Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eskabo Daan Grand Opening

Eskabo Daan Grand Opening

November 7th was the opening of grandmaster Robert Castro’s Eskabo Daan school in San Francisco, and it certainly kicked off in grand style with drumming and demonstrations throughout the day.

This is a significant milestone not only for grandmaster and founder Robert Castro and the growth of his system, but also for the Filipino martial arts community in general. While there are many people teaching here in the Bay Area nowadays, almost all are using facilities such as other martial art schools, recreation centers, homes or parks (I’ve done all four). GM Castro’s school is special in that it is dedictated first and foremost to the FMA, thus putting a very public face on these arts that are still unknown to most.

Given GM Castro’s years of networking in martial arts, the opening was well attended by masters and grandmasters from throughout California. Balintawak was represented by GM Ver Villasin from Vallejo and GM Nene from Los Angeles, Tapado by GM Joe Tan, Senkotiros by GM Max Pallen, Kajukenbo by GM Emil Bautiste, Kombatan by master Alex France, and Serrada by master Ron Saturno, just to name a few.

The school facility itself is a fantastic resource, with large training spaces on two different floors. Robert understands feng shui, putting a lot of thought into creating his environment. The street level uses simple colors, mirrors, and a waterfall facing the entrance and windows for a sense of harmonious balance while emphasizing the public nature of this space.

Go down the narrow twisting passageway into the basement and you have the gritty feeling of an old-school private boxing gym, with mats, heavy bags, weights and other training gear. The two floors are yin and yang to each other, and a rare and fascinating combination to find in one school.

With a place like this, Robert plans to promote seminars. His first event hosted legendary Leo Fong, a martial arts pioneer, promoter and author who produced influential books on cross-training and conditioning for martial artists, as well as works on various martial arts that helped introduce them to the West.

Eskabo Daan is located at 1920 Polk St., San Francisco; (415)674-4388.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autumn Leaves

It’s a warm and sunny late October afternoon. The elm trees are starting to drop their leaves; I’m raking the back yard in preparation for a class. I breathe deeply and take in the fresh air and suddenly what began as a necessary settles into a timeless meditative rhythm, connecting me to every martial art student who has ever swept a dojo floor. The scratching of the rake as it creates little piles of the fallen leaves puts me in a reflective state, bringing to mind an awareness of mortality, a reality that once again has encroached on the ego’s illusion of stability in an ever-changing world.

In early August Kajukenbo’s Professor Charles Gaylord passed away. Though I only met him a couple of times at Sifu Mark Gerry’s home, our conversations were both casual and intimate, sharing a love of martial arts. I wish I'd known him better.

Then this past week I heard that Art Gitlin had just died. Art was the founder of the Haak Lung school, originally located in Alameda, and was the former editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine. I lost track of Art when he moved the school to Lafayette. A few months ago I ran into his wife Sue Thomas, herself one of the highest ranking women in Kajukenbo, and learned that Art was ailing. I said I’d come by to visit, but I never made it by, to my regret. Again, though I only met Art a couple of times, he was someone who left an impression not easily fogotten.

It’s funny how our perception of time’s passage can be elastic. Boredom or nervous anticipation can stretch on endlessly while good times are over oh-so-quickly. A split second can be enough time to notice a myriad of small details in sparring, or in an accident. Aging itself alters and distorts our awareness of time’s passage. When I was little, my grandfather explained it in a way I’ve never forgotten. The time between one’s 6th and 7th birthday represents 1/7th of your life, so waiting for your birthday seems like forever. At age 80, however, that year only represents 1/80th of your life, and as a much smaller percentage, it seems to pass so much more quickly.

So here it is, nearly the end of October. I barely remember the start of the month; in fact, mentally I still feel stuck somewhere back in July. Though I can easily recall logically where I’ve been and when over the past several months, emotionally things move at a different pace.

The ancient Greeks had different concepts for time. Kronos is clock time, how we keep track of daily events. Kairos is spiritual time, in which events unfold organically, such as seasons or phases of life. I think martial art training partakes a bit of both. We need kronos to get us to classes and workouts, but actual training is timeless; all we have in that moment is presence in the Now, and while we can hope for advancement and promotions according to plans or schedules, true progress is not linear.

