Friday, August 27, 2010

VPPG Thoughts

Good VPPG yesterday. I have tiny finger-nail cuts on the inside of my ear and am pleasantly sore throughout my core. Skin scraped off one hand and both forearms. Good day. The brawling was good. The thinking was better.

The VPPG itself, the Violence Prone Play Group, is for good people (defined as people I like who have skill and who volunteer) to get together and play. Partially just to bang with people that have a similar idea of what good play-brawling is, but more important is that we experiment and ask questions: what works two on one in a corner? How do you fight multiple people if you can't see? What are your options when you aren't tall enough to reach the reset buttons? How do you get a concept through to students who get hijacked by instinct and don't realize it?

That kind of stuff.

I get the lion's share of attention on much of that. I'm hitting some walls head on, running into resistance in what I teach and how. It intrigues some of the other group, amuses some...I get a lot of help there, some of it beyond what I can understand on any given day, but it is deep, heartfelt and I am grateful.

While it is still fresh in my head, some of the insights (maybe truths, maybe just insights into my thought processes):
  • Martial arts is a technical skill, but applying martial arts, fighting or self-defense, is primarily an emotional skill.
  • We don't have good paradigms for teaching emotion. A little bit on discipline and emotional control, but almost nothing on slipping the leash while maintaining control.
  • The emotional aspect hits every other piece- you might see it coming, but whether you accept what you see is less cognitive than emotional. So is whether you will act...almost everyone who has ever frozen knew, intellectually, what to do. To engage in the fight as an animal. How you will deal with the aftermath. All emotional.
  • We slip into the thought process that emotional skills can be taught like physical skills. You can teach martial arts the way you can teach algebra. I don't think that's true for fighting. The difference is qualitative.
  • The only time-tested method is war stories + personal experience + de-brief. Not sure if that is practical if, as is likely, there will be little or no personal experience to debrief.
  • It is my belief that women have a much deeper understanding of sudden violence than men. They can empathize with the profound suck, and it tends to freeze women for different reasons and in different ways than men.
  • Men freeze because they have this ridiculous fantasy that rarely survives first contact.
  • And so (the math may not work on this) I tend to use the same experiences and the same stories to get opposite effects in men and women. Women I want to grasp that if the horror only prevents the victim from acting, there will always be a victim. I want them to find a go button, attain permission, and slip the leash. For men I want them to step out of the bullshit fantasy and look at the real, messy and expensive (in so many ways) problem that they daydream about.
  • Would it be possible to do a class/seminar just on the emotional aspects, just on the glitches? Or do I only have questions at this point?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Last Night's Thoughts

One of my earliest memories is wishing, desperately, that I would live to be six. I had two siblings much (seven and eight years) older, and this thing called ‘school’ where I would learn everything sounded very cool.

I’m not sure why I was so obsessed with my own survival or so pessimistic about it. It seemed that living to six would be a rare and precious thing. Something unlikely. Barely to be hoped for. Maybe it was the annual visit to the twin’s graves. They had only lived for a few days. Maybe the stories about my own gestation- I had been officially declared dead before I was born.

Don’t know, but when I made it to six and went to school, I was very happy.

Then I wished to see ten. Same thing, but ten was just a number. Then twelve. Not thirteen, the line between a teenager and a pre-teen seemed arbitrary. Sixteen was the next one. Then twenty-one, but that had changed. I started college at seventeen. New challenges and a new world. Somewhere about then, the subdued hope to see new ages and new stages of life morphed into a form of defiance. For about five years, I was daring the world to take me down.

Many of my oldest, best friends are from this era. They saw what I was doing, and most accepted it. When I turned 35, Melissa won the bet. Of all my friends she had picked 35 in the pool, not just that I would make it, but I would pass that milestone. She alone bet that I would live to see the 21st century.

Looking at the moon tonight, I don’t care if I make fifty, the next milestone. It’s not despondence nor is it bravado. As the Czechs say, “It is one to me.” Mje to jedno. I will be happy to see fifty. If I don’t it’s been a good ride.

