A Strange Intimacy

There are many different kinds of intimacy. Of course there’s the sexy sexy kind but there are quite a few that don’t involve sex or genitals or exchanging bodily fluids. Soldiers develop an intimacy with each other that they find hard to replace after mustering out. The same is true for police, fireman, and many other professions. Professional atheletes miss the camaraderie more than the glory. What I’d like to acknowledge is the strange, intense intimacy of training and combat in the martial arts.

It’s rarely acknowledged or discussed but martial arts training is likely the second most physically intimate thing you’ll ever do. Most of it is obvious. Grappling and rolling with a training partner is clearly a very close encounter. In every class we repeatedly put our hands all over each other. How many faces have you touched? I bet I’ve touched thousands. But it’s more than that. It’s deeper.

If I train with someone over time I get to know things about them that their closest family members probably don’t know. I know how they react to fear and stress. I know their deepest tendancies. I might know nearly everything about how they relate to the world. Funny thing is I might not know if they’re married or what they do to earn a living. A strange intimacy indeed.

We live in a society that allows very limited physical contact with each other. Anyone who’s trained has an immediate advantage in self defense because we’re used to the intense intimacy of combat. I wouldn’t think twice about putting my hands on a stranger. I do it all the time. It’s no longer a taboo for me.

The fact of this intimacy is why YOU CAN’T FUCKING LEARN MARTIAL ARTS ON THE INTERNET. Don’t get me wrong, watching other teachers and practioners has it’s place. I do it all the time. But it isn’t training. If you want to learn this shit you must deal with and embrace the intimacy. That in itself is revolutionary. Saor Alba, Vaya Con Dios, and Viva la Revolucion!

Two Teaching Styles

I teach a lot. I regulaly talk with other teachers and masters of their craft. I also have way too much time to think about teaching. Here’s what I think at the moment: Teaching is a big reponsibility. In my opinion there are two ways to look at this reponsibility. Does it ultimately rest with the student or the teacher? Let me explain…

Teaching style one believes that when you walk on to the mat (or into a classroom) that the teacher is responsible for making sure that you learn the curriculum. They must do whatever’s necessary for you to learn. I think of this style as the drill seargent style. They tend to be stricter and punish more often.

Teaching style two believes that the responsibility is always the students and the students alone. In this style the teacher presents the information to the best of their ability and leaves it up to the student to apply as they feel best. I think of this as the more advanced student style. It’s mellower and lighter but no less serious.

Let me state very very clearly that neither of these styles is right or wrong. Neither one of them is superior in any intrinsic way. As a student you must decide which style will work best for you. This will take some real soul searching and honesty on your part. It is, however, crucial that you get it right.

Anyone who knows me would agree that I strongly adhere to the second style, both as student and teacher. I don’t think it’s right, just right for me. I’ve sent students away when I’ve thought that the other brand of teacher would better serve their needs. Because all teachers should be strong enough to admit that other teachers have value too. Saor Alba, Vaya Con Dios, and Viva la Revolucion!

Are You Disabled? Of Course You Are

Can you legally use a cane? Of course you can…

From the American With Disabilities Act of 1990.

A DISABILITY: “an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity…As long as the impairment has an actual or expected duration of more than six months.” and “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual… major life activities include, but are not limited to… walking, standing…”

Remember, “An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.”

CANE use: “A public accommodation shall permit individuals with mobility disabilities to use…canes…or other similar devices designed for use… in any areas open to pedestrian use.”

DISCRIMINATION: “a failure to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when such modifications are necessary.” “No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.” “no qualified individual with a disability shall…be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.”

Saor Alba, Vaya Con Dios, and Viva la Revolucion!

