Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What you can learn from the Singapore GP

OK, I know what you're thinking...WTF does F1 racing have to do with my training?? After 75 posts you should have figured me out by now. EVERYTHING always has to do with martial arts training.

No, this is not a post about staying up late to watch the race. There are serious things we can learn from what happened. Here's a summary:

1. The race favorites were clearly team Ferrari, led by Kimi Raikonnen and Felipe Massa.
Despite being the odds favorites, they did not win the race.

2. Lewis Hamilton of McLaren (currently point leader) was also a popular choice and a crowd favorite, although he did not win in the time trials and did not win the race (he finished third).

3. The race was won by Felipe Alonso of team Renault. Why?

We ultimately discover some very important lessons. Alonso won not because he was faster, but because he made no crucial mistakes. During the race, both Massa and Raikonnen had problems. Massa left the pits with the fuel hose still in his car, finishing 18th, and Raikonnen hit a wall, failing to even finish the race.


1. Technique is better than speed. Always aim for proper technique first. Speed comes later. Be obsessive about working your basics, they are often the difference between winning and losing.

2. Don't worry about the crowd or the fans - pride goeth before a fall. Concentrate on the task at hand. Anyone can win or lose on any given day, and it ain't over till it's over.

3. Time trials are not races. The key to training is to have dependable skills when they really matter - do your best in practice, but remember it is not the real thing.

4. Winning is not always about being better - many times it is about making less mistakes than the other guy.

Speed Racer was also a martial artist

Like Martial Arts, racing requires constant training, focus, and a good coach.

See you in the pits,

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I hear a lot about different styles - and how different they are. In fact, it is almost an aikidoka's favorite pastime to praise his/her own style and trashtalk every other. Between Yoshinkan and Aikikai, if you didn't know better you would think it is an all-out war.

Let's be clear about a couple of things. First of all, there is only one source - Ueshiba Morihei.
Yes, many interpretations, but that is just what they are - INTERPRETATIONS. Aikido, like most martial arts, has grown and evolved since its creation, and even O-Sensei grew and evolved throughout his life, which means that those deshi who trained with him at different times would have had differences in the aikido they experienced from him. Does it make any style better than any other? I think not.

Rather, I think it is of critical importance to focus not on what makes us different, but on what makes us similar. Aikido, irrespective of style, has central principles and movements, even if they are called by slightly different names. I do believe that exposure to different styles strengthens our knowledge of our own style.

At the same time, I meet many people (actually I have the same experience) who have studied a wide variety of styles. This is not a bad thing, but I do think at some point you must commit to a style long enough to go deep and understand the more advanced portions that each style has to offer. It is a critical failing of many "concepts"-based systems that they teach generalities without giving students the proper foundations and background to be able to apply those concepts properly. be sure you train with someone whose knowledge and experience go beyond just "concepts".

I am a strong advocate of purity - meaning that study of any martial art should be done in such a way as to preserve its unique tradition and culture. When doing aikido, I do Yoshinkan - not because I believe Yoshinkan is inherently better than any other aikido style (sorry guys), but because that is what I have studied and I should make my best efforts when training to do it properly (at least when I am in a Yoshinkan school). If I visit another system, I have no problem doing the techniques the way they show me. Some people take great offense to their techniques being corrected or called "wrong" in another style. I think this is a problem of semantics. "Wrong" for a technique in a Yoshinkan school should simply mean "different" to an Aikikai practitioner, not "worse". An Aikikai technique in a Yoshinkan technique is "incorrect" not because it is flawed or does not work, but because Yoshinkan schools are for studying Yoshinkan. The fact is, in Yoshinkan schools, just as in Aikikai schools, great effort is made to preserve the purity of the style and its techniques.

I have lived my whole life believing that the martial arts are a powerful vehicle for personal development (hence this blog). I also think there is no one best path in the martial arts - all proper styles have merit for those who study them diligently. I support a global community of like-minded martial artists who can openly share with one another and not place ridicule or scorn on others. The blessing of the martial arts is the blessing of understanding.

See you soon at a dojo near you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Man in the Mirror (Part 2)

Guro Fred never disappoints. His deep insight drawn from his lifetime of study in Chinese and Filipino arts manifests in some really unique ideas not just on fighting, but on health and personal development as well.
Last night he talked a lot about taking responsibility for your own health. That means that rather than blame other people or circumstances for our state of health, we examine ourselves, our habits, and our lifestyle, and create positive change to improve.
What I really enjoyed about Guro Fred's health lecture was that he was able to extrapolate the long-term effects of bad posture and bad habits into potential damage to bones, joints, and ligaments, which contribute to loss of mobility and functionality much later in life. Guro Fred explains that this is a concept which is central to Chinese/Asian TCM, and a foundation point of Ni Tien, the "two skies" of "martial arts and health" that he teaches.
It is critically important that we all take ownership of our bodies and our lives, and become responsible for our own longevity and happiness. I have alluded to this in other posts, but time to remind all of us (including me) to have a close look at the Man in the Mirror, and accept that the truth we see is the truth we created. It is never too late to have a healthy life. START NOW!