Please take a moment to read this post first, i.e. "A Different Perspective," before diving into this blog. Your comments, suggestions and participation are greatly appreciated.

Please take a look at Notable Quotes, enjoy.

Please take a look at the bibliography if you do not see a proper reference to a post.

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

“All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.” - Montaigne

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Belt Colors - A Philosophical Gokui View

I found this on a Tae Kwon Do site explaining the significance of the various colors. They attribute that to some historical meaning that raised the question on how that could be since this particular martial art is a more modern creation. (Note: two changes were made below to make this more generic, i.e. martial arts from Tae Kwon Do and the "Color Brown" from "Color Red." 

Color White: signifies innocence, as that of a beginning student who has no previous knowledge of Martial Arts
Color Yellow: signifies the Earth from which a plant sprouts and takes roots as the Martial Arts foundation is being laid.
Color Green: signifies the plant’s growth as the Martial Arts skill begins to develop.
Color Blue: signifies the heaven, towards which the plant matures into a towering tree as training Martial Arts progresses.
Color Brown: signifies danger, cautioning the student to exercise control and warning the opponent to stay away.
Black Belt: opposite of white, therefore signifying the maturity, and proficiency in Martial Arts. It also indicates the wearer’s imperviousness to darkness & fear.

(When I read these it brings to mind my philosophical views through the study of the ken-po goku-i. You have a reference to Earth [a person's heart is the same as heaven and earth] and Heaven and of course Man [also a part of the trigrams of the I Ching, etc.], etc.)

What I found interesting here in this explanation is its inference toward the more Chinese spiritual views as might be presented in ancient classics such as the "I Ching," "Tao Te Ching," and others such as those derived from the study of Buddhism, Confucianism and Zen Buddhism, etc. 

Then I would add in that the colored belt system didn't exist prior to the very early 1900's. They were created by Kano Sensei of Judo fame. They were adopted through Funakoshi Sensei influence to Okinawa Karate systems. 

This is interesting and I personally like these explanations of what could have possibly been a color system but history tells us that the significance of the colors didn't exist even in the early days of Judo. Kyu grades, at least in the early 1900's on Okinawa, were actually "white and black" to later become "white, green and black" and in the late fifties and early sixties became, "white, green, brown and black." Even in Judo, the dan grades of black only went up to the fifth level or grade. 

It is interesting to find that stories that attach such significance to things martial arts lean heavily toward a more economic and commercial influence. Especially to the Kyu grades/levels, i.e. with ten levels that only had four colors to all ten having separate colors or certain colors with the stripes added. Even the stripes on the ends was a modern creation because in the mid-nineteen hundreds, say about the sixties or seventies, the three gold stripes that indicated honorary titles such as Hanshi, etc. were used and the west mistook them for representation of the dan levels/grades. There are only three recognized gold stripes on the black belt and they represent the three teaching levels of a master teacher, i.e. Kyoshi, Renshi and Hanshi. 

Again, the institution of those additional stripes to indicate the actual dan levels came from Western influences that were, in my view, driven by commercialism and economic needs. 

Regardless of all this speculation I like the explanations this group provided for these colors for the Kyu grades/levels but if I were to use them it would be more as a teaching tool and a philosophical perspective for a practitioner of martial systems to elucidate and contemplate in the hopes of creating a more "spiritual" view of martial arts, i.e. a more holistic practice developing the mind, body and spirit (not a religious spirit). 

Seishin [精神]

The characters/ideograms mean, "mind; soul; heart; spirit; intention." The first character means, "refined; ghost; fairy; energy; vitality; semen; excellence; purity; skill," the second character means, "gods; mind; soul."

Of the definition I feel the most important trait is "intention." I am not clear as to Advincula Sensei's and Nakazato Sensei's context/meaning because I, personally, feel that there is more to this than simply "The true intention of karate is Seishin, which is not to fight." Yes, a solid explanation to the original question of "What is the most important aspect of karate?" 

It is Kyan Sensei's "way" but it lacks the complete substance of what Kyan Sensei may have actually intended by providing us this term to explain the true intention of karate-do. This is not from any special knowledge but rather my personal understanding that is derived from questions, answers and the research I have tired to do over the years. This is not easy with all the obstacles one encounters in researching a foreign discipline like any martial art from Asia. 

