Monday, September 24, 2012

Recipe: Homemade Meat Sauce

I love fall Sundays where I have the motivation to clean the entire house, get all the laundry done, and cook some amazing Sunday dinner with football on all day in the background of it all.  Well, that was THIS Sunday and I loved it!!!  I found this recipe for a homemade meat sauce and knew it would be great!  I got up and before I even had a cup of coffee.... I know, I know...  Don't know exactly how that happened.  But once I started chopping and getting the sauce together, there was no stopping me!  I tweaked the recipe a little.... two things different than the recipe was that 1) my mushrooms were looking pretty sad, so I decided to toss them out, so there weren't any in my sauce :( 2) My husband the chef and food snob (wait, did I use my outside voice there??? lol) told me to cook veggies, then remove them, cook meat, then remove it, cook tomato paste then add everything back to the pot....  Which I did.  I can't tell you the difference it would have made it it was just all cooked together, but I thought this sauce was pretty amazing.

 Homemade Meat Sauce

1.5 lbs ground beef (or turkey)
1 lb hot Italian sausage
20 oz sliced mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1 28-oz can tomato puree
1 12-oz can tomato paste
24 oz tomato sauce
BIG splash red wine (whatever “big splash” means to you: anywhere from 1/2 cup to 2 cups will do fine. Heh heh)
6 oz freshly grated Romano cheese
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbsp sugar
garlic salt + pepper as needed
spaghetti noodles + additional grated cheese for serving
(I also had a giant tomato from a farmers market, sliced that up and threw it in too)

look at all the pretty colors!

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, bell peppers and sliced mushrooms. Saute for about six – eight minutes, until mushrooms are soft. Remove veggies from pan and set aside.

Add ground beef and sausage meat. Cook until meat browns, stirring frequently with a large rubber spatula. Drain fat, and then set meat aside.

Add tomato paste to the pot, and cook for a few mins alone, then add tomato puree, tomato sauce, veggies and meat back. Stir well. Then, add the bay leaf, wine, spices, sugar and cheese. Stir well and bring sauce to a simmer.
Simmer sauce for an hour and a half over low heat, stirring occasionally. Taste it as you cook, adding more wine, spices or garlic salt to suite your taste buds. The longer the sauce cooks, the better it will taste! This actually simmered in my house for about 5-6 hours, stirring every so often and tasting...

Serve sauce over hot spaghetti noodles with extra cheese. Sauce can be refrigerated for up to five days or frozen for up to three months. Sauce will taste better the next day, after flavors have time to meld.
2 hours (or more)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Simple Ways to Self Nurture

From WLS Lifestyles Magazine via Melting Mama -  Simple Ways to Self Nurture

"Ok, so if you are going to maintain a healthy weight you really do need to change your lifestyle. Compassionate Self Nurture needs to become a way of life for you. As I’ve said before I do believe over eating is often an attempt to self nurture. You must put attention to creating new more positive self nurturing behaviors: below are some simple ways to consciously create a living style that is truly reflective of self love and respect:" - Melting Mama

  • When you wake up in the morning take a few moments to remember your dreams, meditate, think happy thoughts, set your intention for the day.
  • Consciously nurture each of your senses every: (i.e. listen to a favorite cd, write in your journal, read a page of an inspirational book, moisturize your body with a great smelling lotion, look at/notice special pictures around your house, eat and savor the flavor of a piece of fresh fruit).
  • Before leaving the house do a body scan and release any tension you might be holding in your body. Pay attention to your breathing.
  • Be on time for all appointments.
  • When you are driving in a car listen to a cd of some beautiful music, or an inspirational/motivational speaker, or ride in silence so you can listen to you/your higher power, your inner wisdom, etc.
  • When you are stopped at a traffic light, pay attention to your breathing. Relax any tight muscles in your body and say an affirmation out loud (“I treat myself with love and respect every moment of every day”).
  • Keep a fresh flower or plant on your desk at work, and in your bedroom at home.
  • Throughout the day take a few moments to go outside to breathe in some fresh air to re-center and reconnect.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate what you accomplish during the day… no matter how small the task might be (i.e. I returned a phone call, I mailed some letters, I said a nice thing to myself, I said hello to a stranger, etc..)
  • Create a transition ritual for yourself when you arrive home from work to release your work day (change your clothes, take a shower, do some exercise, etc.. )
  • Don’t rush through meals, even if you have after meal obligations, Take the time to be present and enjoy your food. Keep the conversation positive at the dining table: (have everyone tell the best thing that happened to them that day!).
  • Allow yourself to feel.
  • Acknowledge and express gratitude for everything that goes well in your day (i.e. got a good parking spot, kept my word to myself, had a great conversation with a friend, etc.)
  • Create a bedtime pampering ritual (take a bubble bath, spend some time meditating, read a book, write in your gratitude journal, listen to beautiful music, etc..)
  • Sing, Dance, Play!
  • Take an art class.
  • Drink 8 glasses of water every day.
  • Go outside and notice the miracles and beauty of nature.
  • Get a massage.
  • Paint your nails.
  • Pluck your eyebrows.
  • Go on a weekend retreat.
  • Learn Yoga.
  • Learn to play a musical instrument.
  • Every time you look in the mirror say something loving to yourself.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Paint a room in your house a wild color!!
  • Go to a town you’ve never been to before and window shop.
  • Refute any unloving thoughts.
  • Know that you are perfect in this moment!!!
  • Lift weights.
  • Say a silent prayer for yourself.
  • Say a silent prayer for someone who drives you crazy!
  • Count your blessings.
  • Surround yourself with loving and supportive people.
  • Watch a sunrise or a sunset.
  • Hang inspirational and meaningful pictures in your house and at your work.
  • Keep affirmation and inspirational books around your house and read at least one page every day.
  • Spend some time near water.
  • Learn to say “no”
  • Louisa Latela, MSW, LCSW