I’ve often thought of growth like building a dam in stages. After the dam is built, it takes time for water to fill in the reservoir behind it. Once it’s full, the dam can be raised, and again it takes time for the water to reach the top. Only when our skills and knowledge have reached the level of our container are we ready and able to raise the bar, setting a new goal to fulfill.

The leaves are raked; I’m waiting for my students to arrive. As these thoughts have crossed my mind, I thank those who have contributed to my being here today, doing what I love, recognizing in return that the knowledge they’ve shared is now my obligation to pass on to others. We are just links in a chain, and if we don’t complete the ccycle, all that has been gained from previous generations down to ours will disappear as though it had never been …

Upcoming Bay Area November Events

Saturday November 7th, GM Rob Castro is having a grand opening of his new Eskabo Daan headquarters in San Francisco at 1920 Polk Street (cross street Pacific) from 10:30am to about 4:30pm. Donations will be collected for Philippine relief aid for the recent typhoons, to be delivered to the Philippine consulate.
For those who wish to make donations outside of government channels (there are many complaints of poor distribution or corruption, which I am not in a position to verify) the following link with alternate resources was left in response to my earlier blog about the typhoon floods:

The following Saturday, November 14, GM Ted Sotelo will be hosting an escrima clinic at the BITW, 2661 Alvarado St, San Leandro. This is geared primarily towards preparing Kajukenbo practitioners for stick fighting competition. For information regarding times and directions, the phone number is (510) 347-2939‎.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Great Rattan Shortage of 2009

I've been quite surprised at the shortage of rattan over the past 2 months. I've checked my usual sources and they have no idea when they'll be able to restock! I've got orders I can't fill and I've been turning away other customers looking for rattan. One possibility is that the Society For Creative Anachronisms (SCA) has adapted many of their weapons to rattan, and with their upcoming Fall tournaments, perhaps there has been a run on sources.

I'll say this for the SCA, from a small backyard Berkeley event they've grown into a huge international community, and the quality of armor and weaponry they use for tourney sparring is far beyond what we settle for in the FMA, which has had very little innovation in these areas. I know there is some cross-over between the SCA and FMA practitioners, but I doubt we'll see many half-garbed "natives" taking on armored SCA fighters. Lapu-Lapu and his men defeated Magellan with superior numbers and tactical position, but I don't think the SCA will offer similar odds.

Typhoons wracking the Philippines.

Last week northern parts of the Philippines were hit hard by typhoon Ketsana (called "Ondoy" there - Photos). As I write this, the country is bracing for a second assault by incoming typhoon Parma (also, apparently known there as "Pepeng"), which is expected to have a tsunami-like storm surge.

It's been a tough week on the far side of the Pacific Rim, with earthquakes in Indonesia and Tonga, the latter creating devastating tsunamis in Samoa. I've been reading about organized efforts by the local Samoan community to send aid overseas, and there are similar efforts directed to the Philippines being organized in the upstate NY area. The following is one of the messages I've received:

"As most of you may already know, the Philippine islands have been hit by Tsunami Ondoy. The effects of this tsunami were so severe that over a quarter of a million people have been displaced from their homes. In an attempt to help these people in their time of need, we will be collecting donations at the Buffalo Martial Arts and Fitness Expo. Seeing that the Can-Am Filipino Martial Arts Summit is taking place at the Expo, we felt that it would be appropriate to set up a station for those who wished to donate. We will be accepting cash, money orders and PayPal donations. This money will then be sent to the Filipino Red Cross. For those who are planning sizeable donations, we recommend sending the funds directly to the Filipino Red Cross. If you need help making your donation through PayPal, please do not hesitate to contact us.

In case you have not received information on the Buffalo Martial Arts & Fitness Expo or the Can-Am Filipino Martial Arts Summit, we are attaching all the pertinent information.

Datu Tim Hartman
World Modern Arnis Alliance
Buffalo Martial Arts & Fitness Expo
Horizon Martial Arts

So far I'm quite surprised at the lack of similar outreach by the FMA community here in California (and apologies if I'm simply uninformed). I've been in several mostly Filipino places in the past few days (restaurant, community center) and have yet to see any kind of local response, including any emails from the usual sources.
Once again it’s taken me a long time to get back to blogging. A lot has happened, and I hate to catch up, or maybe I should call this ketchup, because it will have about 57 ingredients, like Heinz.

