Friday, November 21, 2014
The importance of routine training can not be overstated when it comes to the development of any skill. Some people say ten thousand hours makes you a professional, yet many of the skills that are of the greatest value do not fit into any profession. In fact the development of our character is immeasurable and shouldn't be compared to things as superficial as finance. To train self-defense, is to dawn the cloak of confidence and well-being, but it might as well be an invisible cloak as far as modern society is concerned because we tend to go unnoticed.
It doesn't matter if the lifestyle we aim for is visible, it still requires the daily dos of training that can be hard to fit in after 8 hours of work. Of the small percent of martial artists that are able to maintain their training through the unpredictable and often inconvenient surprises of life, we must make a plan to ensure the progress of our direction. There are so many moving pieces that must be continually adjusted in our system: balance, reaction, speed, power, trapping, kicking, push hands, bag work, weapon work, foot work, etc. etc. etc. There are literally thousands of things to work on and it all has to be done in a tightly packed schedule before or after work.
How do you determine the best method of progress? Bruce Lee said, "Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own." Phrases like this sound great on posters, bumper stickers and cereal boxes, but after training long enough you will know that we are unable to determine what is useless. Generally a movement that you do not yet understand is useless, but through years of practice it could become your favorite and most effective technique. If we only value what we understand today our arrogance will cause us to throw away tomorrow.
But Bruce Lee said another quote that I believe hits the heart of every martial artist in one way or another, "You must learn the art of dying."
On the surface this quote seems to say, "Have no fear of your opponent..or accept the situation without thought of the result." It does mean these things, but it also means so much more. It points to the daily battle that takes place within ourselves. Knowing what to train and especially having the strength to make yourself train every day, is a way of teaching your "self" to die.
The "self" represents the fleshly needs that are basically your animal instincts. We work our jobs so that we can gain something, whether it be food, power or some form of gratification. We can perform very challenging and difficult tasks just to make sure that the flesh can continue living. These may seem like mere survival instincts at first, but like anything, the more you train the more powerful it becomes. Anger, depression, and envy are also parts of the flesh: attachments that attempt to control the quality of our survival.
But your spirit, is the real you; the driver behind the fleshy machine. Your true personality and nature are stemmed from your spirit. When you are younger your spirit mostly dominates your flesh, continually inspiring you to imagine and explore. For a child everything appears magical and it takes years of disappointments to teach you how to lose your faith and to finally accept only what your five senses can understand. Humans are a living contradiction, forced to make decisions between the flesh and the spirit. When you feed one, you starve the other and therefore part of everyone continues to die daily.
You could say that the development of any skill is the spirit's ability to overpower the need for the body's comfort. Every from of progress is a discomfort for a lengthened period of time. After work my body says, "I'm too tired to train, I'm going to rest," but my spirit says, "get your ass out there and train." After years of teaching my flesh to obey my spirit regarding martial arts, my flesh has become dead in this area. I am no longer tempted to not train, or at least the temptation of not training can not compare to my spiritual need to improve my movements.
You will often hear people say this is mind over matter. However this can also be misleading because the mind is also a part of your flesh. In fact, it is the mind that continues to look for a reason to do something or to not do it. The spirit never needs a reason, the spirit just does. A reason is an attempt to explain what we have no authority to understand. Why do you like martial arts? Why do you like music? Why are there places that you wish you could travel to? These are all questions proposed by the spirit and therefore can not be answered by the mind. Quiet the mind so that the spirit can grow.
Every time you choose progress over comfort, you strengthen your spirit. This is the first and most important step of beginning your training. But as I said before, "How do we know what is useless or what to discard?" If my wife asked me to take her and the baby to the mall and I refuse because of my training, have I fed my spirit or my flesh? What if a man hits me while I'm out with my friends? If I hit him back, which part of me is fed?
We live in a world that is a part of an infinitely large universe and all things are connected. This means that every simple thing lies in the midst of complications. When I choose the needs of my spouse, I've denied my "self," which is my flesh. When someone makes me angry and I deny that anger, I am also starving my flesh. The art of dying means that you are almost always denying your first natural and instinctive reaction. You will find that this process at first will be quite painful. It hurts to hold your tongue after you've been insulted. It takes great strength to not seek revenge.
Whether it be for reasons of martial arts progress or family time, to deny yourself is to put the need of something else ahead of yourself. It's difficult to do or understand because it is the definition of love. Because I love the gift of martial arts that God has given me, I am able to celebrate with the movements that I've learned. Like child, I explore into the infinite possibilities of magical movements. The flesh says, "I have to train," the spirit says, "I get to train." By learning to love not having your way, you've learned to love life.
This realization will dramatically raise the quality of your training, which is far more important than the quantity. My training schedule is much like a reflection of my life so I don't discard anything, but I give each item a season. I generally have three overlapping seasons happening at once: Immediate, short-term and long-term. Here is a little example of what Xing yi Season looks like:
Monday Xing Yi Warm up 30 min Moon Daggers 30 Minutes Sparring 30 Minutes Research 30 Minutes Footwork 30 Min.
Tuesday Xing Yi Warm up 30 min. Moon Daggers 30 Minutes Sparring 30 Minutes Circle 30 Minutes Applications 30 Min.
