The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.

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Karate nursery rhyme

“Karate is like…”

…a lift-gate slamming down on your toes

Or like the misfortune of getting caught in some farm machinery by a piece of your clothes

Karate is joints bending in the wrong direction

And other extreme damage that’ll totally ruin fuck up your complexion

Eye gouges and testicle grabs

Definitely unsportsmanlike

This is dirty fighting down to a science

Not about looking nice.

– QK


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Education…What it is a good for?

Just some thoughts about education and teaching that I’m not sure how to coherently arrange, so I’ll just hodgepodge it…

Young people spend at least 13 years of their lives going through “public education”. Thirteen years is a long-ass time. That being said, what those kids and young people are learning and how they are learning (that is to say, how they are being taught) seems critical to me. I mean, who was it that said that the real social revolution we’re looking for starts in the schools. Krishnamurti? Whoever said that was right.

Education is not merely underfunded. That means it is undervalued, underestimated and misunderstood. If money is this society’s material measurement of what it deems valuable, what is this society spending most of its money on?

In my personal opinion, the relationship between student and teacher needs to be one in which the student feels comfortable (i.e. safe) enough to ask critical/challenging questions. This does not mean the student needs to feel all buddy-buddy with their instructor. It means that, the student should feel un-intimidated, un-threatened.

“Practice Means Failure” should be the motto of every school, martial arts in particular. Practice should not be getting it right to perfection and being criticized for every mistake along the way. Mistakes are what get you to the goal. Without mistakes there is no learning happening. Just automatonery. If your instructor is criticizing you for doing something “wrong”, then find another instructor. You can do no wrong in learning. There is only right and wrong in application, and even that has no definitive boundary. There is only what works and what doesn’t. And through live application, the student may get their own sense of how to get to the goal.

– QK

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Get tough for what?

I was in Frisco the other day (that’s right, I called it Frisco. Not, San Francisco. Not, the City; am I like totally uncool yet?) to meet up with an old Detroit buddy and we were going to simultaneously hang out while I also helped him and his friend paint a banner for a “NO SF JAILS” protest next week. Not that I am a part of the protest or a part of any group associated with that; it’s just that my circle of friends happens to be on the “activist/radical/community organizer/political” side of things and that’s just what they do.

So we was there chillin’ and painting this banner and talkin’ shop about a lot of things and one of the things that my friend’s friend brought up (which is the subject of this post) has to do with her recent experience with sexual harassment on the street. What had happened was that she was about to cross the street on her block and there were some “techie” type dudes standin’ around with their techie-type bags waiting to cross as well. (*NOTE: When I’m talking about “tech”, I’m talkin’ about Silicon Valley High Tech. Dig?). There were four of them and they were all Asian, except one guy who she said looked to be like mixed-Black. And as they all crossed the street, one of the guys shouted out something like “Hey let me see you shake it baby!“. And so she turns around and gets “livid” (her words) with them and starts threatening that she’s gonna go and get her knife and start shanking these mutherfuckers cause who the hell do they think they are talkin’ to her like that, in her neighborhood. And eventually I think she said the group of guys split off and then it was peaceful again. But the point she brought up and which really made me stop and think was when she asked (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Whenever a woman is being groped publicly or immature sexual comments are being made, why don’t other men who are standing around ever say or do something?”

And in my head I was like Damn, why don’t we do anything? I mean, for those of us who don’t treat women with disrespect, why is it that we don’t check other so-called “men” when they comment like that? I’m not sure I completely understand why, but I think it has more to do with the fear of straying from social norms (i.e. “the monkey mind”, the fear of standing apart from the crowd, the fear of speaking up, and maybe for men in particular, the fear, real or imagined, of being violently humiliated by the same group of monkeys they stood up to) than it has to do with the lack of mature men. And yes, I think men do also have the privilege of not paying attention to that kind of harassment in the first place because in our patriarchal society, it doesn’t threaten us.

But so then it also got me thinking about martial artists (males in particular). For example, all these Okinawan karate teachers who can like break boards and bats over their toes and take punches and kicks to the stomach and who look real mean and fierce and I’m like, what’s all that display of toughness really for? Are you trying to prove to me that you can break my ass? I’m sure you can, I believe you. I’m not gonna test it. But if you’re so tough then why not use that martial prowess for some social good? I mean, either the martial arts is helping you to become a “better person” or it’s helping you to get good at breaking bats over your arm. Why not come here to east Oakland and help make this a safer community goddammit. You got all that martial prowess and what you gonna do with it?  Stay tough in a part of the world where the crime and social violence rate is significantly lower? How tough does that really make you?

And so that got me thinking even further, you know, like what the hell purpose can martial arts and karate serve in this time on our planet right now? I mean, these Okinawan karate masters talkin’ ’bout “world peace and karate” and I’m like alright, that’s good but how does it really manifest? By perfecting character? Bullshit! We’ve had at least a good solid century of martial arts “perfecting character” through the sweat of the dojo and what kind of world do we have? I don’t think so man. Naw that ain’t workin’ for me. Something has seriously got to change in the way we are educating students, and not even just within martial arts schools of course. But I mean, I’m targeting martial arts here not only cause I do it, but also cause it’s like the most stereo-typically associated with kickin’ ass and protecting the ones you love. And so if our training is really about that in a physical way (i.e. self-defense, fighting, etc), then why ain’t we usin’ that for something other than just protecting me and my own? You dig what I’m sayin? Martial arts were created to conduct violence. It’s about fighting. It’s about learning how to, for lack of a better phrase, seriously fuck somebody up. Or at least, that’s where its origins lie. Only in modern times (starting from around the 20th century) do we have these “” type arts which emphasize the character development and the peace and the non-violence and all that jazz. So, what I’m saying is that either modern martial arts really is just bullshit, or it’s not being taught in a way that involves men in a discipline that helps them to integrate their aggressive nature in such a way that is not self-destructive or human-destructive. Yes I think it’s beneficial for women to learn martial arts and have self-protection skills, but it is disproportionately the men in this world (actually, not men. They are boys who have grown up without a corresponding growth in their maturity) who are the ones wreaking the violent havoc, emotionally and physically, in our cities, neighborhoods, etc. So can we please re-define, re-imagine, re-invent martial arts education so that it can actually help contribute towards a more humane society? Please?

Jeezus christ.

End of rant.

– QK