Category Archives: Martial Arts

Teaching

While discussing attendance and how to increase the class size, a different approach was being looked at. Male students were coming in but no new females.

A question came up on how to increase the female membership and/or class participation. Encourage more female practice time on the mat-what an assignment! No insult intended, but have you tried telling a female “what she needs to do,” lately?

All jokes aside, that conversation, as I see it, started off incorrectly. To get into these “participation needs” requires one to take first things first. A more logical approach was to ask several questions first.

What are you looking for when entering a dojo? Why come in, in the first place?

What is lacking in your makeup that you need to study a martial art?

Having gained the skills, how do you intend to use them?

How badly do you want it and what are you willing to pay for it including Blood, Sweat, Tears and Money?

Are you aware that you must sacrifice (spend) quite a bit of time in this endeavor? It’s only in the movies that you gain skills quickly.

How long do you intend to stay in it?

The most important question was the first one and the second most important question: How much research did you put into looking at/for this particular martial art, this dojo, this teacher?

Life off the mat

When I’m “Off the mat,” commentary can (should) be used the same way as technique as far as I’m concerned. Here is a small example:

An interesting situation came about as I was in the locker room at the local YMCA. My senior student and I had just finished working out and we were holding an animated conversation on the problems of some students in the dojo. The discussion went like this: “While few students’ listening skills are lacking, some require the development of proper decorum in dealing with people’s feelings or the lack of natural abilities. Students of lower rank ocassionally demonstrate greater motor control and in the process intimidate some higher ranked students. (I’m talking about under black belt students who have trained longer than the ones with higher motor skills) This may happen in a dojo more often than most people think.” The discussion centered on how to reach negative thinking minds. Teaching attitudinal resolutions or how to get one person pass another’s ego problem was what we were talking about.

A gentleman at a locker close to us stated that it sounded as though we were discussing “corporate America.” In one sense we were. Life’s solutions always cross boundries. In other words, life cannot be segmented. The principles are universal and apply everywhere. While some situations need or call for specific answers, basically, how you operate in one venue is the way you operate in all avenues of your existence. We caught this man’s attention because universal principle states that “everything affects everything else” and we were just applying mental Aikido principles.

This is how I practice Aikido in everyday life; “off the mat.”

Attention to:

A. Improve your position: Change how you think!

#1. Talking about a path is not the same as walking that path. Walk the talk!

#2. You must start to eat primarily to improve your health; enjoyment of your food is a byproduct.

#3. Pay constant attention to how you feel.

#4. Be aware of your surroundings.

B. Have clarity of thought: Most thoughts come to you from outside of your body.

#1. We have need of mental exercises to keep the mind sharp.

#2. All assaults take a toll on the body, however most people do not realize that they are being assaulted dozens of times during the day. We have become a nation of hypochondriacs preyed on by the pharmaceutical and television industries. We are bombarded by mis-information and inuendo all day long by the news media to the point where there is almost no independantly critical thought.

#3. Many worry and pay much attention to what (may) happen to the exclusion of what is happening NOW. Now don’t get me wrong, it is still possible to prepare for the future, just don’t live there.

#4. Relax. Enjoy your surroundings. Practice calmness. Slow your breathing.

#5. Seek a harmonious ear. But first develop a harmonious mouth and tongue.

$6. Self-evaluate. When you practice Aikido technique focus not so much on
uke, focus on your own body. Exam whether or not you are working your body as efficiently as possible as you take uke’s balance.

All these suggestions will help you to improve your position in life as well as on the mat.

Armor! or not

Armor is heavy. Armor slows the warrior down. Soldiers wear armor and so do police officers now. That was not always the case and many deaths resulted at least in combat. Policemen did not die from gunshot wounds all that often in the past. The question is why now? What changed?

What changed is simpy this: most everyone is wearing armor now. At least most think they need it now. And if one were to follow all the newspaper articles, that would be a correct assumption.