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Learning the History of Tang Soo Do

As I am learning the history of my new style I am learning a lot about other styles and differences as well.  I found this article very interesting.  It tells about both the early & modern history of Tang Soo Do.  I hope you enjoy it. ~ Mara


The originating influences of Tang Soo Do date back many centuries to early Korean military culture, much of which exists with very little detail or documentation. The modern Tang Soo Do that we study, however, has origins that are considerably more well-known. It is important to learn about the International Tang Soo Do Federation and its goals and mission, as well as the history of Tang Soo Do to fully appreciate our art's origins.

The Early History of Tang Soo Do

The fighting art of tang soo do can trace its roots back almost 2000 years to Korea's Three Kingdoms period. The smallest of these three kingdoms, Silla, was under consistent and relentless attack from the larger and more powerful Koguryo and Paekje kingdoms. The Silla rulers found respite in the form of an alliance with an elite fighting force from China's Tang dynasty. This force, the tang soo warriors, trained on the rocky beaches of southern Korea and honed their skills to become ever more indomitable.

Their method of fighting evolved into a combination of a traditional Chinese art commonly referred to as the "Tang method" and a set of powerful kicks with origins in the Korean culture. This combination -- tang soo, or the "hand of Tang" -- produced excellent results in combat and this success ensured its continued refinement.

In addition to combat techniques, the tang soo warriors developed a moral code -- the Sesok Ogye, or Five-Point Code. This code has the following tenets:

1-Show Loyalty to one's king or master
2-Be obedient to one's parents and elders
3-Honor friendships
4-Never retreat in battle
5-In killing, choose with sense and honor

This moral code bonded the tang soo warriors like no fighting force Korea had seen. The tang soo warriors of Silla attacked and conquered their stronger rival kingdoms and unified Korea for the first time.

The tang soo art was a combat art -- its emphasis was on fighting techniques, and there were no hyung, or forms. Its central theme was drawn from point 4 of the Five Point Code: never retreat in battle. Tang soo warriors were taught to be continuously on the offensive, charging and attacking their opponents with kicks and punches. This onslaught would cause the opponents to retreat into positions where they were unable to defend against further attacks, much less counterattack, thereby yielding victory to the tang soo warrior.

Following the establishment of a peaceful dynasty, the tang soo warrior art was extended to include a "way", or "do", of studying these martial arts. Hence the term "tang soo do" to refer to the art which we continue to study today, albeit somewhat different from that studied in tenth-century Korea. Subtle changes were made in this transition to a peaceful art, such as changes in the Five Point Code to replace words like "killing" with "conflict", and a deeper emphasis on the moral and spiritual aspects of training.

A Modern History of Tang Soo Do

This essay was written by Adrian Bates (1st Gup, Pyle Tang Soo Do) to satisfy the terminology requirements of the Chodan test, taken 2nd February 2003 at Bridgend, South Wales, UK.

It covers the history of Tang Soo Do from the time the name was first used, which is as recent as 1945. The roots of Tang Soo Do, however, date back thousands of years, but that is beyond the scope of this essay. In order to gain a better understanding of the events and external influences that led to the creation of Tang Soo Do, we must first look back nearly half a century earlier than 1945.

The Korean peninsula had been under Japanese rule since 1909, when the Japanese had invaded, forcibly ending the Yi dynasty, which had ruled for over 500 years. Japanese rule in Korea was very oppressive, and all forms of Korean culture were suppressed. The Korean people were forbidden to practice any martial art, and the only martial arts the general public was aware of were the Japanese arts of Gum Do (Kendo) and Yu Do (Judo). However, traditional ancient Korean martial arts such as Tae Kyun were practised secretly by a handful of students; among them a young boy called Hwang Kee, who, as we shall see later, had a pivotal effect on how the Korean martial arts of Tang Soo Do and Soo Bahk Do spread around the world.

The story of Hwang Kee’s life is fascinating, and as he sadly passed away in July of [2002, Ed.], I shall include a brief prĂ©cis of it here.

Kwan Jang Nim (Head of School) Hwang Kee was born on November 9, 1914 in Jang Dan, Kyong Ki province of Korea. His father, Hwang Yong Hwan, had a dream in which he saw the bright star (Sam Tae Song) before his son's birth. He named his son "Tae Nam", which means "Star Boy". Later he changed his name to "Kee." His father was a scholar who had achieved a high level of academic recognition from the last King of the Yi Dynasty, Ko Jong.

Young Master Hwang Kee was not exposed to the martial arts until he was 7 years old. This was in 1921, during the traditional Korean festival of “Dan O”. While visiting a neighbouring village, where there was archery, wrestling and other attractions, he saw a group of seven or eight men arguing heatedly with a single man. The argument soon developed into physical violence, but the single man prevailed using hand and foot techniques the young Master Hwang Kee had never seen before. With grace and agility the man avoided and countered their attacks until he had defeated them all. Hwang Kee asked other bystanders what these techniques were, and they answered him “That is Tae Kyun”.

