Monday, August 24, 2015

The Plentiful Benefits of Japanese Karate for Children with ADHD, by Helen Dawson

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder in the US; around 11 per cent of children aged four to 17 (6.4 million) having been diagnosed with ADHD since 2011, and statistics show that the percentage is rising as the years go by. The average age of diagnosis is seven, though children whose parents feel their condition is severe tend to receive and earlier diagnosis. Treatment is varied and often involves medication, though many parents also seek natural method to counter symptoms, which can include an inability to concentrate or sit still, being easily distracted, impatience, interruptive speaking, task completion problems, etc.

The Importance of Physical Activity

Studies have shown that keeping kids with ADHD active is an ideal way to enhance focus and put executive functions (sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, etc.) into gear. Some experts deem exercise to be a useful alternative to medication, or, at the very least, an effective complementary treatment for those on medication. Indeed, exercise and ADHD medications have a similar effect on the brain, with both thought to increase levels of ‘feel-good’ chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, which help individuals think clearly, concentrate on a task and control their actions

Japanese Karate: Benefits or Children with ADHD

Japanese Karate in particular is an excellent way for children with ADHD to focus, and learn the value of turn-taking, patience and reaching for goals. Some of its many benefits include:
  • Improved participation in class: A 2004 study published by a researcher completing his dissertation thesis at Hofstra University in New York compared two groups of children with ADHD; one group took part in martial arts classes and the other (the control group) did not. The children with ADHD showed a higher percentage of handing in homework, better academic performance, more frequent preparation for class, a decrease in the number of rules broken and a decreased number of times leaving their seat.
  • Reduced stress: Vigorous physical activity, as is displayed in a Japanese Karate class, causes levels of stress hormone, cortisol, to plummet, thereby instilling a welcome sense of calm and relaxation. In this peaceful state, children with ADHD can find it easier to concentrate on set tasks,
  • Learning important values: In a Japanese Karate class, children learn the value of respecting their instructor, but also fellow pupils and of course, themselves. Learning limits, taking turns and learning to communicate in a calm manner are only some skills pupils take away with them after attending karate classes regularly. Children also learn how to form part of a team with shared goals and with an interest in mutual support. Often, children with ADHD can feel isolated at school; through karate, they can learn the joy of being part of a group where help and critical feedback alike are accepted in a non-defensive manner.
  • Mental discipline: Japanese karate fosters mental discipline, with its emphasis on structure and concentration. Many moves need to be studied, observed and repeated various times before they are performed successfully. For this reason, this activity can be much more suitable for children with ADHD than less structured forms of sport.
  • Self-esteem: In the same way that children with ADHD can feel a little ‘out of place’ in class, their self-esteem can also suffer. Often, children are not diagnosed until they are aged seven or older and this can mean many years of feeling misunderstood. Sticking with a challenging sport like Japanese Karate and achieving many goals and improvements along the way can help kids understand that despite what others may have told them in the past, they are, indeed, capable of sticking to something and making valuable progress.
  • Self-defense: Japanese karate is not a violent activity; on the contrary, it teaches that physical defense is the very last resort. Having said that, bullying at schools is a global problem affecting too many children. Recent studies have shown that the negative effects of bullying last way beyond the childhood years; those who have been bullied as kids have a significantly higher likelihood of suffering from anxiety, depression and even heart disease. Bullying needs to be stopped at various levels – above all, through greater public awareness. However, it always helps to feel confident in one’s own strength; this can be achieved through Japanese Karate.
Further Reading:

"The Plentiful Benefits of Japanese Karate for Children with ADHD" was written by Helen Dawson.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Judo Comes to Seichou Dojo!

I began studying Kyokushinkai Karate in 1971 under renowned master Soshu Shigeru Oyama. However, back then, we called him "Sensei," and he taught in a windowless, basement dojo with leaky pipes called the White Plains School of Self-defense.

Thinking back, that place was pretty romantic because in the summer it could be hotter than blazes and, in the winter, it could be colder than a freezer. Also, as anyone who was there at the time could tell you, it was a rough place. But, as an impressionable 10-year old, I couldn't get enough. In fact, the first time that I knelt on the mat and meditated, I felt strangely at home. I was drawn to karate's power, explicit rules of conduct and camaraderie like a fly to a flickering flame. So, I trained as often as possible and, in 1974, I was promoted to 1st degree black belt by Kyokushinkai founder Kancho Masutatsu Oyama!

