To Praise…Or Not to Praise

That is the question. Is too much too little? Or is too little too much? When it comes to building confidence and self-esteem in our children today, be it through Martial Arts, education or other activities, there seems to be no magic formula.

Praise is linear, on one end of the spectrum there is little to no praise and the on the other, praise is endless. The question is which one prepares our children better for the real world? The answer to that question lies somewhere in the middle.

There has been a steady lowering of the excepted standards of excellence in the last 20 years, not just in Martial Arts but in other activities, including our education system. In the 1970’s the self-esteem movement was born, and ever sense it has steadily eroded our perception of excellence. The premise of the movement is that obstacles, criticism, and failure damage self-esteem, while giving false praise and shallow victories help to improve it. Children are unwittingly led to believe that success comes without hard work and commitment. It’s a slippery and dangerous slope indeed.

Here are 3 examples of how ridiculous and asinine we’ve become in dropping our standards, all in the name of self-esteem.

  1. A recreational soccer league in Ottawa has a policy that if a team scores more than 5 goals, they are declared the loser. What’s the purpose of doing your best, if you can’t do it?
  2. A jump rope program in a Massachusetts school uses no ropes; their idiotic reasoning is that if a student trips with a real rope their self-esteem might get damaged.  A jump rope program without ropes? Huh! Isn’t that an oxymoron?
  3. In Martial Arts, I have seen instances at tournaments, where every child who didn’t place first or second received a third place medal, you might have 5 kids in a division placing third. What the heck does this teach? Other than create a false sense of accomplishment.

These are just 3 examples of the many out there, which are just as bizarre and off the wall, all in the name of protecting children’s self-esteem.

One of the values that I was taught and one that I teach my students is that “Competence leads to Confidence.” The more proficient you become at something, the more confident you become. This is why false praise or substandard expectations are so damaging.

When a child is lead to believe that their performance, skills and techniques are “Excellent” when in reality they are barely subpar, we are setting them up for real hurt and disappointment down the line.

I’ve seen so many young martial artists devastated when a competition doesn’t go their way, as far as they were concerned it was everyone else’s fault but their own, in reality they’re right, society failed them.

It’s been shown that kids who get too much praise are less likely to take risks, are highly sensitive to failure and are more likely to give up when faced with a challenge.

Instead of teaching our children how to lose, or what it’s like to fall down and get back up again, we inundate them with insincere, shallow praise for subpar performance, and protect them from failure with substandard expectations.  Which one do you think would better serve our children’s growth and self-esteem in the long run?

If we are to teach our children important values like Honesty, Integrity and Perseverance, we have to lead and live by example.

Praise should be like a rare commodity, we need to use it wisely and sparingly to get the most value out of it.

It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to lose….Every Champion in life has.

And every Champion will.

By: Master Bell




Plastic is everywhere and in everything we use and consume, for most of us we were born into the age of plastic. It’s only when you step back and look, that you really see how much of it is around us and quite possibly in us.

The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. Each decade after that saw the introduction of new more versatile materials. Polyethylene, today’s most widely used plastic evolved out of the need for a superior insulating material that could be used for such applications as radar cable during World War II.

Plastic is an amazing invention that has sure made our everyday lives that much richer and in turn has created our throwaway society, this would be an ideal senerio, except for one HUGE drawback. Plastic isn’t green, it doesn’t break down readily.

In our lifetime it has become one of the major pollutants that are destroying our planet. Being a non-degradable, extremely toxic compound, it can only break down into smaller pieces which eventually end up in our food supply and drinking water.

There is no way whatsoever that we can safely dispose of plastic. It’s been estimated that it may take up to 500 years or more for a plastic bag to decompose in a landfill, imagine how long it would take for that 50 inch big screen plasma.

One of the biggest problems that plastic creates is in polluting our oceans. Today there is more toxic plastic in the ocean than life giving plankton. The current ratio is 6 to 1, that’s 6 times more plastic than plankton. Small fish mistake the small floating plastic pieces for food, they in turn are eaten by larger fish, we catch and consume the larger fish, we ingest the plastic, we sicken and die.

