Category Archives: Aikido

I think I can

Last year I was sitting with a small group of men at a table after a memorial service. Among the group was former Chester High School basketball coach, Juan Baughn. During the conversation he recited the children’s bedtime story, “The Little Engine That Could.” This opened up some interesting perspectives. Mr. Baughn’s question to someone at the table was this: “What is the moral of the story?” The basic commentary which followed was the repeated quotes – “I think I can, I think I can;” and the following, “I thought I could, I thought I could.” In other words, “belief” in yourself.

Mr. Baughn’s thoughts seem to run in different directions similar to mine although I did not come to this particular idea until after he spoke on it. But I will get back to this subject in a moment.

Several months ago we had Cecelia Sensei from The Defensive Arts Center down to teach and drum up the students in preparation for Winter camp. One of my female students was in attendance but was not planning to train because she was not feeling well. She intended to just watch and hopefully learn from the observation.

I suggested that she step on the mat anyway, and after a good hug from me and a change to her gi, she did. At the end of an absolutely great class she told me she was feeling great, and (1) thanked me for inviting Cecelia Sensei, (2) thanked me for the advice, (3) suggested I write a blog on said advice.

This student was not sure if it was the hug, the advice or the training that made the difference. But back to the bedtime story moral.

The power of positive thinking! Belief in yourself! Faith! These are all absolutely necessary for growth to take place. What Mr. Baughn and I both agree on is the missing ingredient and it is hidden in plan sight. It is right in that bedside story. Juan Baughn’s focus was on the clown and the fact that he kept on asking for assistance until he found someone willing to help.

PERSEVERANCE!

While most of us focused on the little engine, consider this, “that clown never stopped looking for the solution.” He never gave up!

PERSEVERANCE!

Impact II

Pay attention!

Pay attention to your thoughts, they turn into words.

Pay attention to your words, they turn into action.

Pay attention to your actions, they turn into habits.

Pay attention to your habits, they develop your character.

Pay attention to your character, it becomes your destiny.

These words written by an unknown author caused me to reflect on my most recent thoughts and this is where I found myself going.

Cause and effect. Nothing stands alone. Nothing happens without cause. Everything affects everything else. Impact as the title implies is what this is all about.

This is a little statement I made at the 2009 Winter camp’s Saturday night event:

“Each of us is born on different days and in different locations and the process called Life marches on. We all have a certain number of weeks, months or years to spend while developing on this planet.

We all spend them exploring, studying and learning. We also spend them teaching. For we are all learning from or teaching each other.

As we go about our various ways in this life, we are encouraged from time to time to pause in our journey, to look back and reflect on how far we’ve come or how short we’ve fallen in our quest. With the passage of time it is left to others to grade us or place us in the appropriate category: some successful, some not so successful.

My martial arts quest began when I entered the military in 1963. So I’ve been on this particular journey 46 years learning, teaching, exploring and dancing life and the martial ways.”

We all affect each other and every other living thing in the universe whether we like it or not. And everything in the universe is alive. Nothing happens in a vacuum since there’s no such thing as a total vacuum.

As martial arts teachers, to have martial skill is obviously essential, however, our success should be gauged by many other aspects of our lives in addition to how highly we develop those martial skills. Of course I’m speaking more of the “Do” arts here.

While fighting skills are more necessary than ever today, fighting skills are not nearly enough. The Roman soldier no longer exists. In this age the thinking man with a “super strong will,” will survive.

Historically we may be measured by how great an impact we had on our students. How great a skill level and degree of knowledge imparted, rather than how many followers we developed. The wise martial arts teacher must help develop wisdom in his or her students. And while you can’t make that horse drink the water you led him to, you can demonstrate commitment and follow-through, good character and a great attitude, grace, servility and leadership by the way you live, by the way you conduct your life.

The courage to live this way is, in my opinion, a by-product achieved while developing fighting skills.

Your students are watching what you do in addition to what you say…you’re having an…

IMPACT!

Teachable moments?

Recently there have been several incidents where the proponents declared it to be a teachable moment.  Well I have news for them and depending on the information at hand, I say all situations are teachable moments.  This lovely sounding catch phrase is meant to defuse a given situation and to release one from further embarrassment. For that person who is caught it is not so much a teaching moment as much as it is learning moment.  Again, all are learning situations, are they not?

These problems arise because most people “activate mouth before engaging brain.” Sadly, this also includes many of our political leaders as well.  Are we in that much of a hurry in all endeavors that we don’t or maybe can’t think things through?

Experience is the only true teacher. All other leaders and/or guides merely point the way.  And most do it by very poor example.  In other words, they demonstrate what “not to do” in a given situation.  Which is probably why some of the wise ones made that curious statement, “The sage leaves no track.” The sage walks his path alone and allows you to walk yours. Maybe because he knows his track may influence you one way or another and he chooses not to do that.

