Friday, May 15, 2015

Enough

(thanks for the inspiration JZ)


How much is enough?  Can we ever have ENOUGH?  Or is MORE always better?
Psychological studies show that beyond a certain point, more money is not necessarily better.
Many of the happiest countries in the world are materially poor (at least relative to the United States, for example).  In the study above, the US ranks a relatively disappointing 15th (lower than Costa Rica and Mexico, by the way).  The report strongly suggests that well-being, rather than just GDP/wealth, is at the heart of being happy.  We can take this to mean that no matter how much money we have, we cannot be happy if we are not healthy.  Shockingly, Japan (where I live) ranked 46th, behind Uzbekistan and Guatemala, and only one place above South Korea.

Many people I know seem gripped with fear - fear that they will never have enough; never have enough money, but also never enough time, enough love, enough respect or fame.  We run around so busy in our lives, as if frantic action (or more action) was the key to having more of the things we think we want.
By working harder and harder, we actually have less and less.  Maybe a bit more money, but less of everything else.  Subconsciously realizing we have less of the intangibles which we know really matter (time, love, energy, health, relaxation) we panic more, and the spiral spins faster...until something bad happens...

Somehow, we are led to believe that being successful is being BUSY, when maybe it should really be the opposite.  Maybe success is about having more free time to pursue the things we really feel passionate about. Maybe success is having the time and resources to learn and grow, rather than falling into bed exhausted at midnight every night, running to and from the airport on business trips to have meeting after meeting after meeting.

For many of us, the idea of contentment, being happy with what we have, is scary.  It suggests we will NEVER HAVE MORE, and TV, movies, and marketing gives us enormous social pressure to believe more is always better.  It's just NOT.

To Buddhists, desire/wanting ("Upadana" or "clinging") is one of the two the root causes of suffering. Particularly, this is the desire for things to be "as we want them" or for things to "stay the same" which, understanding impermanence, is impossible.  To want the impossible creates an inability to accept The Truth of what IS, and leads us to fear of loss - causing us instead to cling far too tightly and become unable to experience real happiness or contentment.  In short, the pain of loss is worse than the loss itself.

At the last Japan seminar, Guro Fred mentioned that we will be the first generation of people in history to have a shorter life expectancy than our parents...this is as profound as it is sad.  The stress is killing us.
The CDC reports that heart disease and cancer (both linked to stress) are the leading causes of death for people in the US.  More disturbing is the data showing that suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-34.  This strongly suggests that the stress and pressure of trying to be "a successful adult" is more than many young people can handle.

In search of MORE, we do stupid things.  In search of more money, some people break ethical/moral rules they otherwise would not.  In search of more love, many people look outside their marriage or relationship rather than invest in the one they have.  In search of fame/respect, we become willing to give up our self-respect, pride or dignity in the hopes that others will like us.  In the search for more time, we stay up late and don't get enough sleep, indirectly causing health problems.  We eat more and more every year in the search to consume and experience more, putting additional stress on our fragile bodies. 

I am now almost 50 years old.  I have learned not to be afraid.  Martial arts taught me that.  The training taught not just to be unafraid of death, it has taught me that there will be enough:  I will have enough time to train; enough time to work and be productive; enough love; enough money; enough respect to feel good about myself; enough resources to help others; enough opportunities to learn and grow.  I don't have enough to be wasteful or foolish, but if I am careful and consistent I will have enough to have a comfortable and contented life.  Thinking about this makes me feel at peace.  It can make you feel at peace, too.

The mantra "I have enough" is one of my favorites for meditation - reminding myself again and again not to be in a panic to collect more of anything than what I need to be happy.

As I told a dear friend of mine the other day,

In life we will not be judged by how much money we have or how many bottles of champagne we drank, we will be judged on how much we loved and were loved by those who matter to us; by how much compassion we showed, and how much we were able to improve the lives of others. How much we inspired and were inspired. How much passion we had. How brightly we shone; how intensely we lived. What values we had and whether or not we stayed true to them when things got tough. 

Trust me, Enough in Enough.  More is not necessarily better.  Focus on the human things that matter most.
If you must seek more, SEEK MORE BALANCE.

See you at class.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Input - Output Model

(thanks for the inspiration GH)


There it is, the I/O model.  Many of you have heard of it, especially maths/computer science geeks, but it is perhaps a great deal more profound than most people realize.

The I/O model is a great way of understanding so many of the situations that we face in our lives.
We often struggle to get a different result, somehow naively believing that we could get a different output from the same input fed into the same process.  Of course, if we are detached, we can understand that the only way to get a different output is to change the inputs or use a different process.

