Thursday, January 28, 2010

Horses For Courses

Today I got the happy news that one of my friends has started Yoshinkan Aikido.
For her, the physical part is not the issue - she has years of classical ballet training and is an avid snowboarder; she looks just like she did when she was 18 (current age undisclosed).
She joked, "the hardest part was waking up early to get to 7am training".

Everyone faces their own unique set of challenges in training.
Everyone also has their own unique set of goals they want to achieve.

For some it is self-defense, for others, physical fitness. Still others want to improve their self-esteem and confidence. Some students want to explore their own spirituality. Many people train becuase of the special fellowship they build with other students in the community of the dojo. Many of my brothers and sisters train so that they can become teachers themselves some day and help others to change their lives.

For her, it is building the discipline of getting up early. One day at a time, one training at a time, she will prove to herself that she can master her own life, and develop the habits that will help her find her own special brand of success.

Celebrate yourself.
Celebrate the reasons that brought you to your martial arts.
Celebrate each little goal you reach in your training, that brings you more and more of the life you want.
Celebrate every positive change you make.
Celebrate your improvement.

Every new student makes me feel like celebrating.
The dojo is always the best place to be.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Over the weekend we took the kids to Honmoku Park and the adjoining Sankeien. Sankeien is a great walk around with a lot of historic buildings beautifully restored. It will be especially beautiful when the leaves change.

We were fortunate to go there when there was an exhibition of bonsai, the little trees. The bonsai is in many ways symbolic of Japan and the Japanese mentality, closely interlinked with Zen Buddhism and martial arts. So much so, that Mr. Miyagi even prunes his bonsai and they play a role in the plot.

To the unititiated, bonsai are simply that, little miniature trees.
To the Japanese, they can be so much more. Some of those little trees are literally hundreds of years old, carefully pruned and kept for several generations. They are small, yes, but mature trees nonetheless.

The bonsai allow Japanese to express their own culture and lifestyle, which is often kept in claustrophobic close quarters, but which can yield beauty and elegance, just in the way a bonsai survives being kept in it's small pot year after year.

Bonsai ENDURE - much as the Japanese do. Many bonsai even flower or yield tiny fruit, which is a reminder to the Japanese of their seasonality.

Bonsai are cared for very carefully, kept neatly pruned, and watched over someones like a pet of sorts. Owners lavish attention on their plants, talking to them, playing music for them, and so on. Their design can be very precise and intended to create the wabisabi - the random pattern of nature - which Japanese find to be the ultimate in aesthetic beauty.

As martial artists, bonsai represent control. Control of self. Precision. Endurance. Adaptability. They teach us that we must have careful attention to detail, and prune our lives and our training regularly to keep them elegant and beautiful. They teach us to always remain in harmony with nature. Bonsai require service, commitment, and dedication to live - so do we. So does our practice.

I love bonsai trees and what they represent. I love how they make me feel, and what they make me think about. It calls me back to a gentler time, when we could appreciate the simple things in life more fully.

Maybe all our lives could use some cultivation.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to Basics 2010

Finally. After a few weeks of holiday time where the calendar was against us, my being out of town on Dec 18 and having both Christmas and New Year's Day fall on Fridays, we ended up going nearly a month without class.

Last Friday we recommenced our study group in earnest, refreshing our memory on the basic grip, basic angles 1-8, basic blocks, and kabkas. Our study group is intended to drill the first year curriculum of Kali Majapahit, but even if it were not, I LOVE to start the New Year getting back to basics. It is a way of reminding yourself purposefully that basics are the foundation of progress and that good basics lead to good techniques.

2010 promises to be an exciting year.
There is a great camp coming up in March in Bali, as well as a lot of changes happening in Kali Majapahit Singapore. In Japan we are going to focus on training hard, and on getting "official" with some marketing of the study group. It may even be possible to have visitors from Singapore come to teach some classes this year. I am also going to make a plan to prepare and test for 2nd dan in Yoshinkan Aikido in 2010.

I am excited about this year, and I hope you are too.

See you Friday night at the usual time (19:00), in the usual place.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Jan 2010 Kali Majapahit Japan Study Group

**** Starting back up on Friday, January 8 at 7pm at Bodyplant. See you there!! ****

Another reason for gun control

This just off CNN. A 4 year old boy accidentally shot and killed at church by a stray bullet.

Another reason why I don't want my kids to grow up in the US, in a culture of random violence.
The laws, and the safety training, are still so lax that stories like the above are commonplace. I refer to Jeff Cooper's easy to follow four rules of gun safety.

I know every right wing NRA advocate will insist that they be allowed their Second Amendment rights "to bear arms". I'd like to hear their explanation about how we prevent incidents like the story above.

I learned how to shoot pistols, rifles, and shotguns as part of my martial arts training.
However, I would be the first in line to forgo my right to bear arms in the interest of public safety. There are parts of the world where it is very dangerous to grow up. The United States of America should not be one of them. I choose Japan because it offers me the chance to work, an interesting culture to study, a fascinating language to master, as well as a safe environment for my boys to grow up. Singapore was the same. The risk - reward profile in the US simply doesn't make sense to me. It probably doesn't make sense to the mother of that poor 4 year old boy either.

We have models such as Japan and the UK for gun control that can be leveraged in the US.
It is sad that the NRA and other right wing organizations care more about their own memberships and the strength of their lobbying efforts than they do about the lives of children.


Just reading "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.
He suggests that research has shown true expertise, world-class expertise, in a complex task such as a professional sport, playing an instrument, mastering chess, or the like is achieved at a level of about 10,000 hours of practice. The "magic number" is quoted by neurologist Daniel Levitin.

10,000 is a big number. 10,000 hours is a long time.

To give an easy measure, most people work about 2,000 hours per year if they work an 8 hour day. That would suggest mastery of a job function, even a relatively complex one, in about 5 years' time.

For hobbies, it takes a bit longer. Simple math would say that if you trained in martial arts for 2 hours per week, 50 weeks a year, that is 100 hours per year. Reaching mastery at this pace would then take you 100 years...uh oh.

This idea is not meant to be discouraging. Rather, it is to suggest that you increase your training time as much as possible. 10 hours a week sounds like a lot, doesn't it? That is averaging 2 hours a day on weekdays... However, that is still (just) 500 hours a year and then you would still need 20 years or so to match the researchers' definition of mastery :-)

How many hours of training do you think you have spent?

Most people end up settling for less than world class expertise.
Sadly, many teachers also settle for less than world class expertise.
Consider your teacher's dedication to training.

If martial arts is truly your passion, like it is mine, what will make all the difference is simply


Now, stop reading and get back to training. So will I.

"Practice isn't what you do once you are good. Practice is THE THING WHICH MAKES YOU GOOD."

Thanks Malcolm...