Simply, the answers are not that simple. They are not that complex either but they tend toward the difficult. If this terse and brief explanation that spurred this posting is anyting it should be the key that unlocks the practitioners natural inquisitive mind. A mind that will seek out answers from all sources. A mind that will see all sides, hear in all directions and then with an open-mind absorb that which is the essence of martial arts. This may be true "Seishin," i.e. the heart, soul, spirit and intention for the study of Okinawan Karate-jutsu-do.

In the end it is a matter of personal opinions. This is Kyan Sensei's opinion to which Nakazato Sensei agrees and by that passes this belief on to Advincula Sensei who also passes this down to his students.

Seishin Shugyo [精神修行者]

Seishin and the first two characters/ideograms mean, "mind; soul; heart; spirit; intention." The first character means, "refined; ghost; fairy; energy; vitality; excellence; purity; skill," the second means, "gods; mind; soul." Note: See the shugyo entry for that word and set of characters.

The Okinawan's believe that Seishin Shugyo or spiritual training is the "training that comes first." They use a phrase, i.e. Oku Myo Zai Ren Shin," that has a meaning that "in order to find the secrets, one must first have spiritual training." It is also said, "polish the heart through the polishing of technique." 

This adds more meaning to "shugyo" and its importance to the study, practice and training in the art of karate-jutsu, the Okinawan art of the empty hand. 

Seishin-shuyo [精神修養]

The characters/ideograms mean "mental training; moral (spiritual) improvement; practice mental training; cultivate one's mind (soul)." The first character means, "refined; ghost; fairy; energy; vitality; semen; excellence; purity; skill," the second character means, "gods; mind; soul," the third character means, "discipline; conduct oneself well; study; master," and the fourth character means, "foster; bring up; rear; develop; nurture." 

In martial arts this means one who acknowledges "mental training" as an intricate part of karate goshin-do training or mental training in martial arts as a whole. It is to actively incorporate mental training that is not just assumed but rather addressed in details and holistically to support equally the physical training one has in martial arts. 

Seeing All Sides

How do we know what we see is what is true or exists. Often humans tend to see "what they want to see." It is not truly about the eyes but rather the facial expressions that surround the eyes. Our emotions have effects that can begin with certain changes in the musculature around the eyes, i.e. the eyelids, the corners and the lower lids. Since that is connected to other facial musculature the whole tends to send the messages. So, why do they say look into the eyes when actually you look at the eyes and allow your peripheral vision to detect true meaning from the facial musculature results of emotional output from our brains, i.e. be it the Human brain, the Monkey brain or the Lizard brain.

When I read this particular section of the ken-po goku-i I don't just "see" what my eyes can detect both directly and peripherally but what my mind sees as well. Take for instance a person hiking in the woods. They see a shape out of their peripheral vision that the Lizard brain says "looks like a snake!" Your Lizard brain then triggers the instinct to jump back, open the eyes wider, take a direct view on the object (OODA starts here), then decide if it is truly a snake or what it actually is, a stick that looks like the shape of a snake, then you act accordingly, i.e. either run like hell because it was a snake or shake your head, take a deep breath and say to yourself, "wow, glad it wasn't a snake." 

In recent posting I have spoke about perceptions, context, culture and beliefs, etc. that have effects on how we "see" things. This is also part and parcel to the goku-i's meaning. It takes us away from the more obvious and trains us to achieve all levels of seeing, both physically and metaphorically speaking. This applies to all of life, not just martial arts. 

"Seeing all sides" also denotes a very fundamental and basic methodology of martial arts, the learning and application of fundamental principles of martial arts such as the principle of theory, the principle of physiokinetics, the principle of techniques and the principle of philosophy. To truly see all sides of what constitutes a full martial art is to "see all sides within that system," i.e. the principles that drive that system and remain the same principles that drive all systems of martial arts. To only learn about the physiokinetic forms is limiting and results in learning how to dance the martial dance. 

Then there is "seeing all sides" of the self. Seeing both your faults and your perfections equally with the notion that both will contribute to mastery of any discipline including, of course, martial systems. This may be the most important principle of both theory and philosophy that when properly understood and practiced make the principles of both physiokinetics and technique better or more complete. 

So, you can see that taking the literalness of "seeing all sides" as a stand alone meaning simply states that you are not "seeing all sides." Sides are not just a physical manifestation of the goku-i but rather a means to mental training to "see all sides" of all the principles that support and define a true, classical and traditional understanding of martial systems. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Consider The Following

" ... In ancient times the martial arts were referred to as "Ti" and were practiced in great secrecy. Each system was passed down to one person only, the student who was considered by the teacher to be his most trusted and brilliant pupil. If no student was considered worthy to receive the complete teachings of a particular style, that art would end with the last teacher." ~ Chojun Miyagi, 1888 - 1953

If this statement is true and the source is Miyagi Sensei then its meaning is relevant to today's practice of karate. 