Young Master Hwang Kee was very impressed, and followed the man home. He sought audience with the man, and asked to be his student. Refused because he was considered too young, Master Hwang Kee did not give up, but watched the man practice outside his home and tried to copy his movements. As he grew into an adolescent man and graduated from high school, he never forgot the strange man and his fighting techniques, and he never stopped practicing his Tae Kyun diligently. The experience was to shape his entire life.

Grand Master Hwang Kee - Founder of Tang Soo Do

During the Japanese occupation of Korea, many Koreans escaped oppression at home by emigrating to study and work in other countries, including China and Japan. No restrictions on unarmed martial arts training existed in these countries, and for the first time in over a thousand years, Tae Kyun students were exposed to other forms of unarmed self-defence.

Hwang Kee left Korea in 1935 (after his graduation from ‘high school’) to work for the railway company in Manchuria, China. A huge advantage of working for a railway company was that it allowed one to travel; with the added bonus that such travel was free of charge.

While in China, he met a gifted martial arts master called Yang Kuk Jin, who, after much persuasion, taught him the Tang method of martial arts. Hwang Kee was already a master of the traditional Korean martial arts Tae Kyun and Soo Bahk Ki at the tender age of 22, and later blended these martial arts with the Tang method into what we now recognise as Tang Soo Do.

Master Hwang Kee studied with Master Yang until 1937, when he had to return to Seoul. He was able to return to China once more in 1941, but this was the last time that young Master Hwang Kee was to see his instructor. The creation of Communist China in 1946 prevented free movement – just as Korea was being freed from oppression, so China entered into it.

Always thirsty for knowledge, Hwang Kee also studied Okinawan karate, from books that were available to him when he worked for the Cho Sun Railway Company around 1939. The only books permitted in those days were Japanese, and the Cho Sun railway happened to have a small library.

Back to 1945 – the 2nd World War ended, and with it also ended the long Japanese occupation of Korea. At last, Korea became an independent state. In Seoul, on November 9th, 1945 (his 31st birthday), Hwang Kee finally realised his dream, and formally registered a new martial arts school called Moo Duk Kwan, of which we are still a part today.

Moo Duk Kwan has more than one possible meaning. “Moo” can mean “martial “ (i.e. anything to do with war), “to stop spear”, “not want war” – seemingly contradicting terms. However, this makes incredible sense, as the basic precept of Tang Soo Do is to avoid fighting if at all possible, and even then only to fight in self-defence or the defence of others. Also, Tang Soo Do does not only consist of attacking techniques, but has just as many defensive techniques. The first technique a beginner learns is Hadan Mahkee (low defence), which reinforces this point. “Duk” means benevolent, or virtue. “Kwan” means school or institute. So Moo Duk Kwan can mean “Benevolent martial arts school”, “Institute of martial virtue”, etc.

The Moo Duk Kwan philosophy is based on Do (Tao), No Ja (Lao Tzu) and Lee Do Ja (Confucius).

Grandmaster Hwang Kee also borrowed the Five Doctrines of the Hwa Rang ("the flowering youth corps"), an ancient Korean fighting society:

1) Be loyal to one's country.

2) Be obedient to parents and elders

3) Honour friendship

4) Kill only in justice and with honour

5) Never retreat in battle.

These principles became the "literary" foundation of Tang Soo Do, and remain as part of our 10 Articles of Faith to the present day.

As head of the school, Hwang Kee takes the title Kwan Jang Nim.

Contrary to popular opinion, Tang Soo Do was not Kwan Jang Nim’s first choice of name for his new art. His first choice was "Hwa Soo Do" (art of the flower hand). He had meditated long and hard on this name, which celebrated the flowering independence of the newly re-established state of Korea; the “Hwa” also hinting at a connection with the Hwa Rang. Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee tried very hard to perpetuate his teaching of Hwa Soo Do, but the general Korean public refused to accept the new art, opting for the more popular Gum Do (Kendo) and Yu Do (Judo). One day Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee met two gentlemen in Seoul, both prominent martial arts instructors. One was the founder of Yeon Moo Kwan (later changed to Ji Do Kwan), and taught an art known as Kong Soo Do. The other gentleman founded the Chung Do Kwan and called his art Tang Soo Do (An open handed style heavily influenced by Okinawan Karate).

The following passage is quoted from History of the Moo Duk Kwan, by Hwang Kee, 1995:

"After he met with these gentlemen, the Kwan Jang Nim meditated and re-evaluated the future of the Moo Duk Kwan. It was here where Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee discerned that the natural flow of the thoughts of the Korean people was centred on Japanese influenced martial arts. Although Tang Soo Do was not as popular as Gum Do or Yu Do, it was at least recognisable to the public as a whole. Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee humbly accepted and followed the law of the great nature, and Tang Soo Do was then integrated into the teaching of the Hwa Soo Do discipline”

It should obvious by now that Tang Soo Do is a blend of the best attributes of several martial arts: its main constituents are Soo Bahk Ki (60%), Northern Chinese (30%) and Southern Chinese (10%). Its kicking techniques are based on Soo Bahk Ki, and the soft flowing movements from the Southern Chinese Systems.

There are many possible translations of Tang Soo Do – some say that Hwang Kee included “Tang” in the name to show the influence that his studies of the Tang method in China had upon him. Other meanings for “Tang” are “Chinese” – i.e. relating to Tang dynasty, which was a very good time for China, or “worthy”.

