Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Once I thought I was wrong, but I was Mistaken

"There are no mistakes. There are only happy accidents" - Bob Ross

It's tough to be alive in this modern day and age.  The pressure is enormous.
From the time we are barely able to stand, we are measured.  We are taught that there is only ever a single right answer, and that we can never make mistakes.  Everything we do has a number or a grade or percentile associated with it.  In school everything is graded; at work everything is measured with "key performance indicators".  Any little mistake involves reams of paperwork, re-training, lectures, complaining and on and on and on.  Fear of making a mistake is a major cause of workplace anxiety.

I submit that the very best lessons I have learned in my life have not been from my successes but from my mistakes.  It can be argued that the severity of the repercussions for even little things I did wrong has led to a "punishment-avoidance" mentality that yielded performance improvements.  However, I think I have learned a lot even from mistakes nobody knew about except me.

The only way to achieve success in life is to take some controlled amounts of risk.  That always involves a chance of mistakes.  In fact, they are highly likely.  Fear of mistakes will mean fear of exploring the boundaries of our capabilities and limit us to the most boring kind of existence we can have - doomed to complacency and apathy.

This is another reason why I love martial arts.  Proper training with proper teachers allows us to push the boundaries with very little actual risk to ourselves (mentally/emotionally or physically).  We learn to cope with stress, we learn to be goal setters and goal achievers, and we learn and build our confidence in ourselves.

Guro Fred regularly puts us in situations where our first choice of techniques doesn't work - we have to be confident enough to keep moving/adapt/overcome -> FLOW and this is the essence of Kali Majapahit.  In a real fight things almost never go as expected.  These could be called "mistakes" or "accidents" or "fog of war" or a variety of other names.  Whether or not these are "happy accidents" or not depends on your training and your frame of mind.

I encourage you all to train hard and regularly, and to find your FLOW not just on the mats, but in every other aspect of your daily lives.  Accept yourself for who you really are, mistakes and all, and keep walking on the path to self-improvement, even an inch at a time.  be confident in your ability to be resilient and to rebound from every setback.  Be proud of never giving up on yourself.  celebrate your life and the adventures that make it worth living.  Let go of the numbers and be ready to live in the moment for just and only what it is - without measurement or judgement.  Laugh about the "happy accidents" and keep on FLOWING.

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Reflections on my black belt test

so this is it.  I passed my kadua guro 1st dan black belt instructor test in Kali Majapahit today.

It was a six hour test covering single/double sticks, knife vs empty hand and knife vs knife, kadena de mano (empty hands), single/double karambit, boxing and panantukan (Filipino kickboxing).  It ended with working techniques on 20 people in sequence using either empty hands or foam stick.  I'm exhausted.

There is much work to do from now, but I am comfortable with my result.  I have to improve on many, many things, but the test was an accurate reflection of where my skills are at this moment.

As a kalista, I am a product of two sources: my teachers and my students.  I am where I am, reaching this great achievement, thanks to you.

To my teachers, thank you for your patience and for believing in me.  We never know who will walk through our door on any given day, or what lies behind the next door we will walk through.  When I walked through that door on Yan Kit Road in Singapore, I knew my life was going to change forever; to take off in a new and exciting direction.  I knew I had found a driving force that would lead me to become better at everything in my life.  A million light bulbs turning on all at once.

Guro Fred, you reminded me how rich my life could be as a martial artist, and how the positive  energy could be such a source of power in every aspect of my life.  You have continued to inspire me with your drive and vision, and your remarkable way to get people to see the Truth of things.
Thank you for allowing me to set up and run our group as a kasama - thank you for never letting go.

Guro Lila, you have a smile that is pure sunshine, but your heart is a Mighty Dragon. Your own journey has taught me so much about how to live my journey, and your unwavering and relentless pursuit of perfection is the model I aspire to.  I am grateful for your kindness and for all you have shared with me.

Guro Ben, I am so glad you could be my partner for the test.  You are an amazing martial artist and athlete, as well as a savvy and creative businessman.  I hope I can raise my game the way you have raised yours.  Thank you for investing so much in me.

My other teachers, Guro Guillaume, Guro Robin, Guro Frederic, Guro David, Guro Seb, Guro Claes --- you have all taught me more than you know.  Each of you express our art uniquely and each of you have given me deeper perspective on how I need to be in order to be worthy enough to count myself among you.  I look forward to a very long journey together.

For my students, I am so proud of each and every one of you for your commitment to me and your commitment to Kali Majapahit.  In my darkest hours, our class was the only thing I had to look forward to.  You continue to challenge me to give my very best in every class - everything I know, so that you can do and be more.  You are great people and I could not wish for a better Kali Family.  My Fridays are always my best days thanks to you.

A black belt is not an end - it is the beginning of something new.  I am thrilled and excited to set forth on my next stage, and looking forward to sharing this path with you all. Thank you again for your constant support.