I’ll start where I meant to jump back in, with Cacoy Canete’s seminar at Ron Lew’s “Tiger Eye Claw Center” in San Jose, Ca. back in July. First, last, and just about everything in-between, Cacoy was amazing. There he was, about a month shy of his 90th birthday, actively demonstrating to a packed house ( and I’ll bet that kind of energy keeps him going!) What was astonishing to me was that he looked so much better than when I saw him about two years ago (and perhaps he was just tired that day).

Poor Junior Cautiveria, a senior master in his own right, got to play uke this time. I say poor, because so many of us were struggling to figure out the nuances of Cacoy’s techniques, he finally begged us (half in jest) to hurry up and get it so he wouldn’t have to take too many more of Cacoy’s demonstrations!

Lots of interesting people show up at Cacoy’s events. Tom Meadows made it up from the coastal hinterlands. We met in 1989 as teammates in the Philippines, where we attended Cacoy’s 70th birthday in Cebu, so this had a bit of a reunion feeling to it.

I had a great time working out for awhile with a tough looking guy with the physique and intensity of a pro linebacker. Joe, as he introduced himself simply, was one of the Kajukenbo guys there from Benicia, so I correctly surmised he trained with grandmaster Emil Bautista. Well “Joe”, as it turns out, is Professor Joseph Bautista, a legendary competitor, 8th dan in Kajukenbo and Emil Bautista’s kid! There I was, handing out pointers; sometimes it’s better NOT to know who your partner is …!

My other big summer trip (it kinda feels like pulling out the slideshow here – LOL) was a four day swing down to southern California for the Long Beach Internationals. I was there to help officiate as a judge for the USFMAF. Interestingly, WEKAF had the adjacent ring, so there was a lot of FMA action all weekend in the corner of the auditorium nearest the entrance.

While fighting was separate for the two organizations, forms were combined because there were only about a dozen competitors in those divisions. Some of us on the judges’ panel have been active in both organizations, and basically most of us have gotten to know each other over the years, so it was nice to see how smoothly this went off.

Now here’s two things I’ve observed about these competitions. First, there are 10 year old kids from karate schools who can run rings around most FMA players when it comes to forms, and second, very few non-FMA forms competitors will get in the ring to fight with weapons.

Both of these are the result of training priorities. Most martial arts forms competitors go through their routines hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Many are fast and flashy, opting to demonstrate with things like shiny ultralight aluminum staffs that can’t take a blow. Those are not the attributes for which most FMA’ers train. There certainly are formidable weapons experts out there in many disciplines, but just like the FMA, how many of the top people actually compete in fighting?

The other thing is publicity. The USFMAF has the right idea with the “Cultural Challenge”, opening up the ring to anyone from any style, using a variety of padded weapons representing sticks, swords, staffs, spear, naginata and shield. As this was created in conjunction with the Chanbara association, I was expecting a deluge of Japanese and other stylists to try it out. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and so a handful of FMA players got to have fun amongst themselves.

The fact seems, however, that most people attending a major competition are doing so under the particular auspices of a home federation and are unlikely to spend time or money once there to step outside of that sanctuary to try something so unfamiliar. This is nothing new, as even Narrie Babao’s legendary precedent had only three competitors!

Participation within larger martial arts competitions is a key to recruitment. It’s how I found my way into the art, meeting GM Angel Cabales at a Max Pallen tournament. To a certain extent, the FMA remain an exclusive “insiders art”, and so I’ve seen some organizations sponsor events in direct competition with each other on the same dates. This is unfortunate because it dilutes participation at both venues, having a threefold effect.:

* First, it promotes division rather than camaraderie between FMA schools and organizations.
* Second, it reduces quantity and quality of competition and officiating.
* Third, smaller turnouts make it harder for small promoters to stay in the game, or to get larger promoters to make room at their venues.

