The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.

Karate secrets

Just a little something I’ve been meaning to share here for a while.

I bought this book online called Practical Karate: Fundamentals which is the first book in a series of six by Masatoshi Nakayama and Donn F. Draeger. Rory Miller was the one who recommended it to me during his workshop back in October.

I really thought the book was going to contain some good information with regards to “practical” karate, considering that Rory himself gave it a thumbs up. Sad to say, I was disappointed. While the information in this first book is presented in a clear way and comes with great practical advice, there is a sense to me that what the authors are calling “practical karate” is simply the “punch-kick” kind of karate that I was hoping the book would dispel with. Also, the self-defense fight situations presented in the book don’t really seem all that realistic (with regards to the close-quarter Predator-type of violence that Rory explained to us). Of course, considering that this book is more like karate for the layperson, was I expecting too much? Perhaps. I’ll definitely have to check out the others.

Anyway, while that may be the case, like I said, the book does contain some great practical advice to ponder. I just wanted to do a quick post here of something Nakayama says on the back cover of the book. I’ll get to some of the other good stuff in my next post.

From the back cover:

M. Nakayama: Many readers will insist that there are mysteries in the art of self-defense. After considerable practice and research I find that, if any, the secrets can be summed up in the proverbs: “A wise man avoids danger” and “To run away is the best way to win”…

Yes. There’s always something humorous about the “secrets” being so obvious.

Elbow SMASH!
– Hiji Até

Seth Godin interview, Part Two

Okay, not really. There’s no part two of that video I posted of Seth Godin’s interview.

But there is a part two of my blog post about it.

Why? Cause I can. And because there’s so much he says that is inspiring for me that I thought I’d jot it all down to have as future reference for myself when I’m feeling lost (and so that maybe some reader might find it inspiring as well).

Anyway, so what I did was transcribe the parts of the interview that spoke to me, complete with the time codes so that anyone interested in skipping to that part could go ahead and do so.

Damn. That’s so elaborate. Why am I even going through all the trouble of that? Sheesh. I don’t know. The information is just too important to not share I guess.

Here goes:

(2:15) We got brainwashed into asking for roadmaps. That’s
what the SAT is of course. That’s what they test you for in
school. Someone who’s good in school is actually someone
who’s good at following maps.

(4:00) First of all, I’m not redefining art. This is what art
has always been. Art was always for amateurs, until Andy
Warhol. You know, Vincent van Gogh had never had any
illusions that he was gonna become a famous rich artist
cause there weren’t famous rich artists. You became famous
and rich and then you became an artist, not the other way

(5:19) In order to succeed, organisms, particularly humans,
have to build a comfort zone that matches its safety zone. So
they don’t have to worry about whether it’s safe, they just
worry about whether it’s comfortable. If it’s comfortable
they’re fine. If it’s not comfortable they run away.

(7:35) If you have a job where someone is telling you
exactly what to do, they can find someone cheaper than you
to do it.

(9:09) We’re too focused on how do I avoid criticism and not
focused enough on how do I make a difference.

(9:30) Vulnerability means putting something into the world
and being willing to let the world respond or react. If you
come out with something thats polished and has no edges on
it and you can say the committee made this it’s not my
fault, there’s no vulnerability there.

(14:22) Once we learn to shun the non-believers, once we
learn to be comfortable enough to say “it’s not for you”
then we free ourselves up. Cause no one can make something
for everyone. No one. There’s no product that everyone
wants. So you can either spend all your time trying to get
the last person to like you, or you can say, “I’m sorry it’s
not for you”.

(16:14) What happened is that these gate keepers all at once
lost their power. If you wanna make a record, make a
record. Put it on iTunes, pick yourself. If you wanna write,
write. Build a blog. Pick yourself. If you wanna start a
software company, you don’t need a permit, you don’t need
anything. You just start it.

(17:50) Because they don’t want to pick themselves. They
want the security and the deniability from someone else
picking them.

(19:32) It’s the fear of fear of failure. What we are afraid
of is having to admit to ourselves that we did something
that didn’t work. That we think that that is when the
universe will call us out as the fraud that we know we are.

(20:09) Shame is the art killer.

(20:48) For me, when the resistance kicks in and says “you
shouldn’t do that”, that’s how I know I’m on the right path.
That I look for that feeling and instead of fleeing or
fighting, I listen to it and do it anyway. And that is where
we’re gonna make the impact that we deserve to make.

