next_inactive up previous

Black Belt Membership Application

NAME: Michael Richardson

Date: 2005-07-05

1. Length of time studying Martial Arts

c. 1 to 2 years.

2. How frequently do you practice per week?

c. 2 to 3.

3. What goals have you accomplished since you began your Martial Arts training?

Professionally, I have successfully transitioned to working full time for my ``dot-com''. This involved many small goals, including getting an Internet standards document published (rfc4025)

Personally, I rebuilt a fence, insulated my basement, and helped my wife have a baby.

4. Please indicate your preferences for the following areas of your training

I enjoy this part, but I don't think I've gotten much of the history.

personal development
I am not sure about this. It is possible that I haven't noticed how this is has progressed.

I enjoy this part.

I am just getting into this, and I think that I could enjoy it a lot.

I think that I like the forms best of all.

5. What suggestions could you make to improve the structure of the class?

I think that there are two major problems in the class: lack of consistency between sensei, and lack of room in the class.

I have noticed that to progress, it is very important to show up for particular classes with particular sensei. It isn't that other instructors do not teach well -- rather they do not give consistent, tangible feedback about progress. This is primarily about stripes and preparation for belt tests.

It would be fine if students were more aware that the need to show up at a particular time/place to be evaluated. It would also be nice if attendance cards had notes filled in on the back (the skills section).

I did one belt test on the Saturday/2pm event. And one belt test was done essentially ad-hoc. I would prefer to do the test as a group. This can be hard if one attends the noon-classes, since one does not progress with the group.

This leads to the second problem: class size. My utmost thanks to sensei who are able to lead a 60-person class, and give so much attention to every student.

One reason to attend the noon classes is that they are smaller. There are lots of other reasons that I attend the noon classes. Exercise is better done in the morning and it fits my work and childcare schedule better. And if I attend the noon class, that means fewer people in the evening class, and a better time both for me and for the people who can only come in the evening.

I think it would be worth having some white/yellow/orange *only* classes. (Obviously, 3-4 black belts may be useful as teachers). It would also be good to have some additional classes for blue/brown belts, particularly in the months leading up to the black-belt test.

As a noon-class person, I would happily avoid the very busy Saturday noon class. I look forward to being able to take the 1pm class (as a green belt). I would suggest having noon/1pm/2pm classes on Saturday. Or perhaps have an adult class/children class alternating, if brown belts are going to discouraged from just taking three classes in a row.

I try to attend the Saturday classes so that I will have been to 3 classes a week. If there was a way to attend 3 classes at noon, I would. Monday/Wed/Friday is one idea. I realize that there are no perfect solutions, particularly ones that permit the sensei to have a life of their own.

Your question asks if we should do more forms or sparring. Well, yes, we should do both more forms and more sparring. I would suggest that some periods be CLEARLY labelled as sparring periods, seperate from actual classes. e.g. students should show up at 7:30 for kick-boxing if they want to warm up, and 8:30 for sparring. The problem is that we can't do sparring or forms very well, when we run into each other constantly.

Finally, I wonder if there is another way/direction to split the class up when it is time to work by belt. Having people in front of one, and behind one, makes doing forms very difficult. Having people next to one isn't as hard.

6. How would you rate your performance at school/work

At first I thought this was a question about my performance at the Karate school. I realize now that it is a general question.

I am very passionate worker. I take things very seriously with great focus, but not in a humourless manner. I seek to be a likeable person who knows what he knows, and admits when he is wrong. I think that I succeed at this.

I am an entrepreneur -- my entire working life (since age 16) has taken me to work on things that are important, relevant and to which I could invest my entire passion. This has lead to great successes, and when the company has later failed, great disappointments. I came slowly to a decision that I should work for myself, so that I would be 100% responsible for my success/failure. At this, I have been very successful, and I am very driven.

At school -- I was never really interested in the present. As Yoda would say, ``always to the future you look, never have your mind where you are''. That has lead to failures -- my work basically always interfered with my formal schooling. To the extent that Karate requires my immediate focus on my present, I find it very useful.

7. How often do you participate in the following

martial arts demonstration
I have never done this, but I would be interested.

martial arts tournaments
I have also never done this, but I hope to do so in the future.

school/civic social activities
I am not aware of any such activities, so I have never participated.

T.E.A.M. activities

8. Goals

I am uncertain if these are Karate goals, or life goals. I will assume all of the above.

