Sunday, October 1, 2017

How to Be a Great Martial Artist

Mushin University™ Self-Knowledge the Ultimate Knowledge

"I became a martial artist in spite of my limitations.” Bruce Lee

Do you have what it takes to be a great martial artist? To answer this fairly, one should be able to define what constitutes being a martial artist. Second of all, you need to define what it is that fulfills your expectations of greatness. I would like to use illustrated art as an example to make my point. As for me, there is a difference between someone who draws as a hobby and that of a professional artist. Yet in the professional art category some differentiate between styles and mediums as to what is an artist. I often hold cartoonists in as high regard as photo realistic painters or modern artist and the old Renaissance painters, art after all, is very subjective and often influenced by popularity. However, procuring a living from your work is only one of the variables as this goes beyond just merchandising your artwork. I’ve seen many amateur artists that I prefer over professional artists, some monetary considerations aside, I would maintain that the relentless pursuit and desire to express yourself in any medium defines an artist, which would be inclusive of graphic arts, music, literature, dance and combative arts. 

The second part of this problem is much like the first, and it too can be very subjective. Although there are hallmarks, skills, and abilities that help define and establish greatness. Tenacity, determination, resolve are necessary elements for reaching the solution. In my opinion, it takes a balance between internal and external disciplines to establish greatness. Internally a martial artist should have intimate knowledge of the skills that define his or her art. Coupled with this is the desire to seek and refine knowledge. Yet having great knowledge without courage, sincerity, benevolence, the desire for justice, and respect for others leaves an artist in a position of deficit. 

While physically being well rounded, and diversified in the areas of strength, endurance, and flexibility is beneficial. No one has a perfect balance as we all have areas that show our hidden strengths and weaknesses. So, having a kinetic sense of these elements in ourselves and others also helps assess martial artists throughout our lives. After all, the ability to adapt to our environment around our shortcomings becomes more apparent as we age or need to recover from an injury or illness. We are martial artists despite our limitations. 

Every day training is the perfect balance for establishing ourselves as great martial artists. After all, it proves to ourselves that we have the mental toughness to do one aspect of our training despite whatever setback we are going through. Every day training can be applied to our weak points or our strong points and one of the greatest benefits of all is that it can vary from day-to-day. This at least keeps the rust from forming on any specific skill set that is not in our prime focus. As to having a prime focus, I believe this is determined by the individual's preference and overall natural abilities. Make sure that you establish greatness in this one area. Make sure that your technical knowledge, physical training, and mental strategies, overlap to aid in establishing world-class proficiency. Last but not least, do your best to help those around you.

“Instead of trying to do everything well, do those things perfectly of which you are capable." Bruce Lee

Friday, September 1, 2017

Are You a Pretend Martial Artist

Mushin University™ Self-Knowledge the Ultimate Knowledge

"When you are talking about fighting with no rules, well then, baby, you'd better train every part of your body." Bruce Lee.

I have often heard martial artists that train in systems that utilize no sporting contest in their curriculum, referred to other martial artists that competed in sport as pretend martial artists and/or weekend warriors. Then again, I've heard precisely the same thing in reverse. It seems that on the other side of the coin these other martial artists that didn't compete were looked upon as weak and untested. As I have experience in both camps I can see the validity in both arguments.

Sporting competition does helps develop the will to win. It also encourages us, martial artists, to keep in shape. Being in shape is important whichever camp you're in, as long as we realize that there is a difference between peak performance and everyday consistent readiness. A good argument can be made that you fight like you train and practicing not going for illegal sport targets will hinder you in a real fight. But, I have found that most of the time this goes toward sensibilities more than anything else.

Wearing protective gear helps to test your timing and other abilities while lessening damage to you and your partner. However, if you always wear gloves and safety gear to hit and defend, this can curtail your ability to keep your tools sharp and your body hardened. On the other hand, sometimes wearing safety equipment prevents both wearer and receiver from reacting in a natural manner. In the martial arts what it always seems to come down to is will your stuff work against an unwilling participant. You can not base this on if your style worked for someone else a hundred years ago, but only if you can pull it off. This also implies that you can defend against an attack that you don't know is coming. Not only that, but will your techniques work against someone that has picked up a telegraphed signal from you. Then, there is the psychological factor to consider. Part of the equation is do you have the stomach to get blood and gore on you in the process, fights are often bloody and even worse.

