July 26

An Open Letter to Metamora Martial Arts

Metamora Martial Arts karate-ka, family and friends,

For more than 10 years, with no off-season, Metamora Martial Arts instructors have provided quality self-defense lessons to students in the area. In fact, in 2008, Black Belt Magazine awarded Metamora Martial Arts as the Best Children’s Program in the United States. Our instructors have a wide array of martial arts experience, incorporating lessons learned in weapons, Chinese arts and Korean arts. Our students have taken numerous championships at the local level, and they’ve even taken home the hardware at competitions with worldwide notoriety.

As part of the celebration of our 10th anniversary earlier this year, our founder, Sensei Joe Chianakas, installed me as the director of Metamora Martial Arts. I have consulted with Mr. Chianakas and our senior instructor, Mr. David Hawkey, since that time about how to improve our program; expose our students to more friendly competition, knowledge and ideas; and how to ensure our students are getting top-quality instruction. Despite these efforts, we have noticed a decrease in student engagement and class attendance.

We believe it’s best to take some time to regroup.

After months of lengthy conversations with both Mr. Chianakas and Mr. Hawkey, I have decided it is in the best interest of the program to put all classes for the fall on hiatus. This means we will have no classes at Metamora Township High School, Riverview Grade School, Germantown Hills Middle School, or Metamora Grade School. All instructors will be communicating in the coming months about the best plan to go forward. We are targeting a tentative return date of January 2013.

Our last class this summer is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 2.

As we discuss the best way to proceed, we would like to hear from you. Let us know how you feel and what you want to see from us in the future. It’s the enthusiasm of students and parents that have kept this program strong. Your enthusiasm and participation are vital to the success of our program.

Please contact me at adam@metamoramartialarts.com with your thoughts. If you would like to speak with me via phone, please email me first so that we can set up a time to discuss.

I firmly believe the martial arts have a place in Metamora. We’ve proven it year after year for the past 10 years. Please be patient as we evaluate our options.


February 26

Looking Back at 10 Years of Metamora Martial Arts: A Slideshow

Ahead of last night’s 10th Anniversary Celebration, I threw together a slideshow of around 150 pictures from the past 10 years.

It’s incredible to look back and see how our program has grown in that time, both in terms of how many people we’ve had and how many places we’ve visited.

I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

Do you see yourself in this video? Leave a comment here or on our YouTube page, like this video, and subscribe to our channel to get new updates!

January 2

January 2012 newsletter

Hello, everyone, and happy 2012 from all of us at Metamora Martial Arts!

This is the first in a series of new monthly newsletters to update students, families and friends of the program what we’re up to. This month’s newsletter will be longer than most due to the amount of material that I feel needs to be addressed as we start another year (our tenth!). While you’ll only receive one newsletter each month, you’ll receive periodic emails relating to policies (see below), events and more.

This month’s edition serves as a guide as to who we are and where we’re headed in 2012. In the future, I’ll try to write more columns or opinion pieces as opposed to housekeeping items.

Who we are

Since we’ve only sent out less than a handful of emails between the end of 2010 and now, I wanted to reintroduce Metamora Martial Arts.

We are an after-school karate program that is free for high school students and available at a minimal cost for all other students. In addition to Metamora High School, our grade school locations are in Germantown (GHMS) and Spring Bay (Riverview). Because we are not a full-time business, you’ll never have to deal with the hassle of contracts. We just want to provide a fun environment in which students can learn self-defense moves safely.

Joe Chianakas founded the program in 2002. Mr. C is a former English teacher who now teaches communication classes full-time at Illinois Central College.

I’m Adam Bockler, a second-degree black belt. I’ve been involved with the program since 2003, teaching the 3:30-4:30 class on Thursdays for the past semester. I’ll be the one writing these newsletters and I’m available for any and all questions or answers at the email address with which I’m sending this message. Please don’t hesitate to email. It is the best way to get in contact with me.

As you may have noticed, we’ve undergone some structural changes this semester, though we have regrouped and each instructor has added responsibilities with the hope that we’ll all be able to maximize our efforts for the program. Mr. Chianakas will be discussing these plans with his instructors soon as we move forward.

If you or your child is not active in the program anymore and you don’t wish to receive these emails, there is a link near the end of this email giving you the option to opt out.

