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Thread: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

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    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Lightbulb Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    I was perusing a discussion over whether or not Kenpo is inherantly a Right-handed system, and in my argument I referred to this article I wrote a few years ago. Although there is nothing groundbreaking in the thoughts herein, it is something many of us take for granted. I suspect many of you already use similar mnemonic tools. We all know that as an art, Kenpo has a boatload of information to memorize, so any tools that help in that process have to be a good thing. Please read this article and consider relaying it to your students. It's something that has been quite beneficial to many of my own. As always, your thoughts and feedback are greatly appreciated.

    Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ? by Sifu DangeRuss

    Every martial arts instructor I have ever witnessed has implored his students that they should strive to improve their "focus". It's said over and over again, yet seldom adequately explained. Students wanting to do as their teacher bids, screw their faces into tight knots of concentration, and often their bodies as well, in an attempt to please. Often missing the point completely. Perhaps the problem lies in properly defining what it is we are asking of our students. I have developed a fairly simple approach that has lead to much more positive results. The technique I use is called "External Verbalization". Without explanation, I have a student punch a focus pad several times. Encouraging the student to hit it as hard as they are able. After a few attempts, I have them try it again. This time, while shouting the word, "Punch" with as much force, volume and conviction as they can muster. Most students are pleasantly surprised to feel a noticeable difference in their striking power. I then explain that by shouting the word "punch", as they perform the actual punch, they are re-enforcing the punch from several levels. First, by shouting the word "Punch", they are momentarily forcing virtually all other distractions from their mind. At the moment the shout the word, it is virtually impossible to think about whether or not they left the coffee pot turned on, or if they have enough gas to get home. They have activated a manual over-ride of sorts. In addition, they are abruptly exhaling, and in effect kiai-ing. Finally, they are using the subconscious level of the mind to assist them in their physical task. The mind understands the simple concept of "punch" or "kick" or "palm", by shouting this, it forces it to embrace that idea for the duration of both the shout and the strike itself. Most students at this point have already begun nodding their heads in at least partial comprehension.

    I then give them an example of starting out with a strike or block, which ultimately begins with 100% concentration. As the punch is launched, what if their mind suddenly begins to wander and questions if it will reach its intended target? Perhaps that subtracts 10% of its effectiveness. Then the mind begins to question whether or not its intended victim will block it? There goes another 10% of overall effectiveness. On the course of its trajectory, the mind begins to contemplate more mundane topics, such as Is your wrist straight? Subtract an additional 10%. If there were no other notable distractions, we have already effectively reduced the originally pure 100% focused strike to only 70% effectiveness. Our minds work quite rapidly and in fact may contemplate a myriad more things before that blow finishes it's course, such as; what will you do next? Is your stance correct? What am I gonna have for dinner after class ? What effect will this have on that "perfect" strike? Most students are now nodding with even greater understanding. I encourage each of them to experiment with this simple procedure of "Verbalizing" their intended strike. I then point out that it is also a good study technique, because it causes you to use multiple senses to record the lesson. You "feel", "hear", "speak" and "think" the technique. This re-enforces the learning process, causing you to remember the lesson more deeply.

    Most students find this to be a fairly profound revelation. They can intimately feel and understand the differences in their strikes. I then have them perform a slightly more sophisticated combination of movements, applying the same technique. Again, the results are generally quite easy to quantify. At this stage, I point out that you can use your voice as a manual overdrive to even greater ends, by modulating the tone, speed, fluidity and forcefulness of the delivery to impact the same characteristics of any given technique. A few more eyes will brighten with insight.

    The final stage of this particular lesson, involves them taking this concept one step further in applying this same thinking to their kata. I personally, not only verbalize, the technique, but even imagine 10 foot tall flaming words appearing to re-enforce the actual strikes. Talking their way through the forms requires them to change their focus. Forming the individual words and images, as well as performing the movements, forces them to be truly in each movement, and not 3 steps ahead or behind. This is often the most difficult step, but the benefits are many. Forcing the students to assign labels to each movement also ingrains the ability to teach the techniques. It keeps them from going faster than they are ready to go. It helps them to understand the benefits of unifying, mind, breathing, body and spirit. I point out, that as they become proficient at this level of focused concentration, that they may gradually eliminate the externalization of the actual words, while maintaining the silent internalization of the spoken words in their mind. This is one of the easiest lessons that I have found to help virtually every aspect of a student's performance. It helps them to understand what it is we are asking of them, when we implore them to "Focus".
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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Great article! I really enjoyed it. (and it's hard to hold my attention for very long too! LOL)

    BTW, there is a section on KT that is set up for you to post articles...like an e-zine. There's lots of good stuff there. Feel free to add to it!
    "It is sobering to reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." Charles A. Beard

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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Russ! I love your article! You're right, the concept is not new, but the way you presented makes it far more clear and simple. That's how it should be. Thank you!