Plus, I have often heard individuals from either camp being squeamish about sticking their fingers in someone's nose or mouth. Although they often cite, that their first line of defense would be a finger jab to the eye. I have found that any time that you stick a finger into an orifice, including the eye, can be repugnant for at least one but often both individuals. I'm not that fond of having to do it even if it is for self-defense, but it is better than having to kill them to get them to stop. None the less I am partial to throat strikes, and other such soft targets.

But groin shots, knee kicks, and the like will not stop everyone. I personally have had my leg broken and hands at different time, as well as dislocations etc, this includes groin shots with no cup and I've finished off the attacker/s on and off the mat. I wasn't even on drugs or in a rage and I'm not a tough guy. Yet, if the attacker has a weapon or there are more of them, then these vulnerable targets must be used; especially if you cannot get to a weapon.

Speaking of which, another thing that always needs to be addressed and tested when you're training for real martial arts is weapon proficiency. On the street even if you are only in a strong arm attack once the bad guy begins to lose he will go for a weapon. This isn't even considering that the bad guy probably started off with a weapon or multiple individuals on his side to gain the upper hand. Real fights almost always begin as sneak attacks, so real martial artists will do training to develop awareness and avoidance tactics. All of these factors together can be foundational to developing yourself as a real martial artist.

"The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them" Miyamoto Musashi

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Stillness in Motion

Mushin University™ Self-Knowledge the Ultimate Knowledge

Psalm 138:8 The Lord will perfect that which concerns me...

Stillness in motion is foundational to motion in stillness, learning to relax is big step to both of these goals. One of my biggest problems in the martial arts and life is the fact that I have a tendency to giveaway or walk away from anything that I have or ever wanted to avoid conflict. Yet, this is a big part of why I study martial arts. The willingness to hack away at the unessential is part of the growing process. Over the years I have seen this doesn’t work well, as somethings are worth fighting for,but I also have found that entering into conflict (winning or losing), doesn’t work out well either. 
The trick is learning to identify what is necessary, so how do you define what is essential? I would suggest that you check out Maslow's hierarchy. The hierarchy may vary for each individual depending on where they are in life. My tendency to walk away is paradoxical as I have often stood up for others. In so far as to taking beatings to save friends and even strangers from having to endure pain, or unjust punishment. This willingness (some say stubbornness, or stupidity), did garner me praised from my old high school principle. Of course, that doesn’t buy a cup of coffee but the memory of old (HG) Harry Gardner, recognizing me years later and stopping me as an adult on the sidewalk to tell me so, has kept me warm many times over the years.

Still, I have never been pleased with anything that I have done; but I often try to act like it. While trying to figure out why I have been unable to change my mental reset despite years of affirmations, I came upon some interesting readings. They were comparing thought processes to software and the brain as hardware. It seems from my reading of these case histories of people in similar situations. These people that have had negative reinforcement during their formative years often have it programmed into their hardware. It seems that I qualified for this on many levels, from beatings, Stockholm syndrome, survival guilt, etc.

This might explain why I play Metallica’s “Bleeding of Me”, back to back on a continuous loop. Well it's either that or Green Day’s, “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)". I use this as justification for why I never fit in with the good old boys from the dojo that wanted to go down to the bar and unwind. That and for having a tremendous stick up my backside. Seeing how I never have been drunk or high, not counting the opiates the doctors used on me during my recovery from any of the aforementioned beatings, conflicts, or gaps in wisdom.

Regardless music in the dojo is a very valuable tool, this is doubly so especially with advanced training. Music helps you develop rhythm and to understand when to break rhythm, and even more importantly to relax. Relaxation is vital to winning against greater speed, or strength. Relaxation is a key to finding an often untapped resource from within yourself. Hopefully, soon you will be able to develop motion in stillness, being able to feel the rhythm within, first with yourself and then with others. So, even if you are a wreck, mentally and physically, unable to be satisfied with anything you do, this relaxation technique might just help. At least until the end of the song, but then you can always hit replay.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Confidence & Awareness

Mushin University™ Self-Knowledge the Ultimate Knowledge

"Confidence comes from your technique." Joe Lewis

For many people ego and bravado is a mask of confidence, but it is a false mask. In the martial arts these individuals were referred to as paper tigers. However, that was before the advent of the internet. After the advent of the internet, these people have become to be known as keyboard warriors and other such directives. Many of whom have never had a fight. A few have only had a school yard dust up, once in their lives. Yet, for the most part none of them had to face someone with a weapon while they themselves were unarmed that wanted to take something from them. Generally, what they want can be boiled down to one of four things, money, sex, validation, or your life.