“Soo” means hand, and “Do” means art, way or method. “Do” suggests not just a technical method, but more a way of life, covering spiritual as well as physical aspects. Soo and Do used together can mean “knife hand”, e.g. Hadan Soo Do Mahkee (low knife hand defence), giving yet another possible meaning.

So Tang Soo Do can mean “Chinese hand method”, “Chinese knife-hand way”, “Art of worthy hands”, etc.

Tang Soo Do gained in popularity in Korea, but it was first noticed by the government during the Korean War (1950 – 1953). South Korean military leaders soon noticed that Korean soldiers trained in Tang Soo Do did much better in hand to hand combat than those trained in other martial arts. They won many battles, often outnumbered ten to one by the North Korean communists. The Korean president, Syngman Rhee, ordered that all soldiers should be trained in Tang Soo Do, as well as their normal military training.

The Korean government was not happy with the name Tang Soo Do, because of the Chinese connotations of “Tang”, so a research group was formed in 1955 to come up with a name for a Korean national martial art. This art was intended to unite all Korean martial arts under a single name and governing body. The group was composed of archaeologists, historians, masters of the martial arts and scholars. They suggested the name Tae Kwon Do, which derived from Tae Kyun and means; Tae, to kick or strike with the feet, Kwon refers to punching with the hand or fist or knuckles, Do means way or method of life and philosophy.

Most of the Korean martial arts schools joined the new Tae Kwon Do Association, but Grandmaster Hwang Kee was not happy with the idea, and decided to keep Moo Duk Kwan independent, in order to preserve its purity of form and traditional values. Part of the Ji Do Kwan also stayed independent.

In 1957, Grandmaster Hwang Kee discovered in the warehouses of the National University of Seoul a copy of the ancient “MOO YEI DO BO TONG JI” (Martial arts manual from the 17th century), written in ancient Chinese characters. This book included ancient Korean techniques from over 2000 years before the colonial occupation, records of which were all thought to have been destroyed during the Japanese occupation.

The Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji described in detail: soo balik (damaging hand) techniques and Soo Bahk forms and techniques. Hwang Kee recognized what he had found and incorporated the ancient Korean martial arts teachings into Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan. On June 30th 1960, he renamed his art in honour of his discovery as Tang Soo Do Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. The ancient Soo Bahk techniques that Hwang Kee discovered are different from those of today. They represent ancient teachings and ancient ways from thousands of years ago. Hwang Kee published what he discovered in Korea and in the United States so that others would be aware their existence and their significance.

Another blow came in 1965, when the Korean government wanted to reduce the influence of Moo Duk Kwan, as it was presenting too much competition for the government-sponsored Tae Kwon Do. Moo Duk Kwan’s application to join the Korean Athletics Association was turned down, and many senior Moo Duk Kwan members voted to join the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association.

This literally split Moo Duk Kwan in two – Tae Kwon Do on the one side, and Tang Soo Do/Soo Bahk Do on the other. The Tae Kwon Do break-away group also kept the name Moo Duk Kwan.

Hwang Kee successfully appealed against the Governments decision in the Supreme Court of South Korea in June 1966.

Several attempts were made to reunite the two Moo Duk Kwan organisations, but all failed. In Hwang Kee’s lifetime, Tang Soo Do gradually spread across the world, and is now taught in at least 36 countries, including Korea, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Italy, Greece, Thailand, Malaysia, Formosa, and, surprisingly, even Japan.

Moo Duk Kwan Grandmaster Hwang Kee died on Sunday, July 14, 2002 at 7:05 pm Korea time, at the age of 88. He passed away at Joong Ahn Gil Byong Won Hospital in InCheon, South Korea, where he had been ill since June 29th. He is survived by his son, Master Hwang, Hyun Chul, and his two daughters.

Tang Soo!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

40 Simple Ways to Show Your Child Love

I had found this list here, a long time ago and pasted it into a Word file.  From time to time I try to look at it and read it and take one of the ideas to do with my daughter.  These are some simple ideas to make your little ones feel special and make you both make some long lasting great memories.  I hope they inspire you and you can create some great memories too!

I have to tell you the funny thing about the photo above.  We were dining in one of the fabulous restaurants on the Disney Cruise and I was doing a "magic trick" covering my watch with the cloth napkin and saying, "Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Bo" and moved the napkin and my watch was gone!  It took her a few times for her to realize I was taking the watch off under the napkin and it wasn't disappearing on it's own.  This was her first introduction to "Magic tricks!" It was a fun memory!!!  I am glad one of my sisters snapped this photo!!  thank you Sis!

