Preparations for the New Year begin as self-reflection and determination of future goals come to mind. Ultimately we might ask: "How do I improve upon myself?".
Viran Ranasinghe has meditated on these words many times. As the founder of Kaizen Karate, Viran or “Coach V,” has made it his mission to teach his students how to build a stronger sense of self.
While studying business at the University of Maryland, Viran was introduced to the concept of kaizen – a Japanese term meaning positive change. The philosophy was originally implemented by American forces in Japan following World War II, in hopes of rebuilding industry. Today, businesses in multiple industries utilize kaizen’s focus on continuous improvement and encouragement.
“I remember the day in class when we read that term. I knew when I saw the name that was me,” V recalls. He expresses a passion for teaching, claiming success with his own tutelage in the martial arts is what drove him to form Kaizen Karate.
The staff is comprised of male and female instructors who have been trained in a variety of forms. While they all share a love of martial arts, Coach V and his team view their instruction as more than a job, but a developmental process. While he understands some coaches use negative reinforcement, Viran believes positive pressure transforms behaviors. He compares his methods to the use of a crock-pot. While a microwave warms food faster, the crock-pot produces a tender, cared-for meal. Translation: Students are nurtured to achieve their full potential. In fact, parents often take the time to express their gratitude.
“It would be incorrect that I should get all this praise,” V says. “I was a student who wanted to be taught. I had a teacher and they had a teacher, and so on. [The art is] there to make people better in every single way. You pass on what you know and try to teach it to the best of your understanding, with your ideas and creativity in mind. It’s a position of responsibility that you have to continuously improve upon.”
Viran also raises a valid point – our culture’s obsession with being “Number 1” and the constant seeking of faults in others. The martial arts challenge this manner of thinking by providing discipline, the ultimate competition with one-self. “Any instructor who thinks they're done improving is delusional,” he claims, going on to say the time one needs such discipline the most is after gaining a success.
While students gather from a myriad of backgrounds, it is not uncommon that their journey within the arts stemmed from unfavorable events. Individuals who have been bullied, or victims of violent crime, tend to develop an interest in protection methods after a frightening experience. Massive repetition of simple kicks, punches and blocks teaches students to anticipate and react appropriately to an attack, without using a weapon.
Another benefit of enrollment for many younger students is the presence of positive male role models. Coach V praises his team’s ability to inspire students with uplifting words, often helping them avoid harmful activities relating to drug use and gangs.
Reflecting on his position, Viran recalls words spoken by basketball star Julius Erving. “Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.’ To me that quote encapsulates being a black-belt. If you apply that to school, work or relationships, it will take you a long way and put you at peace with yourself,” V asserts.
Those compelled to initiate personal transformation within the martial arts forum are invited to view the programs listed on the Kaizen Karate website.