But I do, very much, want my family to be cared for. Comfortable and unafraid. Secure.

Midnight thoughts, with a narghila, listening to the blues.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Training and Application

In response to the last post, Chris wrote:

"What do you think is the problem that push hands is trying to solve, and that is mostly solved with a stinging slap too?"

It's a good question, especially the way that Chris couched it, because very little in the world is about what is and much is about what we think stuff is.

So here goes, Chris. Both push hands and sticky hands, IMO, are sensitivity drills. They are designed so that if you get good you can touch your opponent (not just in sparring, but a real bad guy) or get touched by him and know, in an instant, where every joint and bone of his body is, where they are moving towards and where they are about to move.

The next step, and it may take longer than an instant of contact, maybe a quarter of a second, you are drawn to where his structure can be manipulated, whether it is strong structure that can act as a lever arm against his base or weak structure that can be folded.

That, IMO is what the drill is designed to do. That is the application. The drill becomes a thing in itself very quickly. A game played by its own rules no longer connected with a separate purpose. So people play at maintaining structure moving and disrupting one another's structure. And that's a fine skill too, but a very easy skill to remove from context.

Within the game, a quick, stinging slap destroys the concentration, and that, in most cases, shatters the person's structure. Because in the game, structure comes from concentration. If you are doing it right, in real life, structure is a habit and a sudden sharp pain will move you towards habit. It is separate from concentration.

Which may be why judo players have better structure under stress than tai chi players (again, IME)--when your thoughts focus on tactics while people are trying to knock you down, structure must become a habit. When structure is the focus of your thoughts, always conscious, it never digs into the older parts of the brain. Just a theory.

A lot of training drills designed to handle critical fractions of a second get abstracted and become games. If you think about it, the benefits I describe here for push hands and sticky hands are the exact benefits I try to draw out with blindfolded in-fighting drills. A little more consciously, a little more context-aware... but the basic purpose is the same.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


There's a vocabulary to close combat that a lot of people lack. You need to be able to understand and identify touches, and that's hard. Infighting is hard to learn verbally or visually anyway. The eyes and neocortex are too slow and you need to work a deeper part of your brain. That part works really well with touches.

If I tell a striker to grab my head and pull it to his hip, he will tug down, actually setting my bones more strongly against his direction of pull. If I tell a grappler, he will effortlessly twist with the pull. My spine will be extended, compromised, and the action will be easy. Here's the cool part-- if the striker noticed this and tried to emulate the twist, almost always his hand will slide off.

The grappler makes his grip 'sticky' not in the sense of sweat or goo, it's just something different in the grip. Almost all grapplers understand this immediately: "Make your hand sticky". Very few strikers do.

A tai chi guy once tried to show me a structure trick. It was new and amazing for him. For me it was basic judo. Mike (sensei Moore) used to say, "Lock your tendons. Use your bones. Rest. Make him work. Make him try to wear down your bones with his muscle." What I later learned in striking arts as structure was a basic skill in grappling. Something hardly worth naming. Just a way to rest. A feeling that everyone knew.

Kris does a spine trick. With a slight adjustment, hitting him in the chest no longer feels like hitting meat. It feels like hitting wood. Pretty cool.

Working with Nicholas Yang at one point there was a new feeling. I'm not a big push-hands guy. For the most part, that problem can be solved with a stinging slap, but I like playing with moving structure. Structure is relatively simple, maintaining it moving and head-to-toe is a much bigger challenge. It is also almost entirely a matter of feel. It's hard to see good structure.

Usually, even moving, good structure feels like bone. It feels solid. Good fluidity feels like meat, soft and unresisting, like a raw steak. Bad structure feels like tinkertoys, little hard parts and little joints that slip and stick and get in one another's way. Some of the best I've ever played with could make one shoulder supple and fluid as water and make the other simultaneously rock solid. That's cool.

