Wednesday, January 04, 2017


Please note the above.  Jacques Pepin is a master chef.  Like any master, his skill and insight transcends a single discipline to be universally true of any body of knowledge.

In the video above, he describes the process of making a recipe for carmelized pears, explaining clearly that the goal of a recipe is not to follow the set of instructions to the letter per se, but to recreate the "taste" of a dish.  Doing so requires adjustments due to each variable, condition and circumstance involved each time it is cooked.  This is ART.  All art, every art, involves a sender who shares an experience of the senses with the receiver(s) and can change based on context.

Martial art is no different from this.  At one end of the spectrum, aikido, the way of harmony, creates an experience of "connectedness" between shite and uke - a kind of physical dialogue or moving partner meditation.  As we become more "martial" and less "art", the experience changes to become less cooperative and harmonious.  Nonetheless, performing martial arts techniques creates a result on the receiver - usually involving them becoming unable or unwilling to continue the fight.

Teaching martial arts is not different from teaching cooking (or painting or any other art).  Instead of recipes we have sets of techniques, combinations and drills designed to highlight, illustrate and enhance certain skills of the student.  In reality, these techniques are all subject to changes based on the characteristics of the participants, the terrain, the lighting, the environment and a myriad of other factors. Every fighting encounter is different, just like every time making a dish is different.  Achieving the right outcome is mostly about reading the situation and making the necessary adjustments - that comes from lots of training and experience.  As Pepin explains, following the recipe exactly to the letter would be a disaster.  In retrospect it would be naive to think that following the instructions exactly could have a good result without regard for different conditions.  Yet, we all know many arts that seek total precision in the repetition and imagine that such control can exist outside the dojo.  While this can be an admirable goal for kata, it is not practical (nor possible) in a dynamic, unrehearsed situation.

Among all the martial arts I have seen, Kali is unique and individualized.  By design it allows for each kalista to make the techniques his/her own expression of FMA concepts and principles.  We are free to explore and discover, to create our own unique flow or "taste".  It really cannot be any other way.  The recipes are guidelines, nothing more.  Focus on the flavor and taste rather than the specific process.  Use these techniques as learning tools and examples rather than pre-programmed outcomes.

"One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. 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."  -  Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure