Our Mission Statement

Why I should journal?

Close your eyes for just a few minutes. The room is dark with the exception of the light provided by two rows of flickering candles. Soft music is playing in the background as you slowly walk down an aisle between the two rows of candles. At the end of the aisle Master  McCall, your family, friends, loved ones and Black Belt Staff are waiting for you.
Master McCall snaps your crisp new Black Belt as he prepares to tie the belt around your waist. As you walk the aisle, you think about the countless number of classes and training sessions that brought you to this moment. Your journey to Black Belt may have taken three, four, five years and you are trying to remember each class, each exam, each moment. Master McCall ties your Black Belt around your waist, Master McClellan presents your Black Belt Certificate and there are hugs, kisses and tears of joy shared by all. Master McCall then hands you a crisply bound book filled with priceless memories from your journey towards Black Belt Excellence. The author of the book is the same as the new owner of the Black Belt, You.

Open your eyes, take a deep breath and relax to slow your heartbeat and attempt to wait for your skin to return to its' normal texture, the "goosebumps" fading away. The scene described above is not a dream or a fantasy, it can become a reality. Your journey to Black Belt Excellence is not limited to physical activity on the mat, but it also requires focusing attention and spending time capturing memories via a tool provided for each student at American Freestyle Karate Club. The Karate website, www.mccallsamericankarate.com provides a Personal Online Resource Center for each active student on the American Freestyle Karate Club roster. Amongst the numerous tools found within each student's Personal Resource Center is a section titled, "My Journal".

Journaling your experiences and memories needs to begin following your initial class at American Freestyle Karate Club. Journaling should be included following each class that you attend. Simply write your thoughts, ideas and feelings about what you learned in class and the experience you had in each class. The online format is easy to follow and will provide you with an additional reference tool to utilize throughout your journey towards Black Belt Excellence.

This practice will greatly enhance your growth as a Martial Artist, Student, Business Person and Human Being, while supporting the values emphasized at home, in school, and in the work place, such as self discipline, self motivation and communication skills. Additionally, this will provide a confidential forum for you or your child to diary / journal experiences, feelings, and memories that you will be able to reflect upon in future years. Your journal is a self directed and created gift that will remain with you forever and will allow you to capture all memories, thoughts and experiences that you encounter on your during your journal to Black Belt Excellence.


 

Journaling: A Black Belt Success Habit

Journaling (that is, the act of recording your thoughts, dreams, ambitions, goals, and whatever-else-you-can-think-of, in writing) is a power tool activated by a pen, pencil, or keyboard. Keeping a journal is a way to track your progress, express your ideas and feelings, and in some cases, record history. The famous explorers Lewis and Clark kept journals during their adventures. Here's an actual journal entry made by Meriwether Lewis on Friday May 31, 1805:

"The hills and river cliffs which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance. The bluffs of the river rise to the height of from 2 to 300 feet and in most places nearly perpendicular; they are formed of remarkable white sandstone which is sufficiently soft to give way readily to the impression of water. ... The water in the course of time ... has trickled down the soft sand cliffs and worn it into a thousand grotesque figures, which with the help of a little imagination and an oblique view, at a distance are made to represent elegant ranges of lofty freestone buildings."

Lewis' journals document his ability to observe, to see where he was and what was important about it. Observation and awareness are two qualities we could all stand to improve upon.

Bruce Lee kept a journal, so did George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Elvis Presley. One of the most historic journals in history was kept by a 13-year-old girl named Anne Frank. Anne and her family hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam, Netherlands, during World War II. Her powerful journal entries have been published in more than 55 languages and have educated and inspired millions of readers.

"When I write, I can shake off all my cares," wrote Anne Frank on April 5, 1944,

Keeping a journal is the mark of someone who thinks, someone who lives. Keeping a journal is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Journal things you care about or don't care about; journal about your joy, your pain, your friends or foes; journal about your victories and losses, your garden, your game, your opinions, or your favorite books. Live your life observant and aware. Shake off your worries and keep your thoughts --for tomorrow.
On Journal Writing:

Several members said they were concerned that what they had to say was unimportant, trivial, or inconsequential. One indicated that he or she felt that he or she felt intimidated by the process.

