from the filmmakers.
Jet Li has been quoted in the Chinese media saying that his role was an “homage” to the kung fu master. “Fearless” traces Huo’s evolution from a vain fighter keen on total domination to one who uses fighting as a means of self-betterment. Huo Shoujin has claimed the film contains numerous fabrications about his grandfather’s life and besmirches his reputation. In the movie, Huo has no descendants but in actuality had seven grandsons and 11 great-grandchildren. The family was also unhappy that Huo was portrayed as a wealthy man with servants when he actually had a working-class background. The film has already been released in China, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand, according to Li’s official Web site. It is scheduled to debut later this year in France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

Meditation Point #9

Sensei Posted in A Zen Thing, Quotes
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One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see.

Giorgio Morandi

Quebec Open 2006 – April 28-29

Sensei Posted in Competition
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This tournament, which is rated respectively KRANE “AAAAA”, WKA “AAAAA” and NASKA “AAA” is now considered as one of the most important in the world. The international reconnaissance of the tournament encourages the best athletes in the world to participate every year. The 26th edition expects more than 2000 competitors from more than 20 different countries. More than $15 000 CDN in cash and $50 000 CDN in prizes are offered within the 360 different categories. Fro more details see their web site.
If anyone is planning on attending please get in touch with sensei @ karatetraining.org as we want to get photos and a first hand account of the event for our gallery and this blog.

Meditation Point #8

Sensei Posted in A Zen Thing, Quotes,Tags: ,
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True Zen

Sitting quietly doing nothing,
Spring comes and the grass grows.

This is perhaps my favorite saying/quote mostly because of its simplicity.  In these ten words the essence of life is put into perspective.  Our worries, our stresses, all the little things we make important and all the things we want to do are put in perspective.  We are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, nothing we do will make the Spring come sooner, it happens without us.  Conversely anything we do will pass away as if it were never there with the passage of time.  We are insignificant.  As a matter of fact the more significant we think we are, the less significant we are.  Significance indicates a desire for recognition.  The desire for recognition is self-centered ego.  We make ourselves the center of the Universe when nothing could be further from the truth.

What to do then?  Do we simply sit and let the world pass through it’s natural cycles?  We should sit quietly occasionally to keep things in perspective, however that isn’t realistic for everyday practice, how would we eat, etc.  No, this quote is only practical if you were the only person on the planet, even then your existence would be short lived.  While this quote does point to a certain truth in life, it neglects the more abstract aspects of life.  The interactions of life, with life.  Our interactions with our fellow men (and women) our important, though if done correctly will also be soon forgotten but not soon erased.  If we keep the world in perspective as the quote tries to point out our interactions with others will be based in kindness and selflessness.  We will sleep peacefully at night and wake with anticipation of the day ahead.  No agenda.  Living in the world but not for the world.  Living in peace with the fact that you do not chase smoke and dreams but bask in the glory of every moment whether good or bad understanding that no one truly has any more power over you than they do to make the Spring come earlier than it will.

Upstream attack threatens Bank Customers

Sensei Posted in Identity Theft
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Since Banks have been taking more security percautions hackers are shifting their focus to bank service providers and partners. In a recent attack, hackers obtained access to computers at ElectroNet Inc., a Tallahassee Internet service provider. ElectroNet Inc serves as the ISP (Internet Service Provider) for three Florida Banks, Capital City Bank, Wakulla Bank, and Premier Bank. Once they had access to all of the Internet traffic for the Banks the hackers redirected all Banks customer traffic to counterfeit web sites on servers the hackers controlled and setup to look like the real bank web sites (phishing). The banks immediately shut down the counterfeit Internet links and their own (real) websites access. The banks also informed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI who are currently investigating the incident. There is no word yet on how many customer’s data was stolen in this attack. If you are a customer of these banks and you have used their website between March 10th and March 17th you should contact your Bank and change your account information immediately.
Phishing is a popular and increasingly deceptive tool hackers employ to fool individuals and businesses alike. As the term implies it is related to “fishing” since the hackers set a wide net or trap to capture identity and account information. In this case the hackers presented the customers with a counterfeit web page where they are prompted to enter their account information and other sensitive data. Beware and be smart when entering information online, check the URL or site address to make sure it is exactly as expected. Source.

Self-Defense = Don’t Click on that Link!!

Sensei Posted in Identity Theft
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Once again hackers are at it (actually they never stopped!). The security company FaceTime reported on March 17th that bots or hacked PCs are being used to harvest data stored in shopping carts (such as identity information, addresses, secret questions, credit card numbers). While not really anything new, this bot is called “the Carder” targets specific e-commerce shopping cart applications which contain vulnerabilities. Though it’s impossible to know exactly what shopping cart vulnerabilities are under attack since Carder is so customizable. The hacker’s gain control of people computers by tricking them into clicking on links sent to them via IM (Instant Messenger), email or posted on malicious or couterfeit web sites. FaceTime reports the current attack is being carried out by a botnet (group of hacked PCs) that control roughly 150,000 compromised computers! Source