The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.

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Spiritual WTF?

So for the past month or so I had been enrolled in a free “Introduction to psychological theory and practice” course at Antioch University here in Los Angeles. The 5-week cycle of classes ended last week Wednesday and life has already moved on (and sorry mom, I’m still not sure I wanna go back to school), but I wanted to share something here from a website that the professor was particularly fond of. The site is called Wait But Why and the author of the articles we had to read for homework, Tim Urban, writes about the issue of spirituality in a way that I found to be not only refreshing, but deeply relevant and empowering. I’m posting below some quotes from those articles to entice others to check it out. Definitely worth a read for anyone cynical, atheist, or spiritual. Tim’s a guy who seems to like hitting nails on their motherfucking heads.

This is from How Religion Got in the Way:

Ever since the human species began opening its eyes into consciousness, it has been an aggressively curious child, hungry to figure it all out. What was this world it was living in, and what did it all mean?

The first part of that question—What was this world?—became the job of science. The second part—What does it all mean?—is the job of spirituality.

Science is what we know, and spirituality is how we coexist philosophically, psychologically and emotionally with that knowledge. Science gives us the information; spirituality helps us wrap our heads around it. The two lead us as a tag team, each taking care of their critical halves of the “figuring it all out” puzzle—when science tells us something shocking, like “The Earth is revolving around the sun and not vice versa!” we turn, wide-eyed, to spirituality and ask, “How does that change things? How does that transform the way we should think about ourselves, about the world, and about life?”

Under this definition, spirituality is a secular concept, and the idea that spirituality and science are diametrically opposed to each other is incorrect—they’re two halves of the same quest.

When I read that bit I was like, “Damn. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

This here’s from the second article we had to read for homework, Religion for the Nonreligious. It’s going to come out of context so I’d recommend you read the whole article to understand how it fits. For me, the way he illustrates his point here (literally) is funny, profound and Whoa:

Step 3 is when things start to get weird. Even on the more enlightened Step 2, we kind of think we’re here:

happy earth land

As delightful as that is, it’s a complete delusion. We live our days as if we’re just here on this green and brown land with our blue sky and our chipmunks and our caterpillars. But this is actually what’s happening:

Little Earth

But even more actually, this is happening:


We also tend to kind of think this is the situation:

life timeline

When really, it’s this:

long timeline

You might even think you’re a thing. Do you?


No you’re a ton of these:


– –

Anyway, yeah. Go and check out their website. It’ll help put shit into perspective.

– QK



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Work Alone

I feel compelled to post this here as a reminder to myself as I go about attempting to manifest my “karate study group” idea into reality. The following words are from Apple co-founder Stephen Wozniak quoted in Susan Cain’s excellent book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Here tis:

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me – they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team. (Cain 73)

Actually, this isn’t only relevant to my study group idea, but for many of the creative endeavors I’ve attempted in the past. Sure, you can disagree with what he’s saying. But, nah. I think he’s right man. I’ve intuited those thoughts myself in my past creative projects. There’s some kinda utopian-romantic notion of working with like-minded people to build something big and beautiful. Not saying that can’t happen. But have you noticed how crappy some Hollywood movies are? Much of that crappy-ness I believe, comes from having to cater to too many interests. When the vision tries to be so inclusive of everybody, it loses its voice, i.e. loses the very thing that would make it a good film (or at least an interesting one). The fundamental problem I think, starts with the mis-guided belief that whatever we create has to be accepted by as much of the market population as possible. I don’t think so. I think that small scale, one-to-one, or one-to-two, or three or four, etc is where we’re going to have greater impact. I don’t believe art was ever intended to be a medium of mass appeal. I don’t think martial arts was ever intended to be mass taught. I think that’s fundamentally an industrial-type concept. Fundamentally driven by a desire to either be producing as many battle-ready soldiers as possible or making as much profit as possible. This issue is actually very involved and a lot deeper than I care to get into at the moment, but let me just say this: mass teaching loses quality; customized/tailored teaching loses quantity. But somehow I can sense that the sub-culture is going to be able to persist because its quality is going to speak to the masses.

So what I’m thinking is that, this idea for my study group – stop trying to collaborate with this other local karate teacher. Work with him in the sense of asking him questions, getting his feedback, inviting members of his dojo to participate, etc. But work alone to create the foundational structure on which the group will rest. I know I don’t have all the knowledge here. I know that and I’m not pretending to know that. But I think I have a pretty good idea of what’s been missing from the karate schooling I’ve received. And I think I have a pretty good idea of how we can start, although it’s just one idea among many. And I’m open to hearing suggestions.

Here’s another interesting thought though: What Wozniak is saying applies to the products/programs/inventions that an engineer might develop. So what if your product/program/invention fundamentally involves other people? Like my idea. How are we supposed to be “working alone” if the idea requires working with other people? Ahhh. I think it’s kinda simple actually (in theory). If you’re in charge, if you’re running the show, you structure it in the way you think fills in the gap of knowledge. But you remain open to hearing feedback from your participants. And you remain open to sources of relevant information that has the potential to change your structure. A benign dictator perhaps? Like I said, mostly theory right now. But for some reason I have a feeling that this would work. Actually, I don’t really know. But it gets me excited.

So anyways, yeah. I’m gonna do an official post later about this study group and how its origins came about and all that. But for now I just had to post that quote to remind myself of something essential to my own creative process. We’ll see what happens.

– Hiji Até

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Are you tough enough?