Globally, 100 trillion tons of plastic waste is generated each year, and at least 10% of it ends up finding its way to the sea, it’s been estimated that there are between 46,000 – 250,000 floating pieces of plastic for each kilometer of ocean, some of which is circling the globe 30 meters deep.

Each hour North Americans consume and discard 2.75 million plastic, water and soda bottles, that’s a whopping 24 billion a year. At least 80% of that plastic consumed on land ends up in the sea, the other 20% is generated from Trans-oceanic shipping.

Each year 1,000,000 sea birds, and 100,000 sharks, dolphins, whales and turtles die from ingesting plastic. Recently plastic found in the stomach of an albatross on the west coast had a serial number on it that was traced to a Second World War plane that was shot down just south of Japan in 1944.

Plastic accumulates in regions of the oceans called Gyres (garbage patches), where currents circle and push water toward the center, trapping the floating bits. There are five major Gyres in the world, one located in each major ocean.  Each Gyre is estimated to be the size of Texas and growing exponentially each year.

When a renowned scientist was asked on how to clean up this mess, her replay was:

“Cleaning up what is out there is really not feasible, and would likely cause as much harm as good because of all the other small creatures in the ocean that would get filtered out too,” said Law. “So what’s left is hoping that nature break this plastic down over hundreds of years or millenia.”

“Ultimately, we need to prevent adding to what is out there,” she added.

In the meantime, each of us must deliberately reduce the amount of garbage we generate and, in particular, the quantity of disposable plastic that are carelessly being discarded– because the ocean and all of its life forms are suffocating and sickening and so are we.

We have to stop making our oceans our giant toilet bowl. We need the ocean for our survival. “We are the ocean and the ocean is us, without out it we perish, without us it flourishes.”

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Replant, Rethink…Regenerate

By: Master Tim Bell

600 Meters to Life

Watching the Chilean miners being rescued earlier this month, I couldn’t help, being amazed in how quickly the rescue transpired and was carried out with such precision and timing. Let’s face it, these guys were trapped 200 stories below us, in an area well renowned for its frequent rock slides and tricky terrain.

In the early stages of the accident, the notion of rescue seemed a daunting and somewhat improbable undertaking.  So what was it that changed the impossible to the possible? The answer to that question is simple. The precibus, it’s only at the precibus that man truly changes, adapts, and finds solutions to change the impossible to the possible. The accident brought out our best when we were faced with our worst.

I couldn’t help but ponder. If we as a collective people can pool our resources and knowledge together to facilitate a means to free 33 miners that were trapped 600 meters below, what’s stopping us from saving 6,876,400,000 of our fellow brethren, preserving the health of our biosphere and protecting its renewable and nonrenewable resources? We had plenty of lead time, didn’t we? Do you think the miners would venture below if they knew that there was a 99.9% chance they would perish? With those kinds of odds, I think not.

In 1992, 1,700 of the world’s most senior and respected scientists from seventy one countries, including 104 noble prize winners, signed a document called “World Scientists Warning to Humanity”. Here’s an excerpt from their shocking opening statement.

“Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If left unchecked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society…and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.  A great change in our in our stewardship of the earth and life on it, is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided”.

This is a powerfully frightening message, especially considering that scientists of such high stature do not readily make or sign such strongly worded statements.

So if we were warned 18 years ago about the consequences of our actions and their outcome, what’s the holdup?

In a few words, capitalism, free enterprise, the economy, markets, big oil and the government. When it comes down to push and shove, growth of the economy is king in our part of the world, we just had to sacrifice a few minor (major) things (of value), such as air, forests, oceans and our entire ecosystem. No biggie (major big)

A former Canadian Environment Minister once said “We can’t afford to protect the environment, if we don’t have a strong economy”. Huh! Say What! Maybe his title was “Economic Minister”?

Our lives and future existence is absolutely dependent on clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy and biodiversity, without them we will sicken and die. Yet our economy is built on extracting raw materials from the biosphere and pouring toxic wastes back into it. Disregarding nature and her resources is ultimately suicidal.