Wednesday One Movement 2 hours
Thursday: Xing Yi Warm up 30 min. Moon Daggers 30 Minutes Sparring 30 Minutes Combinations 30 Minutes Footwork 30 Minutes
Friday Xing Yi Warm up 30 min. Moon Daggers 30 Minutes Sparring 30 Minutes Research 30 Minutes Power Training 30 Minutes
Sunday Free Flow Training
This is a rough outline of the schedule I've been doing for the last few years. However the Moon Daggers is on a three month schedule and I've already switched it out for another weapon. The immediate goals are to prepare you for the day to day and possible events that could happen. I adjust them according to my moods, interests or recent crimes I see on TV. The short term goals are to get me deeper with a concept that I am searching for, hopefully unlocking a new philosophy that can be trained. The long term is generally something I will need to work on for a few years at least. I don't change the movements, but I change the situation quite often, sometimes training on something elevated, slippery surfaces or anything my creative mind can find. The long term is always a pain in the ass, but it always brings forth the most valuable treasures.
This mirrors how I do my other goals in life as well. Currently I'm writing my new novel, which is my long term, I am always alternating between art and music for short term and my day to day learning consists of writing Chinese, filming, acting, and designing martial arts curriculum.
When you make a time schedule that everything overlaps, you will find that it all becomes possible if you are patient and persistent. You don't know when you are going to need something, so why discard it? Everything is useful and beautiful if you let yourself fall in love with it. Everything that you are able to do is a celebration of life and once you've developed it, share it with those in need. Progress is spiritual food and the world is starving.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Jonathan Bluestein's Research of Martial Arts is a book I would recommend for veteran martial artists and beginning martial artists alike. It follows Jonathan's many years of experience and really captures the important details of martial arts styles, training, external and internal ideologies, weapons and much more. This book almost reads itself when you pick it up, connecting invaluable information with a lifetime of experience.
I found that this read was very enjoyable as it took time to touch on many of the complex ideas of martial arts, but explained them in a way that is friendly to the reader. The material is also very enriched and can be used as an encyclopedia of martial arts information (I will surely keep coming back to it for my own research). It contained information of styles from all over the globe and gave a very comprehensive understanding to all of their differences. I also loved how the book got into the details of training both externally and internally. There are too many martial arts books that use a very ethnocentric approach to their own style, leaving the reader with a distorted view of the truth. Jonathan's book gave an unbiased approach to all of the different styles while enlightening the reader with fresh perspectives.
What is also enjoyable about the book is the intricate details that it covers within the culture of each art. As Jonathan trains with different masters, he lets you closely observe the involving perspectives of each experience. For a person who doesn't practice martial arts, this book promises to be a great way to really see deeply into the martial arts world. If you are a well experienced martial artist like myself, you will be able to gather lots of well researched information to help you with your own training.
As this book transitions from methods of training external power into the vast world of internal power, it is sure to help the reader discern fact from fiction. It clearly details what good, solid martial arts is about while addressing the problems with many deceptive teachers. Not only is this book a great read that is worth reading a few times to digest the richness of the information, it is a great contribution to society. As a successor of the traditional martial arts, I often find myself cautious when explaining such powerful and dangerous concepts to a younger generation that hasn't been given guidance morally. Underneath the great writing and well-researched information, this book brings the reader into the understanding of the value of martial arts outside of self-defense. No amount of technology will every replace the need for effort and responsibility. It's my hope that the new generation gets a hold of more great information like this.
Jonathan Bluestein's book is part of the revolution of positive information to combat the superficial skin that society has been dying to shed. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Years before people had heard of the term "MMA," I had already been training for more than a decade. At the time it seemed obvious that blending the martial arts was likely to be the most effective manner to take out an opponent, especially if the fray took place in the ring. I fought with fighters of every style on a weekly basis in order to strengthen the metal within my art. It wasn't long before I was joined by a group of like-minded warriors, also thirsty for the betterment of self. We ate the bitter of cruel training and digested effective combat techniques on a daily basis.
In those days, the harvest that I had to offer was yet to fully ripen. I could feel the power that was developing within my being, restricted by my system of martial arts understanding. Perfecting individual techniques was an effective way to cover my weaknesses and dominate certain opponents. However regarding the nature of my technique, I knew that my system of fighting was already at a plateau that required my youth to function effectively. Through the window of humility I was able to peer into the future and see myself retired before I was thirty. No matter how many foes I defeated in a ring of fickle glory, none could compare with the enemy of time.
My physical plateau was related to my lack of mental development. The truth is the mind is the hand that wields the weapons of the body and an undeveloped mind wields counterfeit weapons. As I challenged my mind, it grew and expanded and then betrayed my former ideology of the warrior. It became clear that a warrior could not succeed if his battle was for the approval of others or an artificial form of glory. The path of approval and the path of purpose rarely move in the same direction. In fact as I allowed myself to be swallowed by my journey of truth, my new ideas of success were unrecognizable and even detestable to the world I once knew.
The dawning of this reality would eventually lead me into a form of isolation. Ironically this isolation only made me more perceptive of the truth that most people failed to grasp, developing an even greater distance between me and my former universe. Eventually this distance created a sadness. Not for myself, but for the world that continued to hurry and race without direction. To my surprise, my journey of martial arts improvement was actually a journey of spiritual evolution. I had evolved into a visionary and could not unsee what was seen.