I saw this on a guy’s t-shirt at work the other day:


And it reminded me of this:

Then later, a co-worker was listening to the radio, and I heard UCLA football coach Jim Mora reflecting on what he thought of the team before he coached them:

“…I’m gonna be honest, I think you’re soft…I think the football team’s soft…”


How tough can a human being really be? You get a paper cut, you bleed. Big muscles don’t stop bullets. And even “the fittest man alive”, Bruce Lee, couldn’t survive a brain swelling (or seizure?). I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with working out, or building muscle, or whatever like that. What I’m questioning here is this continual over-emphasis on “hardness”, “toughness”, etc.  Don’t you get you’re gonna be an old man someday? Maybe with a catheter up your limp dick so you can piss? Or tubes comin’ out your nostrils so you can breathe? That your muscles and bones will deteriorate? Don’t you get you’re gonna turn to dust?

And so all this toughness…What is it really for? Why the lopsided imbalance towards it? Why men? Why?

The ego believes that in your resistance lies your strength, whereas in truth resistance cuts you off from Being, the only place of true power. Resistance is weakness and fear masquerading as strength. What the ego sees as weakness is your Being in its purity, innocence, and power. What is sees as strength is weakness. So the ego exists in a continuous resistance-mode and plays counterfeit roles to cover up your “weakness,” which in turn is your power.

Until there is surrender, unconscious role-playing constitutes a large part of human interaction. In surrender, you no longer need ego defenses and false masks. You become very simple, very real. “That’s dangerous,” says the ego. “You’ll get hurt. You’ll become vulnerable.” What the ego doesn’t know, of course, is that only through the letting go of resistance, through becoming “vulnerable,” can you discover your true and essential invulnerability.

– Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, pg. 180

– QK

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Reflections in the muddy water

I’ve got to remember that it’s only been about 4 months since I’ve come back to LA. It’s been going by quick though. I’ve struggled with the parents, struggled with finding a job, struggled with my Sensei, but mostly struggled with myself. What else is new?

Right now I’ve got a part-time job as a driver’s assistant picking up people’s donations for Habitat for Humanity. Hard, sweaty and at times very dirty labor. But I’m grateful for it. I like helping people.

Despite what my Sensei thinks of me and my purple belt (“It’s like 100,000 to 1 what you’re doing. You have to think, is that normal or not normal?”), he lets me use his dojo for my own private practice. And he’s been open to hearing my idea of wanting to start a study group there. I’m grateful for that. Although it sucks when you get ignored or visibly shunned.

My parents, particularly my father, have struggled with trying to get some sense of who I am and what I’m doing back here. But every night there’s a healthy home-cooked meal waiting for me (my mom’s a dietitian), a nice roof over my head, a car in the garage, and a lot of other little things that, well…I’m grateful for all of it.

I get real worried sometimes that I’m not doing enough to figure my life out. That somehow I’m too lazy or too mentally foggy to know what I need to do. Worry brings on anxiety, brings on the dark and threatening storm clouds of negativity. Yeah. The motherfuckin’ negativity. Motherfucker. Motherfuck this negativity. I’m tellin’ you breh, when it comes to my negativity, I’m a fucking serial murderer. And the thing is, it doesn’t work for me. It’s just not working. Never has worked. Never will. It’s my ego defense to the extreme. Eckhart Tolle has a pretty good handle on it in his book, The Power of Now. This same negativity is what makes me want to put a knife to my neck. Makes me wanna slit my own throat. Makes me wanna shotgun blast my own head. I know, I know. Thinking about suicide is scary for some people. In fact, some people just straight can’t handle it. Chill breh. Ya hear? I ain’t talkin’ bout no plan of action here. I’m just straight talkin’. Dig it? 

Kindness, compassion and being gentle with one’s self. Understanding that each of us works at the pace of our own clock. Really it’s that gentleness though. It’s so easy to tear the leaves off trees, crush a bug, step on a flower, being generally oblivious to the Soul of the Earth. That’s why the Aikido initially drew me. I thought, “Martial art that understands this gentleness? I’m there!”. This hardness is what kills me about the martial arts I’ve done and still kinda continue to do. I wanted a practice that spoke to that deep understanding I have inside of me. Not just spoke to it, but cultivated it. Honed it. Manifested it. I’m not gonna win any fights any time soon. That’s not me. That’s not my life. Any time I feel that ego influenced anger rising up in me, I know I can’t win. Not just cause I’m not strong enough, or experienced with fighting enough, or fast enough or whatever. I can’t win because that anger is from a place of weakness. From a place of deep insecurity covered up with hot rage. My real strength, I know it, is in my compassion. For myself and for others. It is in the “soft” places within.

But you know, it is about competence. You’re a mechanic, you wanna know how to fix shit. Simple. So with what we do, you gotta play. Rough and tumble, hands on. Grappling Hands. Punching the air does nothing. Kicking the air does nothing. You gotta see how it works. Get into the details of it. Source some good information. Hypothesize it. Argue it. Debate it. Test it. This ain’t about trying to hurt each other. It’s about figuring out how it all connects together. All the pulleys and levers and fulcrums, what do they do? And you can’t see that if all you see are parts. If all you do is blindly follow someone else’s way.

So it’s a different kind of hard here. Not the rigidity of the ego. But the hardness that comes from falling down on the floor when you’re trying to learn how to walk.

Elbow SMASH your fake ass.
– Hiji Até