To Do Today…

Every practice is built on a foundation of basic skills and practices. If you’re really serious about getting better you should try to spend a few minutes every day working on them. Below I’ve listed my basic 8. In truth it’s pretty impossible to do them every day but I do try. As your practice expands the list of basic daily exercises will likely expand to include other meditations, stretches, and movements. Eventually the daily practice will be unique to you. But start here:

1) Sitting quietly-
2) Hip isolation-
3) Standing meditation-
4) Balance-
5) Weight Shifting–
6) Rowing-
7) Stance changes-
8) 2 Steps-

I’m not going to elaborate on these right now, I’ll just give you the list. Over the next few weeks I’ll explain each one more thoroughly. Or you could come to a class or book a seminar. You can’t really learn this shit here in the virtual world.

Saor Alba, Vaya Con Dios, and Viva la Revolucion!

Work Smarter AND Harder

I’m back and feeling ever so much better. Thanks for asking. Of course I’ve spent some time thinking but we’ll get to that later. You know what I did for the most of the last few weeks? I trained. Hard. And played the same way.

A few weeks ago I was asked to take part in a panel discussion. The subjet is irrelevant to this post so I won’t distract you with a lot of details. Suffice it to say that it involved a number of people who were accomplished in their chosen field and they took questions. Regardless of the raised issue it soon became apparent that the answer, when not specific or technical, was almost always some version of WORK HARDER.

Okay, so here comes the old man rant. You know what almost always helps you get better at something? Hard work. Not more technology. Not fancier training methods. Not clever short cuts. Just plain old fashioned nose to the grindstone, sweat producing practice. I can hear millennials bailing out of this post by the hundreds.

Work smarter, not harder.” “Get real results fast.” “Twenty minutes a day will reap amazing results.” No, you lazy fuck, it won’t. Do you want to be a great musician? Practice for hours every day. Serious about martial arts? Train your forms constantly. Want to get in great shape? Plan your days around the gym. Interested in a spiritual pursuit? Work work work at it.

Talent is nice if you have it. Dedication and faith are useful. A good teacher or 12 can certainly help smooth the way. Good tools can be fun or make you look cool. But only hard work over a long long time will give you mastery. Not easy. Not sexy. Definitely not profitable. Probably full of tears and injury. But true. If you want to be better, work harder. And if anyone tells you differently they’re lying. And they probably suck at what they do. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios, & Viva la Revolucion.

Martial Arts & Martial Sports

It happens every time, this crazy heart of mine. I start out writing a simple blog and I end up pissing everyone off. And so it goes. I guess it’s time to back off from politics, social commentary, and the like. Okay, good plan. Let’s go back to talking about martial arts.

Martial- Inclined toward being a warrior. Warlike or preparatory for combat. Arts- Repetition and expression of forms leading to transcendence. Attempting to describe truths that are beyond the objectively communicated.

Those are good enough definitions. Is there anything in either of those words that signifies sports? Competition for points or money? Sparring? Pay per view? Fucking walk in music? I didn’t think so. So STOP CALLING COMBAT SPORTS MARTIAL ARTS AND VICE VERSA. Jesus fucking Christ this pisses me off.

Look, I like combat sports. Boxing, MMA, Pro Wrestling, whatever. They’re fun. They can be entertaining. But they aren’t Martial Arts and neither are the training systems that attached to them. Judo, BJJ, Tae Kwon Do, Krav Maga, Karate, boxing, etc are great. They’ll get you into shape. They’ll teach you to fight. But they aren’t fucking Arts. Sciences? Sure. Sports? Past times? Valuable cultural phenomenon? Okay. But not Arts.

I’m a Martial Artist. I don’t fight. I don’t spar. Lord knows I don’t make much money. I train to understand the universe. I train to explain those things that can’t be explained. I have more in common with a modern dancer or a musician than an MMA fighter. Oh, and I can still probably kick your ass. I just don’t care about that.

Okay, now I’ve probably pissed off a bunch of ‘martial artists’. Maybe I better take a short break form the blog. I’ll be back in about two weeks. Promise. In the meantime why don’t you get off your damn computer and go train. In the meantime Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios, & Viva la Revolucion.