Working backward, we can use this principle to examine and adjust almost any aspect of our lives, from our work situation to our relationship status.  We spend far too much time worrying about the results we get - financial, physical, emotional, spiritual.  All too often, we are stressed out because we don't like the results (outputs).  I would content that we spend far too little time examining the inputs and processes which yield these results.  Time and again we repeat the same negative behaviors or use the same ineffective inputs - only to be shocked when the outputs are the same every time (or worse).  How could they be better if the inputs are not improved or the process changed??

As we look at the areas of our lives we feel need improvement, we can work backward to examine the processes and inputs which created the outputs.  In almost every case, the inputs can be changed or a different process used.  Sometimes this will yield a worse result, but more often than not mixing things up will yield an improvement - sometimes a significant one.

If nothing else, adjusting the inputs and using different processes allows us to leverage feedback loop and explore the relationships between variables, sometimes seemingly unrelated variables.  It reminds us that we are not victims of circumstance or subject to simple fate, dumb luck or bad habits.  WE HAVE CONTROL -  we always did.  We can determine how good or bad our lives will be.  We have the power to change the things we don't like, if we can have the courage to change the inputs and processes we don't like.  This is complete empowerment.

Even in our training, we are always free to change the inputs and processes of the training.
Doing so gives a fresh, new perspective that can give additional insights or develop new skills.
Our diet routine, our sleep patterns, our exercise habits, our drills --- all of these create the output of who we are as martial artists.  All are within our control to change.  Different inputs of focus, time, discipline, energy added to different/better training processes are what really take our skills to the next level and keep us moving forward.  FMA are unique (I think) in continuing this evolution at a rapid pace, while still trying to preserve the martial traditions which underpin our knowledge.

Changes take time and are often scary or uncomfortable.  Martial arts is a great way to develop the confidence we need to change, and keep changing, the things in our lives we want to make better.  Experts say it takes 21 days to form a new habit - sometimes that can feel like a very, very long time.  Martial arts training gives us the discipline and patience to see the changes through to new habits, and create an environment of continuous improvement for ourselves.

Knowing this, we must accept responsibility, total responsibility, for our circumstances.
If we don't like something - CHANGE IT.

Make your life what you want it to be.  I KNOW YOU CAN.

See you at class.


  

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Fight Night

Well, it's over.  The "Fight of the Century" did not end with a BANG, the sound many predicted Pacman's glove would make on Money's jaw, but with a whimper as Floyd Mayweather played it safe and defended his title with very little risk, negating Manny Pacquiao's offense for the full 12 rounds to a unanimous decision from the judges and unanimous dissatisfaction from boxing fans.

There are a lot of differences between sports and martial arts, and it is important to understand them - each one can have its' place,  but they are rarely interchangeable.

In sports, we can separate the individual from his/her athletic prowess.  We can focus on the measurement, the numbers, the points or seconds and forget who they are as a human being. This could be true for legendary sporting "bad boys" like Mike Tyson, Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, even George Best, just to name a few.  Even supposed sporting "nice guys" like Pete Rose and Michael Jordan do not have spotless records of conduct - nearly every sports legend has personal character flaws that are distasteful, if not blatantly illegal or immoral.

We can allow ourselves to forgive, or at least ignore, their failings as human beings in light of the excitement they make us feel when we see their sporting feats and share in their victories.

As martial artists, this is not enough.

Our goal is to make great martial artists, and that means great fighters with a deep understanding of the context, history and background of the traditions we teach.  More than this, our goal is to make GREAT HUMAN BEINGS - human beings with compassion; human beings who can positively impact the world by going forth to achieve their personal and professional goals using the confidence and self-esteem they develop and polish in the dojo.  We want to inspire the next generation of people who will take control of their own lives, take responsibility for their own actions and make a change in the world because they know they can.

At the end of it all, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.
What really matters is the person you choose to become, and "points" are no substitute for being a bad person just as having money does not forgive transgression.

I wanted Pacquiao to win just like all of you probably did.  He seems like a better person, and I wanted him to be the better boxer, too.  In sports, it is hard to find the right combination of athletic prowess and upstanding character.  In martial arts, we must settle for nothing less.  We must expect this of our teachers and training partners, and we must demand it of ourselves.

Becoming the best fighter in the world is worth nothing if it costs us our humility, our respectfulness, or our compassion.

See you at training.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Danger! Restricted Area!!