(22:47) All creatures, particularly humans, will do almost
anything to avoid fear…The magic of the Industrial
Revolution is the Henry Ford’s of the world showed up and
they said, “you don’t have to be afraid. You merely have to
do what I say. I will take responsibility. And then I will
make you rich.” That was a really cool deal. And generations
gave up their spark in exchange for richness.

(23:57) The connection economy rewards little things, little
connections, little followings.

(29:24) [Seth Godin begins talking about why he chose “The
Icarus Deception” as a title]

(31:04) And I wrote this book cause I think we’re flying too
low. I think we need a lot more hubris. A lot less
obedience. And a lot more awareness that this revolution was
just handed to us. And if all we’re using it for is you
know, to put up silly pictures of cats and the pope, we’re
wasting it.

(33:00) And training yourself to see and not sensor the
thoughts that are coming to you, that’s critical. And then
the third piece is you have to learn how to make. You
actually have to have the skills to do something that
matches your vision. And all too often we fall down on one
or two or all three of those steps cause we’re in such a
hurry, we fall in love with ourselves, that we put out a
piece of crap and we say “isn’t this great?”. No actually,
you might have saw something, but you didn’t know how to
make it.

(36:20) So the 10,000 hours rule is legit. What’s
fascinating and what people don’t understand about it is,
it’s possible to spend 10,000 hours to be diverse. 10,000
hours to be good at many things…So it’s not just you need
10,000 hours to learn how to paint a portrait. Maybe it’s
just 10,000 hours to be you know, a jack of all trades.

Elbow SMASH!
– Hiji Até

A Demon’s hand, a Saint’s heart

For the past two Saturdays I attended a workshop in San Francisco put on by an organization called “AVP” or Alternatives to Violence Project. I had initially discovered them through my online research in Detroit. I was looking for something that spoke to what I believe should be the purpose of Okinawan karate, that is to strive for peaceful relations amongst people. It occurred to me through my reading that what the Okinawan masters were seeking (at least some of them) was a prudent way to deal with person-to-person violence. At least that’s the sense I get from sayings like “Do not strike others. Do not get struck.” (apparently said by Chojun Miyagi), and “karate ni sente nashi” (There is no first attack/initiative/move in karate).

Anyway, because of my interest in thinking outside the box with regards to how best to translate that sentiment into something tangible for karate students, I became interested in the practices of AVP. Here’s a little history of AVP taken directly from their website:

The AVP program began in 1975 when a group of inmates at Green Haven Prison (NY) was working with youth coming into conflict with the law (yes–gangs existed even then).   They collaborated with the Quaker Project on Community Conflict, devising a prison workshop. The success of this workshop quickly generated requests for more, and AVP was born.  The program quickly spread to many other prisons.

So I told myself that when it came time for me to move to Oakland that I would check out the Bay Area chapter of AVP, which I’m glad to say I finally did. But unlike the last workshop I signed up for (with Rory Miller), I barely took any notes. I’m not sure why. I guess I was feeling the need to be fully present there. And it’s hard to take notes cause most of the workshop consisted of two or more person exercises. This wasn’t like a lecture or anything. The AVP process is interactive, not so much intellectual. But also I felt too that the information presented wasn’t so new to me that I had to write it down. Perhaps that’s because I already had some exposure to non-violent communication thinking thanks to my housemate Sarah in Detroit; some of the exercises mirrored that process.

I wanted to blog something about my experience at this workshop but nothing significant was coming to me. I don’t mean to say the workshop wasn’t significant. It was. But it wasn’t until I read something today that Mark Thomas (the lead workshop facilitator) wrote on his blog that I went “AHA!”. And that’s what this post is about (I know, I know. I’m long winded).

First of all, here’s a link to Mark Thomas’ blog. It’s called, “Transforming Power“.

As part of one of the workshop exercises, Mark shared with the group his experience of being imprisoned for a number of years for two bank robberies he had committed. In this particular post on his blog, Mark speaks to this experience and says something that I believe captures perfectly the meaning of “Kisshu Fushin” (鬼手佛心 – Demon’s hand, Saint’s heart):

I spent 13 years in prison without getting into a fight or violent incident – although fights, stabbings, and riots sometimes happened around me – because I preferred to use my reason and calmness to deal with conflicts and threats. Of course, it helps when in a dangerous situation that you know you are capable of using extreme violence to defend yourself if all else fails, but you keep that locked away in the back of your mind, like a responsible gun owner should keep their gun locked in a gun safe and not walk around with it on display. 