If you must make a decision and have no immediate experience to fall back on consider this:

The naive know not their mistakes,

And repeat.

The foolish blame others for their mistakes,

And repeat.

The intelligent profit from their mistakes,

The wise profit from the mistakes of others.

This quote was taken from the 2004 addition of “Stepping Off the Mat.”

Check out my next blog entry. A student requested that it be on the topic of “potential.”

Predict the future/change your past

I had a question and answer session with one of my former students a few months ago when he stated that you cannot change your past.  I have proven to his satisfaction that his interpretation is incorrect since I have specifically experienced the contrary.  The question to be asked: Where does this type of thought come from?  Is it a societal consciousness or just a lack of thinking a thing through?  Or do we think as collective individuals?  Group thought is more pervasive than many realize.

Just because a thing has never been done before does not make it impossible, be it a new thought process or an Aikido technique. Otherwise, how can we progress as human beings?  It’s normally called evolution (slow change) or revolution (quick change).

Students are not possessions.  Is it not the job of the martial arts instructor to foster growth in his or her student, or is it to gain and keep students around forever?

I say all that as a way of explanation for the statement,”former student.”   The person I refer to is one of a few former students now serving in the ministry of GOD. I can’t claim credit for that. I have students in many walks of life but more are lawyers than any other profession.  My point is this: Martial arts training is just a stepping stone in life. Some merely stay a few years longer than others.  But make no doubt about it, all of them  eventually leave. This and all training, martial or otherwise, is a means to an end!

Now, about that predicting the future; you must open your mind.  You can often see what’s down the road if you open yourself up to how the universe truly works. If you look deeply enough, really see and observe universal laws in action, quiet your mind sufficiently, acting rationally and with correct and positive intentions you can predict the future with fairly certain accuracy.

However, to successfully predict the future, one must insert the points I mentioned in the previous paragraph into your past….and add them to  your present.

The Future?

Was my comment on being able to predict the future correct?  I chose not to use this idea in my last blog as I felt it would distract from the more important issue at hand.  Perhaps my thinking was flawed.

Do you know for sure that one cannot see the future?  Just because an act has never been scientifically validated is not cause for denial is it?

I’ve written a blog on the hermetic principle, “cause and effect.” I have seen and experienced this most natural law. With the possession of enough facts can one not predict an outcome in certain situations? Consider a close look at the fraternal Rosicrucian Order, or you  may search for it as it is officially known, “AMORC,” or  “Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis” an international organization which is old, old, old, going back to the old Egyptian empire days.

Anyway, it is in my experience that we set the future by correctly living in the present.  Correct thinking?  My usage of the word “living,” would be synonymous with “being.”  Consider your existence as a human being with the emphasis on the verb,”being,” not the noun, “human.” After living your life this way for several months talk to me about your new experiences.  Then tell me what you are feeling?

The Response

There has been to date, 14 responses to my musings on “time to leave.”  Actually it felt more like I lit a fire and no one called the fire department while the house was burning down.

Well, the house is still standing and I’ve received much advice and concerns.  For all those concerned, thank you. For the guy who said “nobody likes a quitter,” walk a mile in my shoes before you make that kind of comment. (just kidding)

In response to concerns of my current state of mind consider this: No one knows what the future brings. Or if there is to be a future considering the way many in the present are acting.  Can you predict what will happen in the next day or two?  How about in the next moment?  If you could have back the last three years, what would you change and what would you do differently?

Has your training and your accomplishments been satisfactory?  I can answer both yes and no to the last question.  And I’m in charge of my life, am I not?  Believe me I would like to think I’m in charge.

The truth of the matter is I’ve not been in command as I should be.  I’ve given too much power to others. By that I mean some thoughts drifting into my subconscious during the last few years came from elsewhere and I know that should not be.

I’ve found that when I let up a little, too many random thought-patterns come in, though not necessarily from stronger minds, it’s just too many  minds collectively thinking the same weak, negative thoughts.  Collectively they have the capacity to wear one down in much the same way a large group can overwhelm  one person physically. It just takes many, many more working overtime to do it mentally.

While that is no excuse for my outburst, it is my wakeup call.  The truth of the matter is that I am, as I said in that last blog, responsible for my own happiness and well-being and no one else.  I’m on this path and teaching myself during this journey and invited others to travel with me.  Some travel as students, others as friends, there have even been a couple traveling as adversaries but we are all on the path.  When the time is right for me to step off the path, or maybe I should say hit an intersection and head down a different path I will know it and so will many of you.

In the mean time, train on.

New mat

We recently put down a new mat; right on top of the old one.  We didn’t even the remove the old canvas.  But we did extent the mat from wall to wall.

