Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to the Mothership

It's time to go back to the Mothership.

Next week I will be taking a few days off from work to attend the Instructor Training Academy (ITA) level 2 intensive course at Kali Majapahit headquarters in Singapore.

Details here:

I attended the level 1 intensive course last year and it was fantastic!
It was excellent to go back to see my brothers and sisters, fellow instructors, and so many new faces as well.  Here's what it looked like:

This time there will be a revised curriculum for level 2, as well as much more detail in how to make our classes the best for our students, which has been the goal of Punong Guro Fred Evrard and our teaching staff since day 1.  As I have told my own students many times "it is not about me, it is about YOU."  Kali Majapahit continues to grow and evolve, and I can't wait to experience the new discoveries and bring them back to use here in Tokyo.

I started training in Kali Majapahit at the school on Yan Kit Road, near Tanjong Pagar MRT, and it was a ramshackle 3 story traditional Singaporean shophouse building behind the wet market.  It was hot, and the paint was cracking, but it was HONEST.  We all trained very hard there and it was busy with many students coming and going.  While I was there, the school outgrew that location and plans were set in motion for the new location on Carpenter Street, a very short walk away from Clark Quay MRT.  A huge amount of work went into making the facility what it is now - a totally modern, fully-equipped, state of the art professional martial arts school.

When I walked into the new facility on opening night my jaw dropped.
It was simply the most beautiful dojo I had ever seen.
Hardly the largest or most expensive, it was tasteful and elegant, and immediately it felt like "home" - like where we belonged.  It was always a joy to walk up the stairs and into the expansive studio.  I miss it terribly.

Now it is home to over 200 students of all ages, races, and sexes, passionately training in Kali Majapahit, Tahitian Dance, Parkour/ADD and boxing.  Once could argue that it is the best such facility in Singapore.  It is definitely my favorite place to go and train.

In February at the legendary Bali Camp, KG Alison tested for her Kadua Guro and blew everyone away.  She showed everyone her courage and spirit and reminded us what a warrior's heart truly looks like.  I was proud to observe her test and can't wait to hear how she has done teaching class - bringing her explosive energy and mischievous smile to her students.

The other teachers have grown and changed too, and I am very excited to see their progress, and show them mine.  The bond we share is unbreakable, forged by our hard work and commitment.  I am humbled to be counted among them as a fellow instructor.  This time, I am attending with one of my senior students, Frank, and I can't tell you how proud I am for him to see a place so special for me, and to meet some of the many people who have changed my life.  It's going to be a great few days.

For all our students outside of Singapore, you owe it to yourself to get to Singapore to visit Kali Majapahit HQ and train there.  Once you go, you will experience the community we have built (that you are a part of) - a global network of people who want to be better than yesterday.  People committed to our Kali Majapahit and to each other.  The energy and magic are hard to describe.  You need to FEEL IT.  Plan ahead and get out there.  You deserve it.

For everyone else, I remind you that the power to take control of your life is always in your hands.  We have a great team of people to help show you the way, and an even better family to walk the path with you.  This journey could make all the difference in the rest of your life.
Give yourself a chance.

Time to go and pack my bags... see you there!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Mastery

(Thanks for the inspiration Paul)

An interesting conversation yesterday on the subject of mastery.  It was prompted by an FB post I shared of Guro Dan Inosanto with a caption that read "The goal of the Martial Arts is not for the destruction of an opponent, but rather for self-growth and self-perfection."  My friend called out that it is really only martial artists that are so vocal over the aspect of "non-violence" in their practice of something with to the general public looks designed specifically for violent applications.  He said "you don't see gymnasts or marathon runners or piano players touting about how their goals of self-growth and self-perfection are non-violent, do you?"  Point made.  He further asked "Can you acquire self-growth and self-perfection ( whatever that entails ... ) without hitting people ?"


One of the many things I love about Kali Majapahit is that we express our Southeast Asian martial arts through a very Chinese lens.  That is, our practice places strong emphasis on health and longevity.  We learn about the body, mind and spirit (through martial arts) with a desire to understand its inner workings, specifically with respect to our connection to other people.  The mastery of Kali Majapahit is a mastery of ourselves, and with it freedom from fear and limitation (physical, mental and spiritual).

This is completely consistent with the origins of martial arts as practiced by monks in India and China, where health was a principal goal of the training.  This was deeply connected to their spiritual practice and combined with yoga and meditation to create an integrated well-being.  Yes, acupuncture and other traditional healing arts are a core part of this.  In Kali Majapahit, it is our study of Hilot, traditional Filipino homeopathy, and practice of Kali Majapahit becomes very limited without this important aspect.

Could you achieve this self-growth and self-perfection only through meditation and yoga?  YES
However, this is not for everyone.  The spiritual path is formless, and there are no longer many teachers who can teach it properly.  It also requires a level of patience most modern people find difficult. The study is easier when it has context, and this is something martial arts can and should provide.

Using the context of martial arts as a vehicle for spiritual growth is not new at all.
The relationship between Japanese swordsmanship and Buddhism is a particularly deep spiritual connection - anchored on an understanding of the impermanence of this world and the importance of all living things.  For warriors whose life revolved around death, this insight and awareness was profound.  There are many practical lessons for us in these modern times as well.

Many books on sports fitness also emphasize the spiritual side of training.  They talk about "runner's high" or discuss breathing and its relevance to training.  For reference, meditation elevates the consciousness firstly through three factors: deep breathing, proper posture and muscle relaxation.  Most sports focus on these as well.

I would go even further to say that "The Way" can be anything we choose it to be.  The only prerequisite being that through the practice we are able to willfully elevate our awareness and understanding to connect to our SOUL and hear that "inner voice".  There is no single "Way" and martial arts is only one path to the Truth.

I quote "Hagakure" (hidden leaves) which is one of the most widely read texts on Bushido, wherein Tsunetomo Yamamoto writes:

"It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all Ways and be more and more in accord with his own."

This strongly suggests that what is important is a commitment to your own "Way" and the awareness to use other "ways" to improve your understanding of your own.  Of course, to Buddhists this makes perfect sense, since we are taught that duality does not exist and all things are connected.

In another post I wrote about the rule of 10,000, which suggests that 10,000 hours of practice is the basic requirement for mastery of any skill.  However, on further examination, this is not enough.  While practice can develop skill, practice alone does not automatically yield mastery in the sense that we seek in martial arts.  We must have a willful desire to use this training for its higher purpose - connection to the SOUL.  Otherwise, we simply learn to move the body without gaining the benefit of enlightenment.  In this example, a master piano player could be skillful at playing pieces they are given, but never achieve the freedom of just playing free-flow or writing their own music.  Connection to the soul yields spiritual freedom, and this is the ultimate goal of martial arts training when we say "self-growth and self-perfection".  We must learn to think beyond what we can see, the physical body, to the true self - The SOUL.  It is the soul which we must grow and perfect, not the physical body.

OK, this post has been a bit top-heavy on the spiritual side (especially for writing it at 7:43 am).
Don't despair.  Trust your training and keep moving forward every day, step-by-step.

I wish you every success, whatever Way you choose.