Where can I get a set of good quality, effective and lightweight ARMOR? And how much will it cost?

Answer: The cost is quite high. In more ways than you realize, you will be paying for a lifetime and the price will be much more than money. One price is freedom. And another is fear and loathing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I not talking about something physical here. I’m talking about an attitude. The lack of understanding of how the universe works can be detrimental to the health of all, not just the usual participants. To give an example of what I mean consider this:

It takes the presence of a man to teach a boy how to be a man! This society’s young males don’t have enough real men available for examples because so many of them are stationed around the world solving the world’s problems while open communication and living conditions in and around many homes are at an all time low. Examples abound with athletes demonstrating poor choices while acting like little children celebrating actions they get paid enormous salaries to perform. I’m talking about the antics performed after scoring a touchdown or making a tackle. I mean these are grown men, are they not?

Another example: whenever something goes wrong between nations or there is a severe or ideological disagreement, war or talk of war, is the usual answer to the problem. Why do you think that for many young men, the first thought is “to fight?” They learn this from adults. Why is the right to buy and sell arms more important than lowering the death toll on our city streets?

All of these situations lead many people to seek arms for their protection. Or armor.

The answer to the situation of armor is to change our focus from constant conflict to more harmonious concepts and we will need bricks for building instead of armor.

Martial arts in this country would primarily serve for self-improvement as is the case of “wushu” in China. Most of their art is no longer practiced for conflict. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Obstacles to Goals (training)

Obstacle #1: lack of discipline. One plans to start tomorrow, next week or next month, not realizing that the journey of a thousand miles begins with that all important first step.

Obstacle #2: Not realizing that all there is, is right here, right now! Which is when the first step must be made.

Obstacle #3: Not realizing that all things of value must be fought for or worked for; to get them or to keep them.

Obstacle #4: You tell me. Do you really want it?

My new book

I’m excited to announce/share some news with all of you. Over the last year
I have been working with one of my students, Kurt Brugel, in doing a second edition to my book; Stepping off the Mat”.

My original reason for writing “Stepping off the Mat” was what I experienced I in 1977. I did not leave Reynolds Metals Company. It left me, plus three hundred others; it folded and I was left with a lifeline that lasted just 2 years. When I finally arrived at BP Oil in 1982, I felt some of that same negativity I felt at Reynolds in its last few years. I began to write articles for the company newsletter in an attempt to nullify that attitude. This book is more or less a result of those writings. I also became aware that we teach people, including our supervisors if any, how to treat us.

In this second edition I added a few more chapters, one entitled Blogging, where I’ve looked back at some of my blogs and the responses from readers.

There are also 2 options for purchasing “Stepping off the Mat” now; one is a
printed version and the second is a digital download version for E-Readers.

To purchase a Printed copy, please visit this link>>>

http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/stepping-off-the-mat-2nd-edition/16968023

To purchase a Digital download copy, please visit this link>>>

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/stepping-off-the-mat-2nd-edition/16965400

Peace,

Armor or not!

Recently one of my old Quiet Storm black belt students arrived at the dojo requesting an opportunity, as he put it, to complete his training. I had not seen him for many, many years. He said he traveled through several other martial disciplines in that time frame. The request was for more than just the physical.

He wanted to know how to solve a perplexing problem. How to achieve that allusive quality known as peace of mind.

Our conversation drifted from our history together to going over his personal history to his ways of dealing with opposition and resistance to peaceful coexistance. In other words he constantly found himself sizing up possible adversaries whether they were openly aggressive or not. He was always evaluating how he would deal with the individuals around him if violence were to break out. He had been in several fights since he left The Quiet Storm many years ago.

The description of his lifestyle showed me that he is constantly on guard, always wondering about an attack, never relaxing for a moment. In my first few comments I described the proper usage of the 4 principles we utilize in Aikido and how they must practiced in everyday life while off the mat as well as during training. Then I took it a step further.

