A Chance Encounter

As Ashleigh and I wrangled our kids down an escalator at Oak Park Mall, heading in the opposite direction I saw an old familiar face from the “early days” of Olathe Karate Academy.  “Wait…wait…I’ll come back down!”  It is not uncommon for us to run across old students or family members, but on this day (after a few hours at the mall) I was not really in the mood for a “stop and chat”. However, as this elated father of a very fine former student reached out his hands toward my outstretched hand, I felt a certain warmth outpouring.  His now almost 20 year old son, Andrew, had started training with me nearly a decade ago.  Now a sophomore in college, I was definitely speaking with one proud father.  He filled me in on recent activities and accomplishments, but what happened next took me by surprise. Among the words of praise for his son, he choked up about how influential the martial arts had been in his development.  “More than kicking and punching…you taught Andrew to think and I can not thank you enough.”  We conversed a bit longer, said our goodbyes and headed on our way.

This encounter might not have had such an impact on me, but for the fact that the evening prior I celebrated the promotion of fifteen of the finest Olathe Karate Academy students.  Friends and family gathered to honor the hard work and dedication demonstrated by all.  Dinner was enjoyed, promotions were awarded, speeches were given and tears were shed.  It was a great evening.

A black belt test tends to bring out the best in everyone and emotions run high.  I was humbled by the kind words of many as to the impact Olathe Karate Academy had in their lives.  However, it was not until my chance encounter the next day that I truly realized that the many speeches of the previous evening were not simply due to the moment.  Lives have truly been impacted and changed.  I suppose in the day to day grind, I sometimes forget this.  Many students come and go.  Such is the curse for a business owner/instructor.  Time and energy is devoted and then the student is gone and it seems that it was all for nothing.  However, this weekend has reminded me that the fruit of many might simply need longer to harvest.  Wether I am there to see it or not is rather inconsequential. The strength and perseverance of character that Olathe Karate Academy strives to instill in its students truly does matter.   The martial arts is not just another sport.  It is a way or path that can affect every other aspect of life.

I am grateful to my long-time instructor and the other master instructors he has introduced to me as an influence in my life. They have all shaped the “spirit” of the Olathe Karate Academy. Our dojo would not be the school that it is today without traditional and fundamental aspects of the martial arts at its core.

Congratulations to all that received a promotion this weekend.  I am grateful to each and every one of my students and honored to be called their instructor.  And so our path continues.  We will again set goals, persevere and succeed.


James R. Palmer, Kyoshi

If you think you can!

“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

-Zig Ziglar

2015 is upon us!  As the new year begins, so do New Year’s resolutions, goals and dreams.  These great words by Zig Ziglar are hard to beat. So simple, yet so true.

As my class lined up yesterday to practice breaking techniques on re-breakable boards of various difficulties, it was very interesting to see this concept of believing in oneself.  From five year olds to fifty year olds, those who believed they could succeed more than likely did succeed.  Obviously, there are many aspects to striking a board correctly and successfully  breaking it, but belief that it is possible must be at the heart of it all to drive the student to improve on all of the physical and technical aspects needed.  This is one of many truths that traditional martial arts teaches and I am honored to lead a school and be part of organization solid in these fundamentals!

So as the year begins and we renew our goals and dreams, belief that we can must be our mantra.  We can reach our physical goals, we can reach our intellectual goals, we can reach our family goals, we can reach our social goals, we can reach our financial goals, we can reach our career goals, we can reach our spiritual goals!  Will we always succeed?  Of course not, but believe in yourself and you might be surprised at what is possible.

Happy New Year!


James R. Palmer, Kysohi

Budo vs. Bujutsu

Budō is a compound of the root bu, meaning war or martial; and dō, meaning path or way. Specifically, dō is derived from the Buddhist Sanskrit mārga (meaning “path”). The term refers to the idea of formulating propositions, subjecting them to philosophical critique and then following a ‘path’ to realize them.  Dō signifies a “way of life”. Dō in the Japanese context, is an experiential term, experiential in the sense that practice (the way of life) is the norm to verify the validity of the discipline cultivated through a given art form. The modern budō has no external enemy, only the internal enemy, one’s ego that must be fought.