(Thanks for the inspiration MG Ben!!)


Just reading a training tip from MG Ben at Kali Majapahit Mothership.  In addition to being a fantastic martial artist and athlete, he is one of the most creative at finding new drills and exercises to challenge the students.  He leverages his experience in ADD/Parkour and really comes up with a lot of innovative ways to get you to discover yourself and how to move your body.  Pugay!!

In this post, he shared a limitation drill, where he forced students to respond but WITHOUT hitting the head as part of their counter.  This made them look for other alternatives such as locks, sweeps, throws, takedowns, but also attacks to the low-lines/knees and other options.
This is a fantastic idea, and the concept is worth further discussion.

Kali Majapahit is all about optionality.  What do I mean?
Guro Fred talks to us about our FLOW and our FLAVOR, which is how we make our Kali Majapahit unique to ourselves, moving in line with our own physiology and psychology.
Sounds great, right?  But all too often I find we are creatures of habit, using the techniques we like and know best, and failing to truly EXPLORE and develop other options for each situation.
As such, we become mechanical and we lose the beauty of Kali Majapahit, which is in being able to react to the new and changing situation effortlessly and finding the solution to each problem as it arises.  How do you train for that??

One of the very best ways is to create scenarios and rules in the responses to force us to find other channels and explore other options.  There are many ways to do this.  Here are a few of my favorites.

1) Limit the Style/Subsystem
Explore the difference in your body's attitude, distance, timing and psychology by restricting the response to any specific subsystem.  Respond only using Kali, Silat, Panantukan, Hakka Kuntao, Western Boxing, Dumog.  Force yourself to take and keep that mental and physical attitude throughout the drill.  As an even more advanced drill, let the instructor (or your partner) choose your subsystem before they attack and switch up every time.

2) Limit the Line
Restrict yourself to a certain dimension - high line, medium line, low line.  For the high line targets are head/neck/spine.  Medium line are liver/spleen/plexus/cocyxx, low line are groin/knee/ankle/feet and toes.

3) Spaced
Restrict yourself to either Largo mano (long distance) or Corto (short distance/CQC).  Force yourself to make and keep this distance during the drill, closing in or pushing away as needed to control and maintain the space you want.  (note: I deliberately omit Medio (medium distance) since this is used for transition only and NOT as a purposeful fighting range).

4) Inside Out
Restrict yourself  to only the inside or outside line.  This is a great drill with Sinawali 6 empty hand application, but can be expanded to weapons work as well (knife defense, single/double stick, etc.)

5) Downtown
Restrict yourself to groundwork.  Every response must bring the attacker immediately to the floor for submission. Vary the attacks to include punches and kicks.  This is great for working your single/double leg takedowns.

6) Uptown
Every attacker should seek a takedown/shoot.  Defenders' job is to stay on their feet and keep moving.  This is harder than it sounds. For a very advanced version, use multiple attackers and have one of them try to immobilize the defender's legs.

7) Wrist Wrecker
Great drill for sticks (foam sticks are better for beginners).  Have one partner put on arm guards or boxing/MMA gloves.  For any angle attack, try to contact the hand/fingers/wrist first. Learn to do this while keeping your focus on the center mass, not looking at the arms/hands. For more advanced drills, you need to hit the hands/finger/wrist 2 or 3 times for every attack.

8) Off the Wall
The defender starts the drill with their back flush against a wall.  Advanced students should use the wall to their advantage!  Another variation is the corner.

9) Immovable
The defender has one or both legs immobilized (as if the bottom of the foot is stuck to the floor).

10) Game of Thrones
The defender is sitting down in a chair and gets attacked by one or more attackers.

11) Rapid Deployment
Using any commonly carried personal defense item (EDC trainer), the defender gets attacked by one or more attackers who have foam sticks.  The goal is to deploy your EDC tool (folding karambit/knife trainer, scarf, tactical pen/flashlight, collapsible baton, etc.) while moving/evading attacks and responding.  You can't use it if it's in the bottom of your bag, right?

There are many, many more ideas.  These are a few I like.  Please feel free to share!

Restricting yourself is a great way to learn to FREE YOURSELF!  Now, GO EXPLORE!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Someone You Can Depend On

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!""
 --- Isaiah 6:8

I am not Christian, but I like this verse.  It was quoted in the movie FURY, which I have been watching since I saw it in the theater, and then bought it on Blu-Ray.

This is an important quote, and I'll tell you why.


