What’s the purpose of stripe testing in martial arts training?

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Each month, students in our kids martial arts training programs at Urban Martial Arts have the opportunity to earn two stripes.

They can earn a black stripe for handing in their Black Belt Excellence worksheet by the 15th of the month. They can also earn a colored stripe for passing their stripe test at the end of the month.

Once students have 3 black stripes and 3 colored stripes on their belt, they are eligible to test for their next belt rank.

Here’s why we’ve implemented this system of stripe testing at Urban Martial Arts:

1. Students stay motivated because they achieve small goals that build up to a big goal

The ultimate goal for many of our students is to earn their black belt. But considering that it will take anywhere from 3 to 5 years of martial arts training to achieve this goal, how can they stay motivated along the way?

As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In other words, if you want to achieve a big goal, you must break it into smaller goals.

Every 3 months, our students can test for their next belt rank (e.g. from white to yellow). But along the way, they also have an opportunity to earn a stripe every 2 weeks.

By achieving these smaller goals that build up to a bigger goal, our students stay motivated and excited about their martial arts training.

2. Students understand the specific qualities they must master in their martial arts training

What happens if you kick hard, but your kick lands in the wrong place? You won’t do any damage. That’s why you need both power and accuracy.

What happens if you punch toward the correct target, but you were too slow? Your opponent will move out of the way. That’s why you need both focus and speed.

What happens you perform all the moves of a form correctly at a tournament, but without any energy or zest? You’ll likely receive a low score from the judges. That’s why you can’t achieve excellence without intensity.

Our students understand these principles because at Urban Martial Arts, we spend each month working on one of the Six Qualities of a Champion, each symbolized by a different color: power (blue), accuracy (green), intensity (red), speed (white), focus (black) and excellence (gold). Read the full article →

Top 10 reads on health and fitness – 4/23/2010

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Here’s a round-up of the 10 best tips and articles we found this week on fitness, nutrition, health, child safety, and childhood obesity prevention.

If you’d like to receive info like this in real-time, follow us on Twitter. Happy reading!

Can We Be Too Healthy and Live Too Long?
If Japan, where ancestors are revered, is plagued with unhappy seniors, what does it bode for us in our push for better healthcare and longer lives?

Britney Spears: Airbrushed to Unhealthy?
Celebrity photo retouching sets the bar for even fit, healthy women to strive for the unrealistic.

15 Minutes of Exercise ‘Boosts Childrens’ Concentration’
Recent study shows that kids who undertook moderately intensive exercise performed significantly better in concentration tests than those who hadn’t.

Eat Colorful Foods to Cut Cancer Risk by 40 Percent
A terrific overview of the specific nutrients different colored fruits and vegetables have, and how they can improve your health. Read the full article →

Who are our success stories?

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

We were at a martial arts seminar this weekend with a group of other martial arts school owners and instructors. The seminar leader posed this question to the audience:

Which martial arts students are your biggest success stories?

He got many different answers.

Some mentioned students who had won trophies at karate tournaments. Some mentioned students who excelled at performing forms with intensity and style. Some mentioned students who were great all-around athletes.

The seminar leader paused, then said something that surprised us:

My biggest success stories are not always the best martial artists.

He explained that he measures his success as an instructor not by how well his students kick and punch, but by the transformation he creates in his students.

That got us thinking about our students.

If someone walked into our school for the first time, they might be most impressed by the students who kick the highest, or those who are the toughest at sparring.

But those may not be the students we consider to be our success stories.

It’s about contrasting the “before” picture with the “after” picture.

So who are our success stories?

The 4-year-old who spent his first 3 weeks running off the mat and refusing to take class, but has completely turned around and even competed in his first karate tournament.

The boy with a learning disability who at first couldn’t focus on karate for more than 15 seconds at a time, but has shown tremendous improvement not just here but at school as well.

The girl who cried during her first karate class but is now in our leadership program and training to become an instructor.

The beauty of martial arts is that it’s all about reaching your personal best — and that’s what we help our students do each and every day at Urban Martial Arts.

Top 10 reads on health and fitness – 4/16/2010

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Here’s a round-up of the 10 best tips and articles we found this week on fitness, nutrition, health, child safety, and childhood obesity prevention.