I saw the world was covered in a darkness with a presence too heavy to ignore, yet too frightening to acknowledge. The truth of the ugliness of our society was erased, stripped and discarded as it was replaced by numbing, mindless distractions. Had I not changed my path, my only contribution would have been to the establishment of these distractions.
Although we have all been created for a uniquely magnificent purpose, we've been swindled into becoming dull copies of death. I mourn for the deceased that have fooled themselves into thinking they are still alive. Yet my every attempt to warn them has only been met with insults, forcing me to leave them to their delightful deceptions.
Time continues to pass and I am blessed with a harvest of martial arts that exceeds even my dreams. The more I learn, the more I understand that I am only a beginner. Yet I still desire to share the fruits of my labor to all that I can. But within this harvest is power that isn't meant for the unripened mind. I seek more than ever to reach those who are hungry for purpose; a rare and quiet species that can see behind society's blanket of blindness. Do not fret if you have been rejected, for if you are hated by this society of confusion then you must also know some form of truth.
Although it is our purpose to feed the world with the fruits of our harvest, there are those who have committed themselves to hunger. They feed on uncertainty and digest worry while clothing their naked fear in arrogance. Still they are the majority of the population and whichever route you choose to find truth, you will be met by the gauntlet of jealous insecurities. And when you are met with this resistance, it is vital that you do not slow your pace, but push even harder. Mockery is the language of the blind and often an indication that you are moving in the right direction.
Be courageous, be blessed and be fruitful. When your harvest is ready, let it not be wasted on those who seek hunger.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Lately there has been a stream of videos popping up on the internet showing realistic violent events, warning against choreographed martial arts movements. These videos are certainly eye opening for those who have never been in a real altercation, but at the same time they are possibly misleading to how effective martial arts actually is in a real combat situation. Being a person who is an experienced martial artist and has used it in life threatening situations dozens of times throughout the course of my life, I felt it necessary to say a word or two on this topic that might help people understand how to use and train their martial arts effectively.
First let me remind you that the generations before us were not idiots. They lived in a time of continual war against countless odds, which lead to the development of martial arts. Because they were in a warring period, there are many obvious factors that they didn't need to explain, that people today may not be aware of. All of the movements that were passed along basically represent a simple alphabet that we can learn in order to become more literate in a scenario of violence. So all of the movements from every style have proven to be effective or they would not exist today. Whether you are worried about knife counters, spear counters or gun disarms, these movements have all been successful at one point.
Let's use the alphabet as a cross reference for these choreographed movements to develop a better understanding of how to train. If you want to be able to write, the first thing you have to do is memorize the 26 different letters that make up the English language. Do you remember writing over and over again when you were in kindergarten? You did it so many times, that you don't even remember doing it anymore, but it was a crucial part of even being able to read this article. That is the first step to combat. Memorize how to disarm, disable or distract the opponent in the ways that have been proven effective.
But memorizing these letters won't teach you how to write. The next step is you must learn how to form words. In training this means you must make scenarios that practice the movements from different angles, multiple opponents, surprise attacks etc. Then you must utilize grammar which is also a rhythmic pattern that shows you how to move between the moves. The most important part of martial arts is not the movement, but the movement before and after the movement. After you have learned grammar you can go into basic essays, articles, books etc. The whole idea is to teach you how to move freely with the movements that are proven to work. If you attempt to strip letters out of the alphabet, you are not making it more effective, but more ineffective. Of course I will use a different vocabulary than my friends because I have words I am more comfortable with, but all energy uses the same alphabet.
Now let me use another example that may help you put things in perspective. Imagine if you memorized all of the moves on a chessboard. Let's say you memorize every move that Bobby Fisher has done. With the power of the internet, access to these moves are easier than finding good martial arts information. If you memorize all of the great chess moves will you be a chess master? Of course not. If you lose does that mean these moves are ineffective? Also not true. Even by having these proven movements as your aid, you will be crushed by even an amateur chess player.
You can see the problem is not in the movement itself, but in your relationship to the movement. If you play against an opponent, he will not want you to succeed. So you will have to wait and set up the best opportunity to make those moves effective. You can't choose when to use what move. The moment chooses the movement and you need to be paying attention. The more of a vocabulary you have, the more opportunities you will be able to see how to diffuse an attack. This is becoming combat literate. Most people lose fights not because they are untrained, but because they either over or underestimate their opponent.
In the end everything comes down to one human vs. another human. You may have different cars, but it really comes down to the ability of the driver. There are many great martial artist that don't understand the nature or energy of a fight and so they will lose. There are also many great fighters who don't have the patience to learn martial arts and they will not be defeated physically, but mentally.
I could go on and give thousands of examples on this issue, but the truth is actually very simple. You only need effective practice and time. Effective practice means that you have a partner who is continually trying to hit you in a weak point. It doesn't have to be fast at first, but it does have to really try to touch you. The first step is preventing someone from actually contacting you. Then as the movement becomes better you can increase speed, aggressiveness etc. Yet you do not have to go as fast or as hard as you think you do in order to be effective if you have done the movements hundreds of times. If you become injured during practice, you will ultimately become even less effective. You don't always have to drive a car at full speed to know how to drive.
The mind recognizes patterns, just the same way you can recognize what I am writing at the moment. You don't need the alphabet anymore because you can see whole worlds. When you practice a movement, the body saves it in your muscle memory and it will happen automatically as long as you stay alert and relaxed. Claiming a memorized movement doesn't work is like saying the shapes of a letter won't teach you to read.
