All posts by Chris Manzo

Reasons for Kids to Practice Martial Arts Continued

To catch up on the blog I started, I haven’t really discussed reasons for kids to practice martial arts lately and I feel that we need a reminder. I happened upon an article that was talking about this subject so I named the reasons they gave and am giving my opinion of those reasons.

Their fifth reason was that kids will be able to connect their mind and body. Once again, I have to agree with this notion overall. I believe they are talking about a more spiritual sense here as opposed to a more coordinated physical body. When reading their reasoning, it is apparent that they are talking about the spirituality of Martial Arts. By there reasoning, it would always depend on the individual. If your child wants to participate in Martial Arts because they want to win medals or not fear bullies (which are perfectly acceptable reasons), they will most likely not tune into the spiritual side, especially if they are in boxing or wrestling. Now, connecting your thoughts to how you perform physically is how I would say they gain an advantage. I would say this is true for sports in general.

It boosts agility, speed, power, and response when you participate in physical activities.

Hand-eye coordination is also a great benefit to connecting your mind with your body.

A great one, is learning conflict resolution is another reason according to the article. I would say that problem solving is probably a more accurate answer. I know many a child that gets into several conflicts weekly and needs an adult to intervene. These same children probably have the behavior reinforced at school and home, so Martial Arts, in my opinion wouldn’t be any more advantageous to conflict resolution than any other aspect of their life. Problem solving is also learned at home and school, so my opinion of this reason isn’t that it is wrong, just not any more beneficial than other areas.

Reason seven is that they will learn to breathe (properly at the right time). I concur fully, but again, it must be taught correctly. I have seen many instructors that don’t emphasize breathing properly. For people who don’t know what I’m talking about, the article and I are talking about proper breathing technique. Proper breathing technique would be exhaling while exerting force such as a fast twitch movement to throw someone in Judo, or deliver a knee in Muay Thai. This technique extends to inhaling correctly for recovery between techniques. This is a great reason for kids to join Martial Arts because it can prevent injuries and help them achieve optimal training for whatever sport they choose to participate in.

If you are still skeptical about making the long term commitment to a Martial Art for your child, visit a few schools but chances are you have a friend, or friend of a friend who is already enjoying the benefits and will be happy to guide you on your first steps. Many schools offer trial options, especially for younger kids, so you don’t need to make a huge financial commitment up front if you feel that it isn’t for your child. It really can’t hurt, as I discussed, there are a lot of great reasons to start and not any good reasons to keep putting it off.

Reasons for Kids to Practice Martial Arts

I have been a youth Martial Arts coach for well over 14 years. I have my B.A. in Psychology and I consider myself to be an expert in Martial Arts, even more so when it comes to kids in Martial Arts. I just read an article about kids in Martial arts. Others share my consideration because I have been around kids when interviewed about participating in Martial Arts by very well known media groups as well as producers. I could go into way more detail, but that isn’t the purpose of this blog. The purpose of my previous statements was to simply let readers know that I am qualified to express my professional and personal opinions about this subject.

Back to the business of this article I read. First I will go over all of the reasons they gave. Reason number one was that they (and you) will get more active. With this being true, it doesn’t necessarily differentiate Martial Arts from other sports or activities. Playing football, baseball, basketball, or any sport would obviously make them more active. To me, Martial Arts does encourage more activity than if your child would have otherwise been watching TV or playing video games. Is this a good reason to get your child in Martial Arts? Certainly it is if your child is not normally active.

Reason number two was that they will find focus and stillness. I can say that this may be true for most Martial Arts but I do object a little to this statement. Stillness AND focus? Focus certainly will have to be utilized if a child wants to excel at anything. Having a child focus on technique or remembering movements is a positive for sure. Stillness is the word I have a little trouble with. If you are speaking about Karate forms, you will deal with stillness, however when we are talking about martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu or Judo, stillness isn’t what your child is being taught. I guess there is context to this statement, but stillness is probably taught better in school than a Martial Arts studio. Teaching focus is a great reason, but stillness is limited to a very few Martial Arts.

Reason number three
was an interesting one to me, and I quote “They’ll learn to take hits.” When considering Martial Arts, I always include wrestling and boxing. Your child will most certainly learn to take hits in most Martial Arts, but there are several that do not concentrate on striking an opponent. There are no strikes in Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling, or Submission Grappling. Maybe a better reason would have been that it would toughen them up in ways. Learning to take a hit or deal with pain (that isn’t an actual injury) can certainly add character as well as teach kids that not everything that happens to us will mean the end of the world. I agree with the philosophy behind the notion, but not with the practicality.

