Gabi takes on graphic design

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Gabi Castillo, a graphic design major at Towson University, works to put together her resume and envelope. (Photo by Mary-Ellen Davis, Towson Student)

Sitting in front of her computer, Towson University sophomore Gabi Castillo plugs away at her project. She is creating a resume for her typography class.

Castillo is working towards becoming a graphic design major, and is currently getting ready to go through the screening process. To read more about Gabi and her graphic design journey, click here.


It’s competition time! Here’s how to prepare.

This is a picture of me warming up with my brother before one of my competitions.

Photo by Shawn Howell; Photo used with permission

If you’re in martial arts for the sport aspect, then I feel it’s safe to assume that down the road you would like to compete. If it means anything to you, I support your decision 100 percent and I wish you the best of luck.

Many schools encourage and even push students to compete. Professor Garen Baghdasarian does his best to help his students get to a place where they feel comfortable competing.

A biology professor from Santa Monica College, Baghdasarian also teaches Shorinji-Ryu, a style of Okinawa karate. He also sends his students to the Zentokukai Annual Karate Gathering  convention in Arizona where they can learn from other karate masters.

Conventions are one way to prepare for competitions, but going isn’t the only thing you can do to get ready.  There are a lot of things that you can do, and that you should know, before heading down the tournament road. A lot of these tips are things I wish someone had told me before I began to compete, and I want to pass them on to you so that later, you won’t have to find out the hard way.

  1. Stay Motivated: While it’s easier said than done, staying motivated will help you stay excited, even during the most grueling parts of the preparation process. Good training partners and masters can be really good at helping you with this part, but if you find yourself struggling you should take some time to figure out what motivates you. Once you know that, the preparation process becomes a lot more tolerable.
  2. Be Wary of Weight Classes: Some forms of martial arts, like BJJ, may require you to group into a weight class if you’re competing. Make sure you plan accordingly, and pick a weight class that you fit well into. This is important because cutting or gaining weight to make it into a bracket can be tricky, and even unhealthy, if you don’t plan ahead of time. There was one time that I decided to compete and signed up for a tournament a week before it happened. I wanted to drop into a lower weight class, so I started cutting weight the day I registered but because I didn’t plan ahead of time, I ended up cutting almost twice the amount that I needed to (almost 10 pounds). Needless to say, I did not perform well so heed my warning and pick carefully.
  3. Practice a lot: Knowing your techniques or forms well is essential to competing. It does not guarantee a win, but as some people like to say, you should be more scared of a person who has practiced one thing a thousand times than the person who has practiced a thousand things one time. This means that you have a much higher chance of success the more you practice.
  4. Take a Day Off: In the 24 hours before you compete, you should take a day off from practicing to give your body a rest. You do not want to be overly sore or tired the day of, so a day of rest will do you good. Doing a little light stretching, taking an ice bath, drinking a lot of water, and eating well on your day off will also benefit you because not only will you not be sore, but you will be well rested and recovered from training so hard.
  5. Don’t Eat Right Before You Compete: The day of, make sure you drink plenty of water but try not to eat a lot before your competition. I usually spring for a small
    A little peanut butter and honey is a good pre-tournament snack. Photo by Mike Mozart; Photo used under Attribution 2.0 Generic

    portion of peanut butter and honey mixed together because it will give you the protein and sugars your body needs, but it won’t make you feel heavy or lethargic.

  6. Get a Good Nights Sleep: The night before, try going to bed early. You will most likely be a little nervous and excited so  giving your body a little extra time to wind down could help prevent you from being up later than you would if you went to bed on time, since it may take a little longer than normal to actually fall asleep.
  7. Warming Up is Important: Always make sure, before you take the stage/mat/etc., that you do a quick warm up. Run through your forms, practice your techniques, and get your body ready to go. The last thing you want to do is go in and get hurt because you didn’t get your body ready beforehand.

I hope these tips are helpful for you. If you want a few more, feel free to reach out to me and I will send you a few extra helpful hints and tricks for competing.  Good luck, and remember every competition is just another chance to learn so if you don’t win, that’s okay. Let that experience teach you something new.

‘If martial arts isn’t a cake walk, how do I stay motivated?’

Photo by Shawn Howell; Used with permission

You’ve finally found that perfect studio and decided which art you want to pursue. You’ve finally started to train. it isn’t easy, is it?

Sure, those MMA fighters on the screen make it look so easy, but now that you’re looking behind the curtain and seeing what it’s all about, you’re probably wondering if you really are cut out for this. The answer is yes, you are. You are cut out for anything you set your mind to, you just need to find the motivation to do it.

Different things keep individuals motivated. Competition may be one way for some people. Photo by Shawn Howell; Used with permission

Motivation is not a “one size fits all” type of thing. For every individual, motivational triggers are different, thus making it clear that there are also different types of motivation. Eva Short describes two types of motivation and four different types of people in her article.

