Category Archives: Off the Mat

Dreams

To those of you who are listening: If you think what you do affects only you, you are mistaken. All affects all!

Everything is interconnected and most of what you do is, to some extent, caused or brought about another action, be  it a person or an event.  Conversely, everything that you do is, to some extent, a “cause” affecting another person or event, sometimes singular, sometimes  plural.  If you notice I made no mention of this cause being positive or negative, not good not evil, its just an Effect!

You may have heard it explained as the “law of unintended consequences.”  Or, you really experienced it as something like this, ” I meant to do  ‘one little thing’ but ‘this’ is what happened.”

Society is a moving, living, breathing entity having a collective effect on itself. Please realize that this society, which is actually all of us, subconsciously sets each of us up to think and act in a certain way, which sometimes causes us to behave contrary to our original intentions.

The key to a satisfying life is to be more of a “cause” rather than being jerked around by relentless negative “effects.” The biblical quotations, “live by the sword, die by the sword,” and “an eye for an eye,” are for real. On the street it’s stated this way: “What goes around truly comes around.” All these statements revolve around that natural law called “Cause and Effect.”

This universal truth is always in operation.  Therefore I say this:

If there is a thing to be done, it is worth doing well and to the best of your ability.  “You can make it if you try” is not the answer. Trying implies failure, do it with intention.  Whatever you do affects all around you so Dare to dream… Dare to Dream BIG!

Is the dream complete?  Then ACT!

Sometimes I wonder! II

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if the world was without war.  Would the martial arts continue to exist?  As I see it, without war peaceful enterprise would allow for opportunity for all and there would be no need for crime and/or self protection, or as most put it self-defense.  What would I be doing these days?  What would you be doing?  Training or something else?

Sometimes I wonder why I feel this way.  Maybe my beliefs are a result of the my environment, those around me and the sum total of my experiences. I only know one thing for sure.   If you look back over my past blogs you will discern at least one principle thread.  You see I am a firm believer in the principle of “cause and effect.”  Cruelty, abuse, physical domination and hatred are all learned by children and taught by adults.  Of course, some weak-minded adults learn these applications from other adults.

For instance, ( this is no put-down on Joe’s comment) when Vice President Joe Biden commented on not allowing  his family to travel anywhere in a confined environment, he was severely criticized by the  news media and others for possibly damaging the travel industry. The claim was his words might cause a panic because of the swine flu fear.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe that childhood game we played years ago may have had too much influence.  That game was called “follow the leader.” How easily people are influenced by some idle commentary is the real cause for concern, not whether the lead is a proper guide post or not.  Why is it that many, many more will follow poor judgment or commentary and few follow good or great declarations?  Is it possible that negativity is less difficult than the positive?  Most people are too lazy to think for themselves and consequently fall into less than optimum situations then scream for help.  We are our brother’s keeper only up to the point where continuing makes him weaker.

As I was ending my book,” Stepping Off the Mat,” I made a wish: That self-defense become unnecessary and that society reach a level where the martial arts shall be taught for no purpose other than self improvement.

Sometimes I wonder.

Why Do I?

Why do I?

Train?  Because I can.  Heal? It’s a GOD given gift.  Breathe? Because I must.  A deeper question is why do I live?

I don’t know.  I suppose the answer to that question would give me many other answers also.  In fact, if I could just figure out some of the simplier things in life, it would be oh, so easier to get along.  Don’t get wrong, I’m really enjoying myself. I’m just a little short in understanding why some people do the things they do.  If I could just see a little deeper into their motivations it would be easier to step out of their way.  As it is, I seem to be spending more of my allotted time on this planet practicing basic mental Aikido exercises when I could be showing my students more profound concepts. Of course that may be to answer to the whole thing; this may be the way it’s supposed to be.

Nah. I don’t believe in predestination.  All the great books say we set up life by the way we think and live. And if that’s the case, why do these weird situations keep happening?

A book I’ve read states that it is fate.  F.A.T.E. – From All Thoughts Everywhere. Which makes more sense than any other idea I’ve heard in a long, long time. Which makes it essential that we entertain strong, powerful and progressive thoughts to disrupt the destructive ones bombarding us. However, simply thinking is not enough, we must verbalize those ideas and also act on them.

Any sugesstions?

living

I’ve hesitated writing on this particular subject for a long, long time. But today my oldest student shook me as no other person can. He reminded me of why I teach.

An open letter to my students.

Too many, far too many lose sight of why I continue to train in the martial arts. Especially after reading the ending of my book “Stepping Off the Mat.” So what do I get from all this training and practicing?

It’s simply this:I’m teaching you, my student, how to live. The traditional educational institution is structured and designed to do one thing and one thing only; to teach you how to make a living! Not how to think and not how to be a good citizen. Just how to make a living.