If you’d like to receive info like this in real-time, follow us on Twitter. Happy reading!

Jamie Oliver: Flash Mobs and Jumbo Caskets
Have you seen the super-size caskets made for the obese? Jamie Oliver hoped they’d send a wake-up call to people.

People get hungrier when they’re starved for sleep
People not getting enough sleep eat a big mac’s worth of calories more in a day!

Michelle Obama Asks Foodmakers To Help Battle Childhood Obesity
Michelle Obama on Tuesday called on corporate food giants such as Coca-Cola, General Mills and Kraft Foods to step up efforts to produce more healthful food and then market that, rather than junk food, to children.

How to Stretch Your Food Budget
Feed your family with less without sacrificing taste, freshness, quality, or nutrition using money-saving tips. Read the full article →

Video: Indoor Beach Party at Brooklyn karate school

by Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com

Were you at Urban Martial Arts on Friday evening? We had such a blast at our awesome Indoor Beach Party!

What other Brooklyn karate school do you know that would transform its space into a tropical beach paradise for its students? 🙂 We’re talking beach chairs, palm trees, beach balls, the whole shebang!

If you missed the party, don’t worry! We captured some fun moments in this video:

And press the “play” button below to watch a slideshow of photos from our Flickr page:

What a personal finance book can teach you about eating healthy

By Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

I was reading Ramit Sethi’s personal finance book I Will Teach You To Be Rich last week, and was struck by the similarities between managing your money and managing your weight by eating healthy.

Sethi believes that creating detailed budgets just doesn’t work for most people. Instead, he recommends something called “conscious spending”: splurging on the things you truly love, and cutting back ruthlessly on the things you don’t. Here’s how he explains it:

What if you could make sure you were saving and investing enough money each month, and then use the rest of your money guilt-free for whatever you want? Well, you can — with some work. The only catch is that you have to plan where you want your money to go ahead of time (even if it’s on the back of a napkin). Would it be worth taking a couple hours to get set up so you can spend on the things you love?

As I read this, it dawned on me that this is essentially the same strategy I try to use when it comes to eating healthy.

Eating healthy 95% of the time allows you to splurge 5% of the time, guilt-free

I stick to eating 3 small meals and 1 snack per day, making sure to fit in plenty of whole grains, fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and fruit. To keep myself honest, I track what I eat by writing everything down on my trusty iPhone’s notepad.

Because I know that I’ve been doing a good job of eating healthy (the equivalent to saving and investing enough money), I get to indulge in one big splurge meal per week. I don’t feel guilty or anxious about it, because I know that I’ve “made room” for it, nutritionally speaking. Read the full article →

Top 10 reads on health and fitness – 4/9/2010

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Here’s a round-up of the 10 best tips and articles we found this week on fitness, nutrition, health, child safety, and childhood obesity prevention.

If you’d like to receive info like this in real-time, follow us on Twitter. Happy reading!

Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic
If you’re just beginning to shop organic, start with these 12 fruits and veggies, as they’ve got the most pesticides.

Michelle Obama promises childhood obesity plan
It’s clear that Michelle Obama is making healthful eating by children her signature issue. Here she outlines the her plan to combat childhood obesity.

The Ultimate Triceps Workout
With the warm weather comes tank top season! Try these de-jiggling arm moves from Self Magazine.

Slideshow: 24 Foods That Can Save Your Heart
The top foods for heart health go beyond cholesterol busters to edamame, nuts, salmon, even coffee. Check out this slideshow to learn more. Read the full article →

How to eat healthier by making 5 easy food substitutions

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

If you want to know how to eat healthier, the first thing you should understand is that you don’t have to undertake huge overhauls in your lifestyle. Making small changes over time can make a big difference to your health in the long run. Here are 5 easy food substitutions you can implement today to cut calories and boost your nutritional intake.

Food substitution 1: Instead of jelly, try 100% fruit spread

Next time you’re in the supermarket, have a look at the ingredients list on that jar of jelly. Sure, the first ingredient is grapes. But chances are, the next two ingredients will be corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup — man-made sweeteners that have been linked to increased rates of obesity.