I agree fully with reason number four although it does put two concepts in the same reason. The article says that they will gain self confidence and self respect. These are two terms that are separate virtues.

Confidence and respect are not the same.

With that point aside, I agree that all Martial Arts, when taught correctly, help kids gain confidence in themselves. A child that has skills to defend themselves fears less. They fear social interaction with other kids less, they fear the potential of being bullied less, they fear authority less, and they fear impending failure less. Martial Arts is full of success and failure, so that is a lesson they learn. Self respect is a more difficult notion to sell but if you have respect for yourself, you will have more respect for the people and objects around you. Picking up after yourself, good hygiene, leadership, and sociability are taught in Martial Arts and all can help build self-respect.

This blog is getting long, so, to be continued next week…

Martial Arts as Fitness

I have gone over a lot of reasons for Martial Arts, but one I often overlook is the pure fitness aspect of it. Some people simply get into Martial Arts as a non-conventional way of getting into better shape. If fitness is your main reason for getting into Martial Arts, these are the styles that offer the most fitness benefit, although some of them are pretty difficult, but fitness should be a lifelong goal.

Capoeira is one such difficult Martial Art. This style comes from Brazil and is as much a form of dance as a style of fighting. We all know dancing can get you in shape, we also know gymnastics can get you in shape, this art combines the kicking and punching with the dancing and gymnastics. It was developed in Brazil mainly by Africans, at the beginning in the 16th century. It is known for quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage for a wide variety of kicks, spins, and highly mobile techniques. There is a whole lifestyle associated including beliefs and (of course) music. Great for fitness but somewhat difficult to find a good Capoeira school. If you’re a beginner, this probably isn’t the Martial Art for you, just wanted to make sure it is an option because it offers a lot of fitness benefits.

Ever seen an obese MMA fighter? Well you probably have but chances are they used to be a lot more obese before they started training. I guess the easiest way to describe the fitness benefits of MMA would be to let you know that Boxing, Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, and Kickboxing on their own are great workouts on their own. Imagine an art that combines all of these things together, well that’s MMA. We all know by now what MMA is, and can easily imagine why it is listed as a great way to get your fitness on. Gyms that offer MMA are pretty easy to find nowadays so getting into this one will be a lot easier. The challenge with this one will be getting into a class that fits your current level of experience as well as your current fitness level. It may be best to try one of the single arts listed first.

Traditional Karate And Tae Kwon Do are great ways to get your foot in the door for Fitness through Martial Arts. These arts start you at a beginner level and throwing kicks, punches, and holding stance along with a pretty standard warm-up and stretching routine are great for someone who needs to ease back into the world of fitness. A great benefit to these are that there is a measured ranking system and you can usually fit the classes into your schedule. Another great benefit is that these arts are family friendly and everyone in your household can most likely get some good benefits from beginning the training. Finding a school to train you in Karate or Tae Kwon Do is usually as easy as visiting a local donut shop. There are tons of these around every city.

Tai Chi is probably the highest used Martial Art strictly for Fitness benefits. Its name literally means “Supreme Ultimate Boxing” and it is described as an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training as much as its health benefits. A lot of different training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to personal goals with differing emphasis. Some training forms are especially known for being practiced with relatively slow movements. There are local parks and schools that offer Tai Chi. If you go online, it is actually easier than you think to find a way to practice this popular art.

Getting into Martial Arts for fitness is a great idea and can be done in a variety of ways. What fits you best is something you’ll have to find out. Visiting a gym that offers multiple disciplines is probably the best plan. Most gyms let you try out classes for free, so I suggest either going and actually trying them or you can simply go and observe to see which one strikes your interest. However you make a go at it, remember that it is a great benefit.

How Many People Know How to Defend Themselves?

It’s painfully obvious that most people are afraid of confrontation. There are a lot of people who have never been involved in a mutual physical altercation. Some people choose to avoid confrontation, others look forward to showing off their fighting skills. How many people do you think actually know how to defend themselves? Most martial arts teach you to NOT fight even though they show you how to do it skillfully. I would say that a very large part of the population has “dabbled” in some type of martial art in their lifetime. Whether it was their parents trying to get them involved in a sport, a bully situation, or they were simply fascinated by it, they have been exposed. How many people really know how to defend themselves though? One thing real Martial Arts teaches you is that life is not a movie.

The danger is real and there are people out there who really want to hurt you. Sad but true.