Size Matters

All right, that’s enough ranting and raving for the moment. Let’s talk about something more practical today. Let’s try to keep from getting stabbed.

I don’t like knives. A skilled knife fighter will gut you before you ever know they have the damn thing. I’ve said before that I’d much rather face a gun at close range than a knife. If I get my hands on a shooter before he pulls the trigger (and I probably can) I can take his gun without getting shot. If I can get my hands knife fighter I can probably get cut. I might win, but it’s going to hurt. Don’t believe me? Try training knife takeaways with a magic marker. Pro tip: Don’t wear clothes you like.

So how do I deal with knives? If you know much about me you probably know I’m a big proponent of canes. I always carry one and I train/teach with one nearly every day. The biggest advantage of the cane is that, by law, I can take it anywhere. Second only to that is how effective they are against knives. I can knock your ass out before you get to me.

On one level all martial conflicts are about control of space. Canes give you a huge advantage because they radically increase the amount of territory you can defend without being in range of your opponent. This is particularly useful if the attacker is using something that will sever an artery or a ligament. The ability to move, cut angles, and strike at the knife wielder should give you a decent chance of coming out of the conflict with a minimum of bloodshed.

I’m not going to bother going into specific techniques here. You can’t learn this shit from a blog. Go get yourself a cane and try it. Better yet, buy a cane or book from me and hire my ass to teach you! In the meantime, Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios, & Viva la Revolucion.

Your Phone Won’t Help

Earlier this week I made some observations about cell phones. You know, how they’re cool and everything buy also suck up all your humanity and capacity for joy. I also mentioned in passing that they make you a giant fucking victim. I thought I’d expound on that a bit.

Way back in the old days the world used to be a fairly dangerous place. You know, tigers and bears and shit that would eat you. This tended to mean that most people paid pretty close attention to what was around them. Head up, eyes open, ears engaged. Basic awareness kind of stuff. All of the idjits that failed to do so found themselves being gutted by wildebeests or something. It meant that only the reasonably aware got to fuck and have mini mes. Today we’re the descendants of all the people who paid attention and mostly we’re throwing that shit away. The Netherlands just announced that they’re going to start installing walk/don’t walk signs on the fucking ground because so many mutant mother fuckers were getting hit by cars while staring at their phones. Jesus H Christ, what the hell happened to us?

You’ve seen it. The street scene with nearly every god damned person staring into their palm as they move through the world. Hell, for all I know you’re one of them. Not quite human anymore but not really evolved into anything else either. Don’t do it. Put the phone DOWN and look UP. There’s literally a whole giant reality out there.

Do you know what’s part of that huge thing called reality? Threats. Cars. Trucks. Dogs. And mostly Human predators. They love seeing people walking around without paying a lick of attention. They call these people victims, and so do I. Here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine an attacker is standing in front of you. Of course you don’t see or hear him because you’re on Tinder trying to find someone to fuck. Now let’s say he politely let’s you know he’s there and even allows you to dial 911 before he robs or rapes your ass. How exactly is that phone, or the nice policeman on the other end of the line, going to save you?

The absolute worst of this shit is people who drive incredibly powerful machines at high speed without paying any fucking attention. I hate these people. Not metaphorically, I literally hate them. I’m a biker and you selfish fucktards kill my kind every day and one of you will likely kill me. When you get in the car put your fucking phone away and drive. One of these days I’m going to interpret your texting as a specific threat to my life and put a .357 bullet in your fucking head in self defense.

I always know what’s around me. I never wear earphones in public or even at the gym. I’m never on the phone while I walk through the world. You shouldn’t do these things either. Of course the easiest way to accomplish this would be to release tigers everywhere. Since that probably won’t happen let’s hope Darwinism works out some other way to once again reward awareness. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios, & Viva la Revolucion.