If you find yourself craving a PBJ but want to eat healthier, nix the jelly and use 100% all-fruit spread instead. It tastes just as good as the fake stuff, but it has half the sugar and two-thirds of the calories!

Our personal favorite is Sorrel Ridge’s 100% Fruit Wild Blueberry spread. But if they don’t sell that one at your local store, other brands to look for include Cascadian Farms, Crofter’s, and Polaner.

Food substitution 2: Instead of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, try Greek yogurt mixed with fruit spread

Low-fat yogurt is an excellent choice when it comes to smart snacking. You’ve probably already heard that it’s packed with protein and calcium, but did you know that yogurt can also help you lose weight and fend off a cold?

That said, the big-brand fruit-on-the-bottom stuff is loaded with added sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, so do yourself a favor and swap it out for plain Greek yogurt if you want to eat healthier.

What’s so great about Greek yogurt? You won’t find any additives on the ingredient list. And once you try its naturally thick, creamy texture, you’ll never want to go back to the runniness of regular yogurt. Also, because Greek yogurt has up to 3 times as much protein as regular yogurt, it’ll leave you feeling full for much longer. Read the full article →

The 3 Biggest Ab Workout Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Urban Martial Arts - karate school and martial arts school in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, NYHave you ever noticed that almost every class at Urban Martial Arts includes sit-ups and crunches? That’s because strengthening the ab and core muscles is critical for martial artists. Whether we’re kicking, punching, or blocking, our strength comes from the center of our bodies.

While it’s important to develop your core, it’s also important to exercise them the correct way. Here are 3 common mistakes you should avoid:

Mistake 1: Flexing everything EXCEPT your ab muscles

Keep in mind that the whole point of working out your abs is… well, to work out your abs! That means you should focus on using your ab muscles — not your neck, your arms, or sheer momentum — to guide you through each movement. One good way to preserve proper form is by keeping your chin up, not tucked into your chest.

Mistake 2: Working out one set of abs only

Your abs are made up of three major muscle groups: the rectus abdominis (the six-pack), the obliques (alongside your waist), and the transverse abdominis (surrounds your abdomen horizontally). If all you do is a traditional crunch, you’re only working out one part of your abs. That’s why it’s critical to do a variety of moves, so that you can work out all the different muscle groups.

Mistake 3: Neglecting cardio and eating unhealthy food

You can work your abs until they’re strong as can be, but if they’re covered by a layer of fat, you still won’t have that six-pack result you’re looking for. So make sure you work on reducing your body fat through cardio exercise (running, biking, martial arts) and eating a healthy diet.

Working out your abs isn’t just about looking good – it’s about feeling good. Developing strong core muscles will improve your balance and stability, and enhance just about every athletic activity you take on.

Fast Food Do’s and Don’ts: 8 Tips for Making Healthier Meal Choices

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Urban Martial Arts - karate school and martial arts school in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, NYIn an ideal world, you would avoid fast food altogether. But sometimes there’s just no other option, especially when you’re stranded at the airport waiting for a delayed flight. When fast food is all there is, take great care to choose wisely from the available menus so you don’t trip up your healthy-eating game plan.

Here are 8 tips to keep in mind:

DO opt for a grilled chicken sandwich.
One of your safest bets in the fast food realm is a grilled chicken sandwich. It packs a powerful protein punch without a lot of fat.

DO enjoy the occasional burger, but watch the sauce.
Sometimes chicken just doesn’t cut it, and you find yourself craving some beef. Go ahead and enjoy a burger once in awhile, but stick to ketchup, mustard, or barbecue sauce for flavor. Other sauces are likely to be fatty and high in calories.

DO drink lots of water.
Most beverages contain loads of empty calories so whenever possible, choose crystal clear, unadulterated water. If you absolutely cannot stand drinking plain water, order a diet soda instead.

DO load up on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Most fast food restaurants nowadays offer some type of fruit or vegetable dish, whether it’s a bag of apple slices, a cup of fruit salad, a serving of apple sauce, or a mixed greens salad. Always pick up one of these options to go with your sandwich. Read the full article →