The tragedy and the opportunity is that if done properly and with respect, many renewable resources can be harvested indefinitely, and many of our nonrenewable resources can be properly managed for years to come.

It’s been said that, it takes 1.3 years to regenerate those renewable resources that we consume in a one year period. At that rate we are in serious jeopardy of squandering even those resources forever.

To put this all in perspective, if we are deprived of air for a few minutes, water for a few days, or food for a few weeks, we perish. Tainted with toxic chemicals those same life supporting elements cause us to sicken and die.

We face a crisis today like no other in human history, it knows no borders or flags and doesn’t care about skin color or religion, every aspect of our planet is interconnected, everything we do effects something or someone else, not only close to home but also on other continents.

Without a doubt this is our precibus, the question is, “Is it our best when we were faced with our worst”, or is it, “At our worst when faced with the opportunity to do our best”.

I think the latter.

By: Master Tim Bell

Little People Gone Mean

Does bullying really exist among pre-school aged children? The answer is a clear and resounding yes.

Bullying has been found to be just as prevalent in younger grades as it is in the older ones, unfortunately there is much less research surrounding it, so there are less programs to address it, and thus less effort made in preventing it.

Children don’t need to be mean to be a bully, they just have to learn that there behavior is rewarding to continue the attacks.

Here’s an example:

Mike would very much like to play with Sarah, Andrew, and Simon. He sometimes asks but usually gets the same answer: they don’t want him. They habitually ignore him or they tell him he is good for nothing. However, sometimes they ask him to join. That’s when they want to play family and need a dog. Dogs do not speak and they have to do everything they are told to. After some 5 minutes Mike usually gets very sad and runs away.

This is neither a conflict nor a playful situation among equal peers. This situation has all the elements of bullying.

  1. A child who the victim  of repeated attacks,
  2. Several children who stay together to help facilitate the bullying
  3. A situation where the victim has no chance to defend themselves.
  4. No intervention from a teacher or parent, because there not sure if they should intervene or not.

Reading, writing, arithmetic, name calling, teasing and pushing, all have something in common. This might surprise you…they are all taught in school, well perhaps only 3 are part of the actual school curriculum, the other 2 are just as prevalent.

Even if a child is not a victim of harassment and bullying chances are that they have witnessed it in some form or another.

For some parents, the topic of bullying seems irrelevant. After all that sweetly dressed 4 year old at the bus stop can’t possibly be a threat, can she? The fact is that bullying can start at any age and pre-schooler’s are no different. It might be as subtle as a push in line to making demands on other children.

In our society today there is a tendency for kids to grow older younger. This could be due to increased peer and social pressure to conform, some parents tend to be there kids BFF (best-friends-forever) instead of the responsible parent or it could be the interfering helicopter parent that is constantly ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.

Anyone one or a combination of the above is a recipe for disaster. Kids tend to bully when they are lacking, structure, guidance or self-esteem in their lives. Bullying is a way for them to take back some control or in some cases emulate what they deem as perfectly acceptable behavior.

Pre-schooler’s, especially young girls are taught at a very young age to act and look mature, what we see is 4 year olds that take on the persona of a 14 year old. Unfortunately having Miley Cyrus & Lady Gaga as your role models doesn’t help much in the high morals or mentoring departments.

Kids are constantly inundated with images of aggression and bad manners, be it through violent video games, movies, music, professional sport or the constant supply of unsavory role models that seem to turn up like weeds.  Kids are taught to believe that Bad Manners + Bad Attitude = Popularity and Acceptance among their peers.

As long as we continue to assume that a sweet looking 4 year old is too young and innocent to be a bully, our perception will continue to be clouded and skewed.

We all know what happens when we assume (ass-u-me).

By: Master Tim Bell

How Black is Your Belt?

No dude, sorry, I’m not talking about the color of the belt holding up your Levis, but the belt revered by martial artists around the world as the mark of excellence, in their respective styles and chosen disciplines.

