Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Captain America


For those of you who have not seen Captain America, you should.

While it is on some levels a very patriotic pro-American movie, the underlying premise is an interesting one.

Steve Rogers is a skinny, wimpy kid from Brooklyn who is desperate to "do his part" in the war against Nazi Germany.  He tries again and again to enlist, but is rejected for health reasons.  He finally happens upon a doctor who is conducting research on a "super soldier" formula which will enhance the attributes of the subject.

This is the part I like - "it makes a good person better, it makes a bad person worse".  The doctor chooses Steve because Steve does not want to fight per se, he "just doesn't like bullies, no matter where they're from".  He undergoes the procedure and emerges with superhuman strength and speed.  With his dying breath, the doctor reminds Steve to keep his good heart and remain just who he was.  Steve becomes "America's First Superhero" and is ready to sacrifice himself for others and defend the weak from injustice.

Martial arts training is a lot like this.

It has been my experience that it enhances the basic attributes of the student - good becomes better, bad becomes worse.  The quality of the teacher, his/her values and principles, his/her energy and beliefs strongly influence the students.  These aspects help students to become more of who they already were.

The training makes good people into better people - not just faster and stronger, but more compassionate, more giving.  It makes good people become heroes - defenders of the weak and champions against injustice.
REAL SUPERHEROES, which our planet needs very desperately.

In my post on The Karate Kid, I explain how the teacher determines the student, and I believe this is very much true.  I have had experience of both good and bad teachers, and have seen the same in other schools.  Choose your teachers well.  Do not choose solely on the basis of physical prowess, but also according to their strong conviction and moral character.  Choose based on their dedication to the school, the art, and the students.

American or not, I hope you will all become the heroes you are meant to be.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Magic Pill

Making my way home from Crossfit last night - exhausted.

On my long train ride back I started thinking... people (myself included) can be unbelievably lazy.

On the good side, this tendency toward finding an easier way has given us many of the modern conveniences we now take for granted.  They were all born of the notion that people are willing to pay for convenience - this is at the heart not only of product innovation, but of service quality.

I also have to say that I am a true believer when it comes to improving training methods, and every good instructor I know is as well.  We are always on the lookout for any drill or exercise we can show students to help them pick up the techniques, improve their flow, and generally become better martial artists and people.

Going beyond this is the willingness in FMA, especially in Kali Majapahit, to continually re-evaluate the curriculum and change it to reflect the best possible ways of delivering the material to students.  We have a detailed curriculum to black belt (Kadua Guro) and beyond which helps integrate the various influences in the system including Filipino martial arts, Indonesian Silat, Muay Thai/Muay Boran, Western Boxing/Kickboxing, Hakka Kuntao/Wing Chun and other Southern Chinese styles.

At higher levels, Kali Majapahit practitioners "flow" in their own style, based on their expression of the core concepts of the school.  To reach this level, however, requires that everyone have a common framework of knowledge around impact, edged, and empty hand weapons that develop the fundamental skills that lead to flow.

I wish I could say there is a magic pill - a single exercise or drill that gives everything in one neat, tidy package.  I wish there was a "6 minute abs" of Kali that allowed you to master it with a minimum of effort and commitment.

Sorry, but that just ain't so.

Even with the best training drills and methods, and the best quality instructors delivering the material, excellence in Kali Majapahit really just boils down to the commitment of the individual student -  the person who wants to reach their full potential and trains hard to get there.  It means being in class, working the drills, and training on your own.

I think the end result is well worth the effort.
I hope you agree.

When a magic pill comes out, let me know where to buy it.
Until then, see you at class.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A Daily Slice Of Zen

Here is an Omamori, a type of Japanese lucky charm. This specific one is the one I got last year at New Year's at Sensouji in Asakusa, Tokyo, one of the most famous temples in Japan.  I was here visiting with Guro Guillaume and Guro Morgane when they came to Japan to visit.  It feels like a long time ago, even though only a year has passed.  Very soon this one must go to the fire to return to the Everything from which it came.

I made a decision to use this omamori as a way to practice zen.

For the past year, this omamori has been in my pocket every single day.  Every morning, I deliberately take it from my desktop, put it in my pocket, and carry it there all day.  From time to time, I take it out and reflect on it.  Mostly, however, it has been a daily reminder to me to do at least one single action deliberately, purposefully, with focus, every single day.

All too often it is the little things that go unnoticed and forgotten; it is the little habits that chip away at our awareness and slowly erode our willpower, turning us into mere creatures of habit.
By overlooking the little things, we are forced to wait in limbo between the big events of our lives, falsely believing that nothing else was happening in the meantime.

Zen is being aware and connected in the present, every moment of every day, one after another.
Achieving this is no miracle of instant awakening.  Rather, it is the calm, steady progression of practice at paying attention to every detail of our lives until we master them all - one by one.

We spend so much time focused on our big goals; the bigger the better - our aspirations for our education, our career, our love and marriage, our family.  We dream of our big houses, big cars, big vacations.  We miss the small details.  We lose the awareness of the little things that happen in our lives every day that shape how we are.  Sadly, we miss the little things about the myriad people in our lives that make them so truly unique and so truly beautiful.  We miss the constant daily feelings of gratitude we owe for the millions of blessings Life constantly gives us.  We miss celebrating every single breath we are fortunate to have.  We want more without fully appreciating how lucky we are for everything we already have.

This year, 2013, is a year of restoring balance.  2012 was a volatile year in every possible meaning of the word.  The weather, the markets, our relationships.  Everything was in massive flux and fundamental changes were in flight across the board.  Now it is time to let the dust settle and put our lives and our world back in order; A BETTER ORDER.

I challenge you, in this year, to focus on the smallest of details.  Start as small as you can.
Find a way to master them one by one, and I promise you will find a way to master the big challenges as well.  Use your focus.

May 2013 bring you happiness, peace, love, gratitude, and most importantly a renewed sense of purpose for yourself in the brave new world we face.