This idea of using “extreme violence” in a situation where your safety and peace-of-mind is being violated is something Rory Miller was trying to get across to us in his workshop. Rory explained that the “bad guy” has already “othered” you. They do not see you as a human being. Therefore, should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to deal with such a Threat, that whatever decision you make, “Never run half-ass. Never fight half-ass. Never negotiate half-ass”.

Anyway, I know that’s a little thin for an explanation. It’s hard sometimes to get these thoughts out. They are more like just little intuitions I have that I want to share. In the future I will post one of the videos Rory showed us in order to graphically illustrate the kind of violence that would warrant such a response. People hurting each other is no joke man; it’s scary. And there are serious repercussions far beyond just the initial event. Your training shouldn’t be a joke either. Either you’re dealing with reality or you’re not. It doesn’t do any good to lie to yourself about your ability.

Elbow SMASH!
– Hiji Até

Martial Morsel of thought

Sometimes when I’m reading stuff I’ll come across a small sentence that speaks to something bigger. My intuition perks up when I read it and I feel something deep with it. And because sometimes I don’t want to spend a whole lotta time writing a blog post about it, I figured why not just copy and paste it here for future reference and call it a “martial morsel”? I mean, who’s making the rules for what can and cannot be posted here?

That’s what I thought.

So here is part of the sentence that caught my attention during my reading of Patrick McCarthy’s article on Taira Shinken, the Okinawan kobudo master:

Advocating that shugyo* should be the product of attraction and not encouragement, Chinen’s anonymity was the only yardstick Soeishi needed to measure his resolve.

*Japanese word defined by McCarthy in that same article as “austere training”.

The key word for me here is “attraction”. When Joseph Campbell talks about “follow your bliss”, he’s not saying to me just willy-nilly do what you please. He’s saying, be perceptive in following what catches your attention, i.e. what “attracts” you because in there you will discover your life’s work. In the same way, I feel that kids or adults should not be forced to do karate. Karate should be something that attracts them, even if it’s just superficial (they’ll eventually find out it’s more than that). I wouldn’t want to force my kids for example to do karate classes just because I want to instill some discipline in them. I think that’s a false belief that discipline is something that can just be instilled. I think discipline for something comes first from an inner desire to know a thing or to understand something. This “inner desire” has to do with the daimon or the genius of the person. I think too often the dojo pedagogy (much similar to public school pedagogy) is that you are supposed to “beat the understanding” into the child. What happens is not only actual punishment (which could be physical) but also an increased resentment towards learning. True discipline to me has more to do with simply expanding upon that initial attraction and letting the student dictate their own schedule with it. An ideal dojo for me is one that bases their enrollment upon the desire of the student; not what their parent’s want, not what some other authority figure in their life wants. But what the student wants. A dojo should not be a babysitting place. It should be a place where serious training takes place because there are serious students that have a need to learn. That’s why I say to people that although anyone can physically do karate, karate is not for everyone. Anyways, there’s a lot more layers to all of this so I’ll just leave it there.

Oops. I guess I did just end up writing a whole post about that.

So be it.

Elbow SMASH!
– Hiji Até

Self-defense and sport are not two sides of the same coin

I was at judo class the other night and we was learnin’ arm bars!

Okay, juji-gatame to be exact (cross-armlock).

Fun, fun, fun.

Anyways, the judo instructor was explaining how the technique works and that we should be careful not to apply too much pressure to the arm because we are not trying to break it. Then he says, “unless of course you are in a self-defense situation, then you’ll wanna break it.”

In my head I was like, “Hmmm. Nah man. You don’t just wanna break it. That’s context dependent. Just because you think it’s self-defense doesn’t simply justify an arm-break. Self-defense is not just willy-nilly do whatever you can to hurt the other person. It’s understanding a bunch of other things that may possibly lead up to an action like an arm-break; or not, cause if you can get away to safety that’s better. In other words, self-defense is way more complex than you’re explaining it right now and what you’re doing is simplifying something that needs to be understood more deeply.”

That’s the problem a lot of times. The person teaching just simply transfers their understanding of sport martial art to self-defense by saying essentially “just ramp it up”. I mean yeah you may need to apply a lot more force in that latter situation, but the logic of sport and surviving violence ain’t the same dude.

Sensei, can I bite his leg please?

Elbow SMASH!
– Hiji Até