Playing with Nick, at one point he went gellid. This is where vocabulary fails. Humans don't have good words for touches or smells. Nick was fluid and solid both. I could push his arms but there was none of the slight jerking as different muscle bundles took control of the bone. It was like pushing against rubber, or trying to run in a bad dream. A completely new sensation. And that's very cool.

This post isn't really about anything. Touch. Stay alert to the world. Don't rely on your eyes. Have fun.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Will

I'm cribbing from an unknown author today. Somebody wrote something and I penciled it on a post-it note and it now hangs on the bathroom mirror. I didn't write down who said it, and it deserves a lot of credit.

Everyone has the will to win. When two people show up at a contest, both want to win. Both have their spirits set on prevailing. In the nasty world of predators and victims, the will to win is even more pronounced. The coyote is hungry. The rabbit wants to live.

Everyone has the will to win. When everyone has something, it is meaningless.

What many lack is the will to prepare to win.

It is a disservice to say that the one who wants the win most, the one who is hungriest, has the edge. Wanting isn't enough. When we say that it matters, we say that desire itself has a magical power to shift the world in our favor.

What does shift the world into our favor is preparation, and preparation is an act of will. You train when there is no immediate goal. You study the problem. You learn the factors and the nuances. For the deep and dangerous stuff, you have to know your own heart. Not what you think you can do if and when-- those are fantasies. You need to know your core and where you core starts to shift...and which direction it shifts to... under fear and pain and hunger and ego threat and all of the other different ways that identity shifts.

As broad and deep as you can go, you can increase your chances through preparation.

It's amazing how lucky someone who trains four hours a day can get.

The stick-it on the mirror? It says, "The will to PREPARE to win."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stuff to Do, Stuff to Do...

Marc and Dianna are delivered to the airport. Things are quiet, but in my head the list of things to do and ponder buzz.

It's been a big week. A new combative concept from Kris. Meeting Iain Abernethy and Al Peasland. A very productive VPPG. Called Tim Larkin of TFT (FaceBook is cool for connections) and got some advice. Even better, heard him articulate beliefs that resonated with my personal mission. Talk and gin and narghila with Edwin and Irene and Marc and Dianna. Good sometimes just to listen. First time playing Western sword in probably a decade.

Lots done. Lots to do. Lots to think about.

To do:
The whole video/DVD thing keeps coming up again and again. Tim was dead right- just because of geography, only a limited number of people will ever get to seminars. Videos and writing are the tools to reach the rest. Now I just have to figure out how.

YMAA does want to do a video to back up "Facing Violence" and I need to send script ideas to David Silver.

The e-book on violence for writers is almost done. Needs a read through, an edit, a cover, table of contents and maybe a picture.

Three main 'products' for Marcus.

Which brings up one of the 'ponders.' Marcus is a marketer and talks about picking 'the next big thing' 'branding' and stuff like that. I'm not sure I can get what I do down to one thing. But maybe these three:
1) Training to empower the student. The whole Awareness Based Training paradigm and 'teach yourself'. It is critical.
2) Fight like a criminal. Ran head first into a problem at the Crossing the Pond Expo: there are things that are obvious, so obvious that you feel stupid mentioning them. For instance, it is easier to beat people up from behind. Obvious, right? Then we look and see that the students generally don't have tools for getting behind, so we give them the tools, right? And then, despite the fact that it makes common sense, they have the tools and it is the freshest thing on their minds, the minute the tension levels go up the slightest bit... boom. Fighting face to face again. I'm hoping "fight like a criminal" might be the magic words that give people the permission to step up to the predator's level.
3) The roots of conflict. Between "Facing Violence" and the Conflict Communication program, I think that we can work principles from a deep enough level to give us a handle on all violence. That's huge.

Not sure I could pick just one of those three. They are all pretty important.

Need to reach out to local groups and set up some lunch lectures on avoiding violence and avoiding conflict.

Need to do a 1-hour, useful intro to ConCom.

Create a web page for a 2-day event in Seattle Oct 23-24.

Go through receipts for the Boston trip.