Short-term goals

I expect to get my green belt before the end of the summer.

I expect to complete the plywood part of insulating my basement this summer, as well as fixing the insulation under my den. Along with this, I will have to pull new electrical, telephone and network connections.

I am organizing a conference for the Green Party of Ontario, and this needs to be completed by the end of the summer.

Mid-range goals

I look forward to working on my model railroad some more. I have been unable to prioritize it properly in the past years. I started working on it in 1998. I now realize that I should perhaps defer some of the work for 1-2 years, such that my newborn son may be old enough to ``help''. Since it occupies 1/4 of my basement, having the space sit idle seems dumb.

I would like to be able to clear enough time on my schedule to run in the 2007 Ontario election for the Green Party. I have never been able to plan this, since election dates have not been fixed until now.

I look forward to teaching my son how to cycle, ski and read. It will be 5-7 years before I can complete this.

Long-range goals

I would like to travel for a period. I would like to do this before my son is 10 years of age. I imagine a 3 to 9 month trip through South America, travelling, learning, working and helping as needed.

I imagine retiring from a wealthy dot-com, and becoming either a professor of physics, or the speaker of the house of commons. This will take approximately 15 to 30 years.

9. When will you achieve your Black Belt

I think that if I get my green belt before the end of summer 2005, that I can get my blue belt by February 2006. I may well then get my brown belt sometime in the middle of 2006. That would permit me to do the black belt test in 2007.

Upon relection, accounting for only 6 months for green and blue belts, that may be too aggressive. That's okay -- I would be happy to do my test in 2008.

10. What Martial Arts has done for me, and why I would like to become a Black Belt Member

On the wall of the dojo is the student creed:

My goal is to be the best person I can be.
I will achieve this objective through disciplining my body and my mind,
working to overcome obstacles that hinder my positive growth.
I know that this will take discipline.
I am prepared to make this commitment to myself in order to be the best person that I can be,
and share this progress with others.

I found this very interesting when I was first introduced to it. I took a break from Karate in 2004 for a variety of reasons, and started again in 2005 when I realized how much I missed Karate. While my body took a couple of classes to remember how to do the forms, I noticed that I remembered the student creed without hesitation.

As we recite each line, I often ponder it. I think that in my thoughts about the student creed lies the reasons why I would like to become a black belt member.

My goal is to be the best person I can be.

This is a pretty neat mission statement. It is both general: it can apply to anyone. It is also very specific: each person has their own definition of success.

As an objective goal, it is a meaningless statement. For an organization this would be a poor goal -- nobody would know what it means, or would have a dozen different ideas. Organizations need definite, tangible goals. Individuals often do as well: it's better to say ``I want to lose 10 pounds'' rather than ``I want to lose weight''.

But not all goals have to be objective: personal goals can be subjective as long as the person doing the evaluation (oneself) is also the one setting the goal. In my mind, I have a definite (perhaps unrealistic) idea of what my goal is, and I work towards it.

I will know when I've achieved the goal, or at least if I'm getting closer or further. It helps to have external, more objective measures to help with this effort: the belt system, and the progress towards a black belt is such a system. Clearly, the black belt is just a waypoint on the way towards the ultimate goal.

I will achieve this objective through disciplining my body

It is no surprise that doing Karate takes some physical abilities.

When I first learnt about the length of time the black belt test took, I was very intimidated. As a kid of 10, I could do chin-ups and burpees all day long. I noticed that this was rare -- lots of other kids complained. I now find chin-ups very difficult, and burpees were very hard when I first started Karate.

Getting my body in shape was the reason that I started Karate, and it is an ongoing goal. I am a former tri-athlete, but I went soft when I got a job in my early twenties: I became money rich and time poor, and ate poorly, and had no time for exercise. I have despaired at ever regaining my former self.

I know now that I can do it. I can get myself to the point where I can do as many burpees as I want. I'm not there yet, but I know that it is possible.

and my mind

This is the harder part -- getting my mind on top of things.

One of the things that I noticed with Karate that I had not experienced with many other sports is that I have to be entirely in the ``now''.

When I cycle, cross-country ski, run or swim (especially in a lake) my body gets into a rhythm, and mostly does its own thing. I used to cycle to work on a daily basis (year-round), and I discovered I could cross half the city without even knowing I had done it.