In Bagua we have two-person patterns that we practice all the time and honestly I wasn't a big fan of them. I have always liked to break the movements up for the realist fights with people of different styles or weapons. However through the years for demonstration purposes and passing it along to the next generation, I've become quiet fluent in these memorized patterns. One day when I was attacked at a night club. I was drinking and it was dark, but as soon as it happened, I parried just like I had done a thousand times with my master. I was just as surprised as the attacker as I knock him unconscious.
Then I came to realize what I had already known, that the mind has a tendency to over analyze situations through the accumulation of fear. If someone is trying to punch you in the face and you continue to block it for 2 hours a day then it will become second nature. The brain doesn't understand the difference between practice and fighting. So make sure that your practice is alive. If you day dream for a minute your partner should jab you in the nose. It doesn't have to be hard, but it has to be there.
Of course the more complex a movement is the longer it has to be done before you can use it effectively. Here is the part that you may not want to hear, but it must be said. How good was your English when you were 5 years old? I'm sure you could say some ideas and express yourself pretty well, but if it was a conversation about politics you would be left clueless. When you were ten years old, you could say and write much more. But the truth is that most people learn their native language for 15 years before they become fluent. That is 15 years of using your language for most hours of the day. How good do you think your language ability would be if you only spoke 2 hours a day for 3 days a week?
So even if your teacher has 30 years experience and has been in hundreds of fights he will only be able to pass along the seeds of what he has learned. The memorized motions of what helped him avoid danger. Those seeds at first will seem fruitless because they have lacked the experience and nutrients that they need to flourish. It's not that the movement doesn't work. It's that you don't work. Or you haven't learned how to work yet. We live in a society that wants results right away. But it took you years of language to even learn how to complain about the martial arts. Why would you assume that five years of training would make you effective for all situations? Some teachers are better than others and there are many different programs that will enhance your abilities quicker, but nothing and no one can put in the time for you. It is like downloading a program that will change your software after at least a decade of commitment.
So I would suggest that first you make sure your training is like the X-men. If you only know one move, you should be able to do it even if you are hanging upside from a tree. Get comfortable enough that you won't be able to freak out. But your training also has to be fun in order to practice it long enough to be effective. If your goal is to practice martial arts for 50 years because you "might" get in a fight, you will never make it to the next year. Fighting is a very small piece of the pie of endless deliciousness that I call kung fu.
Also if you are ever faced with danger, please go with option number one and run. If you have time to see it coming, you generally have time to flee. But if you don't see it coming, then the only tool you got is muscle memory anyway. Lastly, always be aware of the most important factor among all of these tiny factors. Only God decides life or death. No matter what you know how to do or not do, God is calling all the shots. So always stay prayed up before you go anywhere. Samson killed 1000 people with the jawbone of an ass cause it still wasn't his time. But he was killed from the result of being deceived by a beautiful woman because it was his time. You could spend every day practicing for the ultimate fight and slip on a banana peel and break your neck. That's just life. So don't go out living with any kind of fear in your heart. Know that you are empowered by the One who created power. Now just enjoy watering all of the fruit in your life.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
I remember being in a classroom with my peers in the early years of my youth. I would sit and try to understand the lesson the teacher was showing me when I suddenly would find a note on my desk saying,
"Were going to kill you after class nigger."
Fortunately due to the grace of God and my martial arts training, they were never successful. The environment that I grew up in was the best teacher for learning how to fight against seemingly impossible odds at times. It may seem like a harsh way to grow up, but I am grateful for the tactics that I was able to learn without taking any real severe physical damage.
However even in such a racially imbalanced environment, I had lots of good friends who were not minorities. In fact over the course of my life, I have had literally hundreds of white friends and many who I would call brothers. So throughout my life I have maintained healthy relationships with people of all races. The truth is we are people and we basically all desire the same things.
Still my classmates were completely unaware of the dangers that I was faced with on the regular basis. Even though they were my friends, they couldn't be around me 24 hours a day. Trouble usually seeks people out when they are alone and vulnerable. When my grades began to suffer from the distractions my teacher would say,
"You need to focus more. You could be top of the class like Gary if you put more effort into it."
"But Gary doesn't have to fight every day after school." I responded.
"Don't exaggerate. This is America. Racism is a thing of the past." My teacher often reminded me.
As I grew, I began to realize that the racial issues that I was faced with were just as unseen and misunderstood as the martial arts I was practicing. I lost family members to violent crimes related to drugs or police brutality and many unfortunate incidents. All of the incidents were claimed to be accidental or not racially related.
Of course being a martial artist, I learned that my identity is created from overcoming the challenges presented. Therefore it is only a distraction for me to dwell on the pain of racism, but at the same time it is foolishness to deny its existence. I have always had to be very aware of racial climate for the sake of my survival.
When we moved to a better area there were still some physical confrontations with the Aryan Nation that most people didn't believe existed anymore. But as I became older physical threats became quite easy to avoid. I learned how to you use words to disable my opponents before the option of physical confrontation was even presented. By adapting and understanding the behavior that most people were comfortable with, I was not only able to avoid conflict, but excel in different areas in my life. Racial camouflage is a color that all minorities in America must learn in order to be "successful."