Similarly to budō, bujutsu is a compound of the roots bu, and jutsu, meaning technique. Thus, budō is translated as “martial way”, or “the way of war” while bujutsuis translated as “science of war” or “martial craft.” However, both budō and bujutsu are used interchangeably in English with the term “martial arts”. Budo and bujutsu have quite a delicate difference; whereas bujutsu only gives attention to the physical part of fighting (how to best defeat an enemy), budo also gives attention to the mind and how one should develop oneself.

I take no credit for the text above, it was simply taken from our good friend Wikipedia.  Nonetheless, the words ring of truth for the traditional martial artist.  Recent events in my life have reminded me of these concepts and the delicate balance that I try to maintain in my dojo between that of budo and bujutsu.

So many martial arts schools lose sight of Budo and solely focus on Bujutsu.  Both are obviously important, but the delicate difference can not be lost for true longevity in the arts.  Claiming to be the best kicker around, the ultimate fighter to be beat, the toughest grappler, striker, etc..is simply an immature approach to the true martial spirit.  There will always be an opponent bigger, faster and stronger.  And the opponent that shall never be defeated by any karateka is that of time.  Time shall see no defeat and we will all eventually fall to her unrelenting pursuit.

This past Thursday we hosted our monthly rank promotion test/ceremony.  This was a smaller test than usual for our school, but large in spirit and heart.  All of the students eligible for promotion did an excellence job relative to their age, rank and experience.  However, one of my students showed loyalty toward our group of testing karatekas in a way that demonstrated the true strength of our extended martial arts family.  Coming directly from the hospital after a two to three hour surgery (under anesthesia), this black belt showed true Budo spirit by being in attendance for her fellow students.  Her faithfulness, loyalty and support was truly inspiring.

“The greater the loyalty of a group toward the group, the greater is the motivation among the members to achieve the goals of the group, and the greater the probability that the group will achieve its goals.”

—Rensis Likert


James R. Palmer, Kyoshi

Price of Success!

“I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.”

-Frank Lloyd Wright

Today is a good day.  Fifteen years ago, Olathe Karate Academy officially opened its doors, opened its mat and opened itself to the instruction of traditional martial arts.  Many students have come and gone since those early days, but the mission remains.  Instilling the core principles and values of success are a fundamental aspect to the dojo.  I was reminded of that today.

Hanshi Dan Kennedy hosted the bi-annual USKK Elite Martial Arts Tournament today.  As I watched all of the competitors, I was pleased to be a part of an event not only promoting good competition, but also good sportsmanship and respect.  Although everyone can not come away with “The Gold”, everyone should be reminded of the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.

The things you want to see happen…this might be the most interesting part of this concept of success.  Many people have the dedication, do the hard work and possess unremitting devotion.  However, is their vision clear as to what they want to see happen?  The martial artist uses the word “focus” in many ways and it is perhaps the most fundamental concept for success in the dojo.  Focus of the mind both internally and externally, focus of technique, focus of your opponent, focus of the situation, etc.   And as is always true with traditional concepts of the martial arts, the lesson is transferred to day-to-day living.  It would appear that clear vision (focus) of what you want to see happen is what fuels a person to have true dedication, to do the hard work and maintain unremitting devotion leading to success.

I was proud of everyone today.  Proud of students.  Proud of instructors.  Proud of supportive friends and family.  Regardless of the standings, competing in and of itself was a success.

I am proud of Olathe Karate Academy.  I am proud of my wife and business partner.  I am proud of my team of instructors.  I am proud of all of my students from white to black and more so honored that you choose OKA as your home.  An extended family we are!

Congratulations on 15 incredible years.  What do we want to see happen in the next fifteen?!?


James R. Palmer, Kyoshi

A Great Experience

If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that.  Word of mouth is very powerful.”

