The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.

Spiritual warriors

It never goes away.

The anxiety that is.

You just get more used to it. More comfortable with it.

You accept it. Acknowledge it. Invite it to come play with you.

You can’t banish it, or exile it or leave it outside. Nothing can contain it.

So you allow it to exist.

The most difficult part is knowing that in order to overcome fear, you must be willing to face it dead on. There’s no way around it. It’s like exercise. Sure, you can get a lap band. But that ain’t gonna help you. You need to feel that anxious pain in the pit of your stomach. You need to feel those sweaty palms and swarming butterflies. You need to push past all that and just keep walking. The funny part is that the solution is so easy, so simple, so blindingly obvious. And yet we create these mountains of mental hurdles in order so that we don’t really face this fear.

Fear isn’t only what’s killing us. It’s not only what is keeping us isolated and afraid. Fear is what is keeping humanity from evolving into the best versions of ourselves.

If you’re like me then you know that struggling with this anxiety isn’t easy stuff. It’s depressive. Suicidal. And mean. You think your whole life revolves around not being able to achieve what you want because of it. It’s like some malignant disease or a cancerous tumor. You can’t see it, but oh how it weighs you down and holds you back.

Sometimes I think to myself if it’s possible that the greater the anxiety in a person, the more epic their unrealized vision is. Perhaps this is false expectation or narcissism or both. Or perhaps I just really want to believe that I have a greater purpose on this planet than stocking shelves or washing cars or taking orders.

I don’t want to believe that. I do believe that.

I think there are some of us on this planet whom the anxiety is hitting so strong that it forces us to radically re-examine our lives and re-define how we’re living. Hitting us with so much force that there’s no choice except to dive under and go deep. Real deep. Like to the parts of the ocean floor we’ve never seen before.

You must go forward. There is no turning back. People laugh at you because they are afraid. They’re simply releasing tension. That’s good. But this battle ain’t for them. This enemy won’t simply break your bones or slit your throat. This enemy will swallow you whole. Consume you alive so that you will be left blinking in the dark belly of a Beast where there are no walls or light switches to find your way out.

The only thing that will save you is becoming the greatest version of yourself.

Because truthfully, that’s who you really are.

Elbow SMASH!
– Hiji Até

What is “Genius”?

A friend of mine turned me on to a recent interview with mythologist Michael Meade on a community radio station in Portland, Oregon. Check it out here: Finding Genius in Your Life w/Micheal Meade

Here’s some relevant soundbites that I wanted to record here just in case the mp3 archive of the show becomes unavailable in the future for whatever reason. All quotes are by Michael Meade unless otherwise noted:

  • “How does someone start to uncover who they really are?” [good question posed by one of the hosts of the show]
  • “Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.” [Meade quoting the Roman poet, Horace]
  • “One of the things you do is you look back and say when and where was I in trouble or where was my life intensified. And usually in those areas you can find hints of genius.”
  • “What a person loves is connected to their genius.”
  • “…I’m not using ‘genius’ at all about how to be smarter than others, I’m using it about how to be smart about one’s self. And the evidence is already in one’s life. It’s just that it usually has not been blessed or it has been seen to be at odds with the expectations of family and culture…”
  • “…the biggest or most radical in a sense, bottom up thing that I can think of is awakening the genius in each person. The genius is hidden in the depth of the soul. And the old idea,  a radical, the idea comes from trees or plants, and trees in particular will have a radical root. And it’s not the loudest part of the tree, it’s the deepest part of the tree. The radical root goes further into the earth than any other part of the tree and it draws up minerals and the deepest nutrients. Well, the radical in a person goes down to the genius hidden in the soul, which is its own nutrient, it has its own nourishing imagination. And so, a true radical is someone who is becoming themselves by drawing on something deep inside themselves which then becomes the gift that they have to give which makes their life full but benefits the people around them as well.”
  • “The genius in a person is weird. And weird’s a good thing.”