Still the most brutal parts of racism were never physical. In fact it pales in comparison to the mental and spiritual damage taken over the years. When I go to a comic convention, there is no one that I can dress up as. All of the cool heroes don't look anything like me. My text books don't have anyone I can relate to. I don't want to watch a movie that attempts to console me with "token" characters. Hip hop was high jacked in front of my eyes and now there are thousands of dance movies with barely any black actors.
If I mention any of this, people tell me that I am thinking too much or that I shouldn't be so negative. It is exactly the same feeling that I had growing up in the classroom. I have lots of friends, but when it's time to fight, I'm always on my own. This is the frustration that builds in every minority throughout the years unless he successfully learns how to reject himself. Most children who see movies with heroes that don't look like them, decide that they are not from a heroic background. People of color are taught at an early age to be equal, but don't be yourself.
My hope is that I can use a kung fu method or an angle to explain to people why they may not feel the effects of racism if they are not a minority. Often times my good white friends will come to the defense of America when they see racial injustice take place. It's as if they all somehow feel responsible for the actions of another individual. There is always a way to explain injustice in a way that feels more acceptable, which is only hindering the progress of society.
So let's pretend that only 4 percent of the people in America are racist. Even a number as small as 4 percent means that for every 100 students, 4 of them are going to want to have conflict with me. So in a school of a 1000 students, I am basically going to have to deal with 40 students that cause problems with me regularly. Maybe they call me names, maybe they fight with me or even just give me a dirty look. Whatever it is they decide to do, you must understand that hateful actions are aggressive. Even though it is aggressive, every smart racist knows that it's also unacceptable behavior. So they will usually avoid doing anything in a place with lots of witnesses.
This means minorities may run into a racial issue once a month or once every few months. Just imagine that someone calls you a name once a month for the next 10 years of your life. That slowly begins to create a feeling that something is wrong. You will make the decision that something is flawed in that person, in yourself or in society. You can't explain it to anyone, but you know that something is off. Just imagine when all of these children grow up. They may become bosses, lawyers, police officers, doctors...who knows. The point is that there is a chance that your life will be in the hands of someone who only harbors negative feelings for your person. That small 4 percent can become quite dangerous over time.
Now lets look at the other 96 percent of the good people who are not of color. Maybe you have lots of friends who are minorities and you voted for president Obama. This percent has no obvious dislike for any minority and the mere mention of racism is offensive.
Yet if he has a good thought about someone of color he generally will keep it to himself. Isn't it racist to say, "Hey you are so handsome cause you are black."
So someone who feels positive about another race is unable to express it. This means that racism is aggressive, but non-racism is passive. Even if you are thinking good things about black people in your mind, you can't voice it out loud. So the only thing that minorities would hear about their race is generally going to be from a loudmouth aggressor. So when minorities are picked on or counted out, there is no one to come to our defense except us. The 96 percent are not responsible for the damage that is being done, but they are also not helping. In fact they usually come to the defense of the 4 percent because they feel that just because they themselves are not racist, no one is racist.
This is the invisible sword we are dealing with on the regular bases. One side is a victim to a flaw in the machine and the other side claims that the machine is functioning properly. Like I said before, I myself don't want to be identified by my race, but I also don't want the real dangers of the world to be overlooked for the sake of my children. The truth is the percentage for racism in America is much higher than 4 percent. There are plenty of people who haven't even taken the time to identify the racism within themselves, how could they then identify it in society? Many times people will just feel uncomfortable with other traits that are directly related to race. "I don't like that kind of sense of humor," "He talks too loud," "Those clothes aren't appropriate" etc. I myself had to leave my own country in order to get a full understanding of what racism is.
When I came to Asia the police embraced me because I knew martial arts. If there was an incident of some sort, they would run to my aid to see if I needed assistance. I could suddenly mention a business idea to someone and it would immediately be picked up. I also saw the other side of people being mistreated because they were of a different culture or background. There is no place that has conquered racism because there is no place really willing to address it. But if one day this issue was to ever be addressed, it's not as difficult as it sounds. It would just take a little bit of kung fu from everybody on all sides.
The first step is we need to learn how to accept people unselfishly. In every situation we first think, "What's in it for me?" Because of this mentality we are able to easily overlook and ignore the big picture of our connection. If you could learn to hear and feel someone's pain without pointing out your own pain, you might be able to genuinely get to the root of the problem. Mostly we cast shadows of our own experience on every situation and contaminate the event with our own identity. If you could first hear what someone is saying and not assume it is related to something you have experienced, then at least you are capable of sympathizing with the problem.
The next step is don't try to solve a problem by pointing out another problem. This is the most barbaric and childish way to deal with an issue, but also the most common. If someone has an issue related to race, it should not be immediately compared to a gay issue or a female rights issue and visa versa. Though our experiences can guide us to different answers, pointing out problems of different genres is basically the same as saying, "What's in it for me?" or "Everyone has problems." Just like martial arts, you can only work on one movement at a time. Otherwise we just end up arguing over the different issues and dismissing them altogether.