Our class schedule can be viewed on our website: http://metamoramartialarts.com/blog/classes

Review of policies

As of now, Mr. Chianakas and the rest of the instructors are still finalizing policies for students earning a PE waiver, how promotions will be handled, and what we’ll do about student absences. Hard copies will be sent home with students. It’s likely we’ll send out a newsletter and announce it online.

Program goals

The most important thing students can do is review what they’ve learned in class at home. We make mention that students can achieve their black belt by the time they’re seniors, but that only comes with lots of practice outside of class. We can teach the material, but it is up to the student to keep reviewing to make sure the information is still remembered. Please make sure you or your student is putting in a good amount of training at home.

Our goal as a martial arts program is to attend more tournaments this year. I know of at least two this spring that are great – one in Springfield and one in Moline. Tournaments run anywhere from about $40 to $70, after all fees (and gas) are paid for. Please start saving now! We’ll get you and your student ready for these. Tournaments are lots of fun and a great way to see what other martial artists are doing. As you head for black belt, it’s important to know what else is out there. I will be doing research and posting any information I receive on our Facebook page and our website.

We’re also going to do more social gatherings. If you have an idea, please let us know. Many of you may watch the UFC, so we could try to head to a restaurant that’s airing a pay-per-view event. I’m not sure of any martial arts-related movies coming out in 2012, but I’m sure there are several. Please keep your eyes peeled and let us know what you’d like to do.

Finally, in May, I’d like to do two things – group pictures and an awards ceremony/potluck. More details will come on dates and such, but I want to make sure these happen. They’ll probably be on Thursdays toward the end of May.

Advanced belt stripe review Jan. 12

On Thursday, Jan. 12, Mr. Chianakas will be testing purple, brown and red belts at MTHS. Before we went on break, I had tested blue and under and promised you all that Mr. C would make a class to test you. This is your chance. Please be ready. If you feel you are missing something, please make sure you are at all classes prior to make sure you can talk with an instructor about what you need. You’ll be reviewing until then.

Help Metamora Martial Arts turn 10!

Our 10-year anniversary is this February. As such, I’m looking for all former and inactive members of the program to reach out to me by replying to this message with a valid email address.

More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Like us and follow us

Like Metamora Martial Arts on Facebook – http://facebook.com/metamoramartialarts

Follow us on Twitter @metamorama.

Find us on YouTube – http://youtube.com/metamoramartialarts

We have different content on all of our social networks. Please make sure to check us out!

Quote of the month

The Alchemist book coverSometimes, you just can’t hold back the river.” -Paulo Coelho

To celebrate winter break, I delved into The Alchemist, a book Mr. C bought for his martial artists several years ago. I found it a great read at this stage in my life, having just graduated and with a full-time job ahead of me. Not only was this quote inspiring to me personally, but I really think it’s fitting as Metamora Martial Arts heads into 2012.

October 11

Learning in the 21st Century

Tomorrow night, I am honored to be the keynote speaker for one of the college’s honorary societies. As I have been writing my speech, I realized I miss the moments of “circle time” with my karate-ka, where I tried to pass on similar bits of wisdom. I hope you will take a look at the following excerpt from my speech, spend some time thinking about it, and ask some questions. It’s always ok to disagree, and I anticipate some disagreement, especially with my little rant on technology and focus. Give it a read, especially you high school students and young college students, and then let me know: What do you think?

My job is to encourage you to fulfill your potential, here and wherever your life may take you in the future. We live in a very different time, a time when- let’s be honest- the best careers are more and more competitive. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but after teaching for more than a decade, I can tell you for sure some things in life you absolutely need to have to succeed- now more so than ever. The main things I wish to talk about today that I would argue are important issues in 21st century learning and in 21st century success are our abilities to focus, our attitudes, and our creativity.

Let’s start with focus. What do we mean by focus?

First, ask yourself if you have the ability to simply sit, listen, think, and absorb information without distraction for a long period of time. How long can you make it before you check your cell phone? Or start thinking about dinner or your favorite television show you’re missing? We live in a world of 24-7 technological stimulation. I don’t mean to criticize it; I love technology. But I firmly believe living in a technological world also requires that we install a mental cut-off switch in our own minds.

That means we must be able to turn off the technology. Silence the cell phone. Not check it every five seconds. Or check Facebook every five seconds. I tell my students in the classroom to completely silence or turn off their cell phones. It’s not just about being a responsible audience member; it’s about practicing that mental cut-off. Our brains are becoming hard-wired to alerts and vibrations, so much so that the term “phantom vibration” was coined because of the plethora of people who feel imaginary phone vibrations.

Silencing your cell phone is an intentional act you can do to put yourself in charge of your life once again. We are no longer using technology simply as a tool; we are becoming the tools technology uses. So when I teach and when I’m at lunch with colleagues or friends, unless there is an emergency, my phone is on silent. Sure, I may miss messages and calls, but I am in control as to when I am available, and if you make this simple change—silence the phone when you are out to dinner, in class, at work—I promise you that you will find an oddly refreshing view on life: one that puts you back in control of your time and your attention.

The reason I talk about focus is that the ability to focus enhances your interpersonal skills. As a communication teacher, I see more students now than ever who experience a tremendous amount of stage fright. I’ve had students call me from their cars. They were parked in the parking lot, throwing up. Although I empathize for them- I really do- I wonder if it is not the increase in technology that weakens their ability to speak in front of people. Think about it: before cell phones and Facebook, being scared to talk to other people was a natural coming of age event. I had to ask girls out- whether to a dance or a date- in person. And I had to break up with them in person too. Now, kids text. They deal with conflict through text messaging. They ask each other out and even break up with one another with a text. Why? Because it is easier. But let me tell you all this: it’s confronting your fears and your conflicts in person that makes you stronger and gives you more ability to focus.

We have kindergartners entering school with cell phones today. As future parents, this is an incredibly important issue to consider. If you lose your interpersonal skills and your ability to deal with conflict, how will you succeed at a job interview? How will advance in your career?

Trust me. Silence the darn cell phones.

Perhaps more importantly, focusing also enhances our ability to think. When we focus fully on those around us- from our friends to our teachers- we absorb more information. I’ve always believed that intelligence isn’t reflected by the answers you can give but rather by the questions you ask. When we’re distracted, we are not focusing. If we are not focusing, we cannot think as deeply about the information we’re presented.

After the information has been presented, whether it is in a class or a story from a friend, ask yourself, “What do I think about that?” I’ve always thought that’s the best question a teacher can ask a student after a lesson. “So what do you think about all of that?” Even if a student has been listening, often times the responses will be a few words, and the worst words are “I don’t know.”

In fact, think about a lesson you had today in one of your classes. First, how much can you remember about the lesson? Second, what do you really think about the lesson? What did you learn? Was it meaningful?

This inner dialogue is your responsibility. You must learn to do it for every class, and when it comes to the family and friends you care about, you need to be able to deeply focus on them as well.

The ability to focus and the ability to ask questions also lead to engagement. A CEO of a major engineering firm was asked what he looks for the most in job candidates. The CEO said the first thing he looks for is the ability to ask questions. Surprised, some people may wonder, “Don’t you want them to have the technical expertise to master the job?” The CEO’s response: “You won’t know everything, no matter how good your education. I need to know that you can ask questions. If you can ask questions, then you can engage in active participation with your co-workers. It’s that engagement and that active participation that will teach you what you need to know do to the job well.”

An additional piece of advice I encountered is that if you want to be successful, make sure you are “cultivating skills and knowledge that are not available at a cheaper price in other countries or that cannot be rendered useless by machines.”

One thing that will always be needed, one thing that will always make you more valuable than machines: your ability to think, listen, communicate effectively, and ask questions.

And I would argue that these skills begin with your ability to focus.

The second element that I wish to discuss tonight is attitude.

In our communication classes, we talk about how attitude has three primary components: a logical component, an emotional component, and a behavioral component. Basically, attitude means what you think about something, what you feel about something, and what you do about something.

I encountered a formula for finding one’s passion in life in a book called the Element by Sir Ken Robinson. His formula, which I am going to connect to attitude, is “I get it, I love it, I want it, where is it.”

The first part of attitude deals with logic. When it comes to finding success and passion in life, I want you to think logically: What are you good at? What do you get? What do you understand?