Work on the house.

Start another book...

There's a ton more stuff to do

To think about- that stupid kick. More avenues for business. Locations and markets. Video scripts and technical stuff. How to teach something that seems to be prevented under stress by instinct or conditioning...


Monday, August 16, 2010


There's a movie, Galaxy Quest. One of the lines comes from the fanboy who thinks he is becoming part of a movie shoot but is actually going into space combat: "I'm just stoked to be on the show."

I was kind of stoked to be on the show.

The Crossing The Pond Martial Arts Expo somehow happened. It's one of those ideas that rarely get off the ground: "Let's get some of the good instructors from the Uk and the US and do one seminar in Seattle and one in Coventry". I suspect that one or two people decided they really wanted to meet each other and set up the seminar as both an excuse and a way to make expenses. I also suspect that ideas that usually don't get off the ground tend to fly with power when Kris Wilder gets involved.

I signed up for the XPO months ago. One of the big reasons was Iain Abernethy. He is the guy in the UK for crossing the gulf between traditional karate and really bad situations. the other big reason was Kris. Kris has been doing some amazing things with power and structure, not only things I haven't seen elsewhere, but things that work moving and under pressure. Marc was going to be there as well. That's not so much a big deal. We've been spending enough time together that his seminar material is less new. It's cool, but I have access.

Two guys I didn't know were also going to be presenting: Nicholas Yang and Al Peasland. Turns out I have a connection with Nick-- my publisher was one of his first instructors and Dr. Yang, who started YMAA Publications (source of fine books like "Meditations on Violence") is his father.

The plan was to go up for a weekend, check to see on what Kris and Iain were doing, finally give Iain a signed copy of my book, meet the other Brit and maybe see what the kung fu guy was like. Talk to Marc about our works in progress.

My only planned connection was to drive Marc up from my area and stay at Kris. Marc had threatened to have me teach, but I blew him off. Then Kris included me in the instructors broadcast. Long and short of it (and I have no idea if people were happy or not), I was in the show.

This isn't really a review, just some impressions. The brits were a blast. Fun guys and brilliant teachers with some brutal skills. They also had never been around firearms before and it was like 14 year-olds who had just found a Playboy. We practiced building clearing.
Note to self- when your demo is being held in a church on Sunday morning, it's probably not the best time to practice dynamic entries. We missed busting into the service by one door.

Nick was too shy, and I never felt like I got a real handle on who he was and what he was doing. He was skilled, we pushed hands for a while and I could feel his ability to make himself go solid or fluid, but also a weird gellid state that was new to me. He wasn't a brawler, and that's my focus now, but he was damn good at what he did.

Marc was Marc, entertaining and funny. Of all the people there, when coffee wasn't doing the trick and I said, "I'm bored. I wish someone would attack me." Only Marc and Edwin were willing to go froggy. Brawling is better than coffee, except for the fewer anti-oxidants.

Al didn't mind rolling as well. Iain was too surrounded by groupies most times to attack, but we did practice drawing and moving with a weapon.

Kris is doing some amazing stuff. I've taken Thai kicks to the thigh from some skilled and ranked people. One of the guys in Kris' session did a slow, retarded-looking kick to my thigh. Through a phone book it did more than the best thai kick I've received. I was done.
Something to work on: Dead-hand dynamics applied to kicks. Brand new to me and useful, even devastating. Yeah. I like the big jumps in learning. Time to practice.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Meeting Devi

The more comprehensively you understand the game, any game, the better you can play. When the game is like life, where most of the rules are imaginary anyway (you bring theses rules to the table and you enforce them on yourself) there is immense freedom in seeing things as they are.

It's broad, too, and the second I wrote 'games' part of your brain locked in because games are defined by rules. If you break the rules you cease to be playing the game. Really? Always?

The ability to see the problem broadly (since this is about conflict and self-defense, you know where this is going) amounts to a super-power. Too many people think that self-defense starts when the first strike begins. That is narrow, in both perspective and time.