Now before I go any further, let me reveal to you a little insider secret that may be a bit of a shocker. Every Martial Arts school, system and organization chooses their own arbitrary requirements for Black Belt. There are no universal standards, or government regulations, there never was.  How the criterion is established, who is eligible to test and what the test entails is usually done at the discretion of the individual school and it’s Master Instructor.

Despite the lack uniformity and standardization among the arts, there is one question that seems to be universal, “How much effort and time – mostly time – is required to earn a Black Belt?”

Is 1 year, too short? I’ve heard of some schools that were promoting students to Black Belt in less than a year, these schools are commonly referred to as “McDojangs” or “Diploma Mills.” Run by “Paper Tigers” I even know personally of one instructor that went from White Belt to 4th Dan Black Belt in a little under 7 years. Either way you look at it, it’s too short. Personally I think it cheapens and water downs the art and is frankly, totally disrespectful. It becomes more about the numbers.

Is 10 years, too long? On the flip side, some organizations make their students wait and wait, and wait a little more…This is very common with some arts like Brazilian Jujitsu. Some may argue that it’s just another ploy to collect more tuition fees. Unfortunately this may be true with some unsavory organizations, but realistically in this day and age of instant gratification, waiting 10 years could seem like 10 lifetimes for some, but it would sure create an environment that breeds excellence. This unfortunately, may also cause high attrition, thus very few students achieving Black Belt.

Is 3 to 5 years, just right? The general consensus amongst the Martial Arts community is that closer to 5 years seems to be the accepted norm. I somewhat agree, as long as the perspective student puts in the time and effort to attain proficient basic technique along with a sound knowledge, and a maturity in their art.

Showing up to the dojang sporadically, and putting in the least amount of effort or desire for 5 years, should be not be a free ticket to their Black Belt test.

In the western world attainment of the Black Belt is considered to be the mastery of one’s art, in reality, it’s the mastery of not the art, but the mastery of the basics. The road to mastery truly begins at Black Belt.

We’ve been brainwashed, be it through, Hollywood hype or by the Martial Arts industry itself, to believe that the belt is the goal. Here’s a little tidbit of history, the Martial Arts belt system was developed out of necessity, to help make the arts more socially acceptable, by giving them structure and uniformity. Martial Arts may be 1000’s of years old but the belt system itself has only been around, for less than 100.

For the serious student, their Martial Arts training becomes a way of life, both inside and outside the dojang, be it through its high standards of protocol and its intrinsic values or the valuable life lessons learned. The training transcends the physical belt rank. Becoming a Black Belt starts from the inside, out, regardless of the posted time to rank.

Becoming a Black Belt happens in its own time not the clocks.

Regardless of the time required or the belt level achieved, the path to excellence is not in the attainment of rank, the path and the journey are the goal, and excellence is the reward.

If all you want is a Black Belt in the shortest time possible please do us all a huge favor and head down to your local Big Box Store, I heard that they sell them really cheap, and not just in black.

Once you understand, you are on the path.

By: Master Tim Bell

8 Ways Your Child Can Defeat The Bully Without Violence

Bullying has always been a part of growing up. But how a child deals with it and the repercussions of dealing with bullying have changed dramatically.

Incidences of bullying vary in severity.  One thing that’s certain is repeated attacks whether verbal, physical, written, or on the internet erode your child’s fragile self-esteem.  The CDC linked bullying to isolation, drug use, violence, and suicide!  But your child does not have to be a victim. Follow these tips…

Use The Secret Word to Stop Bullying Before it Starts

The assault can be verbal or physical, either way the first line of defense remains the same. It’s one word… Confidence!  Here’s why; Bullies choose their victims much like a criminal would choose a victim. They go for the easy and obvious target.  So if your child looks like a kid who will get bullied, guess what, they’re going to get bullied.  On the other hand if your child radiates self-confidence they are less likely to be a victim, it’s almost that simple!