40 simple ways to show your child love:
  1. Take them to a movie they want to see.
  2. Go on a treasure hunt (collect all the loose change around the house/car) together and then make a trip to the arcade with your findings.
  3. Take a long nature walk together, at their pace.  Let them lead the conversation.
  4. Find qualities about them that you genuinely love, and compliment them in front of others.
  5. Frame a photo of the two of you, and display it in their room.
  6. Put a few Hershey’s Hugs in one of their coat pockets, and Kisses in the other.
  7. Play a game with them.
  8. Let them win.
  9. Make bath time special.  Add lots of bubbles, colored soaps, maybe you could purchase a new tub toy or let them play with things found around the house.  I let my kids play with things like colanders and funnels from the kitchen—they love it.  Don’t forget to warm the towel!
  10. Send them a handmade card in the mail with a coupon to go get ice cream with you.
  11. Gather all the home movies that feature them as the “star” and have a movie night complete with popcorn and treats.
  12. Using blankets and chairs, or a card table, build a clubhouse together and have a picnic inside.
  13. Read “I love you” books together.
  14. Let them stay up past their bedtime with you and watch cartoon classics together.
  15. Do a chore that is normally reserved for them.
  16. Tuck an encouraging note inside their lunchbox.
  17. Give them your full attention.
  18. Tell them some of the ways they make you happy.
  19. Make them laugh.
  20. Laugh with them.
  21. Make their favorite treat to welcome them home from school with.
  22. Show them your joy when they arrive.
  23. Ask for hugs and kisses.
  24. Listen, and let them make their own decisions whenever possible.
  25. Make them a coupon book filled with things they’d enjoy doing, or things they’d like to get out of doing.
  26. Take a day off from everything: work, household duties, technology, etc. and focus entirely on them.
  27. Cook together.
  28. Write them a poem using the initials of their name.
  29. Decorate their room for no reason.
  30. Create a sign that lavishes them with praise.
  31. Kidnap them from school and take them out for lunch.
  32. Make home a fun place to be.
  33. Make a treasure box from an old shoe box, fill it with “gold” (chocolate coins) and make an official looking treasure map with clues for them to locate the hidden treasure with.
  34. Go to the store and let them pick out all the ingredients to make banana splits.  Make and eat them together.
  35. Wrap up in a warm blanket together and take turns making up stories to tell each other.
  36. Make a list of things you love about them and put it on their pillow before bedtime.
  37. Talk about what they did in their day at dinnertime.
  38. Sit down together and write a list of fun activities to do in a day.  Write each idea on small slips of paper, roll up the papers and stick them inside balloons.  Blow up all the balloons and then pop one balloon at a time until you’ve completed all the activities.
  39. Play back rub/tickle games—ie; Spider crawling up your back…
  40. Make a CD with all their favorite tunes and have a dance party.
Have fun!!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

5 Health Benefits for Adults in the Martial Arts

After posting the benefits for children in martial arts, I HAD to post some great reasons for adults to benefit from the martial arts as well! You are never too old, or too out of shape to start karate classes.  It is in my opinion the best workout in the world! Do it now!!

Here is a great article this karate school in UT posted. (source)

5 Health Benefits for Adults in the Martial Arts

(img source)
If you are an adult who is looking for a way to lose weight, strengthen your body and otherwise get healthy, you might want to consider signing up for martial arts classes.
Not only do martial arts help you gain more confidence, learn self-discipline and become better prepared for self-defense, but it offers a wide variety of health benefits as well.
Here is a look at just a few of the health benefits adults who take martial arts classes enjoy.

Build Strength

No matter what type of martial arts training you pursue, you are certain to increase your muscle strength while also improving your musculoskeletal health. This increased strength will help prevent injury from normal day-to-day activities while also reducing your risk of experiencing aches and pains as you grow older.

Increase Endurance

Martial arts will also help you increase your endurance in a number of ways. Not only will the regular training sessions increase your aerobic cardiovascular endurance, but your muscles will build more endurance as well. As a result, you will be able to engage in physical activities for longer periods of time without becoming winded or developing sore muscles.

Improve Flexibility, Speed and Balance

As you master the moves you are learning in your martial arts class, you will experience increased flexibility, speed and balance. All of these things together will help to improve your functional strength while also helping your body become better prepared physically-demanding tasks.

Reduce Risks of Obesity

Martial arts burns a significant amount of calories while also increasing the metabolic rate and making the body stronger. As a result, you are likely to lose weight after you start taking martial arts classes. Or, if you are already at your ideal body weight, you will be better able to maintain your weight. By reducing your risk of obesity, you also reduce your chances of developing obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Exercise the Heart

The exercises and routines you perform in your martial arts class will force your heart to get to work. As you reaching your target heart level and continue to engage in physical activity, your heart will grow stronger and better capable of working for longer periods of time. As your heart grows stronger and healthier, your risk of developing heart disease decreases.
Start improving your health today by taking martial arts classes for adults. You’ll be glad you did!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why Kids Should Study the Martial Arts

I really liked this article and thought it was worth sharing even though it is long, I believe everything James says. 

In my early years of studying martial arts, back in the 1990's my instructor asked me if I wanted to help out in the office of the karate school, from doing this I could see the benefits all the kids in the school got from their training.  From hearing their parents say how they noticed a difference in behavior in school, listening to them (their parents), getting along better with peers, self-esteem, etc.. it was all positive.  So, I knew one day I wanted my child involved in martial arts at an early age (Of course).

Just last week my daughter (5yrs old) started the Little Dragons classes at my current karate school and loves it.  I didn't start my training until I was in my early twenties.  I hope that she grows into a happy healthy adult and is able to benefit from all of these attributes early in life.  ~Mara

Why Kids Should Study the Martial Arts
by James Hom
(website source)

Physical, Mental, and Social Benefits
For people new to the martial arts, the benefits of martial arts training might not be obvious. Some will think, sure, it's a great workout--just look at that "Ty Bo" guy. And of course it's good for self-defense, with all that punching and kicking. But the benefits of martial arts training, especially for children and teenagers, are much more than simple physical improvements. Martial arts benefits span a spectrum of physical, mental, and social attributes, all of which are learned and improved through martial arts training.