The first step to learning personal safety is accepting the fact that we live in a dangerous and violent world. To think otherwise is both naive and irresponsible on your part. In the violent world we live in today, you actually have only two choices. Fight or flight when the option is available. Only you can take on the responsibility of defending yourself against the possible harm someone is waiting to inflict on you or someone you love. As an instructor, I’ve watched introductory students struggle with the difficulty of crossing that bridge, from fearful potential victims to confident citizens capable of defending themselves if necessary. The ones who have no problems with the transition are the ones who, unfortunately, have already suffered criminal victimization. But no one has to wait until it’s too late.

In a study, people were asked what the main reasons for not learning self defense were. Fear of the unknown was one, this fear is legitimate, but that attitude will hinder you in all aspects of your life. Life is an adventure and we can’t avoid things simply because we are unfamiliar with them. Defeatist attitude was one as well but as I teach in my classes “I can’t do it!” is not within the scope of things you’re allowed to say in my class. Thinking the police will protect them was an actual answer. This one is crazy to me, police usually show up after the crime has happened. There is no doubt that a police officer would protect you if they were there when the crime was actually being committed, but that is hardly ever the case.

These weren’t the only reasons. Lazy personality was an answer, but I call it an inexcusable reason given in my opinion. Being lazy goes along with the other excuses that have no merit. Not having enough time, now see, this one is actually legitimate. If people only knew that a solid three hours per week would actually move them along at a good pace for learning a Martial Art. You can’t tell me that most people don’t spend more time watching T.V. for more than 3 hours a week on average. Spending time with family can be done in Martial Arts so it shouldn’t take family time away.

My vote is to take the time to learn to at least defend yourself. Being aware and intelligent about the possibility of assault is a great motivator…

Martial Arts, Movies and Reality

To say that there are many different styles of Martial Arts would be an understatement. As a kid, watching movies, I became fascinated by Karate and Kung Fu. It was that general to me. There were no breakdowns of different schools of practice within these Martial Arts. I saw Martial Artists throwing punches, kicks, and throws that didn’t give me any reason to believe they wouldn’t work in real life.

They were spectacular displays of skill that made it apparent that it would take years to master.

bruce-leeBruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Dam, and Steven Seagal were all larger than life to me. It didn’t dawn on me at the time that each of these martial artists had such different styles. They just all looked like a bunch of dudes that nobody would mess with. What kid doesn’t have a fear of being kidnapped, or bullied? That is what made these movies so appealing, it would have been impossible to bully or kidnap someone who had this much skill in hand-to-hand combat.

After the magic and innocence of childhood wears off a little bit, and life has been lived more… we start to realize that movies are glamorized and exaggerated. Along came a big slap in the face to all of the Martial Arts movies and childhood fantasies. The name of that slap was the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Some guys were brave enough to finally ask: “What Martial Arts style is truly the most effective?” and actually throw an event where Martial Artists from all over the world, of varying styles, would fight each other bare knuckled to see who was truly the best. When I found out about this event, being an avid Martial Artist and fan of combat sports, I had to see it. I talked my dad into ordering it, as I’m sure his curiosity was equally aroused.

I know a lot of people nowadays realize that an undersized Brazilian named Royce Gracie won the first UFC.

It showed that you really don’t have to be a big, strong guy to win fights.

This wasn’t something that was foreign to us though as Bruce Lee was a small man that had already proven that size didn’t matter much when the little guy knew what he was doing. Still, I am proud to see the evolution of Martial Arts, and never has a better platform been created than the UFC. In my opinion, the UFC is what Bruce Lee stated about Martial Arts way before the inception of MMA. Bruce Lee said that you can’t limit yourself to one style. He recognized boxing and wrestling as Martial Arts when most people would have simply called them sports. To see Bruce Lee as an MMA fighter would have been awesome. The UFC game does him justice, but it would have been great to see in real life.

Mayweather Versus McGregor A Possibility in 2017

Mayweather made some pretty extraordinary claims about the color of his skin and compared it to the color of Conor’s. With the issue of race aside, several people chimed in and laid it all out there.

Let’s talk about why Mayweather singled out Conor first. He didn’t single him out because he is Irish, he chose Conor because Conor is notorious (which is also his fight nickname) for talking a lot of trash before he fights.


Mayweather likens his own trash talking to Conor’s. That statement has problems in itself. There are two major hiccups in that comparison. One is that Mayweather is nowhere near the same level of clever that Conor is in his statements. Conor is quick-witted and talks trash like a great story teller about the weaknesses he sees in his opponents. Mayweather simply talks about how great he is and that he is a legend like we have never seen. The second is simple, Conor makes light of it and he does it in a funny way while he is being honest. Mayweather is not joking and trying to be funny whole he talks about how great he thinks he is.