I have asked you to journal, weekly, whether you're a professional school owner, a black belt, a Mom or Grandfather or student or what-have-you --and you just have to trust me that it has some value. There's intent behind my request. You may not understand it, it may seem foreign to you, it may be uncomfortable, it may be an imposition on your schedule, it may, to you, seem unimportant or inconsequential, heck, it may be the hardest thing you ever do (?), but I believe that in the end, you will have an understanding of the value weekly journal writing has.

It may be convenient for you NOT to journal, but it is black mark, a question mark, a negative to this program. That one little action (or inaction) jeopardizes a program that could very easily be one of the most important development-projects in the martial arts world in our lifetime (it's my intent to make that so). For the little act of sitting down at the computer and writing about your life, good or bad, up or down --you add to --or take-away from the program and its power.

And this program is not just about you, but about our work to bring credibility, integrity, and change to the world. When you journal, you teach. When you journal you show that you have the guts to bare your soul. When you journal you mark your growth. When you journal you reach out and touch people --you MAKE yourself a part of the team --you add at least one grain of sand to the scale --one ounce of push to a vehicle that needs to move forward.

When you journal, you are emptying your cup of pre-conceived ideas about what you will or will not get from journaling --what it is for --or not for.

I'm just a martial arts teacher... I don't know a lot, and I don't have any certificate that indicates wisdom in any particular field. What I know about developing people, I've learned through practice, observation, trial and error, and study. I'm never always right, most of the time I'm not always wrong.

I have recognized the following:

1. Someone is a teacher for you, when you suspend your disbelief, and try something new, suggested by this particular person.

2. Someone is not a teacher for you, when you don't see them as such. If I don't think I have anything to learn from him or her, I don't have anything to learn from him or her.

3. As a teacher, believe that your students have--at least --double the potential that they themselves believe they have. (that may --or may not be true --but you're a heck of a lot better teacher when you act as if this is so)

4. As a teacher, teach that there is ALWAYS a way, if you're truly committed.

5. As a teacher, forget the subject, work on the motivation and attitude...whatever you're teaching is driven by attitude and beliefs.

6. Don't, if at all possible, listen to a student's objections about why they can't do something...especially when your instincts and intuition says that, yes they can --and they can do 100 times more too. Don't fail a person because you fail to push them in the direction your experience dictates. If they're not ready to go, they'll find another teacher anyway --so while they're in your care, do what you can to make them grow, despite their resistance. In the end, they thank you (as you yourself have thanked all the people who believed you were capable of more).

7. As a teacher, attempt the impossible.

8. Most people don't know how much they can do --they don't really know what they are capable of --they don't really know their limits...so be a good teacher and try to get them to open their horizons...and remember that all of this applies to you too.

9. Giant accomplishments, life changing experiences, empowerment, and wisdom come out of the smallest, most seemingly inconsequential, apparently trivial things little things. Little baby steps make a difference. You don't "trip" over the BIG things, you trip up on those little things, the edges, the small almost invisible obstacles and/or action-steps...so, Mr. Teacher, pay attention to the little things --and the big things tend to follow.

10. When you play, play as full-out as you possibly can.

11. Deny. Deny obstacles while secretly searching for alternatives. Don't compare yourself to people who you don't respect for their amazing commitment to something (whatever it is). Be careful how you set "your limits" --and your beliefs about what you can or can't do --and what you will --or will not --get out of it. What you believe to be true (accept in the case of UFO's, Elvis, and Nixon) is the only truth for you.

I WROTE, ABOVE: Several members said they were concerned that what they had to say was unimportant, trivial, or inconsequential. One indicated that he or she felt intimidated by the process.

