Alive and Kicking #29 – Learning to Fly, Prepare Properly, Failure is a Privilege, A Thousand Cuts, and Socks

by on April 16, 2012

in Alive and Kicking


Alive and Kicking – Martial Arts Over 40


Monday 16 April 2012: Issue #29

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Published by Brett Kraiger. Your comments are always welcome.


Hi there!

Welcome to this week’s Alive and Kicking, the newsletter for martial artists over 40.

In today’s edition I share a great story about Kristina’s test for black belt, and some of my observations about that. (Even though I wasn’t there, I still have an opinion!)

I also introduce a really simple concept on how to get fit without even noticing, why failure at a belt test is a privilege and the importance of socks.


About a week ago I got a great email from Kristina Selting, one of Martial Arts Over 40’s ever-growing community. She had just passed her black belt and was very excited about it. Here’s the email I got from her. This is the whole thing…

JUST EARNED MY BLACK BELT ON 4/7/12 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In case you are wondering, that’s 144 exclamation marks! I asked Kristina if she would contribute to our Readers Stories section, with her story. If you have got one eye on that next big goal, whether it is your 1st Dan black belt, your next colored belt, or even a high ranking black belt, I recommend that you read it.  See it here: Learning To Fly

What I particularly like about it is the way that Kristina seemingly “flew” through her test. Completing one part of the test after the other, giving it 100%, and coming out the end victorious and very happy! (or should that be “happy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”)


Without even seeing Kristina’s test I can tell a whole lot about Kristina’s preparation for her testing from her story.

You don’t just “fly” through a black belt test like that unless you are totally and utterly prepared for it. You can’t stand on the floor for hours, demonstrating every aspect of your art, unless you have trained and trained and trained. And then trained some more.

So many times I have seen someone who is not completely ready for a test get up on the floor and “give it a go”. This drives me nuts. Generally for a test for black belt, or any other belt, or indeed a test for anything at all, you know in advance what is going to be expected of you.

You know what you need to perform. You also know your strengths and your weaknesses. If you don’t then ask someone who does!

You have the entire formula. Find out what you need to do. Improve the stuff you are already good at. Work really hard at the stuff you are not quite so good at. Work extremely hard at the stuff you suck at.

Work and work and work. And then *when you are ready* get up on the floor and test. When you are ready.


Of course, there is never any guarantee that you will pass a test. Sometimes there may be a disconnect between when you think you are ready, and when your instructor or examiner thinks you are ready.

Times like these can be extremely hard. Especially because tests are usually so public, you are up there in front of everybody, and we are so conditioned to think that passing is all important and failing is … well, failure.

If you ever do find yourself in this situation, knowing you have done your absolute best, then you will go through all sorts of emotions. You may even consider giving up martial arts forever. Especially if everybody else in the dojo is half your age!

Kevin Geary on has some great thoughts on this:

Failure is a privilege. When a coach, teacher, or mentor is willing to tell you that you failed, it means they care about your end result. They care about your potential. And they know that passing you when you haven’t maximized your potential is literally failing you as a teacher, coach, or mentor.

Surrounding yourself with “yes men” isn’t going to do you any good in the long run.

The reason I say failure is a privilege is because it’s increasingly harder and harder to find people who will tell you no. It’s difficult to find people who will accept your reality and then help you accept it as well. It’s frustratingly hard to find people who will not only tell you no, but lead you unconditionally to yes.


At the risk of this newsletter getting extra long, I just want to briefly mention one more thing. I’m trying to simplify my life at the moment, and have taken to reading blogs on simplicity and Zen and such things. One site I really like is Even the site layout is very Zen.

One post caught my eye today – “The Thousand Cuts Fitness Program“.

I’ve trained for marathons, triathlons, 10Ks, a 13.5-hour challenge, Ubanathlons, and more. But my favorite fitness program isn’t one where you train for a major event.

It’s where you get fit by a thousand little actions.

When the actions are tiny, they are easy. You have no excuse. You can do them anywhere, all day long.

I fold fitness into my life, like blueberries into batter, and it becomes a part of the recipe, not just a topping.

(The emphasis is mine)

The rest of the post goes on to talk about small ways to incorporate fitness into your daily life. Grabbing a minute or two here and there, cumulatively throughout the day incorporating a large amount of exercise.

I don’t think that this does give you everything you need in fitness. You do have to get your heart rate going for extended periods of time to get truly fit, but in terms of building up your overall strength, doing a whole lot of small exercises throughout the day is a whole lot better than doing nothing.


Putting Socks On Helps Determine Your Fitness
by noricum under CC BY-SA
Are You Fit Enough To Put Your Socks On?


This of course does not just apply to strength training. Flexibility and balance is something that can be incorporated into your daily life in all sorts of simple ways.

Like putting your socks on.


I’m going to stop there. I have a whole ton of other stuff I want to write about, but it’s going to have to wait until next week!

Remember, if you have anything you want to say, ask or contribute, you can drop me an email or leave your comments on Facebook. You can also comment directly on the website.

All the best!


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Quote of the Day


Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.
–  William A. Foster

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ninety-nine Snails May 7, 2012 at 11:43 am

Socks – Now try putting on compression (like flight socks) socks without sitting or leaning on anything. They are tight, so hard to put on. Much more of a challenge 🙂


Martial Arts Over 40 May 7, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Good one!


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