Thursday, April 23, 2009


This is the fifth post in a series of 10 outlining the qualities I feel are the most important for success in practicing the martial way in the modern-day world...

Every martial artist has their own battles they fight. Has their own struggles they face. Emotionally, spiritually and physically, life can, at many times, be suffering. But it doesn't always have to be suffering. Many suffer because they feel they need to. They feel that if they haven't suffered they don't have a right to be happy. To an extent that is true; but their comes a time when you have to adapt instead of suffer.

I run a martial arts class every Wednesday night. I have a slew of students in the classes I help my own sensei run, but during this Wednesday night I have three students, specifically, who come out of their way to train with me. Others come and go, but these three are some of the most dedicated karateka I have seen in my 16 years in the martial arts.

Each one has their own physical traits that enable them to perform some techniques very well. Each one also has physical traits that inhibit their movements, or their capability in certain areas of the martial arts. One student in particular...this student is 5'1". She is a sophomore in high school and has not yet come into her own in regard to her physical ability - but you wouldn't be able to tell that watching her perform a kata or kick you in the face during a sparring match (and you're taller tan 6').

However, her height keeps her from being able to make effective throws like the rest of the class. She wasn't able to execute the moves correctly, and she suffered. I could see her mentally berating herself for not being able to throw me like the other students do. This became apparent last night. So after class, just the two of us went out on the mats and she proceeded to try to throw me without much success.

Then, suddenly, it was as if a light bulb came on over her head - like when Wile E. Coyote gets an idea about how to catch the Roadrunner. "Let me try this." BOOM! I hit the mat harder than when most 40-year-old, 200-pound men throw me.

I looked up at her in amazement and excitement. "Do that again!"

She proceeded to throw me at least 10 times on each side. All she did was take a component of the arts she had learned earlier in her training and apply it her current situation. It was as simple as picking one leg up off the ground. She had found her stride. She adapted. She got creative. And I was inspired (I wasn't going to list creativity until #7, but this prompted an earlier post, for obvious reasons)

Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." This student proved her undeniable sanity. She also proved that she was smarter than Wile E. Coyote - her idea worked!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


This is the fourth post in a series of 10 outlining the qualities I feel are the most important for success in practicing the martial way in the modern-day world...

Spontaneity...when I think of this word I think of the frequency of these posts...yeah, sorry about the inconsistency. I'll persevere and work on that. Or am I just exercising restraint by not posting? (get it?) Oh I crack myself up...can't be a proper martial artist without a sense of humor, right? And so we begin...

If the other nine qualities I list in this series are the meat of life, spontaneity is surely the spice.

Spontaneity is a quality necessary to the successful martial artist for two purposes: fighting and living. Confused? You shouldn't be.

Imagine you found yourself in a fight. Your opponent comes at you with nothing but haymakers. That's it. No flip kicks. No straight punches. No knees. No feints. Just haymakers. Unless he's an impossibly fast powerhouse, this should be a relatively simple fight. You can predict his movements, thus you can counter them.

Now imagine you're facing a more skilled fighter. This fighter doesn't foreshadow his movements. He doesn't raise his shoulders before he moves in on you. His eyes don't look directly at his target. He changes up his moves and changes up his technique from one second to the next. You have no idea what's coming next.

This is a fun fight. The former was just a funny fight.

Which opponent do you think will be harder to defeat?

In order to be successful in the martial arts, your movements cannot always be predetermined. This is different from kata. Kata and repetition are key ingredients to mastering the art of spontaneity, as they infuse a certain muscle memory. Only through constant drilling and repeating the same move over and over and over can we truly be spontaneous in the martial arts.

Allow me to elaborate: if I wanted to, I could go on the World's Strongest Man competition and fight to be the "world's strongest man." I haven't trained a day in my life like those guys train, but if I really wanted to, I could go out and compete. I'd be spontaneous, right? Well, to an extent...because I'd also be dumb.

Spontaneity does not rule out the need for preparation. Someone who is illiterate won't go out and write a book. Someone who has never lifted anything heavier than a book bag in his life won't head to the gym and put up 200 lbs.

Now take those extreme examples, tone them down, and apply them to the concept above - in the martial arts, you must always drill and constantly repeat moves and techniques in order to be a spontaneous fighter.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Spontaneity in this is where I really excel.

Our lives are a continuous, unstoppable stream of experiences - separate in our minds but interconnected in the wheel of time. One experience causes, directly or indirectly, another experience. Causality. You flinch when your brother makes to punch at you even though you know he won't - you only flinched because he used to really punch you when you were younger. You don't sign up for e-mail lists anymore because you've been placed on others against your will and spammed like hell by immoral marketers.

One might say that every action we have is in equal and opposite reaction to something - or an accumulation of somethings - that happened to us earlier in our lives.

A key tenet in the classical martial arts - and ancient philosophies - is to escape this endless cycle of action and reaction. Become a free thinker, not constrained by your reactions to outward stimuli. Become spontaneous.

Do something no one expects - not even you - and start small. Don't live your life in constant reaction to the events transpiring around you. BE the events.

Be the spice of life.

Yume - "Dream"