I’ve been working out how to shape your minds, teaching you how to think properly and how to reason by giving you examples of strategic thinking under the guise of martial arts and self-defense strategies. If you remember, I’ve said it’s not so important what you think as how you think. Small minds get bent out of shape over small problems. Mitch Gilbert once said, “small minds talk about people, average minds talk about events and great minds talk about ideas.”

Some have commented on my style of dress and the way I always keep my shoes highly shined and the way I conduct myself. Well, it’s a way of living. I’m making a statement without saying a word. My actions and appearance speak volumes for me. I just go about my business.

And while I on that thought of dress, consider this: Do you ever wonder why the youth of this country dresses the way they do? Do you wonder why they have little or no respect for each other or for that matter none for you either? (when I say you, I mean adults) It may be because of this: We have lost respect around the world because of the decisions we’ve made. Look at the politicians we’ve picked to run the local, state and federal governments for the past twenty or thirty years. All they seem to care about is getting reelected and nothing about doing what’s right. The young have picked up on this and solve their problems the same way they see adults and governments do. By simply taking, fighting or stealing for it. There is another way. A much better way. I practice Martial discipline! It’s really not about fighting.

I make every effort to demonstrate the capacity of reason and civility by how I live my life. And some examples are (1) Do no harm. (2) Whenever possible, give advantage to the other guy. (3) Clean up after yourself by leaving no track. (4) Smile whenever possible. (5) Correct a child when you see him or her operating incorrectly. (6) Allow all children to see you in a positive light while doing the things you do. (7) Don’t cheat. (8) When you make a mistake, admit it. (9) Have the courage to say I’m sorry. (10) No matter your religion, practice the golden rule, treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Do you have other ideas or concepts? If so please share them.

Choice is not chance

In continuation of my last entry, I hinted at this conclusion: choice is all there really is. I say that because every action, non-action or I should say, inaction is choice, there is no chance. Just as there is no such thing as chaos. There is only “order” not yet understood.

As I contemplate this, I’m reminded of meditations I’ve experienced on occasion. For instance, during the last encounter I realized an unusual sensation, namely an openness, or emptiness. I use emptiness even though that word does not quite fit. I just cannot find one. There is a feeling of movement, sometimes inward and then on occasion, moving off as in moving to another place. The strange thing is it becomes a different place even as it feels like the same place.

I also experience a conscious decision for movement even as it’s done unconsciously, if that makes any sense to you. I seem to recall feeling my body, but from a distance. During some of my transcendent meditations, I lose awareness of my body for brief periods and on other occasions, not at all. To feel my body at an internal distance can be a rather progressive thing. At least I feel that is the case. In these endeavors I occasionally feel as if I’m on the verge of some grand experience that is difficult to explain.

Where am I going with this? It’s the reason I’m training in the martial arts. Namely, developing an intensely disciplined mind to help me move onward and inward psychically and spiritually. While I’ve physically gained good health and fitness, it is my wish that this journey will make me a better human being, with the accent on “being.”

Merdy

It happened yesterday. Merdy passed.
I received the news today.
Today I lost a friend but it feels like my right arm and this is closer than family.
The hits you can see coming are so much easier to absorb, even when they knock you down.
I haven’t really lost him, the world is just so much smaller now, the slights more insignificant.
I am truly blessed for how many can say in truthfulness that they know a man whom everyone liked.
The first question asked of me upon arriving at last summer camp: How’s Merdy? Is he coming to camp?
I can’t see to write anymore

Leadership Principles

Most competent martial artists can function very well when they are fresh and well rested and full of energy. And many not so competent artists can do the same.

The question is, can you function in a life or death situation when you are physically exhausted and drained of energy? Can you function when you are injured and can hardly stand up?

This is where mental conditioning comes in. This is the reason few individuals make it as navy seals or special forces recruits. Or marathon runners. Or true martial artists for that matter.

Your mind must be strong enough to control your body and not the other way around. If you fall down seven times you must stand up eight. when your body screams stop, the man with the superior mind , the mentally strong individual goes on to complete the task; to fulfill the assignment; to reach for the goal and to finish what he starts. Half of the human race is male, half is female and I like this definition of a man. Strong women may properly raise a male child to adulthood, but only a man can show a male child how to be a man. Leadership is part of it.

There is movement in everything. Everything is in motion. Nothing rests, so you cannot stand still even if you wanted to. So train. Train hard and you gain control of your body. Train hard to gain control of your mind for this is essential for true growth.

Many examples of satisfactory instruction exist in the martial arts. Many can teach how to punch, kick and throw. How many can teach and train a student and develop him or her into a superbly sharp instrument that can cut anything, then teach him not to use it? This may sound like a contradiction in terms but if you think this is the case your thinking does not go nearly deep enough. Not only are you on the wrong page, you are in the wrong book. As human beings we are acquiring an amazing amount of knowledge; an amazing amount of information on how to do and make things, but no more intellect or morals. Mankind tends to make the same mistakes over and over again.