Teja showed up at the seminar in Boston, despite her injuries. You could tell it was driving her nuts not to play hard.

She also gave me a copy of her video. It is an introduction to a woman's self-defense program designed by women and for women. In most of my encounters I've been the small guy, but never to the extent that Teja is: routinely out-weighed by three times and out-powered by five, that is Teja's world. That is the world of many, maybe most, women who face violence.

It must ring hollow when a six-foot male martial arts or self-defense experts advises walking tall with your shoulders back or tells you that move X or position Y or the attitude of naked (testosterone driven) aggression will save the day.

I love the thought process that Teja put into her work. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing self-defense or even fighting as problems of applying strength, size and speed. Many systems maximize the efficiency of delivering size, speed and strength... what if you don't have it? How can you see the problem more broadly?

I want to split the post here, partially exploring the other options-- how strategy and positioning can substitute for speed and strength; how environmental awareness can give you more options for greater damage than perfecting a strike... all that stuff.

I also want to rant about the inefficiency (is that the word I want? Not quite) of self-defense programs designed by fit young men, or adapted from military systems that are designed around young men, full of hormones, eager to show their courage at a time when joints and bone heal most easily. Programs designed to be used by people that don't fit the victim profile.

Teja understands her vulnerability and faces it square on. She is a trained (and efficient and aggressive--she couldn't play hard but we got to play and she played well) sayoc kali fighter. But she doesn't look at things just through that lens. She works mental and physical skills. She thinks about protecting her child. She does not tell students the answers, but gives them lists of options. The students work it out: What could I do? Where does that choice naturally lead?

If it seems like I'm going all fan-boy, tough. That's a lot of my own ego. One of the fascinating things about this exploration of violence is that there are very few people doing the field research. Before the internet, most of us were pretty damn isolated and consequently each of us had to invent our own language for some concepts. We all wondered if anyone else saw what we did.

A lady on the wrong (I mean East) coast, with different experiences, a different martial lens, different attitudes, experiences and parameters, has created teaching that resonates. It makes me happy. It makes me feel like I did better than I realized.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Homeward Bound

Tomorrow, it will be time to head home. Looking forward to seeing my lovely bride again. Actually counting the hours (23 hours, one minute right now).

Boston was a good time and my little notes haven't done it justice. The Uechi-ryu camp at Massachusetts Maritime Academy was the smallest crowd ever, and that is sad. there is a generation of extraordinarily skilled practitioners and gifted teachers who will start to pass someday. There wasn't enough time to talk with old friends, much less deepen friendships with new friends. It is a group that deserves far more time and attention.

Small group classes with Jason Gould, Bill Giovannucci and Don Miller filled three of the nights. Each of these men is a leader and it was a pleasure to get to know them a little. Their students, as always, are the real sign of who they are and I got to cross hands with some very good people. No one minded a little rough rolling, no one let ego or preconceived ideas get in the way of exploring.

A dinner with Wes Tasker, who I haven't seen in far too long, and Lisa & Mike, who are more than worthy of more time.

Marcus and Dave of Personal Safety were able, with 48 hours notice, to set up a four-hour course for some very impressive cops from the local area. I have no idea how many favors they called in or how they got that kind of turn-out for a relatively unknown thug, but I was definitely impressed. It went well (in my estimation) and now they have a clearer idea of who I am and what I offer. And it was a blast rolling with the big SWAT guy. Possibly the highlight of the week.

I also met Erik Kondo at the cop brawl. An impressive young man with some great insights. If I hit you in the face with a big rubber ball in the future to get your adrenaline up, blame Erik. It was his idea.

Jeff Burger and Jessica were my hosts, and they were fun, entertaining and incredibly gracious. Each spent time wandering around the town with me, poking into shops and keeping me from getting lost, laughing at people who could stand a little laughing. Irreverent and observant, but never rude. Jeff knows everybody, and he knows how to respectfully approach people regardless of language or culture. From what I have seen he is a damn fine coach. He is also far too humble. He has the combination of experience and skill to take the world by the horns. His own humility is the only thing in his way.