Instead of being focused on the now, my mind would wander. Probably that didn't do great things for my performance, and it certainly resulted in a lower heart rate, but it was certainly possible. It's a hard discipline to focus on pushing and pulling the pedals for an hour at a time. Instead, I think about problems that I have at work. Often it would be productive thinking, and I'd have solved some problem by the time I got to work, but sometimes I'd just get there even more upset about some political problem.

Yoda said it best, in The Empire Strikes Back: ``Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things. ''

A google search about Star Wars and ``mindful'' reveals many comparisons between the teachings of the Jedi, and the ways of Budha. Being mindful on of the present is very important.

When I do Karate, I find that my mind is clear, and I am relaxed. Yoda again: ``You will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.''

I imagine that as my body becomes more disciplined, that it will become easier for the mind to wander. Without a tangible goal, like a black belt, I can see that I could become lax in the discipline of my mind, and it might wander again.

working to overcome obstacles that hinder my positive growth.

When I first heard this part, I wondered to myself: ``what about obstacles to my negative growth''? What is negative growth?

On a physical level, strength and flexibility seem to always be at odds with each other. Increased strength usually leads to less flexibility. The same thing can be said about one's mind.

So one of the things that I see as an obstacle is rote: repeating the same thing each time, each class may lead to being very good at those motions, but it will lead to less flexibility.

That is the reason that my attempt in 2004 at weight training failed: it is simply too boring to do for its own sake. Yet there are things that must simply be repeated until one gets them right. A dislike of rote is an obstacle that I will face.

I still haven't figured out what negative growth might be. For a Jedi it would be anger, fear, regret, jealousy. The only thing that applies to Karate is perhaps jealousy: ``How come I didn't get my blue belt yet?''

To deal with that feeling, one must come back to the goal: ``be the best person that I can be''. As such, comparisons to others are irrelvant, only to one's previous state.

I know that this will take discipline.

I have noticed that people differ massively on what a clean desk means. Some say that it is due to strong discipline. Others say that it is a sign of obsessiveness, and may indicate inability to keep track of things: that a messy desk/lab is a sign of a very strong intelligence, one that can keep track of every item.

I'm not very good at keeping things clean, except for the inside of my mind. As a computer hacker, the inside of my mind also includes the contents of the hard disks of all computers I have. This may seem weird to non-programmers. It may even appear to not be the case: the physical arrangement of the computers may even appear to be a disasterous heap about to fall over, but the logical arrangement may be very clean.

I have a mental image of the logical insides of my tools. In discussions with other programmers of my calibre, I've learnt that others do the same thing. So I have an alternate view of desks: they should be as messy as required, but one should have the discipline to clean them up several times a year.

So discipline isn't just about doing things you don't like to do. It's also about not doing things you like to do, and having a mental picture of what is going on - a map of why one is doing certain things.

I find that the discipline of Karate helps me greatly. First, in providing a couple of clear anchor points in time at which I must stop what I am doing, leave my desk and do something different. Sometimes it is very hard to leave a problem half-solved, and go to class.

Second, in the way that I return to my desk knowing that I can easily get myself back into my work.

I am prepared to make this commitment to myself in order to be the best person that I can be,

This repeats the goal. Like good essays, the goal was the introduction, and this is the conclusion, where the goal is repeated again, and we wait for the more important conclusion:

and share this progress with others.

The conclusion is that we must teach others what we have learnt. We do this for two reasons: it makes us figure out what is actually important, and it reminds us that our efforts are easiest when shared.

In this I see the final reason why I would like to become a black belt member: I enjoy teaching. I'm good at it, and it is a lot of fun.


I should now conclude my essay by repeating my reasons for becoming a black belt:

About this document ...

This document was generated using the LaTeX2HTML translator Version 99.2beta8 (1.43)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, Nikos Drakos, Computer Based Learning Unit, University of Leeds.
Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, Ross Moore, Mathematics Department, Macquarie University, Sydney.

The command line arguments were:
latex2html -noimages -dir /home/mcr/P/karate/essay -split 0 essay.tex

The translation was initiated by Michael Richardson on 2005-12-01


... 1
I think that I may have gotten a word or two of this wrong. I can't see the sign on the wall in class without my glasses, or with my eyes closed, but this is what I recite.

next_inactive up previous
Michael Richardson 2005-12-01