Physical benefits include the following:
· Physical fitness 
· Personal security

Mental benefits include the following:
· Learning abilities 
· Goal setting 
· Discipline

Social benefits include the following:
· Camaraderie 
· Self-esteem 
· Respect 
· Calming

We'll cover each of these attributes--benefits of martial arts training--in this article. We'll also discuss special benefits for girls, which make martial arts training for young ladies even more important.
Naturally, these benefits also apply to most adults as well. However, developing these attributes early in life contributes to a healthy, happy adulthood. That's why it's even more important to get those kids kicking.

Physical Fitness
Kung fu started as a way for studious monks to get physically fit. A Buddhist monk, traveling from his native India to what is now southern China, encountered a temple full of sickly monks--some who were spending so much time studying that they were neglecting their physical health. This place, the famous Shaolin Temple, soon became the wellspring of martial arts knowledge for much of Asia.
Cardio, Strength, Balance

Martial arts, taken as pure exercise, develops cardiovascular fitness as well as muscular strength. Martial artists also enjoy a heightened sense of balance, as well as learning specific skills to avoid injury (like learning how to fall properly in throwing arts like aikido and jujitsu).

The benefits of physical fitness for kids are well-documented. According to the American Council on Exercise, physically active children have fewer chronic health problems than kids who are sedentary. Regardless of which martial art your child studies, moving the body in martial arts techniques is great exercise. While not as calorie-consuming as its more fitness-oriented renditions, like cardio kickboxing or Tae Bo, martial arts classes exercise all joints and muscle groups. Classes usually begin with warmups, then stretching, followed by intense exercise and a subsequent cooldown. Regular training causes incremental improvements in fitness.

One Alarming Statistic: There's also specific physical benefits unique to the martial arts. For example, aikido's founder Morehei Ueshiba stated that the rolls and somersaults in aikido were beneficial to internal organs. These rolling breakfalls, used to prevent injury when being thrown by a partner, come in handy when riding a bicycle or skateboard as well. The American Council on Exercise states that by the time they reach high school, 63% of children are no longer physically active.

Non-Virtual Fighter
With all the virtual things to do these days, getting kids to embrace a physical fitness regimen is often hard work. Often kids would rather spend their time sitting in front of the TV exercising their thumbs at PlayStation, or risking carpal tunnel on instant messaging, than working up a good sweat. In martial arts classes, they're acquiring useful skills while exercising, and the novelty of learning something from an exotic culture often holds their attention.

Personal Security and Self-Defense

Martial arts are perhaps best known for increasing one's fighting ability. After all, that's what we see in the movies and on television--the good-guy martial artist kicking some bad guy butt. However, these skills for personal security aren't just used for fighting. "I do this so I don't have to fight..." For kids who are preyed upon by bullies, or reside in neighborhoods where street violence is common, the ability to defend themselves allows them peace of mind. In almost all cases, they never have to use their martial arts techniques on someone. Their increased awareness and presence deters violence. In effect, by understanding and mastering a higher level of the force continuum, they can achieve their goals by using lesser levels of force.

To Win Without Fighting is Best

For example, basic martial arts training always involves learning how to avoid physical damage in a confrontation--whether by blocking a punch, evading a strike by moving out of the way, or checking the incoming limb before it can reach full-speed. Often, trained martial artists don't need to harm their opponent--their adeptness at evading attacks lets them be in control, and frustrates their attacker.

Martial arts training also involves awareness of how attacks occur. In training to spar, students learn how to detect the beginning of an incoming punch or kick: the subtle weight shift to a support leg, or a change in focus in their opponent's gaze. Translate such awareness to the street, and kids learn to watch what's in a stranger's hands--is it a weapon? They learn to size up a potential opponent, and decide the best countermeasures--perhaps it's better to cross the street before you pass that shady-looking character.
These "combat-oriented" benefits of martial arts training are most often never used for combat.

Learning Abilities

Martial arts training doesn't just improve physical attributes. One of the more renowned benefits of martial arts training is the mental workout. Key
Learning to execute the complex and foreign techniques of martial arts requires extreme mental focus. Students need to concentrate under pressure; whether they're directing energy into a difficult board break or ensuring that a technique is executed crisply and correctly. Students often find this focus is applicable to academic studies as well, citing improved concentration and focus, even under stress as in college entrance examinations.

Martial arts training also requires extensive memorization of terms and techniques. Many martial arts terms are in a foreign language--it's not uncommon for young students to be able to count in Japanese or Korean as easily as in their native tongue. Kata, or pre-arranged sequences of techniques, must be memorized--not only to replicate each technique in the proper sequence, but also with correct execution and with an understanding of its implementation in combat.

Aiding such learning is the repetition used to ingrain martial arts techniques into students' muscle memories. These instructional techniques: repetition leading to memorization and then testing the implementation of that knowledge (for example, through belt exams, kata interpretation, or sparring), are adaptable to academic settings as well.
Learning martial arts is learning made fun.

Goal Setting

Many martial arts divide the various stages of ability into ranks. In styles derived from Japanese and Korean martial arts, the ranks are often denoted by colored belts, ranging from the white belt of a new beginner to the black belt of a senior student.

Advancing One Step at a Time
The requirements for each belt level are defined in detail and represent incremental improvement in that martial art. Successive belt ranks require more difficult and comprehensive knowledge, and represent new challenges to overcome.