My message to you as a future leader is this:

In normal everyday activities it is okay to make a mistake, strive to make that mistake only once. And if you study your brothers and sisters actions carefully there is no need to make any mistakes. By this I mean incorrect actions.

Dare to dream. Dare to dream big even though this may lead you onto the cutting edge of life adventures. Miscalculations may happen when you are on the cutting edge because you are operating in unfamiliar territory. Be bold! In these situations others may consider your missteps to be wrong but ignore other people and their comments. there is a price to pay for learning new ideas and experiences. You may pay with time and or energy and sometimes injury. However, only you can decide whether those costs are worthwhile. Your teacher cannot, nor should he give you all of your experiences. It’s your life. Remember, you get certain results even if you do nothing. The law of cause and effect is forever in operation.

Worldview (and how you see it)

Many people have described my way of looking at the world as being different from most others. Is that a compliment or a dig? I’ll give you my answer at the end of this blog. I shall start with an idea I’ve discussed previously: Can you change your past?

The most common answer is no, absolutely not! Yet if one would stop and think it out, the answer is staring you right in the face. Last Saturday afternoon I had this very conversation with my old senior student, Bill Groce and a close personal friend of his. He knew where I was going with this line as he had heard it all before and remained silent. I told his friend that I would prove to her satisfaction that one can change one’s past. I had met her earlier that morning and the time we talked about the past was late afternoon. The question I asked her was this: since I met you this morning am I in your past? After several attempts to clarify the question, she agreed that I was in fact a part of her past. At that point I simply asked her if I was a part of her past the day before, or the week before or at any time previously. She said I was not in any part of her previous past. My answer, “You’ve just shown that you change your past continually, as you are always adding to it and I rest my case.”

The young lady sat there looking at me with a stunned look on her face. Groce had been telling her that he operated the way he did because of hanging around me for 20 years listening to conversations like that. After that I had her undivided attention. She said that “no one has ever talked to me about this before and I’ve never thought the past in this way.” She conceded, by the way.

The next idea I wish to discuss is the idea of death. The common thought is we live and then we die. A common statement is that we can’t get out of life alive. So, what is life? Man describes or attempts to categorize life as we know it, yet cannot define what it is. The questions are these: What are we? Are we our bodies? Are we our thoughts? Or are we spirit which animates us? And if so, how does that work? If we are really just physical beings, well, science says that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Since everything is ultimately comprised of energy and everything is nothing more than units of this stuff called energy, the human body must be made of the same stuff. Our bodies break down and decay in the end but nothing is destroyed. We are animated by spirit which simply leaves the body at the end of a process which we really do not understand and I have never heard of spirit dying. My belief is we merely go through a transition into something new. Or maybe something old. And this brings me to Aikido and a new question. What does Aikido have to do with all of this?

Well, it goes something like this: Last night halfway through the Tuesday evening class I noticed that several students were having problems with a particular technique and I mentioned that most people seem to look in the incorrect direction for an understanding. They strongly attempt to master the technique, however, if they encounter problems they should really work toward mastering themselves. As I see it that is the correct challenge. That’s what self-improvement means to me, mastery of “self.” When I move into that realm called self control, or maybe a better description would be “self observation,” I experience a certain feeling and a technical, but not necessarily clinical understanding happens. It’s as if my inner eye opens and I see things more clearly. All this is looking at the world differently from the way I hear others describe it and it brings about less bouncing around and losing my energy to other things. There’s an added benefit, more youthful vitality.

At 68 years old I can still demonstrate jump, spinning crescent kicks at someone’s head while many of my contemporaries are experiencing hip and/or knee replacement surgery. Of course I could be hallucinating and all of my correctly moving joints and conditioning could just be good genes that I inherited from my parents. But I like to think that positive thoughts and an inward looking approach to life has produced all these benefits. And Aikido fits right in with this attitude. This martial art affords me the opportunity to practice a personal defense which allows me to explore variables of timing, a greater usage of space (or sometimes the lack of space) the experience and occasionally the comprehension of certain laws of physics, sometimes even psychic communication with another person (as when you sense what he’s about to do) and just feeling great.  As I sense uke’s intentions I do not have to destroy him, I merely deny him balance, timing,  coordination and rhythm and I may do many things. What do you think? Where do you fit into this world view? Are you able to shrug off the prevalent pessimistic attitude enslaving the most of the world so you get in touch with you greatness? Do you consider an accusation of being different a put down?

I consider this to be complimentary when aimed at me. I kind of like being different. As a matter of fact my mentor once told me that most of the time the majority is wrong. time and experience have proven him to be correct.

When you think differently, you act differently and the world responds to you differently than it does to others. You just see the world different and you are.