Robinson writes, “Our aptitudes are highly personal. They may be for general types of activity, like math, music, sport, poetry, or political theory. They can also be highly specific—not music in general but jazz or rap. Not wind instruments in general, but the flute. Not science, but biochemistry. Not track and field, but the long jump.”

So what are the things you understand or are good at doing? What would it be logical for you to do with your life?

The second part of attitude deals with our emotion. In terms of finding our personal passions, you have to ask yourself: what do you love to do? Certainly, we will not love everything that we are good at doing, and we may love some things that we do not think we are all that good at doing. Robinson shares a fascinating story about his brother, who is a musician.

Robinson writes:

“I told Charles [his brother] how well I thought he played keyboards. Then I said I’d love to play keyboards that well. ‘No you wouldn’t,’ he responded. Taken aback, I insisted that I really would. ‘No,’ he said. ‘You mean you like the idea of playing keyboards. If you’d love to the play them, you’d be doing it.’ He said that to play as well as he did, he practiced every day for three or four hours in addition to performing. He’d been doing that for seven years. Suddenly playing keyboards as well as Charles did didn’t seem that appealing. I asked him how he kept up with that level of discipline. He said, ‘Because I love it.’ He couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

So what do you love to do?

The third part of attitude is our behavior. In communication studies, we argue that the behavioral part of attitude is determined by a combination of our logical and emotional parts. Similarly, I find that our career passions are also determined by a combination of what we are good at—what we should logically do—and what we love to do.

The third part of Robinson’s formula for finding passion is “I want it.” In other words, you first find what you are good at, then you find what you love to do, and then you must have an even stronger, more enthusiastic attitude of wanting and desiring that particular passion.

So what do you really want out of life? Is there something that you love to do and are good at that you are willing to put in hours and hours of time to master?

Finally, Robinson asks, “Where is it?” Once we know what we are good at, what we love, and what we want, we must then ask, “Where is it?” Where are the opportunities? What will you have to do in order to find it?

So where will you have to go and what will you have to do in order to make what you want to happen actually happen?
Robinson’s formula for finding personal passion: “I get it. I love it. I want it. Where is it?”

In addition to focus and attitude, I also wish to discuss creativity.

Let’s define creativity as the ability and the passion to create new things and adapt to new situations.

There’s a story I heard from a science teacher who asked her students to observe something under a microscope and tell her what they saw. She was frustrated because the students couldn’t describe what they saw. Instead, they asked, “Can’t you just tell us what we’re supposed to be looking for?”

The creative mind doesn’t need something specific to look for; the creative mind describes what it sees. But this is hard for students who come from a world of standardized testing, students who have been taught to think in multiple choice, students who are told what they need to know and look for in every class.

Real success—something more important than that ACT you took in high school—isn’t about selecting the correct answer on a standardized test. It’s about being able to explain your reasoning as to why you selected certain answers. Your ability to apply knowledge to new situations will determine your success in college, not your ability to take a multiple choice test.

We hear the term “adaptability” a lot, and that’s why I like that this definition of creativity we are using includes the ability to adapt to new situations. By the time you graduate college, technology will have changed. Will you be able to adapt?

Lastly, creativity—and ultimately your success in college and beyond—relies on your ability to be curious. Curiosity will trigger the questions that guide learning. Curiosity will keep you motivated. But unfortunately, the public school system you went through as a young person often kills curiosity. It is of no fault of the hundreds of wonderful teachers out there. Think about this: if your success and intelligence is determined by how much knowledge you can retain, then you focus on memorization. If education is dominated by memorization, then we have effectively destroyed creativity, curiosity, and exploration.

The same science teacher I previously quoted also said, “If you want to encourage young people to be scientists, it’s not how much they can retain but how much they can explore.”

So I encourage you to explore. Explore the library. Spend your free time browsing shelves just to see what you will find. Take electives outside of your major. Learn to love learning again.

Remember what it was like as a kindergartner? We all looked forward to school, didn’t we? We were excited. We hugged our teachers and we longed for the first day of school at the end of long summers. As the years passed, however, something happened, didn’t it? What happened? We lost our love of learning.

Now, in college, where you have the freedom to explore your passions, learn to love learning again. If you love learning, it is easy to be successful.

