Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reflections on My KM Journey

I can still remember giving my very first class (and that student is still training with me - you know who you are!)  I was very scared.  I wondered if I would be good enough, or if I could answer all the questions they would have.  I felt very nervous and I hoped it wouldn't show too much.  It was hard to accept that I would stand out in front of the class and lead them.  I didn't feel ready yet.

At the same time, I was excited for the chance to keep on training.  I LOVED Kali Majapahit (still do!) and wanted nothing more than to just share it with everyone (yup, still do!).  It went OK, not great just OK, but luckily students can be a pretty forgiving lot, and people stuck with me.  I have tried hard to improve since then.  Thanks for staying with me.

5 years (and a few ITA sessions in Singapore) later and we have a GREAT group in Japan.  Not a good group, a GREAT GROUP.  At the core are some students (now Kasamas, mostly) who have trained with me for a few years, as well as a bunch of younger students making their way through the ranks one step at a time.  I love who they are as growing kalista.  I love each new discovery they reach - that moment when things start coming together and it starts to make sense, the puzzle pieces falling into place.

At the same time, I love watching my kasamas teach.  I love when they explain something so perfectly, with energy and passion, hitting all the right key points that make it work.  I can remember when they were first learning it - now they are ready to pass it on.  When my brothers and sisters from overseas come to visit I am proud to show them our Kali Family.  I am proud when we attend seminars together and people comment how good our kalista are, not just as fighters, but as PEOPLE.  We are a family that truly support each other and are there to help each other grow and learn.  I feel so incredibly lucky to have a group like this to call home.

There have been many times when our class was the main thing that kept me going.  Through a lot of tough personal times, Fridays were always "Our Time" to be together and something I looked forward to each week, sometimes the only thing I looked forward to.  As much as I gave to everyone, they gave to me.  They stayed committed to their training, and I knew I couldn't let them down.  I had to give 100% every class because they always deserve my absolute best.  Now we have even grown enough to have classes on Tuesday too, so twice I week I can do what I love most.

Every year brings new developments in Kali Majapahit.  We are doing so much more than we were when I joined.  I love the tradition, and the fellowship of my other instructors around the world, as well as our many brothers and sisters in so many countries.  I wish I could see them all more.  Many of our family have chosen to go beyond just a metaphorical warrior journey and embark on a real "warrior quest" around the world, just like Guro Fred and Guro Lila did so long ago.  I am jealous.  Respect to you for going all-in on your dreams.

When I reflect on my KM Journey, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction. It has been such a tremendous benefit to me and the others in my life.  I am always grateful to my KM Family, especially Guro Fred and Guro Lila, for giving me the keys to make such a happy life for myself, and for creating something so good I have to share it with everyone I can.  Thank you for getting me involved and for keeping me involved.  Thank you for putting together something we can use to make the world a better place.  I truly believe our curriculum is the very best, and has so many fantastic keys to personal development.  I hope everyone can get a chance to try it and see.

To all my brothers and sisters in KM, thank you for being part of this global family.  I hope you will keep spreading the message and keep on going to achieve all the goals you set - every time. Recognize that you are part of something very, very special - something precious.  Treasure it and pass it on to the people you love most.  Make it your own.  Make every class matter.  Keep growing and never stop.  Become an instructor and pass it on.

To my fellow instructors, thanks for inspiring me and for giving 100% inside of class and out just like I do.  We are bound together by our common experience, and you are my heroes.  I can't wait to see you again.  You are always welcome with us in Japan.

Warm regards,

John

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What will I grow up to be Mummy ??????

(thanks for the inspiration Asif Rahman)

"What will I grow up to be Mummy?"

This is a very important question - in fact, it is almost the most important question we can ask.  We live in an age where each generation is being forced to ask (and answer) this question earlier than their parents.  The generally accepted answer to this question (directly or indirectly) is "SUCCESSFUL".


We carefully select the most highly-trained babysitters and give our babies DHA and other supplements to boost brain development, we send our children Montessori and later to elite nursery schools, after school "enrichment" including math, science, art, music (especially piano), and hire expensive tutors to boost their academic performance.  We become smart but we fail to become wise.  We can develop skills, but can we truly be "successful"?  Do we even know what that means?


Television programs, commercials, movies and magazines subconsciously push us to seek unrealistic standards of wealth, power and beauty, and to despair when we don't achieve them. This leads to depression, apathy, and a loss of direction or sense of purpose for many young people.  The emphasis on material, tangible, conspicuous consumption, often at the expense of real defining experiences, encourages us to think that success can be bought and need not necessarily be earned.  Our "successful" parents spent a disproportionate amount of time working, and still less than we do, and less than our children might do (if we are not careful).

Where did we go astray?

I am father to two boys, one already a teenager.

We have been frugal with them, at the same time trying to make sure they did not suffer just to develop "virtue" or "character".  What do I want from them?  What would success for them mean to me (as their father)?  What do I want them to grow up to be??  I have thought about this a lot over the years, and this helped me answer Asif's post when he put it on Facebook.

I want my boys to grow up to be HAPPY.


Not more than this, but also, very importantly, not less than this.


When I say "happy" what do I mean?  Happiness comes in many forms, and I am not simply talking about the delirious, carefree happiness we feel just being silly and laughing for no reason (although sometimes this is essential).  Happiness can also be found by achieving goals we set that we feel are important to us, or also very importantly, by helping others to be safe and happy.  Happiness can come from the satisfaction of investing in ourselves and the people around us, investing in relationships that will stand the test of time and support us when we are in need.  Happiness comes from being confident in ourselves and our abilities, but also from setting our own goals and not just achieving for the sake of other peoples' opinions of us.


happiness comes from learning to listen to the Inner Voice, the voice of our eternal soul, which helps us to discover our purpose in this incarnation, and to continue our spiritual journey - not specific to any "textbook" religion.  Our souls are above that, just as our souls are above seeing each other as flesh and blood (beautiful or ugly, or with different skin color).  The soul sees only the soul - pure and true, all of us on the same journey.  We may go so far as to say we are happiest when our soul is in balance and at peace, following the path it must follow to evolve and progress. 


I intentionally leave some aspects such as career, place of residence, wealth/social status out of my definition.  We have a need for basic comforts, safety and security, and I do not think we all need to be Zen monks (although some of us need to be because our soul tells us so).


While the above are good guidelines, happiness can only come from knowing ourselves fully. That means investing the time in experiences, good and bad, that help us define what is best for us.  We will make mistakes, many mistakes along the way - the key is to stay focused on learning and growing physically, mentally, spiritually.  The sad truth is that we can probably be happier with far less possessions than we have.  Less is truly more, and simplicity has its own reward.


As I mention above, while we should all aspire to be happy and expend our maximum effort to define for ourselves what and how that needs to be, it is equally important to make a promise to ourselves not to settle for anything less than happiness.  Being happy, in the forms I describe above, is enough and we do not need more.  At the same time, far too many people settle for less than happiness.  Less than happiness in their careers, their homes, their partners, their families, their friends.  Accepting less than happiness is a terrible compromise that contributes to our own suffering and that of those around us.  We must start by knowing, truly KNOWING, that we have worth as human beings, and that we DESERVE TO BE HAPPY as we define it.  It is our right as a living creature, no different from that of any other living creature.  It is important to expect the best from ourselves, so that we can develop a habit of excellence in what we do, and allow ourselves the happiness of satisfaction which comes from achieving our best and growing to do and be more than we were.  Please don't settle for less than happiness.  You deserve it.


It is never too late to grow up - especially if you choose to grow up to be happy.           


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.