Category Archives: Off the Mat

Teaching, part 2

In my last post I commented on a question from one of my students regarding teaching women, or more to the point, is there a different method for teaching men and women? I say this, most do not understand the true nature of teaching.

ALL TEACHING is done by reception and is done in a personal, one-on-one basis. There may be multiple students in the dojo, but all teaching is conducted one-on-one. That was why Cecelia Sensei admonished my black belt students to stop the chatter. You are shadow-teaching and not allowing your partner to experience his or her mistakes having Sensei make the corrections.

That said, my student, singular, is my most important student! My most important is the student I am speaking to; correcting at the moment; practicing with during the execution of technique, or merely looking at during the execution of his/her technique.

In other words, all are taught differently. All require direct teaching.

An observation! Most do not heed my suggestion……. usually because most do not truly hear what I say.’

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?

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….

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.

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!