Paul and I shared insomnia complaints before I started the recording, and then dove right into a conversation about his work as the “British Ninja” at UCLA.
As the Martial Arts Coordinator, Paul provides martial arts classes and clubs for the community at UCLA, and gets to do “fun things” like the UCLA Martial Arts & Wellness Symposium, as well.
He’s been into martial arts since seeing The Karate Kid as a kid himself (though he didn’t really get started until about age 15).
Here are some highlights from our conversation:
Martial Arts & Play
Martial arts is so disciplined, it seems almost like martial arts and play are a dichotomy.
- Any activity can be play: it’s not the activity, it’s the environment and the expression that make it play.
- A place where you can really bounce off each other and discover new things.
- Trust and safety are paramount.
- There’s no result, reward, or prize in play.
Play vs. Work
When I doodle for my own pleasure, I’m using the same tools, and making essentially the same kinds of marks, as when I made art for clients back when I was a professional artist. But when I made art for clients it was definitely work, not play. My doodles are play.
Paul shared the example of Alex Acuña, professional drummer. When he drums professionally, it’s work. When he drums for fun at the dojo, it’s play.
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation
Giving an extrinsic reward for a task that is inherently enjoyable (like drawing) makes people less motivated to do that task!
Autonomy, mastery, empowerment are more effective motivators than money.
Some Definitions of Play
United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, Article 31 General Comment
“Voluntary attempt to overcome an unnecessary challenge.” -Bernard Suits
“A brief respite from the tyranny of apparent purpose.” -Jill Vialet
Play Isn’t Just for Kids!
There’s this thing called plasticity! It is now accepted as scientific fact that play is essential for children’s brains, but our brains don’t stop learning at adolescence! Our brains grow and learn until we die.
Play Is NOT the Opposite of Work!
Google’s 20% time — most of Google’s largest revenue-generating programs came from 20% time, when there was no pressure. Right out of the U.N. handbook on play. And yet so few people are connecting the dots on the science!
There’s a big gap between what we know and what we do.
Wright Brothers vs. the well-funded guy, who quit as soon as the Wright Brothers got their plane in the air, because all he cared about was being the first.
Well Beyond Summit Video:
Paul has been studying movement and martial arts for over 20 years. He holds black belts in martial arts including Kali, Hapkido & Taekwondo and is also an instructor of Savate, Muay Thai and Jeet Kune Do.
With an MS from Indiana University in Kinesiology and his experience coaching, teaching and managing various movement practices, Paul is fascinated by what makes the body ‘tick’.
He is currently working with Neuroscience Professors at UCLA, University of Victoria and University of Illinois to study how martial arts movement patterns improve cognitive function.
Paul’s philosophy is that movement is vital to a happy and healthy life and training in multiple movement modalities is the best way to achieve that life!
Find Paul online:
From Paul: This is Me video – rights of a child UN article
Buycott app (the first time you go shopping with it, Paul warns to give yourself 3 or 4 hours!)
From Melissa: What We Do In the Shadows
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