    - Ceicei
    Studying martial arts is for life, not for the color of the belt.

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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    I hope you have more of your writings....

    - Ceicei
    Studying martial arts is for life, not for the color of the belt.

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    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ceicei View Post
    I hope you have more of your writings....

    - Ceicei
    Ever hear the phrase..."Careful what you ask for?" Ask Amy, she's the one who invited me here and I haven't shut-up yet! lol

    Thank you for the praise, flattery will likely get you just about anywhere ya want with me. I am glad you perceived it in the way that you did. That was precisely my goal, in essence simplifying and boiling down some concepts, to make them easier to grasp. I can honestly say, that the students I have taken the time to explain this concept to, have absorbed and retained the techniques far faster and deeper than those who have not used these ideas.

    Mahalo
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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    I noticed on your myspace that you have that amusing video of women slapping a focus mitt (literally slapping), which is kinda funny, but emphasizes what your article talks about.

    My sister does that sort fo model-mugging thing and they each yell what they are doing. It does keep things focused, that's for sure.

    I would glad sing the song of your praises, but you already have it programmed into your ipod, so I wouldn't want to bore you with the details of your cleverness.

    It's good though and I'm going to try it with the class tomorrow night, just for fun.

    Thanks for sharing, Russ, and believe me, I'll let you know when to shut up. lol.

    --Amy
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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Quote Originally Posted by amylong View Post
    I'll let you know when to shut up. lol.

    --Amy
    Believe 'dat, playa'!!! ROFL
    "It is sobering to reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." Charles A. Beard

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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Quote Originally Posted by amylong View Post
    Thanks for sharing, Russ, and believe me, I'll let you know when to shut up. lol.

    --Amy
    Yup, she will.

    And thank you very much for sharing that.
    "Change is not necessary...Survival is not mandatory" - W. Edward Deming

    "When I hit....I hit the whole enchilada" - Master David Leung

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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Thank you for posting that article. I have a few students in particular who "screw their faces up in concentration", but have alot of trouble retaining the moves. I had forgotten about having the students verbalize the moves as a method of memorization.

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    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Smile Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Quote Originally Posted by bagheera47 View Post
    Thank you for posting that article. I have a few students in particular who "screw their faces up in concentration", but have alot of trouble retaining the moves. I had forgotten about having the students verbalize the moves as a method of memorization.
    The greater number of senses you can involve in the recording process, the deeper the learning. See it, feel it, hear it, say it. (my own olfactory senses don't allow me to differentiate between the different smells of the individual movements or I'd have a perfect system here)
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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    hmmmm, that technique smells like feet wrapped in leathery burnt bacon! Must be Palm of Death!!
    Loyal student of Sifu DangeRuss
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    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Talking Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zarnyk View Post
    hmmmm, that technique smells like feet wrapped in leathery burnt bacon! Must be Palm of Death!!
    Our survey sez.....Bzzzzzzzzzzzt...I'm sorry, the number 1 answer was..."Palm of Darth", thanks for playing Zarnyk, we have some lovely parting gifts for you. Don Pardot, tell Zarnyk what he's won......

    *...Deep, melodious voice of Don Pardot, heard, but not seen....*

    Zarkynk, you've won an all expense paid trip to the Penalty Box, where you'll share the same space occupied by an untold number of those who were close, but didn't get the cigar, courtesy of your own tenny shoes....
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    SPK,Grasshopper is offline
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    Talking Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    I just want more people to look at this Sifu
    "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, YOU are the one who gets burned."
    Buddha.

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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Quote Originally Posted by bagheera47 View Post
    Thank you for posting that article. I have a few students in particular who "screw their faces up in concentration", but have alot of trouble retaining the moves. I had forgotten about having the students verbalize the moves as a method of memorization.
    Sounds like they're focusing on focusing.
    Be careful what you say, some may take it the wrong way.

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    ktaylor75 is offline
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    Default Re: Whattaya mean "Focus", Sifu ?

    Thank you so much for the article! There are a couple techniques that I really need to work on before my test on Monday. I will be putting your wisdom to work this weekend as I continue to practice. Great stuff!

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