Aside from all that, the fun part of the tournament was seeing some great performances and meeting old and new friends, most memorably Kalimaya Herrera and Eric Lee among the former, and Jose Rogers among the latter.

On the way back from Long Beach I stopped overnight to visit Anthony and Mary Delongis at their ranch up in canyon country. I’ve known Anthony through Tom Meadows’ Latigo y Daga Association but this was the first time I’ve actually met him. Anthony is a professional martial arts coach and actor, having trained Hollywood stars such as Harrison Ford and Halle Berry, plus his cameo appearance as the swordsman facing Jet Lee in the opening fight in Fearless. He’s also been featured on tv programs such as Extreme Marksmen, so a visit to his ranch was quite a treat.

Now I’ve managed to collect a few weapons over the years, which I like to hang on the walls for display, but there are a few places that make me drool with envy. Sid Campbell’s dojo was one such place. Anthony’s is another. It’s funny how one can feel so comfortable when everyone is within reach of something potentially nasty. As Robert Heinlein famously said, “an armed society is a polite society”.

My last lasting impression of this trip was how much I dislike and distrust so many other drivers. The Friday drive to SoCal wasn’t too bad, but the Monday drive heading back north was nightmarish. Why is it, with traffic doing 90 mph and packed like sardines, literally at parallel parking distances, people think they have the right (or sanity) to simply squeeze into places that don’t exist?

There are consequences (I’m surprised there are not more). I got out to stretch my legs and sit down in the fast lane of I-5 at 2 PM, while the CHP blocked the road about 50 yards up so a helicopter could land to take away victims of an ugly wreck. It was 104°; I had to tell the two blonde cougars in front of me to put up the top of their convertible before they roasted from rare to well-done. By the time the freeway opened half an hour later, I’d gone through all the water in the car, clearly both a planning and tactical error to get caught short. When the road re-opened, I was near the front; fast driving, little congestion. Behind me the freeway was stacked for miles. The simple act of pulling off to get more fluids resulted in the nightmare derby for the next five hour marathon drive. I’ve been up and down the state many times before, but without a doubt, this drive was the worst.

Finally, I got some interesting feedbacks through the grapevine about this blog. Twice in the past couple of months I’ve had near-strangers, top martial artists both, tell me Ted Sotelo wanted to thank me for something I wrote on here. Ted, if you get this, thank you in return, and you are most welcome. For the record, I’ve never met Ted. I only hear him spoken of in the highest regard by folks like Tom Meadows. GM Ron Lew laughed when he said Ted turns him into a pretzel (we were discussing Cacoy’s Eskrido) while I simply gulped because that’s what Ron does to me. Clearly these guys are well above my pay grade!

On the serious side, though, the point of resonance is human mortality. In the past 3-4 years I’ve attended more funerals than my entire life prior till then. We say goodbye to those who raised us, even as we start saying goodbye to those with whom we were raised. Generally speaking, most young people have experienced little such loss , but as we get older we are reminded more and more often of the brief time we have here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Most Miserable City In America?

California’s Central Valley city of Stockton recently earned the dubious distinction as #1 on Forbes magazine’s list of worst cities in America, based on demographic statistics like crime, the housing bust, unemployment, etc. Nearby Modesto was #5. Then again, this isn’t really news to people familiar with the area.

Back in the 1980’s when I was training with Angel Cabales in Stockton, I would sometimes bring training partners along to observe and participate in classes. Steve Van Manen, who later trained extensively with Sonny Umpad, was a frequent passenger on my early trips. As one who had worked on river boats and ridden the rails around the country, he had a keen eye for his environment, and I’ve never forgotten the first words he said on seeing Stockton: “This is a hard place to make a living.” The main source of economic activity in the area is agriculture, which means lots of intensive farm labor, along with the deep-sea port which ships produce around the country.

Now it isn’t like there is no upside to Stockton. There are many lovely tree-shaded parks, the University of the Pacific, and the north area is quite affluent, home to wealthy folk like Art Spanos, who owns the San Diego Chargers football team. On the other hand, the downtown area has long been depressed. The old Manilatown, the center of Filipino culture in the city, was largely demolished for renovation, turning what was once a vibrant neighborhood, albeit low income, into a largely soulless cluster of daytime office buildings.