I mentioned how I stopped wearing a protective groin cup while sparring during the last four years of my active involvement teaching Tae Kwon Do. I did that because I didn’t wear one on the street and I needed to train the way I dressed on those streets. I had to learn to deal with protecting my entire organism. I pointed out that I was also training in Aikido during those last 4 or 5 years.

That was the period in which I transitioned to a new understanding of one of life’s most interesting phenomenons. Namely this: Life evolves and grows, it takes back and comes back or reflects back at us just what we expect of it.

The way I taught Quiet Storm practitioners, they developed a protective means of defense I call “armor” in order to cope with the physical world. That was primarily because we fought, and fought hard, not all the time, but most of the time. Our defense was a strong and aggressive offense which worked very well.

In those days it was not unusal for several males to walk into a karate school and challenge the instructor or students to a fight. It happened at many schools throughout the United states, but especially in California. It never happened in our school because whenever someone walked in with that certain swagger and stood in the doorway glaring around, I would simply call any two students to the middle of the floor, have them bow to me, bow to each other and free fight. I usually turned away and walked over to my senior student for a little quiet conversation while the fight was going on. After a few minutes, the transgressors, with a much different expression on their faces would look at each other, turn around and leave and never return. Well, every once in a great while one of them might come back to join, but that was very rare. After a few years of this the Chester grapevine was full of talk about those Quiet Storm people being crazy because they fought for real in that school. After a while they stopped coming in that way.

But getting back to my old student, I spoke to him of other things; Of growth, life changes and a new way of looking at life…

As you grow older you grow weaker and that armor grows heavier. My new way of thinking was to lighten the load. What changed? Take off the armor! Face life the way you were born.

For me, the first thing to go was the groin cup, then I dropped my armor. My realization was simply this: The most powerful weapon in the universe is the human mind and the most powerful force in the universe is love.

I’ve not had to defend myself in all that time. Neither mentally nor physically.

The question has been asked, do you live in a fundamentally friendly universe or a fundamentally hostile universe? How you answer this question dictates whether or not you can safely remove your armor.

If you can believe, you can achieve. For me no other defense is necessary nor desired. My expectations have changed.

Potential

Potential: Refers to that state or condition of anything which is not in an active state. It is a static condition which means it is dormant.

DDDP is the answer.  The question is, “Why do so many not live up to their full or even partially full potential?”

Before I go into details I need to make a few suggestions.  Maybe I should call them statements. But first lets see what some of the masters say about this phenomenon:

“Your potential is unlimited in all that you choose to do.” – Neal Donald Walsh.

“The difference between ‘effort’ and ‘struggle’; Life was never meant to be a struggle.” -Stuart Wilde.

“The possession of Knowledge, unless accompanied by a manifestation and expression in Action, is like the hoarding of precious metals-a vain and foolish thing. Knowledge, like wealth, is intended for Use.  The Law of Use is universal, and he who violates it suffers by reason of his conflict with natural forces.” – The Kybalion.

You decide to make a change for the better in your life.  It could be any significant change, but let’s say it involves getting on the path of mastery, or you choose to start a business or maybe follow through on that idea to create something new. You shout it to high heaven and tell your friends all about it. You write down your ideas which really help to reinforce them. You’ve actually made a change and it really works well.  you are feeling great by this time.  You go on that way for a while, then begin to experience a gradual change. You slide backward. Why?

My mentor once told me the most important word in the world consists of just three letters. “WHY.”  I like to add three letters of my own. “HOW!”

Backsliding is a universal experience.  Every one of us resists significant change.  It is caused by something called ‘homeostasis.’  A state of equilibrium obtained when tension or a drive has been reduced or eliminated. This means you do not wish to stay in a newly changed condition because it requires effort. Back and forth is uncomfortable.  And to the mind completely unnecessary.  It’s all mind by the way.

The solution?  DDDP.  Discipline, Direction, Dedication and Practice.