First, I have see enough evidence in periodicals to believe that the indigenous system of empty hand fighting was referred to as "Ti," Ti is hogen or uchinaguchi dialect meaning, "hand." Other terms were also used but the essence of this system was "Ti."

Second, there is enough material out there in the world to support the belief that karate was practiced in secret. Since the early edict from Okinawan royalty along with the Japanese at a later time that banned weaponry there came a need for Ti for self-defense. But, other sources also speak of karate or Ti being practiced only by certain persons within a certain class so that the ordinary peasant Okinawan may not have been exposed to Ti. This is speculation as there are no English written sources the will validate any of this theory or model. 

Third, the passing down to only one person seems difficult to believe and to prove. It gives us the idea that the indigenous system of self-defense, Ti, was a variety of styles where in my perceptions "styles" didn't become a system designation until the very late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds. If the indigenous system of self-defense was simply referred to as Ti then what styles would they be in reference to. It is believed by this author that Ti later became three systems or styles as seen by the village or prefecture or town to which the master of that Ti lived, i.e. Tomari, Naha and Shuri Ti. I am waiting for a new publication that is understood to provide a more concrete history of karate in Okinawa. We shall see what that says to my questions. 

Fourth, if the art or system or style ended if there were no "one student" qualified to take up the reins of the system, etc. then how could karate have flourished to this day. If the current history, as convoluted and spotty it is for the 1800's and after, is true then there were more than one person who carried on the system, style of Ti of yesteryear. Especially with WWII, where many died during the battle for Okinawa as well as serving for the Japanese outside the island not to lessen the deaths by Okinawan's moving about the arena trying to live and survive. 

Lets also add in the Japanese influences to have karate in the school systems to train the warrior spirit for the upcoming WWII conscriptions, etc. Now Ti, that become Karate (China Hand) that then became Karate (empty hand) is in the school systems with a more watered down version felt to best suit the age and maturity of younger students where before we assume students were closer to full adult age or adult age to practice and train with a leading proponent of Ti, the empty handed system indigenous to Okinawa. 

Lets also add in the influences of Okinawan culture and beliefs. These were changing because of the influences of other cultures, ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, economic status, upbringing and hundred of cultural differences due to perceptions, context and personal beliefs of all martial artists, i.e. Japanese, Chinese, etc. 

This influences how one or more persons categorize things, how they judge things and the influence on their decision making and their deeply held personal beliefs about the nature of the self, etc. as influenced also by things like Taoism, Buddhism, Zen, etc. 

How do we, today, judge such things and how do we determine the "true, accurate, factual and provable" history of the martial arts? How are today's sources influenced by group dynamics and the underlying group harmony needed as a cultural requirement. How is such group, cultural and belief pressures to influence the responses or answers received in certain situations regarding the gathering of facts, etc.? If harmony is required for all groups as a cultural belief system strongly influenced by Samurai style edicts that are shown through "shikata" models then these influences would change the truth to what is necessary for group harmony, etc. Is this possibly why we get differing responses depending on who is asked, when asked and it what group dynamics? 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why It Worked

The mysterious question of the decade or millennia. Then you have to ask, "why it did not work?" The answer, which by the way I don't have, is not to be trusted. To trust an answer is to be absolutely sure of its validity when in self-defense you really have to trust what you know and can do but not trust that it will work or not work depending on the present moment circumstances.

What works and what does not work is about the individual, i.e. that persons experiences, perceptions, cultural influences and beliefs. If you truly believe you "must" turn the other cheek you are going to get hurt or even killed in "some" circumstances. Belief systems are very powerful. Rory Miller speaks to "permission" in some of his works. You have to give yourself permission to act properly especially in self-defense - violence, etc. Just my opinion here but I believe he is more often right then not right - right and not right are not the best descriptive words here either. Maybe it is about what works or does not work for him vs. what works for me and what does not work for me - or you or them, etc.

Isn't this the crux of many issues regarding self-defense? How does a person know what is being taught will work or not work? I mean, even if it is a good, solid and more often than not a thing that works, how do you know it will at any given moment? Even the best of us in self-defense or combatives with the best training and practice possible may find one day something worked wonderfully then another day the same thing failed. This is not the first discussion on this subject but worth going back to again and again and again. 