Do you know how many times, in my professional career, that I have heard these same statements about SO MANY things I'm teaching --from people who would eventually overcome them --and then come back to me and thank me for pushing them to do whatever it was I was trying to get them to do? Do you know how many times I have seen the VERY THING a student fights the most --end up being the VERY THING he or she needed to overcome to grow and evolve? \

I ought to have the title: "Guy who pushes people to do uncomfortable stuff for their own good --and takes a lot of *#&# along the way, but in the end is applauded for making the person in question push his or her limits, despite his or her misgivings." ?????

And I'm going to guess that you, too, could carry the same title --whether you're a mom, a dad, a business owner, a martial arts teacher or what-have-you. It's the nature of the beast.

If you don't journal, it's like being in a martial arts class but refusing to DO your martial arts in the class. The teacher's trying to get you to lighten up, knowing that you will eventually be empowered by the experience ---and there you are making excuses for why you can't! If you only knew!

Is he or she asking you to become invisible? To chop off a finger? To study nuclear medicine? To repeat the Gettysburg Address backwards? NO, the teacher's asking you do to the simplest things ---and yet you're resisting because of some reason you're justifying because ?? Because you just don't know what how big a difference it's going to make for you....and/or, at the very least, you're unwilling to give it a go.

Listen my friends, this is a cutting edge idea --being executed by each and every one of us. Your contribution, whether you think so --or not, is instrumental in the evolution of this process. Fat or thin, left or right, good or bad, north or south, you ARE a Black Belt...and so, please, think BIG! Eliminate limits. Try to, for the next XX months to DO the impossible...believe that you CAN --and more. Don't sit in the middle of the frying pan saying you're not in it! That you're not a part of something that you are obviously a part of.

You job is to do the amazing (what a great job title that is!)...so get to it. And don't tell me what you can't do ---I'M NOT LISTENING. I believe in you --and I believe that you can do more --and better. I believe that you will journal --and for the rest of your life be marked by it. Why don't you just try it --and tell me, XX months from now what a waste of time it was. But for now, since you committed yourself and, essentially, hired me to kick your ass in gear, why don't you just sit down, quiet your negative internal dialogue, and write about your journey.

In the end, you can tell me what a jerk I am --but for now, you're in the army baby. If you want out, bail. If you're up to the challenge, no matter how difficult it is --then let me tell you once again: This is the YOUR Black Belt Test...We're out to make history...via our transformation. We're out to walk the talk of martial arts mastery --and I'm not interested in lowering those standards any lower than they already are.

You can journal! You can! You are important! Your contribution is valuable! Help! Help me help you.

 

Journal Writing: A Prescription for Good Health

by Marla Hardee Milling

When your body is sick or injured, you probably seek medical attention and follow a regimen of prescriptions, bed rest, and even physical therapy. But did you know that keeping a journal might aid in your recovery? There's also some evidence that healthy people who keep journals report a greater well-being and fewer medical problems.

"I credit my journal for turning my life around, for getting me up and out into the world again, for giving me the strength to carry on," says Keith Bellinger of Warren Center, Pennsylvania.

A car crash in 1991 left Bellinger, a construction worker at the time, with three crushed vertebrae in his back and neck. He had kept a journal for more than 20 years, but found his daily writing to be even more therapeutic after his accident.

"Unable to move without pain, I lost myself in my writing," says Bellinger. "Without it I would have drowned in self-pity. The previous entries took me back to the job sites, let me walk in the sunlight, lift heavy walls and guide trusses to their marks atop beams high in the air. New entries explored the reasons I was now disabled, helped put into perspective religion versus spirituality, and strengthened my resolve to turn to a simpler, less stressful lifestyle."

Helping Patients Connect
Vickie Beck, a nurse psychotherapist at the University of Maryland, encourages most of her patients to keep journals.

"I tailor journals to the interest of my clientsâ€"particularly with childrenâ€"and do not limit it to the documentation and expression of previous events," says Beck. "For those clients with an interest in poetry, I encourage them to write poems of any sort. For those who like music, I encourage them to write lyrics, which we can then talk about and set to music if they wish. Many of my clients bring their writing to their sessions, and it provides a focus for the sessions."