That second to last soundbite about “radical” connects for me because it reminds me of my search in my early twenties for radical political groups and people. It may sound silly now, but at the time I was looking for like a modern day Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. I was into reading about radical people like George Jackson and Assata Shakur and Che Guevara. I was into searching out radical Asian Americans like Richard Aoki and Yuri Kochiyama. I was visiting and talking with various radical groups that labeled themselves communist, socialist, anarchist, etc. I thought that the Truth was to be found in these philosophies and ideologies I was coming across. I thought that I needed to be a revolutionary; that this was the highest expression of radicalism and the only truly non-b.s. path in life. It’s very interesting in retrospect what those early explorations may have been speaking to. I can see why I felt the need to connect to those “movements”. Ironically, I disassociated from those groups only to find myself captivated later on by a different kind of radical, Grace Lee Boggs. Funny how life comes around again.

All Power to the Soul!
– Hiji Até

A way out of no way

May 20th, 2012.

That’s the day I left Southern California and began my 7 day trek to Detroit, Michigan.

That was two years ago to the day.

It seems I’m always in reflection mode in one form or another. Today’s anniversary is a good excuse to reflect some more.

As the school year winds down (4 more weeks) and my job as an after-school instructor comes to a close, I’m finding myself feeling anxious about my immediate future. I honestly do not have a clear idea of what my next step will be here in Oakland. I was hoping that this job would provide me with some clarity and insight as to what kind of “soul work” I should involve myself with. What I’ve found is that middle-schoolers can be frustrating and exhausting to work with (but perhaps, only specifically within the confines of a public school) and I actually don’t have as much karate to teach as I thought. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many perks to this job; free school dinner and snacks, playing with kids and/or watching them play, getting paid $18/hour to play with kids and/or watch them play, being physically active, great part-time working hours that allow me time to do my other things, 7 minute walking distance from my house, and perhaps most of all (although I’m not sure I’ve really done this), being in a position to broaden a young person’s mind.

But the real question is, do these perks outweigh the shadowy negative things? There’s lots of things they don’t tell you before you take a job like this. Like the fact that kids will say real mean things to you as though they could care less about your existence; the fact that they are beginning to explore their sexual-social sides and will say things highly inappropriate for a teacher-student relationship; the fact that some of these things they say or do will make you cry, panic or push your buttons so much you find yourself having to shake off violent retributory thoughts. Sound disturbing? Wait, hold on. Before you call the cops on me, understand that I’m telling you all this to try and describe what makes this job “shadowy”, not as a confession of things I did. I’m merely being honest enough to say that wow, damn, I really didn’t know I’d be pushed in this way or triggered in that manner. I hadn’t taken into account all of my own unprocessed anxieties, insecurities, fears. I naively assumed that I would simply be teaching them karate and that I would do my best to transmit that information as they listened attentively. hahaha.

It’s good to fall on your face every once in a while.

But back to that question of “next steps”. Where is it that my intuition has led me to in all this? I do find it synchronicitous that the slogan of this particular school speaks of the acorn (“like the acorn, we unfold into the leaders we’re meant to be“). To me that’s a connection to James Hillman’s “acorn theory“, and even Grace Lee Boggs’ thing about “We are the leaders we’ve been looking for” (TNAR). Also, the Oakland Unified School District’s logo includes both an image of an acorn and an oak tree. And don’t even get me started about the fact that I live in OAK-land. That’s right. Synchronicity up the ying yang. haha. But metaphysical funny stuff aside, what is it that I’m being directed towards? Teaching? Education? For sure I can feel that my genius has really nothing to do with martial arts or karate. Those have merely been vehicles for something deeper. In some way I’ve always been drawn towards “education”. But my definition of that word has more to do with broadening minds, becoming world citizens, perceiving commonalities and thinking outside of the box rather than getting ready for college, standardized tests or paper degrees.