The main point of argument is that Conor backs up his talk and makes predictions about his performance that are true.

He takes chances and goes for the finish every time.

He is a “hungry” fighter that truly believes he works hard to be the greatest. Mayweather does believe in himself as the greatest, however, he is not an enthusiastic fighter. He does not fight to finish, he fights to score points and not take damage. That is all well and good, but it is not entertainment and it is not what people want to pay tons of money to see.

Mayweather’s assertion that it is racially motivated is childish and pouty. He isn’t thinking about the real issue and I doubt his ego will ever change his mind. Oh well, at least we can count on MMA for entertainment. Mayweather has faded quickly and effectively as a man with a big mouth that nobody likes. That type of person has no race, just an annoying habit of being someone people love to hate.

Martial Arts a Graduation requirement in India for Women

I came across an interesting story recently. There has been a history of serious attacks against women in India for a long time. A group of colleges in Kolhan, Jharkhand, India has made it a mandatory requirement for its female students to graduate to take Martial Arts. The colleges are female colleges. They made martial arts training compulsory for graduate and post graduate students in five of its women’s colleges and is all set to introduce a course in January 2017 aimed at training girls in self-defense.

The Vice-Chancellor of Kolhan University is named Singh and said that female students trained in martial arts would be able to defend themselves against attacks and physical harassment that are very prevalent in the area and entire country. Singh obviously sees the benefits of Martial Arts and knows that informed and trained women will be able to better defend themselves. Martial arts teaches us that even though on average men are larger than women it doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. In most real life scenarios women are at a disadvantage due to their physical size and strength in the eyes of a perpetrator. That being said, this is not something that should discourage you from training.

Many Martial arts disciplines are specifically designed to help someone smaller overtake a larger opponent.

For example, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, and Aikido all highlight the power of leverage over strength. Knowing this, a triangle or rear-naked choke doesn’t take a lot of strength to administer or successfully incapacitate a would-be attacker.

There is a lot of camaraderie in Martial Arts as well. As a Martial Artist, you will be joining a club, class, or dojo where strangers will become your teammates. You will build strong relationships because you will see these people almost everyday. Also, there is a certain amount of trust involved in letting someone hit you. Repeatedly. You will be on a journey together and you will learn to depend on each other’s advice, support and encouragement. You will learn to practice with people your size and larger, both men and women, who will push you to your limits because they want to see you succeed. Everyone is there for different reasons, but you will all be working towards similar goals.

The 8,000 students, who are likely to benefit from the training, will not have to pay any additional fees for the program. The course, that would be covered over a period of six months, will also lay emphasis on yoga and theoretical studies. The girls will be given a certificate after the training. Grades obtained in the course, however, will not be added to their degree course examination results. Students would not be permitted to sit for their degree examinations if they fall short of attendance in the martial arts class. The university has taken a major step towards empowering girls to deal with anti-social elements. The overall hope is that it will curb the crimes against women in their society. I think that is a great hope.

Setting Goals

It occurred to me the other day that my son has been in Martial Arts more of his life, than he has been without it. To clarify, he started taking classes at 4 years old, and he is almost 11 now. So the first 4 years of his life, although he watched a lot of Bruce Lee and tagged along with me to coaching events, he didn’t actually participate in anything organized. The 6 years after that, he had actively taken classes and competed as a martial artist. He has done more wrestling tournaments than I can count, he has done at least 20 grappling tournaments, and he has 10 pankration fights. So his wealth of actual experience is already impressive. When I was growing up, there were some karate tournaments, scattered wrestling tournaments, and that was pretty much it as far as martial arts competitions went. The thought just reiterated that martial arts needed to be where they are today.

The ranking systems in traditional martial arts give people a goal. Karate black belts were revered by all who knew of their status. When I was a kid, getting that black belt was all I cared about. I would do whatever tasks the instructor gave me.

I would study my kata harder than I would study for school.

It was important to me. Would I be any better the day I received my black belt than the day before when I was still a brown belt? No, but my status would change to everyone around me and I could brag about my accomplishment at every opportunity. People, especially kids, need to measure their progress by accomplishing goals. How much more clear could it be than a belt ranking system. Your accomplishments are very specific in these terms. Goal setting is the first step toward successful goal achievement. It marks your first point toward success. It is what puts your life into real and measureable action.