On the other hand, Stockton remains a stronghold of FMA culture outside of the Philippines. There are probably more clubs in the area, relative to population, than anywhere else in the U.S.A., including the surrounding locales such as Lodi and Modesto, among them the Cabales Serrada Academy, Angel’s Disciples, Bahalana, Mata Sa Bagyo and other smaller, more private groups that train in back yards and parks.

Given the relatively low income of many residents and the high proportion of Filipinos and Hispanics, martial arts are deeply ingrained in local culture. Unlike many places where this is just another fitness option, in Stockton martial arts are central to many cultural activities and events, and participation is ingrained, passing from generation to generation within extended family lines. Further, with the inroads of gangs and drugs into poor working class neighborhoods, practice in martial arts isn’t just relegated to dojos or academies. It's about survival, with plenty of opportunity for those so inclined to accumulate “war stories” on the streets.

While the major martial art magazines may focus on what happens further south in the media center of Los Angeles, for those interested in some of the most realistic training outside of the Philippines, Stockton remains a cultural mecca. After all, the FMA evolved in tough environments, and so those early manongs who settled in this area for work were already acclimated to survival under duress. The art may have continued to migrate as the Filipino population spread out into major metropolitan areas, but out there in the hinterlands it remains close to its roots.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Tommy Gilbert, RIP

Feb. 10 - I just got back from an overflow capacity funeral for Pastor Tommy Gilbert. I've updated this post based on information provided during the services.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A sobering part of growing older in the martial arts is seeing one's seniors pass away. The past six months have had a devastating toll on the Bay Area martial arts community, first with the passing of Hanshi Sid Campbell from cancer at age 65, then a month later the unexpected death of Master Luther Secrease from a heart attack at age 58. Last week marked the passage of another notable when Tommy Gilbert died of a massive heart attack at only age 55, just one year older than me.

As a colored belt years ago, I didn’t really get to know Tommy, but as one of the toughest fighters around, he was an old friend of my Kenpo instructor Sifu Al Thomas. A 6th Dan in Kajukenbo and former world champion point fighter, Tommy was founder of Best In The West, a school noted for turning out top fighters (eight world champions) who are just as tough on the street as in the ring; his son Damon Gilbert recently retired from the ring as a fourteen-time world champion, and is also an Oakland police officer. Damon, who is recovering from neck surgery, recounted how he successfully fought his retirement title defense only able to use one arm due to spinal injuries!

The final eulogy was delivered by grandmaster Ted Sotelo, who stated that Tommy was to have been his successor when he retires. Though I've yet to meet GM Sotelo, two of the best escrimadors I know, Ron Lew and Tom Meadows, consider him one of their mentors. In the world of martial arts, we are all connected ....


Tribute Service:
Monday, February 9, 2009
Time: 6:00-8:00 P.M.
2661 Alvarado Street #7
San Leandro, Ca.

Home Going Celebration
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Time: 10:00 A.M.
Where: Parks Chapel AME Church
476-34th Street
Oakland, Ca.

Peter Freedman on Training Slowly

This is from an email sent out by my friend Peter Freedman in response to a question from one of his students. Having taken a high performance driving course at the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School and done autocross racing, I think Peter is right on the mark with his analogy about driving, which is why this is posted here. - JF

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Great hearing back from you again and thank you for your question. Well this is a really great question you asked here. It is also an extremely important question and I will try my best to shed some light on why most combative martial arts like Ketsugo Jujutsu and other systems train in slow speed.

First let's look at driving a car. Let's say you never drove a car before but you happen to watch and be a huge fan of Nascar. Now you want to learn how to drive and have high hopes and dreams of some day racing cars. So you sign up to a driving school to learn how to drive a car so you can first get your drivers license. When the time comes to actually drive the car, your mind is racing and you can't wait to go Fast & Furious.

Now when you enter the car you must first adjust your seat to the right distance. Put your seat-belt on. Adjust your mirrors. Start the car, and at this point in time your heart is starting to race and pump and speed up. You step on the brake pedal and put on your blinker. You shift the shifter into drive and you look over your shoulder and start to ease off the brake and out onto the empty road. You step off the brake and step slowly onto the gas peddle. Hand over hand, you turn the wheel as the car pulls out onto the road. Now when you are out on the road what do you do? Do you step down on the gas pedal and go as fast as the car can move or do you first get to know the car and feel the road underneath your tires?