The seminar on Sunday capped it. 33 people. I had a great time. We covered the usual drills, and the usual lectures. There was a lot of playing and, I hope, a lot of discovery. I don't think I brawled with everyone, the crowd was just too big...and there were several I would like to name, but I would forget more, and that would be unfair. The first review just went up on Facebook (No idea if the weird FB protocols will let that link work). It feels pretty good.

One meeting with the video producer for YMAA-- we're talking about a video or two to augment the next book. That will be new territory for me, so I'm in. All of today touring New Hampshire with my publisher and discussing possible projects, between arguments with his feisty and most excellent wife.

Tomorrow, though, I will see my feisty and most excellent wife, and that fills my world.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

North End

Twisty streets that would be alleys anywhere else, clearly designed (probably the wrong word, the streets look more like evolution than intelligent design) for something other than cars. Buildings of old brick tower on each side- you can't tell if the sun shines without going outside and looking up. Fire escapes don't go to the ground but to the next building. In case of fire, kick in your neighbor's window.

On the weekends, the place is thick with tourists-- wandering for the most part, taking pictures of odd little bits of architecture and shaded alleys. Lining up in droves for the hotspots- Cannoli at Mike's. Pizza at Regina's. Sometimes an entire street smells like roasted garlic or fresh pesto sauce or a bakery.

Connected guys sit in their corner tables, watching the streets. Running numbers. Others sit in small groups, talking Italian. It feels like they are talking about the good old days. Arguments explode with accents that seem heavy to me (though, here, I am the one with the accent) and filled with profanity...just marking territory, not dangerous or even serious if you know the local rules.

Little old ladies have no fear and will tell the biggest groups of young men what is and isn't acceptable and they will listen. In a barrio, this is the abuella power, and it is like magic. Similar, I suppose, in many places where families are held together by strong women while men play their little games.

The young men try to look tough. The young women are beautiful, many in that special mediterranean way. They don't need to try. Sometimes the contrast between the smooth skin and sparkling eyes and the brash Bostonian accent catches me off guard and I laugh.

I move through the North End at all hours of the day and night, humidity so high that cotton shirts are soaked in a matter of seconds. Wandering, trying to get lost and finding my way again. Listening to music and arguments and laughter. Watching people walk dogs and others complain that people walking dogs. The scramble for parking when streetsweeping is scheduled.

There is no smell of BBQ smoke and it's a puzzle- clear skies and too hot to cook inside, I expect outdoor cooking to be rife. Finally, I ask and am told that all forms of outdoor cooking are illegal. "I had a hibachi out on the fire escape and my neighbor turned me in. Can you believe dat shit?" Strange.

There are other significant absences. I see young men drinking in the parks at night, but never the addicts or panhandlers that I expect in a big city... but cross the Surface Rd (artifact of the Big Dig project) to Downtown and there they are. For whatever reason, except near the piers, you don't find them in the North End.

And there is cannoli and coffee, which all by themselves can make life pretty sweet. Try the Florentine cannoli. Yum.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Lise Steenerson (her link is down there on the side) is a student of Kasey Keckeisen. On paper, Kasey is the complete package. Respectable ranks in multiple arts, including sport arts (no, it's not combat, but if you don't DO combat there are things you will learn--mainly about yourself--in tournament that you won't get other places) and traditional arts. SWAT leader on top of that. On paper, Kasey is the complete package.

Turns out he holds up on the mat, too. And on the street. But you don't look at an instructor to see if he is any good. You look at the students. And even with the students, technical skill isn't really the best indicator, either (I've seen too many instructors whose 'display' students were trained by other people or had a talent despite the instructor rather than because of). I look at the attitude.

Lise was my first real exposure to Kasey, and it was wonderful. She played. She wasn't afraid to pick a play fight with her instructor, even in public. As a relatively small lady, she would roll with the biggest guys she could find. It was all fun.