The main reasons for setting goals can be obvious to us all. It gives us clarity on our end vision. If we believe it, we can achieve it. Goals drive us forward and keep us from looking back. We have to accomplish tiny mini goals to achieve big goals. That one move of a kata we can’t perfect takes time and effort so we must accomplish that before we can do the entire kata. This gives us laser focus. Laser focus on small tasks is what gives us the accomplished goal endgame. One of the best reasons for setting goals is that it holds us accountable. If we say we are going to do something, and we aren’t working towards it, there are consequences. If we have consequences, we are accountable. In conclusion, we should set goals in anything we do, but in Martial Arts it is almost mandatory.

The Congress and MMA

Kind of big news that may seriously change MMA as we know it. It is almost like The UFC knew big changes were coming. A Congressional subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on a range of issues related to mixed martial arts, including brain trauma, inconsistent anti-doping measures and athlete compensation. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, which is part of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, reviewed testimony from several witnesses. Among them were former UFC champion Randy Couture and Jeff Novitzky, the UFC’s vice president of athlete health and performance. States have shown interest in banning or regulating MMA so it would not have been important if a single state was reviewing it.

It was a significant hearing in the sport’s history because, historically, the federal government has taken very little interest in MMA.

A range of issues was discussed and they are issues that have been brought up in the past. The fighters union was created to help with these issues. The current lack of comprehensive health insurance for professional fighters was one of the key ideas discussed. Although the focus of the hearing was not to specifically address a live bill to expand the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000 to MMA, that topic certainly loomed over the entire hearing. That bill was introduced to Congress in May by Rep. Markwayne Mullin from Oklahoma and aims to expand the federal law’s coverage to all combat sports, and specifically calls for the Association of Boxing Commissions to create guidelines for minimum fighter/promoter contractual provisions and establish criteria for an independent fighter rankings system.

Drug testing and fighter safety were the main focus of the discussion for now, but it is apparent that changes are coming. How soon is not known. The subcommittee will not meet again until early 2017, at which point there will be a hearing scheduled to specifically address the bill to expand the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, Rep. Mullin told Should the bill pass through both the subcommittee and the House, it would move on to the Senate. Ultimately, the bill would also require the signature of President-elect Donald Trump, who has a known relationship with UFC president Dana White. Mullin said he does not see that relationship as a threat to the bill, which the UFC doesn’t support.

The Most Popular Martial Arts

I was pleasantly surprised to see what the most popular Martial Arts in the world were, it was way off what I thought though. The number one Martial Art in the world, to my surprise is: Muay Thai from Thailand. Obviously this martial art is rich in history and is very effective for self defense. It can also be trained for and practiced as a sport. That makes this a very functional and liked martial art. Since I have experience in Muay Thai competition and training, as well as teaching it to kids, I find this to be a great number one to the list.

I would have guessed it was Tai Chi or Kung Fu.

Number two was another good surprise for me, rounding out the number two spot is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu from Brazil. This is obviously a great form of Martial Arts in terms of self defense as well and is also, like Muay Thai, practiced as a sport. The popularity was mainly gained from the UFC, but was rich in the underground history of fighting. The Gracies basically invented the Brazilian form of it and are the most famous family to teach it. As a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, I can state that it is very effective and is hugely popular because sparring can be done at full power with a low risk of injury. This is certainly not true of Muay Thai.

Karate from Japan takes the number three spot and is probably the oldest form of Martial Arts along with Kung fu from China, which hits the number four spot. Taekwondo from Korea gets the number five spot. Karate and Taekwondo are widely practiced for self defense but are also sports that have millions of participants across the globe. Taekwondo is an Olympic sport and has a reputation for sporting the deadliest and most skillful kicks.

Ninjutsu and Jujutsu from Japan take the number six and seven spots on the list. Ninjutsu was made world famous in the eighties by a slew of movies about it. Ninjas were a very mysterious and intriguing group of assassins that little boys aspired to be. Moving stealthily through the night was what they were known for along with their no-nonsense approach to fighting. Quick kills and the use of several interesting weapons added to the spectacle of the art. Jujutsu is the art that spawned Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and was an incorporation of Judo and submission fighting. This is perhaps one of the oldest, most traditional martial arts in history.

Number eight and last on today’s list is Krav Maga from Israel. This was specifically designed for the Israeli military and is especially brutal in its true form. It is taught around the world obviously and has developed a ranking system. There isn’t much sport in this art although competitions are around. This art is often said to be the best of all martial arts in terms of self-defense because it goes over multiple attacker scenarios and teaches weapons use as well as disarming of attackers. The jury is out on whether it is the best but it is certainly a valid martial art, it is effective, and if it made the list, it’s popular.