You will need to learn to adjust your steering skills along with your braking and gas coordination skills. As you slowly get used to the car and the road you can gradually speed up the car. But at first your mind will be all over the place - watch out for other cars - watch out for people or kids - watch out for small animals. Your mind will be jumping around - brake - gas - steering, a little to the right, now a little to the left to get the car to straighten out. You are looking for red lights, yellow lights etc... Stop signs pop out at you. Now you must switch lanes - oh boy, how you going to do this, you ask yourself? But over time all these little things that you strain your brain to memorize to do become normal to the point where it is now automatic and now you can spend time on strategy of driving and less time worrying about every thing about how the car works or operates.

Did you know when you go to a school for car or motorcycle racing that they first sit you down and it will be mostly class room time and lecture before you ever get a chance to drive out onto the track or sit in one the cars? When you are ready to drive out onto the track, they will have you first walk it on foot so they can talk and explain to you where it would be the best time to start downshifting and clutching into the turn and when and where to step on the gas coming out of the turn.

They would walk you around to certain points on the track to show you where you would have the best chance of passing another car and where would be the worst places to pass another car. Once this is over they would have you go back into the class room and discuss what you just saw and felt. By now because you went (SLOW)and first WALKED around the track, you got a chance to see every bump and dip on that track.

They want to see what is going on in your brain and how you think long before you are allowed to get behind a wheel to actually drive a race car, and never mind about racing, you won't be ready for a while to race a car.

Just like wanting to learn advance techniques before you are able to actually do them, or get your black belt before you really deserve one but because your friends from another school got their bb in two months and you feel you deserve one as well, my question here for your friends is this: Can your friends drive?

The next step is they put you into a car and they have you drive around the track in slow motion, talking to you all the while you are driving. They give you commands and a set of instructions: when to down shift and when you should brake and when to step on the gas, when to speed up and when not to speed up.

In the martial arts this would be known as the martial science.

You go around this track hundreds of times slowly until you can learn their safety methods and proper racing techniques so you won't become a danger to yourself and other drivers(follow the rules of racing). These rules in Jujutsu would be considered the concepts and principles of why things work and when they would work.

Now once this accomplished they bring other cars out onto track with you and your instructor communicates to these other cars by way of two way radio. They set up fake scenarios like you are actually racing but only done in very slow motion. They talk you through each maneuver you do until it becomes ingrained into your being and you can actually see and understand what they mean. Once they feel this has occurred you are allowed to have a mock (fake) race and they practice giving you instructions through a radio in your helmet while you are racing to see how you follow their directions under stress and how well you listen to them.

Jujutsu is a lot like racing a car. First we must understand that we are dealing with the human anatomy here and we don't want to (Crash & Burn!) hurt our training partners or ourselves. Always safety first should be in the forefront of your mind's eye.

Most of the techniques we taught to you and we share with you are extremely dangerous and are designed for crippling and killing. With this being said each student must first learn to go very slowly (to walk the race track) and learn all the proper methods and techniques first, so that your brain and body can learn to move in the proper way.

Most of the techniques we practice here in our jujutsu school, you just can't do fast with out first learning the proper technique of how each technique really works first. As you start to feel comfortable with the flow of the series of movements and timing and angles etc then you can speed it up a little bit providing your workout partner knows how to go along with the types of techniques you are applying to him/her, and this is for safety reasons.

Just by going slow can really help you to be able to see more options (creative techniques) or (openings - holes - gaps & weakness) in your opponent's defense, so that in future events if you should happen to get into a real bad situation with another person who has the same kind or set of special skills that you now possess, you will have a better chance to counter their attacks and go around their defense and win (stay alive).

When you first learn jujutsu you are learning things that go against the joints which if you go to fast can really over extend that joint or even worse break that joint and really hurt your workout partner.

There are three speeds we teach to all students here:

Slow speed for learning;

Medium speed for practice;

Fast speed for fighting.