It is easier to face down a stranger (online), that they have never met in their lives and fight on the keyboard than face a living enemy. Although many paper tigers and keyboard warriors might feel as if they have faced down others and won a fight simply because the other person walked away before things escalated into violence. The truth is many verbal disagreements do escalate into violence especially if there is a chemical lubricant invoked in the mix, either that or sex and/or money.

It still is quite another thing to have a stranger or group of strangers wanting to tear you apart often with no warning. This is compounded when they are armed. Many of my friends that were great martial artists and could beat me playing by the rules for points always asked for me as an escort when we went out to any place that might have the potential for trouble. They knew that I had weight in my strikes. I was always being told that I had heavy hands, and the like, despite my slight build. Even after I first reached six foot late in high school I only weighed 135 pound. Still, I did thousands of calisthenics a day but it was my fascination with hand and body conditioning that set me apart in this venue. Even as I grew to 6 ft 1 and a half inch tall and exploded to 155 pounds my hapkido instructor would often tell me I had perfect technique. Yet, I knew that there was something else that was more important as many of my friends also had as good or better form than myself.

Don't get me wrong, I tried my best to have perfect techniques but I had already lived through several traumas that my doctors had told me should have killed me by this point. I spent a lot of time trying to merge my kempo, jujutsu and hapkido together, I used the guidelines of Jeet Kune Do to aid me. However, years later after I meet Tom Manson, sensei I found that by emphasizing the aiki arts helped this a good deal but earlier on I had come to see that the true element to becoming great was something altogether different.

It was mindfulness, but developing technique was a key to mindfulness. The simple truth is mindfulness is moving meditation, it is simple but simplicity is hard. Developing this brought me a lot of attentions in certain circles. Groups that I eventual tried to avoid association with altogether. After a while, it seems I managed to suffocate the flame. Today I wish only to fan the flames of consciousness, at least enough to keep a dying ember alive a bit longer; yet, there still is a desire to do so.  Along with it there is the memory of the burden of awareness. So my question, is it only ego that craves this illumination of the mind, or is there something else much deeper that yearns for it? My warning is this, be careful as being on all the time has a cost.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Goal of Mastery

Mushin University™ Self-Knowledge the Ultimate Knowledge

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” Bruce Lee 

As I see it, mastery is a paradox. As an aspiring artist, we are encouraged and instructed to follow the examples of the masters that came before us. This is true if you are a wood worker, artist, musician, brick layer, or stonemason. Yet, we also have to evolve past the rather mundane techniques of our chosen discipline to reach a level where other masters are willing to accept us into the martial art guild. Normally, that consists of the circle and association that you belong to. It is a bit more rare to be accepted by those outside of your association unless your repetition proceeds you. However, you know you are on the right path when people that are known internationally recognize your mastery right away. This is rightly so in my point of view. 

Although, I believe mastery is evident in effectiveness even if it it limited to a very specific area, range, or style. It is not every school of thought that wants to practice and train in weapons, striking, kicking, grappling, and mediation arts. Some schools like to preserve the history of a certain time period while other schools place the ability to adapt the art to modern times and situations. Even among these schools there can be further separations along this line when considering if weaponry should be included in the curriculum.

While Mushashi said, "The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them." He also said,“from one thing, know ten thousand things.” It seems to me that in the west we have often mislabeled or mismanaged the term master and the concept of mastery. Although many will say the same about stanch traditionalist; using that term for someone that adheres to a particular manner and time frame interpretation of a given art. 

Many schools will train with any ancient weapon. Other schools might only allow classical hand-to-hand weapons that were used by the founders of the style or system. Yet many schools abstain from any and all projectile weapons ancient or otherwise. However, others look at a more pragmatic approach and train with only adaptive weapons of opportunity. Many people train with combinations, including guns and ancient ways together. I sometimes fall into each grouping. But I also can find value in arts with mixed histories of dubious origins and overlapping teaching. That is as long as there is a practical application behind them that can be reproduced effectively. It is not that these styles are purposely fraudulent often the members are just passing along what they were told. 

There are some masters that intentionally hide their secrets to keep those that would misuse them at a disadvantage. While I feel this is dishonest to paying students, but I understand  the need for instructors to pay their bills. Still if you don't trust someone don't teach them or at least teach them in steps so that you can see their true colors. But in another way this is sort of what they are doing, in/yo aka yin and yang.