Kids learn to take on new learning in chunks; by dividing up all the knowledge needed to master a martial art into sections, they can take on each section as they become able. Upon passing the tests required to receive the next level, they can look forward to the next belt level, and so on.

Learning to tackle complex and comprehensive bodies of knowledge by breaking them down into smaller portions is a skill that can help outside the martial arts as well, whether it's learning to swim or learning calculus.


The regimented nature of martial arts instruction fosters a deep sense of self-discipline in students. One can't become a legitimate black belt overnight, and so students learn that their worthy goals will require patience, hard work, and dedicated study over several years. The message is that if it's worth anything, it's worth working hard for.

Martial arts training has become popular for children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) because of the training moderates some ADD traits. Martial arts training teaches students self-control and concentration--in order to perform a technique correctly, students must focus intensely on their task. Furthermore, the self-confidence gained through martial arts training lets ADD kids feel able and "normal", not burdened by the stigma of being labeled with a "deficit."
Discipline, to many people, is all about doing what you must do even when you don't want to do it. Martial arts training instills such discipline by showing a path of rewards for hard work, and the benefits of doing that extra few reps.


Martial arts students feel a strong sense of camaraderie with their fellow students. This feeling of fellowship is based primarily on shared experiences and surpassing of challenges, but is also based in tradition.
In historical times, instructors taught the martial arts only to those students the instructors deemed worthy. To endear themselves to the instructor, prospective students would often have to perform menial labor or perform the most basic techniques for hours--showing that they were humble, patient, and honest. Today, most students don't need to undergo these tests before they can start training, but the sense that the martial arts are special, and learning martial arts is a special privilege, remains.

Many martial arts classes are held as a few parents have noted, "like the old one-room schoolhouse". Although kids of different ages and belt levels are segregated into their own smaller groups, most children's classes are held with all kids together in the same room. Kids at a lower rank can look over at the senior students practicing their forms--even when the lower-ranked kids haven't yet learned those techniques.
Martial artists feel a sense of esprit de corps with other martial artists--and particularly with students of their own style.


Self-esteem is largely based on a student's self-worth; if students feel capable, able, and confident, then they enjoy a healthy self-esteem. Martial arts training builds self-esteem by providing small challenges that build incremental successes. Students learn that they can overcome the challenges as they improve in their training.
Many martial artists note that before they began training, they were awestruck and amazed by the seemingly superhuman feats that their instructors or senior students were able to perform. Yet after just a few months of study, they progress to a level where they too can do things they would have thought impossible. Challenges--like breaking a board--are surpassed and students feel a surge of pride in themselves and their abilities. As a result, they feel capable and alive.

Also, the physical security provided by martial arts training builds confidence--students do not have to worry any longer about the bully at school. This confidence enables students to feel better about themselves and their reactions to conflict.

One thing newcomers to the martial arts notice immediately when visiting a school for the first time is the numerous expressions of respect. "There's all that bowing," they might remark. Showing respect is intrinsic to the martial arts, and is a core facet of the cultures from which many martial arts originate.

Students show respect to each other, their instructor, and even to their school upon joining each class session. Sometimes it's a simple bow, in other styles it's a salute of some kind. The gesture encompasses several messages: gratitude, for the learning the student receives, and respect, an acknowledgement of the other person's abilities.

Regardless of the ritual, almost all martial arts teach students to value age, rank, expertise, and experience. Respecting those who know more than you do (greater expertise), and have proven it (higher rank) shows that you are worthy of them teaching you their knowledge. This respect for instructors and senior students can often carry over to classes in regular schools as well.

Calming and Stress Reduction
The martial arts are very calming--a trait that may seem contradictory to those who just see the martial arts as violence. Most senior martial artists are the coolest, calmest characters around.

Work It Out
Martial arts classes, because of their intense workouts, allow students to release nervous energy until they are drained from the exertion. Working up a good sweat has always been a great way to diffuse anger. Adding punches and kicks, especially against a heavy bag or foam shield, is even better.

Shout It Out
Some martial arts use a ritual shout, known as a kiai in Japanese styles, or kihap in Korean styles, made at the moment of attack. While the shout is meant to improve one's focus and breathing when delivering a technique, or to startle and frighten an opponent, it also serves to release the student's tension and nervous energy.

Many martial arts include meditation as part of the curriculum. Meditation, or training the mind to achieve a calmer, empty state, allows martial artists to relax fully.
Experienced martial artists exhibit calmness outside of the training hall as well. This inner peace is due to several factors, but is probably a result of experiencing stressful situations when learning self-defense or sparring--and overcoming them. The confidence gained through mastery of martial arts techniques also lends itself to keeping calm in stressful situations.


While the reasons for studying martial arts apply to all kids, there's special reasons why girls should learn martial arts.

Girls often don't have the same avenues as boys for developing self-confidence or exhibiting mastery. Boys are channeled into sports at young ages, finding spots on Little League baseball teams or pee wee football squads. Without similar sports opportunities, girls are left with just academic, social, and family settings to build assertiveness and self-esteem.  Martial arts techniques are often easier for young girls to learn than young boys--a girl's natural flexibility is an advantage over boys the same age. In some arts, upper-body strength, usually a male advantage, is not as important as lower-body strength, usually a female advantage. As a result, girls can enjoy a unique pride in their abilities--they can think, "if I can do as well as a boy in karate, I can do as well as a boy in math class."