Finally the most important step is to trust each other. Trust that what this person is saying to you is real. It is real, it's not in his imagination, it's not something that is taken out of context. Once we have disregarded someone's genuine feelings, we have already given up on trying to help. We don't want to help, we want him to just be quiet. We need to stop assuming that everyone in the world aside from ourselves is mislead, misguided, or lying. The reason why we are all so easily manipulated is because we don't trust anyone's opinion more than our own. It doesn't matter if it's about rights, race or martial arts, if we don't trust each other we basically become our own world. As it is, we are billions of people on the planet living completely in isolation.
Monday, May 5, 2014
Some people say the best workout comes from repeating a single movement thousands of times and others use a duration of time to indicate they have finished a good workout. We can make progress through training forms, sparring, hitting a heavy bag, research or even meditation, but how can we know how much progress we've made? Everything becomes evident given enough time, but the results of most training can't be seen by the eye for at least weeks. As you gain a deeper understanding of many skills you will discover that mamy forms of development can never be seen, but only felt.
Progress is the ever elusive objective that can fill your heart with joy when it's present. It can also leave you at the end of a workout feeling not as competent as you wish to be. If I could put a time lapse on my life you would see the different dojos and schools that I've trained in. You would also witness hundreds of people of all kinds coming and going like the tide as the days turned into years. As a child there were many people that I thought I would grow old training with, but I came to find that most people, not even martial artists, are a match for time.
No matter what skill you choose to develop, you will only be able to develop it on your own. We have teachers, training groups and different inspirations, but no one is going to be able to put in the work for you. You will spend time improving the techniques of any craft in the isolated areas inside of your mind. You will have to overcome pain, discomfort, frustration, sickness, emotion, injury, and most importantly time on your own. They say time isn't real, but what is more real than the space that separates us from the person that we aspire to be?
Every now and then we can grasp onto a superficial reason that can act as fuel to help us continue the occasional unpleasantness of training. A small foothold on a mountain that can give you enough leverage for just one more step. Training partners, movies, inspirational people, weight loss, and even a spouse can give you the motivation that will help you through a few more months of development. As beautiful as it is to momentarily have something to pull you through, those reasons will also fade. This is why people who lose weight, often gain it back or new year's resolutions rarely last a year. The truth is the journey of becoming a stronger person isn't something that can be measured on a scale. You may start with a friend, but progress is a road that can only be walked alone. Most times on that road not even you yourself will be able to determine whether you are coming or going.
It doesn't matter what martial arts style or hobby you do if you can not continue to do it. It doesn't matter how good you look because we will all eventually fade as worn fabric. Most people fall off the path because they believe that it is a physical or even a mental challenge. Yet the true transformation of self can only be activated and maintained through the spirit. The spirit is often confused for the mind because the mind is so connected to the spirit. Just as the mind also controls every movement of the body. When your body aches, your mind tells you to stop, but your spirit gives you the strength to push passed the discomfort.
How do we strengthen the spirit? The body is physical and we feed it with solid foods. We treat the physical with something that is physical. We strengthen the mind with knowledge. We can not eat food to strengthen the mind. The mind is fed with books, stories, media and information. The mind discriminates what it takes in, just as the body does not consider all physical objects to be edible. However the spirit is affected by all things that it comes in contact with without discriminating the edible and inedible. Everything that the mind and body digest can become a part of the stomach of the spirit which is called "Faith".
Faith is something people often relate to religion, but there is nothing that we use more in our day to day lives. When you work for a company, you have faith that they will give you money at the end of the month. All of society has faith that the form of currency we use represents a standard value. We have faith that basketball games are not rigged or how else could we enjoy the outcome? There is also negative faith. You can have faith that you will never make enough money. You can have faith that your loved one is cheating on you. Faith is the building block of creating anything including all forms of progress. Therefore it is imperative we understand the direction that our faith is pulling us not only so we can continue training, but so we can create our desired reality.
The most common issue with strengthening the spirit is a communication problem between the mind and the body. If the mind fails to communicate properly with the body, it can lead to paralysis or mental illness. If the spirit fails to communicate with the mind, it will lead to foolishness that disguises itself as wisdom. This malfunction of the system generally occurs when we confuse the mind with the spirit.It is essential that the spirit drives the machine and the body and mind act as helpful companions.
When the weather is unpleasant and both my body and my mind feel exhausted, the only way I can make myself train is to say in faith, "I'm going to have a good workout." I speak in faith against both my body and my mind until it realizes itself in the sharpening of my techniques and physical martial arts progress. Sometimes my mind will help me and say, "That felt great"..other times my mind is an opponent and says, "You still suck." If you give into your mind, which is often contaminated by dark media, you will find your faith moving you in the wrong direction. Even when you are doing something great, you can have faith against yourself and that is why most dojos empty out month after month.Your body can also fight against your spirit, telling you, "Today we are too sore." A bad diet and a late night sleep will do its best to fight against the goals of the spirit. But even when you are exhausted you can speak in faith into your machine. There is a time for rest and a time to train, but every decision should be made by the spirit. The spirit has the power to refresh the mind and heal the body unless the spirit is weaker than the other two components. The spirit will strengthen depending on what form of food (faith) we feed it with.
If the majority of your faith stems from the root of knowledge then your spirit is endanger of weakening because knowledge can create an overpowering mind. Just as a student of medicine is endanger of becoming sick as they learn of the different numerous viruses. Through worry, the mind contaminates the spirit and eventually convinces the machine to adopt a faith in sickness. A pain in the body may start as something very minor, but worry can strengthen the faith in the physical problem causing the ailment to grow into something truly problematic. If your spirit isn't strong enough to resist the body and the mind, your progress will be limited by mental and physical borders.