"The transition from student to teacher forced me to realize that what I had once viewed as a secret and protective withholding of information by a teacher was really an attempt on his part to increase and maintain constant improvement in students by forcing them to develop an adequate basis for further development. Students want to know everything and they want to know it now. The question is, just how much can they really know without the proper background development?" Jesse Glover

PS: On a side note I am preparing a new website and book launch. I will do an update on all my books at this time. Book 8 of the series will have a special surprise, this book (from my Dream Walker series), will incorporate a character based on an internationally known man of mystery, realtor and JKD aficionado Derek Chin! As usual even my fictional books will have real life lessons and martial art encounters based on a melange of events from encounters of my fiends, associates, students and myself. Although you have to remember this series is a sci-fi/fantasy so don't expect to be able to figure out the actual chain of events, as timelines, people and places are all fictional.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Top Secrets to Learning the Martial Arts

Mushin University™ Self-Knowledge the Ultimate Knowledge

 “It takes 1,000 days to forge the spirit and 10,000 days to polish it.”  Miyamoto Musashi

This blog goes beyond just practice, although that still is the foundation to learning the martial arts. Today marks a new step and achievement in our journey together. Every step forward is a move in the right directions especially if that step is taken willfully and with consciousness. I have found, over the years, that slow motion movement works well with our development, especially when it comes to working on the consciousness level. What we aim to achieve is extrinsic learning. Extrinsic learning involves an understanding of the technique that we are practicing but at a deeper level. Basically, intrinsic learning is the experiential knowledge gained through our somatosensory system. To break this down further, we have seven subsets of learning. Most people are geared to learn better in the right combinations of these subsets.

Visual: If you prefer watching to understand, then you are a spatial learner.

Aural: If you prefer listening, then you are an auditory learner.

Verbal: If you prefer talking and writing about your study, then you are a linguistic learner.

Physical: If you prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch, then you are a kinesthetic learner.

Logical: If you prefer using systematic systems, then you learn best by reasoning things out.

Social: If you prefer to learn with other people, then modeling the behaviors of others helps you learn.

Solitary: If you prefer to work alone and use self-study, then you are an intrapersonal learner.

Everyone seems to have a bit of each learning type but in general, yet we often show a preference to different aspects in various environments. Still, it requires a certain amount of concentration and repetition to ingrain these skills so that they can be engaged as automatic responses. The repetition of a physical motion increases the thickness of the myelin sheath. This myelin sheath helps insulate the nerve fibers that you get after 30,000 to 50,000 repetitions and some say after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. So, it is the quality of your practice that signals our reflexes to work more efficiently. Quality in the martial arts is defined as what works efficiently under stress. In the martial arts and combat situations the ability to respond without thought is not only Zen like, it is critical. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Two Hundredth Blog

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"Martial arts are a practice, and what you practice, you will become, who will you become?" Adam Chan

Happy April first, as this is the two hundredth blog it seems that we should look at something important, but don't worry it will not be an April Fool's Day joke. In our lives of as warriors we tend to seek the ever elusive perfection. So, this means we either learn to deal with failure, or we become delusional. Delusional in the belief that our stuff is better than any other stuff without ever testing it, or in other words pretending that the world is only as we see it. In reality, we all do a bit of both, as it is nearly impossible to cope with the injustices of life without retreating into our own personal delusions. We as individuals are called on to save the earth, the poor, the sick, the down trodden and we all do what we can. Although it is hard not to become jaded, when we give and only the middle man seems to profit from our sacrifice.

Martial arts is a haven to me as it is easy to see that we need to find a balance in its study that translates into everyday life. Working toward the goal of being as good as our seniors without tearing ourselves up in the process is a good example. We cannot expect to achieve even these simple goals overnight. Just as we cannot expect to change the world if we cannot change ourselves.
Often we understand that because of our limitations we are unable to mimic certain techniques in the same manner that people we admire utilized them. Still with time and practice, we can at least learn how to adapt them to our circumstances and situations. 

Miyamoto Musashi once mentioned, “It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way.” I am working toward this goal and my training has focused more on simplification. I am working at getting a YouTube channel going where I want to cover things that I find inspiring. Martial arts adventure and writing are what makes me happiest with what I do. It keeps my mind off of my personal failures and the things in life that I have tried to change through sacrifice as well as pain. The five gates of blood, bone, wind, nerve and mind and the guiding three principles of movement keep my martial arts practice true. While my writing (even in the fantasy and sci-fi category), gives me a bit of outreach to help those that are interested.