The White Plains School of Self-defense also had a kind of peculiar quirk. Although Kyokushinkai Karate demanded complete loyalty from its students, in addition to karatedo, the school offered Kodokan Judo.

I remember sometimes watching the Judo classes under the direction of a Japanese instructor named Mr. Watanabe. The judoka (judo practitioners) would grasp each other by the lapel and sleeve for a few moments and glide around feeling each other out. Then, in an instant, in cat-like fashion, one would thunderously throw or sweep the other to the mat. Once again, my adolescent boy's mind took over and made the following analysis. Judoka were so smooth and so powerful and, so, I wanted to practice judo!

So, I asked the school owner if I could try a Judo class. "Well," he replied admonishingly, "I'm not sure that Sensei Oyama would appreciate that. You could try Judo, but you'd need to choose one or the other. You wouldn't be permitted to do both."

I was disappointed, but the message was loud and clear that I would risk offending my karate teacher who would perceive my interest in Judo as disloyal. Since I'd seen plenty of other students - even senior black belts - unceremoniously booted from the dojo for different transgressions, I quickly decided to keep my interest in judo to myself. Not long after that, I forgot about judo and re-immersed myself in karatedo.

My career in karatedo has been deeply rewarding because it has given me the skills and confidence to set and accomplish ambitious goals, and has led me to many rich experiences. For example, while I was in college and law school (1980 to 1987), I taught karate at Soshu's Manhattan dojo and became a Kyokushinkai middleweight fighting champion. Then, in 1984, I was chosen to represent the U.S. at the Kyokushinkai-kan All-World Karate Championships in Tokyo. After that, my deep interest in Japan led me to work there in public education from 1989 to 1994. During that time, Soshu asked me to teach at his Nagoya branch. I returned to the U.S. In 1996 and one year later I founded Seichou Karate® Dojo in Alexandria, Virginia.

However, Soshu's philosophy and that of Kyokushinkai-kan were too restrictive. By contrast, we always put the needs of our students first. So, this summer “Seichou Karate Dojo” became “Seichou Karate & Judojo” as we expanded our curriculum to include Kodokan Judo. We will encourage our students to study karatedo (powerful stand-up self-defense) and judo (powerful close quarters and ground self-defense) because doing so is best for them. OSU!

Richard Romero
President & Founder, Seichou Karate and Judojo

Monday, September 1, 2014

Thank Your Opponent

On August 31, 30 Seichou Karate and Judo students and family members observed the Shidogakuin 30th Anniversary Tournament, during which more than 200 kendoka (practitioners of kendo) from Brazil, Canada, Japan and the U.S. competed. The event was held at the Ernst Cultural Center of Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. Seichou Karate and Judojo was pleased to sponsor this event.

Simply explained, kendo is Japanese fencing with a bamboo sword (called a “shinai”). However, being that kendo is not a form a self-defense, why is it relevant today?

The answer lies in the fact that modern kendo is a distillation of the finest facets of bushido, which is the code that governed the lives of medieval samurai. It is much more than swinging a stick around to score points by striking an opponent. Rather, properly done, kendo fosters humility, honesty, courage, industriousness and gratitude, and requires tremendous physical fitness, alertness and martial expertise.

So, kendo is relevant in contemporary society because it inspires practitioners to manifest the very best human virtues. It’s also really cool and a heck of a lot of fun.

Seichou Karate and Judo students were impressed by the fine display of martial skill and etiquette at this weekend’s event. I was impressed by the admonition of Chief Judge Masaharu Kakehashi, who had travelled from Japan to officiate. Among his closing comments Master Kakehashi said “kendoka should be grateful when their opponents strike them.”

This might be counter-intuitive, but the thinking goes that when our opponent strikes us hard, he gives us an opportunity to improve. Hence, one should thank his opponent for giving him a good shot.

This admonition is also fundamental to the practice of judo and was articulated in the 19th century by Founder Jigoro Kano when he coined the phrase “jita kyouei,” which describes a reciprocal concern between judoka for each other’s well-being.