What a challenge we encountered at 8:30 in the morning.  The new mat material is 2 inches thick, 6 feet wide and 42 feet long and covered with carpet material. In fact, it is a  gymnastics mat.  It came in 4 tightly rolled bundles. We knew when ordered that they would not fit through the door so we were four people strong.  (guest what, not enough people) We had to unroll each mat and snake it through the door, up the stairs to the second floor, around the corner, down the hall, through the dojo door then lay it down with chairs on each end for several hours to get it to lay flat.  Consider that process times four.  Two hours later we were done the bull work.

5pm that afternoon we started the process of fitting the 4 pieces together, cutting them to length and filling in the corners and odd nooks.  The joints are covered and held together with 5 inch wide velcro strips and fit very nice.  Just about the whole dojo joined together to put it down. Nice work, everybody.

The Future

The question usually comes up as: What does the future hold?  Then comes: Is there an answer?

Short version, Yes!

Realistically I may not know the exact answer.  However, why concern myself over what I cannot control.  But that calls up another idea.  Do we or do we not draw to us what we agonize over? And is that not an ancillary form of control?

The answer is both yes and no.  The truth is, most things we worry about will never materialize.  That said, consider this: We really do draw to ourselves whatever happens.  As I’ve stated before, most situations we find ourselves in are a result of what we did or did not do. Even though we may have agonized over some supposedly detrimental situation, it usually comes ( if it comes at all) in a manner or form we do not expect.

Getting to the essence of all this stuff requires no more than a simple and practical “thought” equation one must bring into play.

Learn from the past; Prepare for the future; Live in the present!

That’s all there is, there ain’t no more; just the eternal NOW!

Off the mat and into the OR

In writing the book “Stepping Off the Mat,” I had no idea the mental training and conditioning of Aikido would come in handy in a completely new and different direction.   To be completely honest I know all about the mental aspiration and preparation for surgery since I’ve had 4 major operations in my adult life.  I knew the necessity of relaxation in preparation for surgery I just did not realize I would have to use it during the  surgery yesterday morning.

Cataract surgery is done with the patient fully conscious, fully awake.  They place an IV in the arm for an anesthesia just in case of an emergency but unless something happens it is not used, which was the case yesterday.   I knew this before hand I just thought they would administer something to make me drowsy.   Nope, it didn’t happen.

I was told to stare at the bright light overhead which I did.  They covered up my other eye and placed a cloth around and against my eyelids so I could not blink and started in. Of course, they put multiple drops in my eye to dilate it in the  pre-operation procedure and gave me a valium tablet as a relaxer.

The Aikido training I applied as I was asked to relax.  It was difficult to do when I’ve never had someone fiddling around in my eye for the first time.  What added to the strange sensation is there was no pain just that odd little pulling and nipping.  The doctor must cut the membrane then cut and vacuum out the old lens and implant  a permanent artificial lens so the sounds are not very reassuring either.

I focused on the bright light and on my breathing.  It’s very interesting that I was not going back and forth between the two.  I  simply noticed my breath  as a background happening in addition to the light.

As I’ve explained to my students over and over, relaxation is the key, or ki to everything.  The actual procedure only takes 7 and a half minutes, but those 7.5 minutes seem like an eternity when you are under the knife.  Most fights never last that long.

I’m fine now, though my left eye has not yet regained its full focus.  No physical Aikido, no bending forward and no driving for the remainder of the week and not pressure or rubbing on the eye for two weeks.

Wealth

After Michael Jackson died Thursday, I went online early Friday morning and checked out Amazon.com.  It is amazing how profits and monetary considerations affect people. What I was looking for was the 1983 video, “Motown 25, Yesterday, Today,  Forever.”  What I found was $19.99 crossed out and a new listing of $129.99 for the collectors version VHS tape on sale. Now I find some listed for prices of $69.00 to $199.00

Today’s newspaper commentary headline shouted “Mega-wealthy survivors have never had it so good.  They were talking about the drop in prices for goods and services which we average folks have trouble buying because of salary reductions and/or layoffs.  It was also stated that the number of millionaires listed dropped significantly.  The super wealthy have no such problems.  However, wealth is relative as is everything else.

When you consider health, money may buy extremely good doctors’ care, but when you look at all the celebrities dying lately, money doesn’t seem to have helped much.  Michael had his own cardiac specialist right there in the house and it didn’t save him.

However, speaking of wealth, feeling GREAT is priceless! When I look around the country and throughout Kokikai, I realize that one cannot put a price tag on having a multitude of friends.

When I look at our dojo with Wilmington Aikido, Sanuces Ryu Jujitsu and Quiet Storm members I realize how truly blessed I am.

Consider this: I am extremely wealthy primarily because of my attitude, belief structure, convictions, dedicated martial arts principles and way of life.  It took me a while to get here.

Anyone care to join me?