I often think to myself what if and would I act properly if the "what if" occurred. I remember instances in my past, youthful times, when my reactions seemed adequate, relevant and they worked for me, at that moment but would I still act or react that way today? Especially since I am not training that way anymore or my training is not relevant toward those goals anymore. 

When I contemplate those past events it tells me my instincts tend to go in the right direction when threatened. Maybe it is about acting or reacting adequately before my mind can chime in and tell me how stupid I am being, you know that faster than light Monkey brain shit that sometimes becomes your doubting Thomas (or is it the human brain or lizard or all three). 

I guess maybe it is more about refusing to even ask these types of questions and then ignoring them in training and practice because your mind tells you it won't work or maybe your only experience with it was when it did not work so you discard it as a waste when in reality it has proven time and again to work, mostly and you just had a bad day that day. How do you find out these things and make sure you are not "lying to yourself" for some Lizard/Monkey driven reasoning. 

Why it worked and why it didn't work are important considerations. I believe the professionals use their "after action" discussions to determine things like this and I wonder if this is taught in self-defense courses as well as all that other good stuff. 

Then how far do you take this because you don't want to erode/undermine confidence, etc. What is the balance point where you still benefit but don't make yourself a doubting Thomas. You don't want to go the other direction either where your over confidence leads to relying on things that will not work. 

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Facts, Just the Facts Ma'am..... Joe Friday, Dragnet

In my mind there are no sources that are absolute. The human ingredient is always going to introduce some personalizations, perceptions, culture and beliefs of the author even tho they work diligently to remain unbiased as to what they write. The scientific studies of the Human kind are also flawed as it is impossible to remove that human factor from research as such. 

This is why my philosophy has become one of caution and continued research. This is why my philosophy is that what ever facts or historical data I might promote is and should be taken as flawed. This is why my philosophy is to find the data, data-mining, and then find other sources that corroborate what you have gathered and learned. Even so, my philosophy is to keep the mind open to the possibilities that what I have may be inaccurate or just plain wrong and be willing to change accordingly. 

I have a philosophy that if someone or something causes me to immediately jump to "that is not right" I have to say to myself, "STOP, wait, think about this and use Miller's Law." 

When you research some subject you have to enter into the project with an open mind. You have to be willing to change as necessary and you must, must, question everything - over, over and over again. Isn't this the proper way to research articles, papers and published works?

When you become biased as to what you know for reasons that fall into the emotional model then it is even more important you stop and tell yourself that it is the Monkey speaking here and you should push to allow the Human brain do the analysis and such before you put the word to publication. 

When you refuse to allow some other perspective to have its say and you refuse to consider the possible merits of someone else's efforts you other them so you can "feel" safe in your personal beliefs. Isn't this simply allowing the Monkey brain to run the train?

Don't get me wrong, this stuff is difficult. We humans tend to live in the Monkey brain. We tend toward emotional responses simply because nature provided that as a means of survival. Fear, Anger, Love, Empathy all release chemicals into our brains and bodies but our perception of what that is drives how we act and react with a heavy influence of those same chemicals on our senses and mental activities. 

Search, Data-mine, validate and then repeat .... forever. Because to remain steadfast on a belief at any one moment means stagnation and a biased life. This is not what life is about and it is not what martial arts practice are about. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Breaking the Mold

In a recent posting by Rory Miller, "Out of the Box," he asks a question that has had me thinking for several days not, i.e. "The people looking for books on leadership are not looking for those names." This is about Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder's new book, "Sensei, Mentor, Teacher, Coach." It comes down to what is associated with their names, i.e. martial arts. 

In the martial arts world people who are not in that world tend to make quick assumptions. They see the title with "Sensei" in it then they look it up and find out it is a title for the martial arts and they swing right to the word "karate or MMA or some other martial art" then the assign the title "sport" to it and then move on not pausing long enough to see within the pages more than merely another martial art book. 

This seems in my mind a lot like the martial arts community where we all see the majority of martial arts books as economically driven money makers with little substance then when someone like these two gentlemen as well as a few others put out a book it sometimes gets left in with all the other "stuff."

Take for instance "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense." This series of books would never have come across my radar if not for the books on violence that Rory Miller has published for us. Dr. Suzette Haden wrote them in the eighties and until I read about the book in Rory's bibliography I never heard of her or her work. Then, thinking of the title I almost discarded getting a copy but considering what I had just read in Rory's book I decided to gamble and get a copy. I will never regret it and I have all six of her series and found them of great value. Not just for my martial arts studies but for things both personal and professional in my life, i.e. my personal life at home and my professional life at work (i.e. I don't make a living off of martial arts but work in IT, etc. to make a living). I am still finding out more about myself from those books as well as books like Sensei, Mentor, Teacher, Coach and Conflict Communications.

