Thursday, April 26, 2012

There is No Enlightenment Outside of Daily Life

"There is no enlightenment outside of daily life." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Many of us go through every day as if something is missing.  We are waiting... waiting for that special someone; that special job; that special product...that special SOMETHING that will affirm for us that we ourselves are special.  We seek happiness principally in things outside ourselves, as if someone or something could make all our worries, fears and insecurities go away.

Some people would read my title quote with despair.  They would imagine the fatalistic point of view which says "don't bother.  There is no enlightenment out there.  There is nothing worth seeking."  In fact, this could not be further from the truth.  Enlightenment is not to be sought in external things or special moments.  Rather, enlightenment is found in EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES.  This is cause to rejoice.  We do not have to spend our lives waiting.  We do not need to look all over for a special tool to help us move forward, or a special moment when we can finally be blessed with understanding and awareness.
The Power to Change Our Own Lives Is in our Hands Every Moment of Every Day.

It is far better to use our time in this life appreciating the enlightenment that is completely embedded in our daily lives.  Our interactions with others, what we see, hear, feel, experience --- these are all part of our growing understanding and awareness of our connection to THIS EXPERIENCE, This NOW.  We don't have to wait for it - it is already here.  Always.

I encourage you to move away from the idea that there are two states of being:  unenlightened (where you think you are) and enlightened (where you think you want to be).  There is only a oneness of being --- which is already enlightened, which you must embrace by letting go of everything else. 

Moreover, it is even more important to recognize that there is not going to be a "magic wand" or "magic moment" that will transform you or your life.  In waiting for it to come, you will miss everything around you which is part of the enlightenment you need to accept in yourself.  Sadly, if you wait, you will miss the moment, and after all...


Monday, April 09, 2012

"They're All Perfect"

It's time for Ohanami (cherry blosson viewing).  Oh Yes.

This is the special time of year when all of Japan gets buzzing for the chance to see and enjoy cherry trees, the symbolic tree of Japan.  EVERYONE posts their favorite blossom pics on their FB profile, they make a point to go and see them in all conditions, rain or shine, day or night, warm or cold, for the few short weeks that they are here.  The TV news channels have real-time monitors of where they are blooming and when "peak bloom" will occur.  It is an all-encompassing few weeks in Japan that is one of the best parts of living here.

For many, it is simply an excuse to head out with friends and/or co-workers for drining beers and sake.  For lovers, it is a romantic time (I vividly recall walking hand in hand with my wife in Ueno Park during the cherry blossom season in April 2000, deciding I wanted to marry her).

Why does Japan go so crazy about a bunch of trees??

Sakura as Mirrors of Ourselves
Most of the year, cherry trees are stark and lifeless.  They stick their fingers into the sky like ancient spider legs, poking at the sky in anger.  There is no color to them, and they look dead.  EXCEPT for the few weeks during the hanami season, when they explode in beautiful shades of pink and white, suspended in the air like fireworks.  It is hard to describe unless you have been to Japan to experience them.  Cherry trees are EVERYWHERE, so when they bloom, it is like God took his own special spray paint cans and colored the whole country in these warm, happy shades.  Our lives are not so different from this.  "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" (Henry David Thoreau).  Sometimes, however, we shine.  Everyone of us, in our own way, can be called beautiful sometimes.  It is this essential quality that makes us human --- the ability for each of us to have a unique beauty.  Sakura symbolize this and remind us to never judge, since the ugly barren tree today might tomorrow be the most beautiful tree of all.

One Moment In Time
We wait all year long for cherry blossom viewing time.  We suffer the long, cold winter, waiting for spring to finally arrive.  The best symbol of this is cherry blossom time, when we know in our hearts winter is over and we can look forward to the mild temperatures and active outdoors of spring and summer.  It is a time to rejoice.  Cherry blossoms only last for a few weeks at best.  Like us, they are fragile.  Strong winds, rain, or sudden cold patches can wipe them out.  Our lives are also short and subject to factors outside our control.  This reminds us to live in the moment and treasure it, never forgetting how precious and impermanent it is.

They Always Come Back
All too soon, the blossoms fall and are dispersed.  We see them fade away, washed away by rain or blown away by the wind, until there are none left.  Spring gives way to the hot summer, and the cicadas and rainy season.  After the fall leaves change color and we are back to winter.  Still, the cherry blossoms come back every year without fail.  We, too, will return.  Resurrection carries a specific religious meaning for many people, but it is simply spiritual to accept (and rejoice in) the fact that the soul is eternal, and our journey will continue after our physical body disappears.  This symbolism is in the cherry trees and is comforting.

They're All Perfect
In the movie "The Last Samurai", Katsumoto-san expresses the quintessential feeling of Japanese toward their beloved cherry trees:  "The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life."  In the cherr trees we search for perfection, the true perfection that only Nature can bring, and not the artifical perfection of human creation.  We look for the same perfection in ourselves.  Finally, upon his death, he concludes "Perfect, they're all...perfect".  So, too, we are all perfect and part of Perfection.  The essence of zen is here. Now. In this Moment.  Forever.  Perfect.  Pure.

QUICK!  Enjoy them while you can!!

Exploring Jun Fan Trapping

In this cycle we are working on Jun Fan trapping.  Jun Fan is derived largely from Wing Chun, which is a Hakka style (Southern Chinese) derived from the White Crane lineage.  Such arts including Pak Mei, Kuntao, Wing Chun, and others offer a unique way of understanding combat that is very useful in modern day situations.  That said, most practitioners have trouble becoming confident in these concepts and applying the theories as they crossover into other CQB systems.
These arts have a lot in common, such as:

  • Force directing down into opponent to destroy the structure (crane flies down the mountain)
  • Punching forward into the chest/torso with elbows down and tuked in close to the body
  • Rolling of the shoulders slightly forward to deploy the large back muscles for power
  • extreme close quarters distancing -> every step forward into the opponent
If you attended Guro Fred's March seminar in Tokyo, you would have gotten a taste of serrada "close quarters" boxing.  This is an application of Inayan Serrada developed by Guro Fred to take advantage of the extreme close quarters range that is often found in trapping, and represents another example of branches which can be found from the Jun Fan trapping foundation.

Last Friday we explored another interesting set of material.  Using the karambit, we did Jun Fan traps 1-5 and found that we can have great effect using almost the identical movements that we did using our empty hands.  Why?  Aren't Jun Fan and karambit (silat) completely different??  Yes, but also no.

Of course their martial traditions come from very different cultural sources.  That said, however, the In donesians were influenced by the Hakka Chinese in the same way as the Malays and Filipinos, and there is a strong fundamental connection between tem all.  Additionally, they both can and do operate at extreme close range, relying on trapping and misdirection to gain entry to the opponent's centerline/vital box.  I hope the similarities were not lost on the students.

Jun Fan into CQB Silat
Another interesting branch to the same tree can be found in following Jun Fan traps with Silat finishes.
While many KM students are more familiar with Silat being used for lowline sweeps and takedowns aimed at the knees/ankles/legs, Silat also includes a lot of elbows, knees, headbutts, neck cranks, and other close range weapons that fit well with the distancing of Jun Fan trapping.  many of the same principles apply:
  • Get in quickly
  • Tie-up opponent's primary weapons (arms)
  • Stay inside the vital box/Keep opponent outside the vital box
  • Attack the structure/Weaken the base
This Friday we will see what can be done up-close as we branch off from the Jun Fan trapping series into CQB Silat. I hope the students will find this challenge equally interesting.  SEE YOU FRIDAY.