Naturally one needs much Discipline in order to accomplish anything, be it worthwhile or not.  But equally important is Direction. You must move unceasingly in the direction of your goal. Many move toward that goal and end up distracted by seemingly important incidents in their periphery. Ignore the distractions.

Some may call this tunnel vision, I call it Dedication. There is a really great quote by Robert Ryan’s character about  Clark Gable’s character in the movie,”The Tall Men.” He said: “There goes the only man I ever respected. He’s what every boy hopes to be when he grows up; And what every man wishes he had been when he grows old.” Dedication to something worthwhile leads to this type of conviction.  Of course, “worthwhile” is in the eye of the beholder.

Practice is good and necessary. Perfect practice is much better.  Disciplined, dedicated practice, structured into your daily life leads to a successful conclusion and permanently changes your lifestyle.

You become someone different. People notice.

Practice, practice, practice….

Time to leave?

When is it time to throw in the towel and just walk away?  How much is enough?  Who wants what I have to offer anyway?

Many years ago my first instructor, Steve McKnight told me that “when you start to dread going to class, that is the indicator.”  He said “when that happens, when you start to feel like that don’t walk, run out the door and quit.  You owe it to your students to give them 100%.”

While I have not fallen to the level of dread going in, the shear joy of  looking forward to going, to reaching that high feeling of accomplishment when a student’s face opens up with a new “understanding” is not happening as it used to.  And while the joy of renewing old friendships at training camp has not diminished the camps themselves no longer excite me.  I know there is a likelihood that it could be my inability to train the way I used to, (the aches,  pains and arthritis of a 70 year old man) I suspect it may be more of a mental thing than physical. Anyway, I no longer look forward to it.

So, when is enough, enough? The difficulty is in the small details.  While I thought I was more advanced than this, the  small quirks of human nature have begun to irritate me. I have always felt that human beings should be more advanced than they are.  People do not consider other people when they decide to do or say some things and my patience has not grown as it should.  So I get irritated.

I’ve always taught that one of the best paths for personal growth is through interactions with others.  Richard Bach said in his book entitled ‘Illusions:’ “We teach best what we most need to learn.” However, it may be time to move in another direction.

The Solution? Maybe to drop out of martial arts completely the way Jim Lahue did. After all, my allegiance ultimately is to myself not any one person or organization.  Considering how I dropped the martial arts organization which I co-founded and walked away from the martial arts school which I founded in the sixties, it would not be too hard to do.

I have not made up my mind just yet.  But it won’t be long.

Age and conditioning

I recently had a conversation with my senior student and best friend regarding his physical condition.  He is 60 years old and his wife commented about good he looks for his age.  He attributed his conditioning to 38 years of martial arts training.  Punching, kicking and all-around sparring, kata and everything else that goes with it.

We discussed some of our couch-potato friends and their lack of endeavor which seems to have enhanced their weight gain.  There has to  have been hundreds of volumes written on the subject.

What most of my friends don’t seem to understand is I pay very little attention to the prescribed types of food deemed “acceptable” to the so-called experts.  Naturally I don’t go crazy with my diet and there is discipline in what I eat and drink.   But evidently I train hard enough to burn off the effects of my sometimes poor eating habits.  Of course my body dynamics could simply be the result of certain genetics but I don’t think so.

And then there is the mind. But what does that have to do with this lack of fat storage, you ask?  To me, everything.  As we envision, as we believe, and as we perceive, so we receive.  We live in a fundamentally friendly universe  which we create mentally with our belief systems.  We do this collectively, all of us together.  Which is why I’ve begun to direct my consciousness toward peace and contentment.  And as an add-on thinking this way: “thin is in.”  What’s important however is this thought is directed inward, and it definitely is  not  something coming from the outside in.  I don’t work at avoiding outside influences necessarily, I just tend to ignore them. To work at avoidance is to burn energy needlessly.  And in approaching 70 years old in a few months, I can use all the reserve energy I can muster.

Age and conditioning starts in the head.  It starts in the head and finishes in the body.  What do I mean by that?

It also pays to think young!