September 18

Where are they now? Jessica Duffy, Metamora’s fourth black belt, checks in

For this installment of “Where are they now?”, we feature our fourth black belt from the Metamora Martial Arts program, Miss Jessica Duffy. In this “Where are they now?” article, Jes gives us an update on her life experiences post-martial arts.

When looking back at my experiences in the club and while training, it is not the intensity of the workout or physical injuries that I remember the most – although I will never forget my black eye.

Jessica Duffy, 2006 MTHS graduate

One of the most valued experiences I took away was the sense of camaraderie that I felt with my fellow students. Although there were some times when we did not get along, we were a team in every sense of the word.

Whenever we were at a tournament we cheered the loudest and at that moment we were our competitor’s biggest fans. The time we spent on bus rides to tournaments and seminars helped to cement our bonds to each other and let us get to know each other as people as well as classmates. I still keep in contact with many of my former fellow students and still maintain those friendships that formed almost eight years ago.

College for me was a little different. I started out at ICC for two years and then transferred to Valparaiso University in Indiana. However, the actual student experience was a little different than the campus tour promised it would be, so I transferred back to Bradley University after one semester. While at Bradley, I joined Kappa Delta Sorority and Habitat for Humanity.

My sorority experience was amazing. I know there’s a saying that people do not want to have to pay for their friends and that sorority girls are just vapid narcissists, but it was not like that at all. My favorite part was the philanthropy work we did around Peoria, which included adopting a Girl Scout troop and helping them complete their badges.

In Habitat, we went on spring break trips to build houses in Albany, Ga., and the greater Miami area. Talking with the volunteers and future home owners really helped to open my eyes to the extreme conditions that they had seen, including a family that had not had a home of their own since Hurricane Katrina.

These experiences have stayed with me and have helped me to become more aware of similar situations here in Peoria and Normal.

In May 2010, I graduated from Bradley University with a bachelor of science degree in Marketing.

Jessica Duffy, Mr. Chianakas and Thomas Deters at the 2005 US Open

Jessica Duffy, Mr. Chianakas and Thomas Deters at the 2005 US Open in Orlando, Fla.

I would like to say that choosing and staying with my major was easy. However, I did fall into the statistic that says a college student will change his or her major three to four times during their college experience. If I could advise current high school juniors and seniors about anything college-related, it would be that you should choose a major in a subject you love, not one that you think will cookie-cutter you into the perfect job – unless you are going to be a doctor or an accountant…that’s different. I chose a major that I thought I had to do and if I could do it over again I would have chosen differently.

A major is something you identify yourself with your entire life, not just the four years where it seems to consume your

life. While I lived and breathed advertisements, focus groups and statistics research in college, I would have rather been thinking about events in history and art and the permanent marks they have left in the culture of mankind.

Also, for all those who complain about how they do not want the slacker in a group project to bring down their grade, the team aspect you learn does in fact come in handy later in life. That is probably the best thing I learned at college and I use it almost every day.

I did not get a “real” job right after college and I still do not have one. After working at a coffee café during the summer, I started work as a resident supervisor for a sorority at Illinois State University. This experience was very profound for me personally in that it showed me what I don’t want in life. It is very easy to think of the things we want in life but rarely do we realize what we don’t want in life until something opens our eyes. While the work was easy, I could not stay in a job where I was not able to be myself.

A few weeks ago I wrote an email to my boss, essentially telling her, “Thank you for the opportunity but I can’t do it.” Pressing the send button was one of the most liberating feelings of my life. I think that after college you have to do jobs you might not especially like, but not at the expense of sacrificing yourself.

I currently work at Eastland Mall for American Eagle Outfitters and ULTA Beauty, though I am still very active in my search for the elusive full-time job. I am a member of the alumnae association of Kappa Delta Sorority for the Bloomington/Normal area.

(Note from Adam: Jes told that since she wrote this article, she has found that full-time job as an assistant manager at American Eagle.)

I look forward to moving back to the Peoria area very soon and the new opportunities this might bring.

Ms. Duffy graduated MTHS in 2006 with her 1st-degree black belt. She also trained briefly in Shotokan karate at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Jessica brought a lot of fun and energy to our program, traveling with us to Japan in 2003. She was a fierce competitor during her high school career.