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Happy Birthday Kaizen!

kaizen

Kaizen turns one this week! 

It’s pretty amazing what a year can do. How far things can come, develop and continue to grow. I already discussed a little bit about how Kaizen came to be, but clearly the story has continued since then.

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play them better than anyone else – Albert Einstein 

This time a year ago nobody really knew what Kaizen was going to be; everyone had hopes because people knew the potential of the owners, instructors and those involved. We all knew that there was something special here, but it was a little uncertain as to how that would manifest itself. In my personal opinion, it’s done far more than could be expected of most businesses/gyms in its first year.

I don’t know what the guys had in mind for specific goals (if they had them), but so far we’ve had wins at amateur MMA fights; our kickboxers were amazing at local bouts; we boast a European BJJ Champion; and at regional BJJ comps we’ve collected more medals than we can put in the display cabinet (time for an upgrade guys?).

But Kaizen Academy is clearly much more than titles, medals or trophies. It’s a community; a team; a working unit. We all have our separate goals about why we train. It could be to get fitter; to lose weight; to be world champion; to win an MMA fight; to gain confidence; to improve our technique… the list is pretty long. Everyone who steps in there will have something slightly different in mind, despite the fact we’re practicing similar things.

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It’s very difficult to articulate everything that Kaizen is, and everything that has been achieved in the last year. Clearly the gym as whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts, and yet without each of those separate parts, the whole would not function correctly. Sure, the instructors would still be successful in martial arts, but they wouldn’t be able to grow, train and develop their games together as I have seen them do over the past year. Perhaps the members would find elsewhere to train, but it wouldn’t be the same, there wouldn’t be that same feel of community.

There have been different members throughout the year, a lot of constants, but some that can’t stay for various reasons. Yet everyone who comes through the door, whether it’s just for one training session, or whether they stick around, has something to add to the place and is heartily welcomed. That’s one thing I love about this place; everyone’s ideas are considered, rather than information coming from the top down only. It’s a two way teaching channel. If a member comes to training with something new and exciting then they’re very welcome to add it or try it out. Nuances are adopted and people are willing to change up their games to incorporate new techniques that are brought to the mat.

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. – Albert Einstein

Kaizen Academy also has a unique way of approaching it’s teaching techniques. Rather than approaching each move as a separate idea, we think of each discipline in terms of the principals behind it. One of the business owners and instructors, Ze, explains this better than I could:

“At the University of Pennsylvania, physicist and neuroscientist Danielle Bassett studies the brain with the aim of making us better, faster learners. 

One of her most interesting findings is that when learning a simple motor task, such as practicing a series of notes on “Guitar Hero”, connections between brain systems are initially active but as people master the task these systems gradually stop communicating. It turns out that people who can disengage these systems the fastest are also the fastest learners.

In fact, Danielle argues, the biggest impediment to learning is the brain’s executive system – the part of the brain that makes conscious decisions. The executive system is the last brain region to develop, which keeps us from deliberating too much when we’re young, making learning easier. As we get older, we tend to overthink things, making learning more difficult.

These findings seem to support what we believe at Kaizen regarding martial arts learning: detail is overrated and principles are king. If one teaches martial technique as a series of detailed steps, the brain’s executive system is constantly firing and trying to correctly remember and execute each step. If, instead, we provide a simple guiding principle or goal and show how techniques are derived from it, the brain doesn’t have to remember anything and can instead focus on the goal of the technique, producing the details from that goal. It follows from Danielle’s research that our goal with learning must be to disengage the connections between brain systems and use the executive systems as little as possible (this also seems analogous to the ideal of “flow” which is often described as unconscious mastery). t seems to us that thinking and practicing in terms of principles is the best way to achieve flow and martial mastery in the quickest way possible.

To borrow a metaphor from Ido Portal: “The principle approach is like a master key, it opens any door, while the opponent is fumbling around with a bunch of keys trying to find the right key for the door… Principles are much higher than techniques – they produce techniques instantly, whenever you need them.” 

Read the whole article if you’re interested in finding out more about Danielle’s research on learning.”

This is a totally unique way of approaching training and it has clicked really well with the way I learn. Remembering a billion steps is very difficult, but if one just has to remember a principle, say about space, or distance, then it becomes a lot easier to slot different techniques.

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It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop. – Confucius. 

As for the future, it looks very promising. The gym is going from strength to strength with continued interest in the gym, the teaching, and the members therein. It’s a beautiful gym, with amazing people, and I’m really proud to say I train there.

Here’s to another fantastic year,

B

xox

With thanks to all photographers who have captured all of these moments. 

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