We live in an age of convenience.  Most of the things we need and use in our daily lives are done for us by someone else.  Someone cooks our meals, takes care of our health, manages our money, teaches us, entertains us.  Some of us have someone who cleans and does our laundry for us.  We are a consumer people, and we equate "freedom" with no longer having to perform menial tasks so we can concentrate on higher pursuits (new services even promise to deliver our food in 10 minutes or less)

However, when the chips are really down, in that moment of truth, I can tell you from experience --- you will be alone.  Somehow, some way, call it Karma or I-Ching or whatever, the really tough stuff always ends with Y-O-U and you always have to face it on your own.
At least I always have.

The good news is that once you come to accept this, you can make yourself ready.  HOW??

  • You can make time to exercise regularly and think about what and how you feed your body.
  • You can invest in making yourself smarter, and keep building a catalog of skills and experiences that you can draw upon.
  • You can make sure to meditate (at least a little bit) every single day so you can be calm and aware and very focused when needed. 
  • You can invest your earnings (at least some of them) so you will have money later in the future when you might need it.
  • You can spend time in the dojo, setting and achieving training goals and proving to yourself again and again that YOU CAN DO IT.  GO TO KALI MAJAPHIT They will take good care of you.  I know.  They took good care of me, too.

Most importantly, through these tasks you can begin to see yourself as a resourceful, capable adult - someone who does not back down from life's challenges.  You can become someone who instead rises to the occasion, does not crack under the pressure, and can deliver results when it really matters --- not just for someone else, but FOR YOURSELF.  You can grow up from being that needy child to become someone who is really able to give back to those around you who are important to you.  You can become the calm, confident YOU that you know is in there.

Trust me, you are stronger, smarter, braver, more resourceful... BETTER than you ever imagined. Give yourself a chance.

It is a fantastic feeling to do things for yourself, including any of the things I listed above.
It is empowering and helps re-establish your control over every aspect of your life.  Later on, when you do decide to let others do things for you (and you should), you do so with the full knowledge and appreciation of what is involved, and the gratitude that comes from knowing how hard things can be, and knowing how much easier life is when you have help.  take nothing and no one for granted.

There is NOTHING more beautiful than a strong, capable person.  IT'S YOU.
Don't wait around for someone to do everything for you.  What if they never show up??
Instead, take control of your life and become that someone you can depend on.
You can always be there for yourself.

The time is NOW.  


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Touch Me

Yeah! Come on, come on, come on, come on
Now touch me, baby
Can't you see that I am not afraid?
What was that promise that you made?
 - The Doors

There is almost nothing more important in martial arts than the sense of TOUCH.  I would argue it is almost more important than any other sense, including sight.  Philosophically, we are all connected, touching and being touched, by the energy and lives of those around us - living beings that we interact with, even for a moment, touch us and can change us forever.  Our martial arts is symbolic of this.

However, practically speaking as well, touch is critical to martial arts training.

Very often in class I see that students are afraid to touch each other (especially on the face).
While I recognize that there can be some deep-seated cultural and social rules around this, it is a big danger to the training and skill development if we do not touch each other.  The dojo is a laboratory where cultural rules (apart from courtesy and safety) must be broken in order to learn, explore and discover.

Specifically, touch is critical to our development of sensitivity and reaction.  Many martial arts systems have it, called chi sau or "sticking hands" in Wing Chun or te no tori "taking hands" in Aikido, a fundamental skill of practical martial arts is the ability to make and keep contact in order to feel the energy and direction of someone's movement and intent.  It is simply not possible to develop much skill without learning this.

Also of great importance is the use of touch in understanding how to move and control the body of the attacker.  Kali Majapahit is about attacking the structure of the opponent, and the only way to learn this is by touching.  We operate mainly on the head/neck/spine in order to take away the structure/balance/strength and control the fighting situation from the earliest possible moment. This can only be possible through touching and keeping contact.  In fact, this is the most ethical way to engage.

If we do not make and keep our touch, we are forced to use only the most temporary contact (percussion) to submit and subdue someone.  This is most likely to result in injury for either party since percussive impact is often imprecise and can be extremely difficult to control.  It is far better to make and keep contact, where we can manipulate the body to take away strength and aggressive intent without causing injury.  This is only possible through mastery of touch.

In training, it is absolutely necessary to touch our partners.  This is the only way to get a natural reaction that we can use to study the motion and build chains of techniques.  It is the only way to learn the degrees of pressure and force needed to control another person.  It is the only way to study locking and submission without injuring our partner.  Particularly, it is necessary to touch the head/neck/face since these are key gateways to controlling the spine and taking away the structure and balance of an aggressor.  We must, therefore, become comfortable in both touching and being touched as part of the training.  There is nothing rude about it.

