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>>>

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


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.

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.


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


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…



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….

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.

Sensei Rick Berry’s thoughts on the martial arts in general, aikido in particular, and life at large.