If you train fast all the time you are actually slowing down your ability to learn fast and that is counterproductive. Also by going fast you are promoting fear in yourself and in your training partners. By going fast you lose the ability of understanding what you are doing. By rushing through your techniques you can't see the cool counter techniques that you can see when going slow. By going fast you concentrate too much on the end of the technique and miss the important things, like the beginning and the middle of what you are practicing.

Health wise, training fast is not to good for longevity. It raises your blood pressure and it hurts your joints. Also it taxes your nervous system. Yes, you will be fast but over long periods of time with age creeping up on you, joints will start to wear out, your nerves will cause you to shake. Your Ki or Chi or Prana will go in different directions. From a healing point of view, which seems to be the path way I am now on, I have learned to go very slow and take your time and this will produce better and safer results. Going slow teaches us which way to go under pressure. By training fast we lose our sensitivity.

I love what Bruce Lee, the founder of Jeet Kune Do, said in his movie Enter The Dragon back in the 1973: "It's like a finger pointing to the moon," then he goes on to slap the young man to whom he was giving the private lesson who was staring at his finger, saying "Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory!"

That pretty much says it all right there, but I feel it actually went right over everyones' head. You see everyone seems to concentrate on the finger (speed - lots of techniques) and they are missing the rest of the big picture, - All That Heavenly Glory. A real shame.

The Tai Chi people have it right. They know the importance of slow training. So do the special operation groups in the military or law enforcement. They train really slow. When I first got an opportunity to watch them train one of the instructors came over to me and said "We train very slowly here so that we may learn more." I smiled and nodded in agreement with him and after I was finished training them they liked my methods of hand to hand. Not one person got injured and every one learned really effective techniques and had fun learning with my crew that I brought with me to help teach.

Well I hope this helps out ..."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Last Day For A New Year’s Blog!

January 31st; we’re already 8.49% of the way through 2009! Thus my belated last ditch attempt at blog for the New Year. I’ve thought of this often, ever since the 1st of the month, but after today, it’s too late! How’s that for self-motivation?

How many of us make New Year’s resolutions? It doesn’t seem as big a deal as it used to be. How many of us made martial art resolutions? In some places that is a tradition, more solidified and culturally reinforced than the kind of wishful thinking so many of us do as a parlor game and then so quickly forget.

In Japan, you may find the members of a dojo at the beach, standing in the surf while throwing 1000 punches, or maybe doing meditation under a waterfall in the mountains. This is a way of setting one’s focus and determination for the upcoming year, planting the seed for reaching one’s goals. It takes dedication to one’s practice to do such rituals, but our minds tend to note and follow more highly energized stimuli, so this is good self-programming which refreshes one’s attitude.

Using a memorable date provides a powerful anchor by which we can measure our commitment and progress. In Western society we go by calendars, so it’s never to late to start a new program. The first of the month, a birthday, anything can be used to set a starting point.

Modern calendars are reliable but not always in sync with natural rhythms. In older societies passage of time was marked by observing celestial transitions. Lunar cycles in particular are good for measuring shorter passages. The new moon often sees the setting of new goals, which then symbolically evolve as the moon waxes, or one could project one’s aims to coincide with the full moon, or use the waning part of the cycle for more closely guarded endeavors.

For slightly longer phases, one can go by seasons. Those who follow a more natural diet, whether by local availability or preference, might note the effects of seasonal produce on their bodies, just as animals do in the wild. Spring foods might be cleansing and restorative after the winter, then summer foods for energizing and building strength. Autumn is a time for fattening up, while winter is often lean, when we live off our stored resources.

So on New Year’s Eve I had my weekly class. Not surprisingly, some whom I’d expected didn’t show up. Perhaps the party spirit prevailed, though my class ends early enough to do both. The next day I practiced with one of my students and we kicked the new calendar off with a good dose of intensity.

So far I’ve been carrying that through these following weeks. I’m training harder myself and with students, and some old faces have popped back up for refreshers. I'm going back to more serious conditioning routines that have been neglected over the past year, in particular resistance training and hitting the wooden dummy.

2008 was a rough year; here’s hoping 2009 shapes up as a better one!