However, it is not an admonition that one often hears in the karate world. Except, of course, if you are a Seichou Karate® student because we often remind our members that we practice karatedo not merely to become strong for ourselves, but also to help our classmates become strong. We require our students to commit to a win-win ethic in training including contact free-fighting.

In sum, I am delighted that our students had the opportunity to observe such a fine event and to realize that the ethics that we teach at Seichou Karate and Judojo are replete throughout traditional Japanese martial arts.

We heartily congratulate the WashinkanShidogakuin on a highly successful tournament!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ms. Tuff has the Right Stuff!

Yesterday, Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia rescued hundreds of children, teachers, staff members and a deeply troubled gunman from a horrendous potential tragedy. She didn’t throw a punch, draw a firearm or even threaten the 20-year old gunman, who is apparently mentally ill and had burst into the school armed with an AK-47 assault rifle. Without regard for her own safety, she remained calm, used her intellect and empathy to create a bond with the troubled young man, who responded well and heeded her pleas that he put down his weapon and surrender. When the emergency was over, we learned that at the moment of greatest need an ordinary citizen saved hundreds of lives in superhuman fashion by exhibiting the following Seichou Pillars of conduct: courtesy (2), courage (3), compassion (5) and complete sincerity (6). Gandhi would have been VERY proud of Ms. Tuff and so are we. That’s why we’re naming Antoinette Tuff our Person of the Month. OSU!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dojo Fighting vs Streetfighting

At Seichou Dojo we practice contact free-fighting because we want our students to learn to defend themselves.

However, if we agree that street fighting is often barbaric, then we need to ask ourselves how Dojo fighting is different from street fighting.

Street fighting results when communication fails and people are unable to use their intellect to resolve disputes. Each blow or martial technique that is employed in a street fight emanates from a desire to evade, incapacitate or injure an adversary.

In the Dojo, our purpose is not to injure our partner but to improve our own technique and to help our partner learn how to defend against a strong attack.

In this way, Dojo fighting and street fighting are completely different. OSU!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Do Martial Arts Benefit Us?

I am always gratified to hear from adult students how much they benefit from Seichou Karate® training.

The reasons people come to us vary. Some people come to learn self-defense; others come to learn about Japan, for physical fitness or to relieve stress. Whatever a student’s initial motivation, the benefits are often more expansive than he or she considered before walking through our door.

Here’s why. In Seichou Karate® class, we practice exercises and karate techniques that build strong, flexible muscles. So, right off the bat, our training will give you the power and endurance to study, work or play hard for long periods of time.

Next, Seichou Karate® is rigorous. So, during class when your muscles will tire or you’re out of breath, you’ll want to take a rest. At those moments, your brain should override the natural tendency to quit. Your brain becomes stronger each time it overrules your body. This exercise of self-discipline reminds us how powerful we are and motivates us to push harder for the things in our lives that are important: family, friends, career, or whatever.

Finally, the path to developing great physical strength and powerful fighting skills at Seichou Karate requires us to receive mentoring from caring senior students and instructors. During this process, we cannot help but discover that although they are stronger than we are, they are gentle and totally committed to our personal growth. This example inspires us to be good companions, mentors and fiduciaries in all areas of our lives.

This is the most important way in which Seichou Karate® and other martial arts benefit us. OSU!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to be a Great Teacher

From 1980 to 1985 I taught at my instructor’s dojo in Manhattan. One morning, my teacher poked his head into class as I was teaching. After watching for a few minutes he told me to see him after I finished class.

I'd been pushing the students hard when he'd walked in, so I was pleased with what he'd observed. After finishing class, I knocked on his door and entered his office. "What was that," he pointedly asked. Surprised, I answered sheepishly that I'd been teaching free-fighting technique. "No, you weren't teaching. You were training. The two are not the same," he barked.

He was right. I'd been leading the students through a regimen that was helpful to me, but it did not address the needs of the students in attendance. That was a good lesson because it taught me the importance of focusing on the needs of each student in class. In fact, today I know that a great instructor seamlessly addresses even divergent needs of students in the same class.

At Seichou Karate® we make certain that every student in class gets what she or he needs to make meaningful progress toward the achievement of personal goals. That’s what sets us apart from our competitors and, so, we’re very proud to make that promise.