We are NOT doing our partner any favor by not touching them.
We are NOT doing ourselves any favor by not allowing others to touch us or being hesitant to touch our partners.

If we are nervous or uncomfortable about being touched or touching, this is going to make it very hard to defend ourselves or to remain calm if a confrontation occurs.  For such people, it is common to panic, tense up or freeze when being touched by someone - not a great fighting response.

The dojo is the perfect place to gain confidence and safely learn how to do touch others and become comfortable with physical contact.  Instructors are there to ensure safety and give the right context to the situation, so students who are afraid can learn to overcome any apprehension.  Touching and being touched builds confidence and reinforces our sense of "connectedness".

This does not give us the right to hurt each other - in training TOUCH IMPLIES TRUST.
That means that what we do we must do with CONTROL.

Please do your partner the kindness of making contact, hopefully they will return the favor.


Remember, we are all connected... :-)
      

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Imprisoned

"does the hand go on the left or the right?"
"which leg do I step with?"
"punch, elbow and knee? Or elbow, punch and knee?"

The first time I saw Guro Fred move I thought "Damn, he's fast..."  Seven years later at the recent Japan seminar in Tokyo on 28/29 March, probably the 1,000th time I saw (and felt) Guro Fred move I thought "Damn, he's REALLY fast..."

That was a great weekend filled with fellowship, great training, really cool techniques and, as always, a lot to learn.  many things Guro Fred said that weekend resonated with me, just as they did in Singapore when I started. One of them is about not being a "prisoner of the technique".  What does this mean?

In many traditional martial arts, especially arts which emphasize kata (forms), we are forced to mimic the instructor and do exactly as he/she does. At the beginning this is mostly about gross movements such as which leg is forward and which movements are in which sequence.  As we progress and begin to understand the purpose of the movement more, we observe more detail about specific angles, direction, weight shift and complex combinations of movements that yield different results.  As always, any deviation from these patterns is WRONG.  The goal is to burn into your muscle memory a very precise set of motions in a very specific sequence.  Used properly, this training builds the body, posture and breathing.  It creates a strong will and mind/body harmony and also disciplines the spirit.  This is admirable, but it is NOT FMA.

In the Filipino arts, individual expression is the goal.
Our instructors' job is to give us the right basics, the correct concepts and principles and teach us how to reinforce them through drills and exercises and examples.  Then they must allow us to express them (and expand them) our own way.  Your Kali must be YOURS and can be no one else's.  It is an expression of who and how you are as much as, ultimately, what you believe.  You can learn an awful lot about somebody through physical contact - yet another reason why our Kali Family is so close.  What you show is what you are, there is no way to hide that.
Thus, it is important that you learn to break free from the boundaries of what your instructors show you and find your own Kali, or what Guro Fred called "your flavor".

Boxing is a great example.  Boxing fundamentals are largely the same.  They consist of the same basic punches and the same basic footwork - no "hidden techniques" or "secret death punches" (not legally anyway).  At the same time, no two champion boxers box exactly the same.  They always express their uniqueness and individuality through the way they move, and this is one of the things that makes the "sweet science" so fascinating.  The physical chess is about more than just the punches - it is indeed a mental game.  So is Kali.

Like little children, at the beginning we learn by mimicry.  We imitate the movements and sounds of our parents and observe everything they do.  This is necessary to build the basic motor skills and building blocks of language.  However, if there were no individual expression then children would only ever say what their parents have said (scary thought) or do what was done before.  As parents we rightfully encourage our children to "be themselves" and to "express themselves", to explore their world (safely and with supervision of course) in order that they can discover their way.  It is no different for Kali instructors. As we learn, grow and EVOLVE, we expect our students to do the same.   The drills are designed to encourage exploration and should be used as such.  The goals is ADAPTIVE FUNCTIONALITY, the ability to take the principles and concepts we know and apply them effectively to any situation - physical, mental or spiritual.

In Kali, there is no rule book.  Instead, it is best to think of the techniques, patterns and drills as a set of guidelines, behind which sound fighting principles exist.  In class, pay attention to what your instructors do, but also let your mind consider the possibilities from each step or place. Seek what is efficient, what works best for you and what matches your body and your personality.  Rejoice in every discovery since this is what helps you to become an expert of motion.  Keep your sense of wonder.

As Madonna said "EXPRESS YOURSELF."

Break Free.