-Jeff Bezos

In three days Olathe Karate Academy will celebrate fifteen years of serving its community.  Fifteen years!  When I think back to that day when the ribbon was cut and the doors officially were opened, it is hard to imagine all that has transpired since.  Owning and operating a small business is not an easy task, but I am blessed to have had the opportunity.  I have witnessed the ebb and flow of gaining new students, seen many come and go, developed meaningful friendships and even met the love of my life in these past fifteen years.  I have had the joy of bringing children into this crazy world of ours and witnessed the circle of life first hand with the passing of my parents.  Life is definitely not a snapshot, but rather a filmstrip that for one thing never stays the same.

Along my path of running a business and pursuing my own growth in the martial arts, there have been many ups and downs.  Some days have been better than others and I have made more mistakes than I care to admit.  All along the journey, I have had to remind myself that failure doesn’t come from falling down, failure comes from not getting up.  Anyone who has trained in the martial arts long enough knows this lesson first hand!

In the end, I have always tried to create a great experience for my students and I am thankful for each and every one of them…old and new.  Advertising is a necessity of all businesses, but no advertising compares to a friend telling another friend of a great experience.  Small businesses are the backbone of our society and when we are served well, sharing that experience is priceless to the growth of our community.

So, as the next chapter begins I am reminded of the many incredible people that have helped Olathe Karate Academy since the early days.  I am grateful to all of the kind words that have helped OKA succeed in the past fifteen years and I look forward to the next fifteen.  The filmstrip plays on and I am excited to see how the story unfolds!

Paying a Price

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work.  Hard work is the price we must pay for success.  I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.”

-Vince Lombardi

After a great few weeks of promotions from my littlest “Karate Kubs” to my senior black belts, I thought this quote from Vince Lombardi was quite appropriate.  The amount of blood, sweat and tears that have been shed is unmeasurable and I am honored to call each and every one of you my students.  You have paid the price and should be proud of your success.

As always, this is not the end, yet only the beginning of the next step in your martial arts.  I am blessed to have my long-time instructor at my side and he reminds me that the martial arts (and life for that matter) is not a destination, yet a journey.  He humbly wears the rank of 9th Degree Black Belt and will surely see the honored 10th Degree soon enough.  Many would ask, “What does the 9th have to do to get to 10th?”.   Surely he must climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, defeat a band of wild pigmies and save a group of orphaned children…all the while blindfolded!  Obviously, this outlandish scenario is ridiculous.  What makes a 10th is that he or she has great skill, but more so that he or she has given back more than ever receiving.

My little boy, James, started his journey yesterday.  He is three years old.  As I switched roles from Kyoshi to Dad, I couldn’t have been more proud.  What occurs to me is the comparison between the young child and the seasoned master instructor.  Everything for the young child is about himself and everything for the master is about everyone else.  Such is the path of life…

So we are all left with our current “rank” in the martial arts and current “rank” in life.  We must not forget to focus on ourselves and increasing our own abilities, but we also must remember the lessons of the masters…to give back.  Hard work is at the core of this discussion and will ultimately lead to success and fulfillment.  Some days shall be easier than others, but you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price!


James R. Palmer – Kyoshi

Unstoppable Attitude

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

-Thomas Jefferson

After a great weekend of black belt promotions and celebration, today is a new beginning. From my junior black belts to my senior black belts, I am reminded of the dedication and perseverance it takes to achieve our dreams and goals in life. However, I am also struck by the driving force behind such dedication and perseverance. Attitude.

There are so many aspects to life that are out of our control, but our attitude is always in our control. Amongst the trials and tribulations that we all face, the only way to succeed minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, month to month and year to year is to control our attitude. And at the root of maintaining the right mental attitude is gratitude. Gratitude for time on this earth. Gratitude for family. Gratitude for true friends. Gratitude for the opportunity to serve others. Gratitude for the opportunity to be served by others. Gratitude.

I am grateful to each and every on of my students for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of their lives. I am humbled to lead such a great group of people in their martial arts training, but more so at the opportunity to encourage their goals and dreams. The overall driving force of positive attitudes makes it impossible for myself to not be motivated to be a better instructor, student, husband, father and friend as I strive each and every day to fulfill God’s plan for my life.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal…
Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude…
Nothing can stop the man…


James R. Palmer, Kyoshi