Now, back to how one would transcend a singular model or mold, i.e. the heading of either "martial arts" or "sports." How to get all those non-martial artists and non-sport activists to read these books. As I stated at the beginning I have been contemplating this for a while since I read it in Rory's blog post. 

Human instinct is about groups and survival. In one group we collect like minded folks together to survive (not literally as in keeping out the lions, tigers and bears). This instinct is strong and to gain access takes a considerable amount of work and luck. Rory in his book ConComm speaks of how new folks enter into a new group at work and perceptions as to that person makes a difference in how they are accepted. He breaks it down into gender (pardon me, but gender does matter even if we consider ourselves both male and female as equals - I do, but still we are different). When a woman connects with a new work group she is expected to do things a certain way. When a man connects with a new work group he is expected to do things a certain way. Both are as different as Mars from Venus. 

Then there is in general how we all have our cultural groups and this seems to me to work the same as to categories of books, movies, etc. If a movie is listed as science fiction and you hate science fiction you are in all likelihood not going to see it. An example is the movie "Salmon Fishing in Yemen." My wife and her friend asked me if I wanted to go see this movie with them. Initially, I read the title and thought to myself, "What the f*&^ would I find in a movie about fishing in Yemen?" Well, I decided that for other reasons I would go with them and worst case scenario get a good nod off in a dark theater. I was very pleased to find out that once I got past that title, got in the theater and the movie began that I was very pleased I came, the movie was a great one. 

This seems to be the issue with books like Mr. Wilder's and Mr. Kane's. The title and the category that the book is listed under pretty much pigeon hole it right in that location where if someone looking for a leadership book just happens to read this post or read a post somewhere else where the topic of leadership, etc. is prominent then maybe that person will do like I did with Dr. Haden's book, get it, read it and then find it of great value even if it is a martial arts book under the misnomer category of "sport." 

I mean if these two gentlemen were actually famous "football or basketball coaches" who wrote a book on their respective disciplines as a book on leadership there is a much greater probability that someone looking for just a leadership book would find these gems. 

Now that I have given my opinionated opinion I can see that the only path toward breaking out of the box these books are put into by publishers that the best way to get this moved into a more mainstream diverse readership is to get someone prominent outside of martial arts and sports who has a reputation in leadership, etc. to promote this with  that category of readers. Like Wim Demeere's blog post, this is a simple answer with a complexity and difficulty level very, very high. There is also "luck."

Personally, when I make recommendations in my library reviews I may sound like I am giving "advice." Unsolicited advice is ofter a "no-no" and often causes the recipient to "shut down" and not listen saying to self, "who the f*&* does this guy think he is?" Another ceiling to break through. 

The only time I believe advice is acceptable is when it comes from authority expert figures who are already well-respected by the masses without barriers. One as an example is "Oprah Winfrey" and her book club. Now, if you got her to read these books and to make a recommendation then the entire world would flood Amazon to purchase a copy. Now, this would be really cool. What is the likelihood? You never know, right. Maybe my suggestion is to see if her book club allows recommendations and then make one that is more generic toward leadership over just "another martial art sport book." 

Who in the leadership community with a wide audience of followers could you contact and possibly get to read a copy and promote it from their end. Does anyone know of such a person and would they consider making the suggestion. After all, there is a series of books that only made it to the best seller list because a publisher just happened to pick up the submission on a lark to read at lunch while waiting for a client, right. This book and the following five followups became a best seller and transcended gender as well as age obstacles and was read by just about everyone. If that submission had been underneath another it may have never been printed (think wizards and a wizard academy ;-).

I know from experience that all these authors who I would recommend to everyone be they martial artists or just a person who wants to find ways to improve who they are already but how to get them to make that purchase is another story as well. 

I have spent at least the last ten years working on improving myself. I am talking about as a martial artists but also as a person. Come on, a good Sensei has to be a good person too. If not, you don't get the good of martial arts, just learn how to dance around, etc. and maybe win a couple of trophies. A good sensei has to have the same principles of leadership as any other discipline. 

I have read only a small part of Mr. Kane's and Mr. Wilder's book so far. I have read almost the entire Conflict Communications book from Rory Miller. I can tell you, personally, there is a lot more than information about martial arts, self-defense and violence in these books as they all are based on some sound foundational fundamental principles that transcend any one discipline. 