For small children who haven't learned to write yet, Beck encourages them to keep a journal of pictures. She says this allows them to express and record their feelings and thoughts in a similar way to a written journal.

"Journal writing is not for everyone," Beck continues, "but for many it can be cathartic, insightful, and even fun. It can be shared or kept private, and still be beneficial as a tool for therapy. And long after therapy is needed, it can still be utilized to maintain health."

Writing Helps Chronic Conditions
A four-month study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that writing down details about particularly stressful events can improve the health of patients who suffer from asthma and arthritis.

In the study, the participants were divided into two groups. One group simply wrote about their plans for the day. Patients in the other group wrote about their feelings surrounding a stressful event in their lives. All of the people continued their regular medical treatment, and had their condition evaluated at two weeks, two months, and four months. Researchers found that 47% of the patients who wrote about their feelings showed improvement while only 24% of the other group did.

Dr. Arthur A. Stone, co-author of the study from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is quick to point out that the study did not focus on journal writing.

"We looked at writing about the most stressful experience of one's life in an emotional way," says Dr. Stone. "How is this different than journaling? Well, for one thing, we don't know what people write about in their journals or about how they write. In other words, if a person was to simply record the day's events in a log-type manner, then this would be a very different task than the emotional writing about stressful events that we did. But perhaps some individuals journal in a very emotional way, attempting to solve problems and by providing their journal with detailed, emotional reactions to their life. This is clearly more similar to our task."

In another study, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers examined the effect of writing about a traumatic event. In this study, some participants focused on journaling about emotions related to the event, others focused on emotions and cognitions (thoughts), while others simply wrote factually about the daily news. Interestingly, writing about emotions alone increased negative symptoms from the trauma, while those who focused on both thoughts and feelings developed a sense that the stressful event had produced positive effects in their lives.

Student Journals
Dr. Charles M. Anderson, graduate coordinator in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, had completed research on the topic of writing and health. His book, Writing and Healing: Toward an Informed Practice, is designed to explore ways in which writing can promote healing.

"Most of the writing I have dealt with is from students who work to make sense of loss, pain, and traumatic events," says Dr. Anderson. "Events such as sexual abuse, violence at schools and home, and even violence depicted in movies and on television creates significant difficulties for many students. Writing is a natural and attractive technology for addressing and overcoming the effects of such events."

While Anderson believes journals can provide beneficial health effects, he feels there are also limitations.

"In my experience," Dr. Anderson says, "journal writing reveals traumatic images and promotes a very short-term cathartic effect, but does little to reintegrate the traumatic event into the life narrative of the sufferer. To be healed, the sufferer must reintegrate the event into his or her life."

Getting Started
Don't let the blank journal page intimidate you. Just start writing and write everyday until it becomes a daily habit. Books like Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity and Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the Writer Within offer suggestions for finding the freedom to write down your emotions and feelings. And if you're more comfortable with a keyboard than with a pen, type away. The key is to get your feelings down, regardless of how you do it.

Keeping a journal is particularly effective for people undergoing long periods of grief, such as the loss of a spouse or child. The journal serves as a "vessel" for your emotions that you may be unable or unwilling to share.

Need some help getting started? In her journal-writing workshops, Charlene Kingston, of Writing The Journey, suggests some basic topics that will get you started.


Who am I? How do I know who I am?
What does it mean to be content?
Do I listen more or talk more? Why?
What does it mean to nurture myself?
Am I comfortable with my feelings? What makes me cry or laugh? When am I comfortable expressing my feelings?
How much of my time is spent with other people and how much am I alone?
Why do bad things happen? Who is responsible when something bad happens to me?
How do I handle stress? Do I welcome challenges?
What is my unique gift to the world?

RESOURCES:

Anderson CM. Writing and Healing: Toward an Informed Practice. 1999.

The Center for Journal Therapy
http://www.journaltherapy.com

Ullrich PM, Lutgendorf SK. Journaling about stressful events: effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Ann Behav Med. 2002;24:244-50.

Writing The Journey
http://www.writingthejourney.com