According to Short, an individual can be internally or externally motivated, which creates four classifications of people: the upholder, the obliger, the rebel, and the questioner. With the help of Short’s article and info graphics, I determined that I fell into the “obliger” category.

Being an obliger means that I often times struggle with goals I set for myself, but am motivated by external accountability. Looking back on my training habits, I can definitely see these traits in myself. I have always been more driven after someone sets a goal or bar for me, often by telling me I can’t do something.

Figuring out what type of motivation works best for you is key. If you don’t know how to stay motivated, you won’t want to continue, and when things get hard, you may be more inclined to give up. After you figure out how you are best motivated, you’re going to need some ways to appeal to that type of drive.

Here are a few tips to keep you going even when training wears you down, makes you sore, and tires you out.

Setting short term goals, like achieving the next belt, can be a helpful tactic to stay motivated. Photo by Victoria Howell; Used with permission
  1. Find a training buddy: Yes, I know it’s cliche, but for those of you like me, it makes you feel obligated to go, even if the other person ends up not going with you. If they don’t go, you feel good about yourself for making that stride on your own. If they do go? well, you have you’re own person hype woman (or man). Plus, having a friend there makes classes more fun and a familiar face will make you comfortable.
  2. Set short term goals: Long term goals are great, but they are also kind of deceiving. They make it seem like you have more time to accomplish something than you really do because in martial arts, you have to always be moving forward. A goal I used to set and try to stick by was to learn a new technique, and be able to execute it well withing a week or two.
  3. Compete, compete, compete: Competing doesn’t necessarily mean participating in tournaments, but it can. You can also compete with yourself, your training buddy, and your classmates. Make competing about learning where you stand, and let it help you make those short term goals we talked about. By learning where you stand, you can figure out what you need to improve, creating opportunities to compete with yourself to get better, and create goals that help you get to where you want to be.

These four things kept me going, even though I didn’t always want to. If you need to stay motivated to train, try some of these tips. If they helped me, they may help you, and if they don’t work, ask around. Someone out there can give you some tips on keeping that martial arts drive alive.


Towson University’s art galleries showcase student life

Art major Emma Kehrman takes a break from making vases and ponders the importance of art galleries.  Photo courtesy of Emma Kehrman

Peering over a potter’s wheel at a lump of tan clay sitting on top of it, Emma Kehrman sat sculpting vases for her clay making class and talking about the importance of art and art galleries. A fine arts major at Towson University, the 19-year-old worries that many large art galleries aren’t seeing a lot of turn out.

“A lot of galleries these days, they don’t connect with people,” Kehrman said. “If you can’t connect with art, then it doesn’t seem relevant. If it doesn’t seem relevant to you, you aren’t interested, and you don’t go to look at it.”

However, she does not echo this sentiment when talking about the attendance for the University’s three art galleries which often get high turn out. According to Susan Picinich, Towson’s Dean for the College  of Fine Arts and Communications, the galleries get “thousands of people every year [that] come through the galleries.” Continue reading “Towson University’s art galleries showcase student life”

Stop relying on mace, and learn martial arts instead.

This photo is of a female airman learning to defend herself from sexual assault.

Photo by Presidio of Monterey; Photo used under public domain mark 1.0

Growing up, girls and women are often told to carry mace and walk with our keys between our fingers. And if we get attacked? Scream, gouge the eyes, knee the crotch, and do whatever it takes to get away. Our attackers aren’t playing clean, so we can’t either.

Too often however, these techniques don’t work because maybe we are paralyzed in fear, or simply over powered. Whatever the reason, it is essential to learn how to properly defend ourselves as women. Continue reading “Stop relying on mace, and learn martial arts instead.”

Martial arts studios in Towson? Yes please!

Feature photo by Republic of Korea; Photo used under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

This photo depicts two young ladies partaking in a Judo competition. Photo by Rick Vander Sanden; Photo has no copyright

Alright ladies, now that you’ve (hopefully) found your inspiration and picked an awesome martial artist to look up to, you’re ready to jump on the martial arts train. My question for you is do you know where to start?

I bet you’re thinking, “Sure, I know what I need to look for in order to begin the most amazing journey of my life. I just need to find a good studio in my area.”

You aren’t wrong, but you aren’t right either. A good studio is important, and I encourage you to do your research, maybe go in and observe some classes and talk to the instructors. Getting a feel for some of the studios is a huge step in the process. It just isn’t the first step. Continue reading “Martial arts studios in Towson? Yes please!”

Five inspirational women in martial artists

Photo by Johnny Silvercloud, photo used under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic copyright

Martial arts, with its hard-core fights and bloody scenes depicted in everything from movies to televised competitions, has typically been stereotyped as a sport for men. As if that’s not enough, it’s also a sport for children. It keeps them occupied and allows them to expend some of energy that adults only wish they had. The worst stereotype, however, is that it’s not a sport for women. Continue reading “Five inspirational women in martial artists”