Like I profess on fundamental principles of martial systems it is the same with these books, the principles are relevant and important to any endeavor of mankind, of humans and transcend any group, cultural and belief systems. 

If I could get everyone who reads this to go the distance, buy the books and read them with an open mind and then just a few of their friends and their friends would do the same all of them would find benefits beyond what they would normally expect in a book listed in a category that is limiting. 

Anyway, maybe I have some answers here and maybe I don't but I can tell you that their, these authors and others, influences have helped me "see and hear" beyond the cover of the book. I look at the content for value for the category and for outside the category - you just never know. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Trying to Hard

I remember in the fist year I steadily and diligently practiced my karate. I was, of course, a kyu but I was determined as a Marine can be determined. It was what I was trained to do. This meant that I applied myself with true vigor, determination and focus. What I failed to learn was that all things come and go of their own speed, duration and time. 

I spent time trying to "force" my body, mind and spirit to achieve great things. This was a frustrating thing for me since most things came quickly for me. I had a natural if not awkward physical ability I now attribute to being a "touch sense" person. Then there is the introversion that means in one sense I internalize many things and I do it well. 

Trying to force things faster than natural is incorrect. There is a natural pattern, rhythm and timing for every thing in nature. It is a part of the immutable law of nature some refer to as "yin-yang." There are other names and symbols that identify and describe this natural flow of things. It is like the ebb and flow of the tides, the natural tones and emptiness that expresses music and it is that spiral path that every single thing in the universe follows as naturally as breathing, blinking and thinking. 

What usually happens when you try to force things beyond their natural way is you get calamity and discord. When forced usually something will give way causing that particular thing to fail. 

In martial arts there is a natural flow to everything and that flow is governed by nature and the individuals genetics. Some of us can learn things faster, some slower and some not at all. If you are a bit on the slow side learning things, let that rhythm and flow follow its natural course because in time you will learn everything well. 

Forcing things often also creates ripples in the flow of life and those ripples are usually some repercussions created by that force. Force is power and a power that is misguided usually damages everything within its ranges. 

How I found this rhythm in martial arts was through the time spent in training and practice. I noticed that things would good smoothly until I came to a point that excited me into pushing or forcing my training and practice. I then noticed that things got muddy and I would find myself stuck in one place. I would find that even the things I had already learned well would lose ground as if I were heading backwards. Things like kata suddenly got sloppy and mistakes would come more often and more frequently. I learned later that when I would compensate and push or force my practice harder things got worse. I would get to a point of frustration that I would break away from training for a short period and when I returned I just practiced only to find that suddenly and perceived quickly that it all would fall into place and work. 

What I am trying to say, especially to those just starting out in martial arts, let the natural way of things, both external and internally, go at their own pace, rhythms and patterns. The speed will come naturally as you progress. Don't become impatient and begin to force things for that is how delays and obstacles obstruct progress. You, as an individual, have a natural way that is you and to achieve expertise and mastery you have to follow that path as it twists, turns and winds its way up the mountain. No matter which direction it takes you your patience and perseverance will achieve wonders but try forcing things to get there quicker will only obstruct your progress. 

Contemplate this at your next practice session. Mokuso!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sensei - Equal Measure

I have written about this in various forms but what it comes down to is balance. I often felt I missed a lot while teaching and now that I spend a good deal of time on just practice I realize what I was missing was the equal measure in teaching and practice. Not the practice and teaching of students but rather the practice and teaching of myself.

I believe, good sensei, tend to spend an exorbitant amount of time dedicated to students and their progress they tend to ignore that one student that is critical to teaching other students - that one student being the sensei. Let me try to clear up the muddy waters here.

When a sensei spends that amount of time on students they miss a lot while at the same time learn a lot from those students. But where it loses is when you learn from the student but fail to spend equal measure on your own studies, practice and training you don't get the full measure of what you are learning.

I believe, now which is better late than never, is a sensei must spend equal time practicing and training on their own with a total and complete focus on their practices, training and studies. If I teach one hour I feel I need to practice and train and study at least one hour physically with another hour mentally and finally one more hour of study - minimum. 

Yes, you are going to read this and say, "I don't have enough time between teaching students and taking care of family, home and work (if you don't earn enough teaching martial arts)!" Well, this is a disservice to you as a sensei and even more so as a teacher. Teachers, in general, have to spend a lot more time studying and taking classes to remain certified to teach our kids so why should a person teaching martial arts (especially for self-defense) get to ignore what they learn and present to practitioners. 