The Real Cost of Cellular

First of all let me make a confession. I love my cell phone. It’s cool. It does a lot of really amazing shit. I like texting and sharing lives through social media. I run my business from it. It’ mind blowing to have access to nearly all the collected knowledge of humanity in my palm. I don’t even mind sending AT&T a check every month. Having said that I work hard to keep from paying the real cost of that connectivity and you probably should too.

Awareness matters. It’s the connection between your little monkey brain and the big wide world outside. If you aren’t careful your little hand computer can operate as a giant awareness vacuum, sucking up every one of your senses. It seems that way the hell too many people have given up experiencing reality in favor of watching and listening to it on their 5 inch screen. A tremendous amount of your humanity is being sacrificed, not to mention your capacity for joy. I’m sure we’ve all seen the idjits who buy expensive concert tickets and then watch and listen to the performance through their fucking phone. What the fuck is wrong with these people?

Last night at the pub I watched a young woman dancing and generally having a good time. She never put her phone down. Not once. I couldn’t help but wonder if she similarly kept it in her hands while she fucked. After I asked around I found that a disturbing number people have had sexual encounters where their partner stayed in contact with the old Iphone. Some answered texts, some took pictures or played music in headphones. WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

I live in a building full of people much younger than myself. I’m generally and very friendly, talkative fucker but I barely know anyone here because they’re always staring into their fucking screen, usually with earphones on. I spend a lot of time in the gym but almost never talk to the other lifters since they’re plugged in. I’m not, by the way. I’ve learned the secret to awareness, phone control, and good old fashioned common courtesy…

Your phone comes with two incredibly powerful options. Turn it off and leave it home. These options should be exercised whenever possible, and they’re usually possible. Do it. Turn it off. Put it in a drawer. Don’t let the useful, seductive little sucker steal the universe away from you. If you can’t do this you’re paying too much.

There’s another really excellent reason not to live in your Samsung. Threat assessment. If you aren’t aware of the world round you then you’re begging to be a victim. More on this later this week.

In addition to awareness I value a certain level of privacy. I like looking at naked pictures of my wife but that doesn’t mean I want every body else to see them. There are things in my life that just aren’t anyone else’s business. Besides that the world is full of dishonest fucks who’d love to have my bank accounts, passwords, and the like. I’d prefer to keep all of those things to myself. My private life is a cost I’m not willing to pay too.

In order to keep from losing my privacy I take a number of reasonable precautions. I don’t use a cloud service. Ever. I have a fancy ass phone that has very good encryption software. I have a remote wipe service that will clear the phone if I lose it. Everything is password protected and I change it often. These aren’t perfect solutions and some of them are a pain in the ass but for the most part they keep me from having to lose my privacy to get connectivity.

I get why some people just refuse to have them. They see the cost and don’t want to risk it. Okay. But they are wonderful little gadgets. Just make sure you contain their real cost. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios, & Viva la Revolucion.

Martial Arts Bullshit

No matter what you do for a living I’m sure there are a few people in your profession that make you more than a little embarrassed. So it goes.

I’ve studied the Martial Arts for about 30 years. I love them. I like the training and the teaching. I like knowing how to take care of myself and the people around me. I even like many of the people I’ve met. None the less there are a few things I really fucking hate about martial artists. Here’s a quick, but absolutely not fully inclusive, list:

1- No style is any better than another one. Get over yourself.

2- There is no ‘secret technique’. Grow the fuck up. Hard work, persistence and understanding are the only damn secret.

3- Martial arts aren’t magic. You can’t dodge bullets, float through the air, etc. You can occasionally throw someone without touching them if your timing is perfect and you catch their intention but that’s skill, not some mystical force.

4- Training will not automatically make you wiser, more patient, more spiritual, or give you self esteem and confidence. You can learn these things but only if you specifically work on them.

5- If you only train in one style you are limited. Period.

6- Martial sports are fine but they aren’t martial arts. Some day I’ll explain the difference.

Now go train.