Body Language is Key

Your child needs to walk with their head up; their shoulders square, and make eye contact with people.  Just doing so, even if your child needs work on their self-esteem, will keep bullies away from them. This is easier said than done, but it can be learned. So having them change their body language (what they are saying non-verbally) will have a huge impact.  Teaching this can serve as a quick fix. However, going to work on their self-confidence will have a greater long-term effect on keeping bullies away.

Embrace Your Role

Children get their first layer of self-confidence from parents.  The love you show your child and the time you spend with them gives them their feelings of self-worth.  It has been said that the number one role of parenting is to develop a self-confident individual.

Speaking Up

Teach your child how to speak up clearly when they first meet someone.  Teach them the importance of making eye-contact when they talk to you.  Get them out of their comfort zone and have them explore new things.  The more you have them confront fear and discomfort the more confident they will become.

The first few tips are meant to stop bullying before it starts. Now here’s what your child can do if the bully chooses them…

Create A Boundary When Confronted By A Bully

The next layer of defense is to create a boundary.  Children can protect themselves with an assertive body posture: Feet apart a little, one foot in front, shoulders square, chin up, eye contact, and most importantly, hands up as if making a “Stop” Gesture!  We call this our self-defense stance.  Its purpose is to communicate neutrality, awareness and, assertiveness. This stance is designed to get them out of trouble.

Using Words Properly

Finally, your child will have to use their words.  Simple phrases and commands said in an assertive voice will tell the bully that they will not be a victim.  Simple commands like; “Stop, Back Off, Back Away!” Said in the right tone will stop the bully in his tracks!

Safe Self-Defense

Of course if none of the above works (and the truth is nothing works every time) then your child will have to defend themselves. But only if and when their safety is threatened.

Defeating the Cyber-Bully

Don’t Give Cyber-Bullies Ammunition

Text messaging and social network sites open up a whole new avenue for bullies. Sit down with your child and be sure they understand not to give the bullies any ammunition. Make them aware the minute they text someone or send an email those words can be taken out of context or used against them. Absolutely under no circumstances should your child ever send inappropriate photos of themselves or allow anyone else to take photos that go against good judgment.

Cyber-bullying can be stopped with confidence and respect just like physical bullying.

As you can see dealing with a bully has its challenges. There is no one way that works every time. However, when your child develops high levels of self-esteem and self-confidence a bully’s words or actions will roll off them like water off a duck’s back

By: Master Tim Bell

Is 10 Today’s New 40?

To get right to the point, today’s youth a getting fatter! Whether it’s because of playing too many video games, lack of exercise, poor eating habits or a combination of all, one thing is for certain our youth are getting rounder.

In Canada, in just the last 2 decades, childhood obesity rates have steadily climbed to over 300% Yikes!

What does this mean for Canadian youth?

For starters, they face a coming epidemic of increased cardiovascular disease, and other obesity related diseases, that will strike them at a much earlier age, than any previous generation that came before them.

One study in the U.S. found that the arteries of obese youth were prematurely aged. The blood vessels of the test group had a vesicular age of 30 years older than there chronological age.

We thought that our health system was in crisis now, baby! We haven’t seen anything yet. With the rise in obesity related diseases cumulated with an aging baby boomer generation, the system to say the least will be hanging on by a thread.

Nothing short of a major cultural change is needed to turn things around, kids need to get more active, and make regular activity a permanent part of their lives, not just a sideline.

In Nova Scotia, only 10% of elementary school aged kids get their daily recommended amount of exercise, that number falls even further once they reach high school age and beyond.

Due to the earlier onset of diabetes, cardiovascular and other illnesses due to obesity, this generation will be the first to live shorter lives than their predecessors. In this age of technological, scientific and medical advancements, that help extend our lives, this is appalling.

Trying to bring about that cultural change, getting our youth more active is easier said than done. We live in an age of excess, over consumption and ease of use.  Youth today are more likely to grab their PS2 or X-Box, than to get up and get moving. It’s a tough sell.

If we don’t address these issues NOW! Later on down the road, much sooner than later, it will carry a tearful cost, both financially and in our youth’s health.

Is inactivity really worth the price?

By: Master Tim Bell