This also presents issues as to knowledge of the sensei. In my thirty-seven years in martial arts I have found many things that were just plain wrong that I learned from my sensei. I also found many things I never learned from sensei that I discovered or learned elsewhere that if I remained simply teaching by ROTE my students would have missed. 

In order to propagate and pass on martial arts to students I feel an obligation to make sure it is always the best and most up to date and relevant teachings possible. Sensei must take equal measure of what they know toward what they teach. Learning is a never ending effort and to neglect your own practice and training for students is depriving those students of the best you can give.

Some will say that they get plenty of practice with students because of the participation they put in but they tend to forget the mental training received from that is different from the mental training they get from a personal effort without the distractions of teaching. You can argue this point saying that one does the other but they don't. The effort and self-analysis of what you do comes from a focus and diligence on you the sensei while teaching is about the student while teaching. 

Yes, you get a lot especially with teaching, training and practicing the more physical aspects but what are you missing. Many of the professionals I follow in their writings tend to still place a lot of emphasis on preparation and that means they are constantly working out things they discover in the dojo, on their own for the purpose of learning and then applying - both in application and teaching applications. 

I also have witnessed other solid and experienced sensei actually stop teaching to focus on the study of martial arts because of this same belief but they too may be losing a source that balances out the study of the arts - the interactions of other professionals and students, etc. 

So, if you teach, spend the equal time practicing on your own for yourself. Your students will appreciate what they get, a fresh perspective each and every time you encounter those students on the dojo floor. 

So goes my personal philosophy on this subject :-)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

San-mitsu [三密]

The characters/ideograms mean, "three mysteries to enlightenment; thought, word and deed; three mysteries (Buddha's body, speech and mind)." The first character means, "three," the second character means, "secrecy; density (pop); minuteness; carefulness." 

In martial arts the statement, "the key to enlightenment," precedes individual perceptions as to what it takes to achieve it. The issue with this is that most are individual techniques when in general the truth lies in how that person handles life, i.e. how they think, how they perform deeds and the words they use. Martial arts are a physical discipline, effort and spiritual action necessary to blend the thought, word and deed to effect our physical reality. 

San-mitsu explains how a person can increase the body's energy level and capacity by the practice of a martial art. This is emphasized more in the internal arts of China, i..e Chi Gung and Tai Chi Chuan. It is about utilizing the physical to achieve the mental and spiritual. 

Our physical efforts use and enhance certain frequencies on a molecular level. Words are the expression of our thoughts. When spoken they to have certain frequencies or vibrations. Our physical actions as to deeds and the perceived actions that are to be viewed as putting thought into action on an every day basis are the most obvious, i.e. body language tends to convey true meaning so that words and thoughts are confirmed as one wholehearted way of present moment living. It is how one sets the example over just using words alone. 

San-mitsu is another principle or sub-principle of the foundation we must create on a physical level leading our mental and spiritual toward a more holistic wholehearted approach to martial arts and life.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Prime the Pump

When it comes to historical searches there are a variety of factors that would influence how that history is perceived and it is an individual thing. What is most important is losing any pre-conceived ideas, facts, knowledge, perceptions and current contexts when searching for and analyzing data. Once you enter into a search with pre-conceived thoughts, etc. you subject yourself to biases. It is not uncommon for a searcher to discard true and relevant factual historical data because of these pre-conceived mind-states. If you are interviewing then remember that "how you phrase the question" will also prime the others mind-state toward an answer that may or may not be what you seek. 

It is a bit like the theory with lie detectors (I am not an expert on this but what I state comes from readings, etc. on the subject) that if the tester is primed properly before a test they will be influenced in a biased way leaning toward the primed data when analyzing and interpreting the lie detector data. This holds true for most anything. The mind-state when primed tends to lean heavily toward that data used to prime the pump. 

In order to objectively and without bias receive, analyze and data-mine historical facts you have to prime your own mind-state toward openness, objectivity and open-minded mushi or empty present moment mind to have the ability to "see" beyond your preconceived notions, ideas and biases. 

I use Miller's Law to help me separate the wheat from the chaff in data-mining. When I feel a resistance toward something I come across or are presented with I "try to remember" the law, i.e. "In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of." - Dr. George Miller, Psychologist.

Although this quote is directed toward conversations it is also true toward any research you make be it in books, articles or Internet eData searches. If you allow yourself to succumb to preconceived priming of the mind you often will lose important, relevant and historical significant data. Give it a chance. 