I noticed that with Jason and Bill's students as well. They were serious, but they didn't take things seriously. No one, including the instructors, was the least bit afraid of looking silly. No one sat on the sidelines with arms crossed. Every last one, even the very new or very ill, played.

Dinner with Wes Tasker, Mike and Lisa last night. I love talking to all of them, but Wes is special. Things I have only dabbled in he has studied. In a lot of ways it is like talking to Marc MacYoung- we share similar insights and experiences but view them from different enough perspectives that the synthesis is incredible. Except Wes tends to expand my philosophical and moral sensibilities instead of my thug awareness.

He's helped me, immensely, to narrow and define what I am actually doing, and I'll be thinking about it for a while. (Wes was able to draw out that my dissatisfaction with martial arts is almost entirely based on the disconnect between the stated goals and the teaching methodologies.)

Kids learn fast because they are having fun. If you play with something, you come to own it. From the first time that a baby realizes it can move the blurry thing (which is the baby's own hand) everything is about increasing ability to control the world...and it is fun. Moving is fun. Knocking over things and making a Big Noise is fun (spanking from mommy afterwards, Not Fun. Note to toddler self: find a compromise.)

Increasing your power in the world sounds like some kind of Machiavellian plot, but it is really simple and natural. Victims are victims because they have no power. Choosing how we will live and gathering the resources to do so is increasing our power. Gathering the strength to stand up for our beliefs is increasing our power (and, unfortunately, so is forcing them on others... unless they develop power of their own.)

It is a very adult thing to work now for things you will have later. You may have to search for the element of play in that, but it is there.

Knowledge is power. Understanding is more power. Understanding comes from experimenting and questioning and wandering in the unmapped territory, and those are all aspects of play.

This post has wandered, so here's a rule of thumb:
If you are training, anything you do should either work or it should be fun. If it's not fun and it doesn't work, why are you there? And, because things that work increase our power and gaining control over the world has been fun since the first time we moved our own hands on purpose, things that work are fun.

Play. You will learn faster.

Rory's first rule of not burning out in a high-risk job:
"You can take yourself seriously or you can take the job seriously. Never both at the same time."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Uechi and Emeralds

Too much to fill in right now. Bill Giovannucci had me down to his dojo in Quincy a few nights ago (blog review here), and Jason Gould had me out to his Emerald Necklace Dojo last night.

Different styles, different men, but I'm again impressed at how similar good dojo feel. The only real way to tell a good instructor is by the students and at both of these training halls the students were enthusiastic, hard working, and not afraid to try. Both Bill and Jason knew their stuff. They were impressive, not just physically or stylistically, but in the way that Bill could talk about teaching methods and Jason could talk about poetry (Jason was fine on teaching method, of course, but poetry never came up with Bill.) They knew what they knew and they knew it well, and neither pretended that the knowledge extended beyond a certain point. Like the best operators, they knew what they didn't know.

So I had fun, getting into the brawl zone with a bigger, stronger guy in a corner with a water bottle as a found weapon... or practicing blindfolded infighting and targeting with a very flexible journalist. Listening to Jason use a kiai for what a kiai is for..and watching a dozen people flinch and freeze. Good times.

I'm too tired right now to sit and think about what I am learning on this journey. It's been a lot and as always the questions are a worthier path than the answers... but it will need some time to settle.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunburned and Sleep Deprived

Happily, if a little sleepily settled into Boston's beautiful North End with Jeff and Jess.

Still processing the weekend. I loved the classes I took as well as the ones I taught..and regret the ones I missed. New friends, like Robb and Ben and Gary and Mia and Max and Sarah. Reconnecting with some old friends, like Roy andBruce and Bear and the old Lions and George, the Patriarch of this clan. Mulling over a compliment from Jim Maloney. Sunburned of course, and dehydrated. Tired.

Got business advice from people I respect hugely- Roy again, as well as Bruce and Robb.

Then the trip up north to Boston.

God food (Cannoli!) and coffee. Time to sleep.