If you base your faith in your personal experience then you will never be able to see anything other from what you have already learned. This can be especially dangerous if based on a negative experience. A man who believes women are not loyal will continually create a reality that will attract women who are dishonest. On the other hand a woman may continue to welcome abusive men into her life.
There are some people who don't have their faith based in anything and consume the sands of their environment. Sand represents endless and overall meaningless distractions, that will always leave the individual craving the next great form of entertainment. Yet the more entertainment he/she finds, the more thirsty they become, always dissatisfied and looking for the next greatest pleasure. A drug of the spirit is far more powerful than drugs that affect the mind and body.
Of course their are many other forms of faith, such as faith in government, technology, medicine, mother nature, even martial arts...but most of these can be pulled into the same category of "faith in our perception" or "faith in self". It always sounds so good when we say BELIEVE IN YOUR SELF. It's made thousands of bumper stickers and self help books, but this of course will not last.
When I was little, my brother used to believe that if he was strong enough, he could sit on a blanket and pull straight up on the two edges and elevate himself into the air. He did push ups and pull ups for months before he realized that gravity had a different plan. That is much like basing your faith in yourself. We can not choose the moment that we are born and we rarely choose the moment that we die. If we do not have control over the two most important moments of our life, how can we really put faith in our ability alone?
The bible defines repentance as the renewal of the mind. When I train, I meditate on the promises that existed before I was born and will be around after I leave. As I practice in the rain, I praise who made the rain and gave me the strength to dance with the rain on this day. Christ says that we should take his joy. That is what I do when I wake up and my joy tank is on empty. I put my faith in the One who made all things. But more importantly, He puts His faith in me. "Those who love God will be blessed in all things."
Faith is exactly the same as internal arts. You must be connected to the ground in order to control your energy. If you are standing on an unstable substance such as sand, it is only a matter of time before you lose your footing.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
This is an interview I did about five years ago with Daniel D. Zarazua about life in Taiwan. He is finishing his new book that will present what life is like in Taiwan for different minority groups. It's a good read and gives details about what life is like here.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Sorry for such a long and in many ways inexcusable delay since my last post, but I have been trying to find the timing for my next attack. No matter what style I practice, I've always been a counter fighter at heart. Life being the most evasive and elusive opponent can make my counter attacks that much more unpredictable. In this particular season, I'm forced to observe and refine while I map out my strategy for a long awaited objective.
The recent year and a half has been Xing Yi season. Learning the energy and strategies of Xing Yi has been a daily chore that can be both pleasant and very irritating. Although continually practicing Xing Yi directly enhances my Bagua, just as Taichi and many of the others styles that are on my plate. Yet I feel that Xing Yi is really just not my cup of tea. I don't believe that it is any less effective than Bagua, or I should say I don't feel any style is less effective than any style. Everything in life is just a matter of whether you understand it, or more importantly find some form of joy in it. I do enjoy practicing Xing Yi..just not as much as I enjoy running through the Bagua meadows and forests of endless changes and possibilities. If I have a problem, Bagua is always there to help me clean it up. I love Bagua so much that I literally practice it in my sleep. But like I said...it's Xing Yi season. Which means that Xing Yi is going to be taking a chunk of my Bagua time.
God has always tied together the seasons of my training and my life directly. When I was looking for my martial arts style, I was also looking for my place in the world. Recently I was blessed with an idea that was so astounding, that it has been hard for me to sit still. At every waking moment, this idea grows and expands unto the point that I sometimes get goosebumps or become watery-eyed that I could even be associated with it. It's probably the same feeling that Edison had before he invented the light bulb. Though I take steps to make sure this future objective continues to grow and develop, it is still not yet the season for this idea.
In fact I spend my hours at a desk in a cubical just slightly smaller than a jail cell. And before I can even invent the "new light bulb" I must first translate hundreds of newspaper articles from Chinese into English. I've been a rapper, actor, screen play writer, dance instructor, editor, and so on. I never thought that I would be the guy, sitting at the desk for 9 hours a day.
To many this would seem like a conflict of interest or somehow a step in the wrong direction. But this jail cell of an office was at one time a prayer request. I said, "Jesus help me find a job so that I can take care of my new born baby." The way I got the job was nothing less than miraculous. Even though there are days that I am almost completely overwhelmed with articles, I remember how I beat a hundred people to get this job. Even on the worst days, this small little cubical is a blessing.
In reality I know this job is not something that I want, but it is something that I need. Not only do I need it for my financial situation, but also to help me finish the creation of my light bulb..just the same as Xing Yi. My Bagua Spirit is one that feels like fire and I am ready to burn away at any opportunity that will let me utilize my arts. But a spirit of fire needs to have the ability to be cool, and a spirit of ice needs to know how to burn. God knows exactly what you are meant to do, but He needs you to experience both sides of your power. By translating newspapers I am learning all the Chinese that I didn't know that I didn't know. I would feel comfortable talking with the President of China about the space program. Also my writing skills have developed in areas that are more professional and will undoubtedly be the perfect weapon for my tool box. Not to mention that translating newspapers for the university also teaches me how to run a university.