The subtitle of Matthew Fox’s book The A.W.E. Project is “Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human“. That is the kind of education I’m interested in. I’ve even had the opportunity to meet Matthew Fox here in Oakland (in fact, he’s based in the Oakland/San Francisco area! Can you smell the synchronicity?). Interestingly though, my pursuit of that hasn’t panned out in the way I thought. I had tried emailing a bunch of times last year with questions and even called his office to leave a message, but it wasn’t until an event last December known as The Cosmic Mass occurred that I was able to shake his hand and speak to him for the first time. And although he referred me to some key people based on my questions, their flakiness has turned me off a bit . I don’t think I’m done pursuing that avenue though. I think there’s some keys in the dark there that I’ve not yet looked hard enough for. Hmmm. I’ll have to share more on that later.

Anyway, yeah. Two years ago I set out on what could be called, cliché notwithstanding, a “life-changing journey”. There’s really no other way to phrase it. Not to say I’m some completely different person as a result of it. I’m not. I’m saying that my life has become deeper in ways I could have never predicted.

I’ll leave it here with a quote from Michael Meade’s book, Fate and Destiny:

We may enter paths where others have found revelations; but in order to answer the question of our own lives we must risk taking our own steps. In the end the only genuine safety in this world comes from risking oneself completely in order to become oneself more fully. (pg. 92)

 Image result for the journey
Elbow SMASH!
– Hiji Até

Thinking for yourself

Saw this bit posted on another blog.

Which is a quote originally from Rory Miller’s blog back in 2011. Read the whole post here.

So here’s the thing we maybe all need to think about with our martial arts training.

Why do we do it?

Do we do it so we can then take risks with better chances?

Or do we train so that we get that feeling, but then never actually take the risks.  Does MA help us (me, you) become a more effective ‘Yes’ person?  Or just give us a beard we can hide behind and pretend to be explorers while never actually taking the risks?

And that’s just in application.  In training, do we give over our agency to someone with a title so we don’t have to think for ourselves?  Avoid training with strangers or new ideas to maintain our level of comfort?  Accept that our instructor’s superior years of training in some way requires us to act and think like dutiful children instead of men and women?

Or do we brawl and challenge and play?  Look for things so different that they will shift everything we thought we knew?  Try to find those edges of fear and exhaustion where the world changes?

In the end, is your training about being comfortable?  Or being incredible?

A great quote to ponder mainly because I am currently in the process of thinking through a “karate club” idea that has been circulating in my mind for the past few months. I suppose I am just scared of actually implementing the idea. “Who am I?” I keep asking myself. Apparently I didn’t read Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception closely enough (despite my enthusiastic blog posts about it).


Anyway, I was reading this quote from Miller and I was like, damn, that’s exactly how I’ve felt in training with my Sensei back home (and still feel today). Miller’s thoughts on the matter really articulate the impetus behind this club idea (mainly, being uncomfortable and training with different stylists). And it’s like Grace Lee Boggs says too, “Don’t get stuck in old ideas“. I’m guilty of thinking and acting like the “dutiful child” instead of taking on the responsibility of an adult. But I think too, particularly within Japanese martial arts (and that society as a whole), there is a culture of deference to your sensei which makes thinking and acting independently a bit uncouth (and more “Western”). Even the meaning of the word (someone who was born/has come before you in birth/life) implies that one should show such deference. Like, he knows better cause he’s been through a lot so you should just shut up and do what he tells you (and feel guilty about not doing what he tells you). But I suppose too, it’s not necessarily “real” respect just because you bow and act humble. The form of the thing means nothing if you have no heart for the thing. The heart for the thing should take you soaring above and beyond the ground on which you initially stood, shouldn’t it? If the student cannot think for themself, if they cannot become their own teacher and even move past the teachings of their teacher, then how has their education benefited them? That doesn’t mean to me that we abandon/reject/discard those teachings. Of course not. Those teachings formed the basis of what you know now. Those teachings are what brought you to your current point on the proverbial mountain which we are all climbing. Real respect to me means remembering to be grateful for what you’ve been given and not getting stuck in old ideas. That’s how a culture goes from stagnant to living in my mind.

Elbow SMASH!
– Hiji Até