Invented by...a Girl
Girls can take pride that some martial arts were even invented by female masters. The origin of pentjak silat, the national martial art of Indonesia, is due to a legendary peasant woman. The story is that the woman went to fetch water for her household, but stopped to watch a tiger fight a large bird, the animals both dying from their wounds. Her husband, angry at her for forgetting her chores, found her and tried to strike her, but she easily evaded his attack and struck back using the techniques she learned from the animals' battle. Eventually, she taught her husband and the art continued on throughout the centuries.

Another martial art, wing chun kung fu, is named after it's most renowned practitioner, a young girl who learned the art from a Buddhist nun named Ng Mui. Wing chun is perhaps best known as the first martial art of Bruce Lee--meaning, that the martial art first learned by Bruce Lee was invented--and passed along--by girls.

Assault and Rape Prevention

Lastly, girls need a particular focus on self-defense. Techniques and awareness learned through martial arts training can help girls avoid assaults before they occur and defend themselves if an assault takes place. With the seemingly prevalence of abductions in modern times, it makes sense for girls to learn at least basic self-defense and rape prevention techniques.

The martial arts offer so many benefits for kids that it seems unbelievable that some parents don't want their kids in the dojo. But thanks to unfavorable impressions of violence on television or in the movies, the martial arts has taken a bad rap.

The solution is to go out and visit the schools in your area. Talk to the instructors. How do they feel their programs benefit kids? Talk to other parents. Have their kids changed for the better because of their martial arts studies?

Yosh Ashizawa, a semiconductor industry executive, has two young sons currently studying taekwondo. "Martial arts has given the boys added discipline," says Ashizawa. "With three boys in the house, things can get pretty unruly, but taekwondo training has definitely helped." Ashizawa, himself a second-degree black belt in hapkido under Grandmaster Han Jae Ji, is extremely positive about the benefits of martial arts training. "I think it's essential," he remarks.
Written by: James Hom

Monday, September 10, 2012

Recipe: Red Velvet Better Than Sex Cake

For the times when you must have "cake" and want something decadent but lower in calories...this IS the CAKE to Make!   -- hey, I just sounded a little Cat-In-the-Hat-like... :)

When I saw No Thanks to Cake post this recipe on her blog, I KNEW I had the perfect opportunity to try it this weekend.  My good friend bought her first home and invited a few of us over to celebrate.  What's better than cake and wine right???  This recipe made a huge cake, but believe it or not I did not come home with any leftovers, and some people brought doggy bags home for themselves family members ;) To take home, we scooped it into plastic cups and it sort of made it like a trifle, which was awesome too!

 Red Velvet Better Than Sex Cake

Original Recipe by The Country Cook via No Thanks to Cake

Serves 18


1 box Red Velvet Cake mix
1 can Diet Pepsi (or diet coke)
2 pkg. Sugar-Free Fat Free Cheesecake pudding
4 cups milk
1 tub Cool-Whip (I used Sugar-Free), thawed
10 oreos or 2-3 packs of Oreo 100 Calorie Packs (I used double stuff, cuz that’s how I roll baby!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your baking dish using cooking spray made for baking. 
  2. Combine red velvet cake and diet pepsi using a mixer. 
  1. Cook the cake per the box instructions, testing it with a cake tester upon removing it from the oven.  Remove the cake to a wire cooling rack for a few minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the pudding and milk with a whisk.  Mix until it begins to thicken, but do not allow it to completely set. 

5. After removing the cake from the oven, find a wooden spoon to use to create holes in the cake. 

6.  Pour the pudding mixture over the cake and fill in all the holes.  Put the cake in the refrigerator to cool completely and for the pudding to set.  Allow it to cool at least 2 hours.

  1. Shortly before you are ready to serve the cake, remove it from the fridge and add the cool whip on top of the pudding mixture.
  2. Place the oreos into a plastic bag and crush the cookies.  Sprinkle on top of the cake. 
  3. Cover and return to the fridge until you are ready to serve the cake. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Bars

I was looking online for a good after school snack for my kindergartner, and myself that had protein, fruit, and could be healthy enough to eat for breakfast.  I found this recipe (source) and had most all the ingredients in my cabinets already!  These are packed with protein, chewy, delicious and sugar free!!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Barsrecipe adapted from (source)

1.5 c Oats
1/2 c Shredded Coconut (I used unsweetened)
1/2 c Chocolate Chips (I used sugar free choc chips)
*1/4 c almonds, chopped (I added this ingredient from original recipe, but it may be omitted or substituted for other nuts)
(you can also add any dried fruit but I didn't have any)

3 scoops Chocolate Whey Protein Powder
1.5 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Ripe Banana (mashed) (I had small ones so I used 2)

1/2 c Maple syrup (or agave, or honey) (I didn't have a 1/2c of any one, so I used all three and made it equal 1/2 c)
1/2 c Peanut Butter (or any nut butter, i.e. almond, pecan, cashew, etc.) (I used almond butter) 
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract


Combine all DRY ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mash ripe banana, and add all wet ingredients.
Pour wet ingredients into dry, and mix well.

Spread mixture into baking dish lined with plastic wrap or waxed paper (or spray). Press until flat.

Place dish in freezer for a few hours, or until firm. Remove from dish and carefully cut into 15 squares/bars or logs. For easy grab-and-go snacks, wrap bars individually in plastic wrap.
Store in fridge or freezer for up to a month. These bars soften quickly at room temperature.

Makes 15 protein/granola bars.