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Learn to Play, Play To Learn.

Children are amazing learners, they absorb things like sponges, and the best way for them to learn is through play. This child isn’t simply mimicking, but demonstrating an understanding for rules and concepts well before he could verbally communicate these ideas. He is waiting for his turn, imitating various movements and creating his own “movement vocabulary”, and even showing that he recognizes it is a competition. Pretty advanced stuff for an infant… Im guessing 1 to 2 years old.

As a martial artist I have witnessed how effective games are for learning even complex concepts and techniques. As adults we have learned how to verbally communicate and think abstractly in order to learn new skills; but children haven’t yet developed these societal characteristics, and therefore they can be “difficult to teach”. In my experience playing is an excellent way to not only teach children new skills, but also many other concepts such as rules, respect, and delayed gratification. Work less and play more I always say, and maybe you might learn something in the process.

“The Highest Form of Learning is Teaching”

As a martial artist, there comes a point in your path when simply taking classes is no longer sufficient to progress your training. In order to fully progress from student to master, there is usually an interim phase were one must be a student AND a teacher at the same time. Guro Dan Inosanto, my teacher in so many ways, often quotes Socrates, saying “the highest form of learning is teaching.” These words always made sense to me, and I naturally agreed with the idea, but I never really knew what it truly meant, until I started teaching.

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I had the privilege of teaching a women’s self-defense program at The New High School Project, in Monterey, CA. TNHSP is a very unique learning environment; it is an independent high school that specializes in teaching children with Learning Differences such as Dyslexia, ADHD, and Autism. I myself have Dyslexia and ADHD, and I went through extensive after school programs to help me learn simple things like reading and writing. I, like many people with a Learning Difference, don’t learn these skills the same way as most people do. As an adult, I have learned many things through martial arts that made me say to myself, “I wish I knew this when I was a kid!” So I tried to take these techniques and ideas that I think are helpful for those with a Learning Difference, and tie them into my women’s self-defense program.

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We covered two martial arts in the women’s self-defense class, Jan Fun Gung Fu and Filipino Kali. Jan Fun Gung Fu is a style of fighting developed by Sijo Bruce Lee, my teacher’s teacher. It is a very utilitarian and street oriented system of fighting. It has very straight forward fighting concepts like western boxing and low groin kicks, but Sijo Bruce also added a lot of Wing Chun, a martial art developed by a Chinese nun. Wing Chun is one of the very few martial arts that was developed by a woman, and it’s techniques are ideal for close quarter combat and self-defense, naturally. One of the hallmarks of Wing Chun is “hand immobilization”, basically trapping someone’s arm or hand in a pre-emptive move so that they cannot attack you. I taught some of these hand immobilizations techniques, but also how to counter hand immobilization as well.

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No self-defense system is complete without some kind of offense, so I taught them the finer details of the eye jab! A poke to the opponents eyes really is the easiest and safest way to defend one self, but it must be in self defense. Using this technique to assault someone is a serious crime, as it should be. All the ladies at TNHSP fully understood this, however, and I was happy to teach them some life survival skills.

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Towards the end of the class, I taught them Filipino Kali. Kali is a mother art of various Filipino Martial Arts. It involves literally every form of combat imaginable: spears, swords, shields, daggers, punching, kicking, grappling, trapping and wrestling. For this class however, I stuck to the basic double rattan stick training method. This is the first fighting modality that people learn in Kali; out of all the vast choices, two rattan sticks is first. The reason for this is that the rattan sticks are excellent tools for performing various coordination and attribute development drills.

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In Kali, the emphasis isn’t on learning techniques first, but in developing the practitioners attributes so that they can adequately execute the techniques. This is atypical compared to most martial arts, that mostly focus on techniques through repetition. In Kali, the focus is on attribute development through repetition. Ambidexterity is a prized asset in the martial art world, and Kali is one of the few martial arts that actively develops this attribute. By using both hands simultaneously and in conjunction with each other, you’re increasing the brains ability to use both hemispheres of the brain. This activity will increase the hemispheres abilities to communicate with each other, which is a valuable attribute for dyslexics in particular to have. So I snuck in a little bit of cognitive training while developing the students’ attributes such as coordination, dexterity, and sensitivity.

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This was a very rewarding experience for me as a student, and for me as a teacher. I realized that you really don’t know something until you can teach it to someone else, and than unfortunately you can become so self-aware that you realize you are making so many mistakes that previously had gone unnoticed. And than you realize that there may be a million other things that you’re probably missing, and than you get anxiety because you no longer have a hold on things like you thought you did. And than it all becomes clear, again, and the wise words still echo in your head, “the highest form of learning is teaching…”

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How Good and Bad Gut Bacteria Can Influence Our Diet Choice

imageThe article below was passed on to me by a colleague that works in the Neuroscience field. It is a fascinating article about how bacteria can send chemicals to our brain via the Vagus Nerve, in order tot get us to give the bacteria the food that it wants. For instance a bacteria that wants sugar might release chemicals that make us feel good when we eat sugar or chemicals that make us feel bad when we don’t.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/neuronarrative/201409/gut-feeling-how-baccteria-manipulates-your-brain-0

The implications of this study are tremendous. We have a vast and complicated microbial world living inside of us, creating symbiotic and parasitic relationships with our body. Some of the bacteria have similar dietary goals and needs as we do, but others don’t.

The next time you’re stuffed from dinner, but than get your “second stomach” for desert, remember it may not be you that is actually hungry. Tiny microbial hitch hikers living in your stomach might be the one’s that are hungry for the sugar, and they could be releasing chemical messages to your brain making you think that you’re body needs sugar, and thus creating a craving.

Mindfulness is a useful trait to have in all aspects of life, and it is essential when it comes to diet and nutrition. Ask yourself, am I really hungry, or am I craving something? Often times when I have cravings Ill just drink water and they’ll go away. Or maybe Ill have celery sticks with humus or peanut butter to address my cravings. Fresh fruit like an apple or orange work well too. Usually I try not to cave into my craving, especially if it involves sugar.

A down side to eating for the parasitic bacteria living in your gut is that you have to process all of the waste and byproducts of the food you take in. This is going to slow down your digestive system, which is the most energy consuming process in the body. All this extra material is being ingested, digested, and processed through your body, just to feed a few little microbes.

The process to combat food cravings is slow and gradual, but very possible. I have a hard time eating sugar or sugary things these days because my palette has been shifted and things that taste good to most people taste unbearably sweet to me. Simply cutting sugar out of my diet for a few months created this shift, and I never really went back. Granted I do get my sugar cravings once in awhile, and I do cave into them as well. But once I start to notice a trend that Im eating a lot of sugar, and when I start to crave sugar in the middle of the day, that’s when I know I have a problem. I simply scale my sugar intake back and my palette corrects itself. The same goes for “comfort foods” such as potatoes, french fries, wheat and bread, pasta and other refined carbohydrates.

Nutrition and diet is not rocket science, it is simple and straight forward, which is what makes it so difficult. Being mindful of your actions, and being consistent with your actions are all that is needed to have a healthy diet and to stop feeding those pesky bacteria hitch-hikers!