The passion of compassion

Everything in martial arts begins with compassion.  It is the compassion of our parents that brings us into this world; the compassion of our friends that nurtures us; the compassion of our partner that sustains us; the compassion of our family that comforts us.  In martial arts it is the compassion of our teachers that train us; the compassion of our brothers and sisters to polish us.  It is our manifest destiny to exhibit this compassion to others, thus creating a positive spiral that makes our world a better place.

People who think of martial arts as simply "punching and kicking" are those shallow people who think of Christianity as simply "wafers and wine".  The essence of what we do; what we must do - must always start with compassion.

Proper martial arts training yields a few keys of understanding:  First of all, we must come to understand the inherent frailty and weakness of the human body.  Every technique we learn and train is designed to illustrate the weakness of our opponent(s).  We attack not just their vital points, but also their structure, taking away their balance and position - and ultimately their strength and their ability to resist.  This practice should make it very clear that we are frail creatures and easily broken. Our further studies in health, wellness, fitness/conditioning educate us in how important it is to control the body in order to prevent disease and injury, which can occur in us all too easily.  Because we decay, maintenance of our physical selves is a full-time occupation.  The result is a higher awareness of humans as precious and delicate, and that all living beings are worthy of our protection and needful of our vigilance.

However, our training also reveals the unlimited power of our minds and the indomitable spirit of our will. We humans are endowed with a miraculous ability to transcend our physical limitations and overcome the dimensions of our existence to become more.  Unlike other creatures, we can go beyond habit and instinct to do more than just "be" (sadly sometimes, to also do less than just "be") .  We alone have the capability to achieve spiritual awareness and keep the connection to our immortal souls.  We alone have the ability to be spiritually connected to our surroundings and through meditation to achieve an enhanced awareness of our place in the universe and to experience "oneness".

Martial arts training is about goal setting and goal achievement.  It is about taking responsibility for our life choices and controlling our own future.  It is about being able to become a better human being not through luck, but through leveraging our experiences and our training to deliberately be more than we were.  It is about finding, establishing and maintaining our connection to each other and to the "oneness" that is central to our being.  Thus, it is natural that we should continue to marvel in the wonder of what it is to be human and to experience compassion as the starting point of our journey.

"We are not a drop in the ocean, we are the entire ocean in a drop".

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Keep On Moving

You may be high
You may be low
You may be rich, child
You may be poor
But when the lord gets ready
You gotta move --- Rolling Stones

I am just back from a three-day intensive workshop at Kali Majapahit HQ in Singapore, the inaugural Level 1 Instructor Training Academy.  This had more than 40 martial artists from all over the world gathered to understand the unique blend of FMA, health/wellness, and personal development/philosophy that is Kali Majapahit.  It was unforgettable.

One thing that Guro Fred explained --- we are meant to move.
Genetically, our closest relatives are chimpanzees and gorillas.  If we observe their diet and habits, we can have remarkable insight into our own health and wellness.  Chimpanzees and gorillas do not suffer from any of the "diseases of excess" that plague the West including heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.  They also do not seem to have depression or commit suicide.

These creatures are basically vegan, meaning that with the exception of small, concentrated amounts of high quality protein (insects), chimpanzees and gorillas subsist on a natural, plant-based diet.  The eat a lot (20-30 bananas per day) and drink plenty of fresh water.  They also MOVE.  Constantly.  This would suggest that the same habits of tending toward natural, organic, whole plant-based foods is healthy for us, and that we are born to M-O-V-E.

In addition to their healthier diet, another reason our recent ancestors outlived us was due to their very active lifestyles.  Sitting behind a desk staring at a computer (and then  going home to watch TV) has really only been part of a mainstream career for the past 30 years or so.  Prior to that most of the population continued to have active lifestyles involving movement and sports.  Farming and most other career choices involved at least some degree of physical labor, and this helped to keep us active throughout our lives.

I think Guro Fred is right in that our bodies are meant to be used well and often.  We were designed to run barefoot, designed to climb and jump and be very active.  In fact, the current trends in health and fitness including Crossfit and Parkour, for example, emphasize practical, functional movement as the goal and core component of their training regimen.

We were not made to wake up to TV, watch our smartphone as we sit on the train during our commute, stare at a monitor all day while we sit at our desk and eat our packaged lunch, only to return home the same way we got here, ending up sprawled on the couch in front of the TV before finally going to bed.  Our bodies were designed to hunt and forage for food constantly.  We are not nearly as well suited to hunting animals as nature's REAL hunters (try eating a rabbit or a chicken whole and uncooked sometime).  Design would suggest that we did this only out of necessity in winter when fruits and vegetables were not easily available.

These are hard realities for us to have to face.  With modern medicine to help us when we get injured, it is possible for a person with the right diet and exercise habits to live past 100 years of age.  Soon it may be possible to live well beyond that.

The evidence is compelling.  What do you think?
We should ensure that we MOVE as much as possible every single day.

See you soon.