Let me close with a quote from a source I respect, "If your monkey/tribal brain is working your human/thinking brain is not. If you are feeling emotion, you are not thinking; that part of your brain is turned off. If it is about who did or said it and not what was said, you are in your tribal brain. If you label anyone, it is a tactic to put that person in another tribe specifically so that you don't have to listen to the content.

People who disagree with you are rarely stupid. If you cannot effectively, compassionately and convincingly argue the other side's point of view, you are the one in your tribal brain. You are the stupid one." - Rory Miller at Chiron Blog "Silly Season"

Monday, March 3, 2014

History and Its Role in Martial Arts

Rekishi [歴史]

The characters/ideograms mean, "history." The fist character means, "curriculum; continuation; passage of time," the second character means, "history; crhonicle."

History: The study of past events, particularly in human affairs. A past characterized by a particular thing. A "continuous, typically chronological, record" of important or public events or of a particular trend or institution.  A chronicle, archive, record, diary, report, narrative, account, study, tale, story, saga; more ....

Fact: A thing that is indisputably the case. A fact is often used in discussing the significance of something that is the case. It is a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article.  A detail, element, point, factor, feature, characteristic, ingredient, circumstance, aspect, facet, and more ....

A fact is the "truth about events' as opposed to interpretation. This is where history becomes muddy and hard to perceive. When one talks of facts you have a considerable amount of leeway as to perceptions, context, beliefs, cultural influences and a host of other human driven individual perceptions governed by who they are, how they grew up, where they grew up and influences from cultural sources, society of that culture, the culture and belief of their immediate surroundings as that changes or remains fluid through out their lives, etc. 

Facts are subjective to all this and the "fact" that they are not supported by truth about events but rather the interpretation of events also subject to individual or grouped individual influences. Reality is the actual occurrence of an event but the history and facts often degrade as each individual comes in contact with said events "facts." As long as any supposed fact is disputed regardless of the information provided even historically significant documents it comes down to who wrote the history and facts and what influenced them, etc. It can be said that history is written most often by the victors who are biased and will skew history accordingly. This is a fact!

As long as the originator of the event failed to document it properly there will always be discord with context and interpretations as each of us "humans" comes in contact with said events facts and it will always remain in a discussion format about the significance of that persons facts of the event. It is a muddy thing much like the muddy and convoluted context and application of true real life self-defense. 

Without the facts from the person who directly caused the event to occur, not someone as a by-standing participant but the person who caused the creation of the event it is all subjective to interpretations as to individual perceptions, etc. 

Then there is the second and third hand rendition of the historical events. If it was not written down by the actual person experiencing the event, also still subject to memory, perceptions, interpretations and their own life events, etc. then it is subjected to degradation. Human memory is a very funny thing because it changes constantly, even memories of past events, due to current events, experiences and perceptions. They all change constantly and will remain fluid because we are humans. 

To accept such history, facts and perceptions without question dooms a person to fail in keeping the history alive for future studies. Even scientific studies are subject to such things and why they are scrutinized and questioned continuously until the end of time. We tend to revisit bad history because we fail to study all history and facts with an open and questionable oriented mind. Stubbornness is a human fault and frailty. 

Some of history even with witnesses, documentation of witnesses, paintings painted by humans, and historical documentation in word or as today in pictures and video's are subject to fault of the person who took it down due to the same human frailties. To believe is to question and when questions become outlawed because of the belief of one thing, event or even a person then all suffer.

One other point of the many that could be made on this subject. Often in some cultures when confronted by a question that the person asked has no answer of their memory does not fully and completely provide the answer along with the human conditions that often cause a memory to be faulty they will concede to the questioner simply to keep the social interactions in a harmonious state. Some cultures place no importance on the documentation of historical events but place a huge amount of importance of social harmony and will out right provide false responses to maintain the social harmony. When relying on personal memory driven facts many are merely perceptions of the moment. They may seem factual and righteous to that person but when questioned can be found lacking.

Here is the real rub here, this same second and third hand factual historical view can often be accurate and true as well. Or at least parts of it will be true, relevant and pretty much a solid fact over perception but the skill comes from "data-mining" that wheat from the chaff in those cases. 

Personally, much of the historical information I have an interest in tends mostly to be true - for the moment. I still accept many facts as truth but remain open minded to additional research and speculations when validated to a certain degree because things are not written in stone and if they were it is still questionable. 

Anyway, history is fluid according to circumstance and human conditions so remain open minded and be willing to change when change is necessary to history so we can learn all we can.