Before Moses became a powerful figure and freed the slaves from Egypt, he was cleaning sheep poop for someone else's herd. God says do not despise small beginnings and that is where my Xing yi and my career are today. This is the beautiful beginning of learning about power that I didn't know I needed. Sometimes the one thing you think is stopping you is helping you and the one thing you think is helping you, is stopping you. Be humble enough to absorb all of the nutrients for your current situation because you will benefit from every challenge that you accept. If you refuse your circumstances then you are doomed to encounter similar events until you learn what is needed. Once you are at peace with a challenge in your life it means that you have outgrown it.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Yesterday I was teaching my kung fu brother about combat and how to use the 64 palms in a real combat scenario. Like many practitioners he was able to understand the movements well in a practice situation, but real speed and force changed the reality of how a technique is actually applied. When I attacked him, he retreated into pure instinctive reaction and was able to defend himself (more or less), but didn't use a single one of the 64 palms. When he attacked me, I also retreated into my raw instincts and reactions, but I always stopped his attack with the most appropriate palm strike.
"How are you doing that?" He asked me confused as I helped him up from the floor.
"It's all about programming." I explained knowing that his career was related to computers.
"Programming?" He asked again wondering if he had heard me correctly. I then began to explain to him this metaphor as I went through the 64 movements.
"The mind is super computer that is able to download information for an infinite period of time. When you are practicing the 64 palms you are teaching your body how to create 64 different opportunities when attacking your opponent. Because the mind is infinitely more complex than any computer, the downloading process is going to take years instead of hours. But you are basically redesigning your instincts to become deliberate reactions that will let you seize the advantage in combat." I finished as I pulled his weight one way and then attacked from an angle that made it impossible to defend.
"I understand how it works, but it's so much easier with boxing." My kung fu brother responded. "Boxing only has a few movements and after a while you are practicing those combinations without ever thinking about what punch you are doing. You are just looking for opportunities and striking the open targets." He remarked while doing a few hooks and uppercuts.
"Exactly." I agreed. "Boxing is a program with less movements and therefore the download speed will be significantly faster. For Bagua we can do the same thing if we need to. There are 64 palms but we can divide them into eight sections or eight concepts of combat depending on who I am fighting. I don't have to be familiar with every individual palm if I master the philosophy if each section."
"What do you mean?" He asked while taking his stance to come in for another attack.
"Well just now...I was only using the Heaven Section because it is all about how to strike your opponent and avoid being struck." He moved in with a furious combination that began with punches and elbows, but then became a shoot for my legs. As he shot in I made a circular movements with my hips that off balanced him and then through him into the wall behind me. As I helped him up again, I explained, "That was the third section. The Way of the Mountain. It means that I should deflect your energy while remaining routed. There are basically eight different doorways within the Way of the Mountain and because I am familiar with the program, you basically choose what door I will use when you attack me. Each of the eight sections has a different way to manipulate combat."
"Well it seems pretty complicated." He said feeling slightly disappointed.
"Not as much as you think." I assured him. "You are a shorter guy and while dealing with a tall attacker you are definitely going to want to use section 2, the Way of the Hands. This means you will be breaking limbs and controlling them making it easy to come into close range." When we traded hands again I attacked quickly as before, but I paused in mid-attack as he stepped back. "Look at my position now." I said. He took a moment and his eyes lit up quickly as he naturally performed the 3rd movement of the second section, pinning my hands to my chest.
"Wow that was the first time it has felt natural." He said smiling.
"Because you are shorter and your preference of attacks you should simply master section 2. You can even master one of the movements in section 2 and it will be enough to disable any attacker. You just have to download the program so that it is no longer a thought, but just as natural as flinching.
Anything can be downloaded into the mind through thought, repetition and practice. After something has been uploaded into your system completely it becomes a part of how your system functions and operates. I have been uploading martial arts data for 30 years which means even if I upload a new bicycle program, it's going to have a heavy martial arts influence.
But like any computer these programs can be cancelled in the middle of the download resulting into a bunch of information that is incomprehensible for a computer. Some programs are small, like learning to fly a kite or make a paper airplane. Other more involved programs such as becoming a surgeon or playing the piano may take up to a decade to finish the upload. Does your computer contain the memory (patience) needed to upload the desired program?
We also have to be careful of viruses or negative thoughts that can slow or hinder the programs uploading speed. In all honesty we give too much power to our thoughts. I've thought to myself many times that I am not in the mood to train, or I don't have the energy or time to train. However regardless of my thoughts, I trained anyway. Even if I begin my training while I'm in a bad mood, I always finish in a good mood.
But I think the most necessary part of downloading information is having a smooth internet connection. By continuing to pray and ask Jesus the purpose of your design, you will not only receive information more quickly, you will surpass your desired goals. Many people train, study or prepare themselves for years trying to make the best possible outcome for themselves, but the complexity of the world is far more advanced than our own mind. How could you train every day if it isn't a part of your core design? We can always talk to our father to make modifications or complete system renewals if we need.
There are things currently happening in the sun and on the moon that influence the Earth and all of your thoughts. How can you maintain your downloads if don't have a smooth internet connection? But there are many people who are continually off-line and uploading more and more information. They rarely finish a download, they miss out on all the updates and they don't even know their computer is functioning slowly because of all the viruses. Stay online and in prayer and your training will not only improve, it will have a meaning deeper than just self improvement.