The Quantum Karateka

…step outside the dojo.


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You and I don’t know shit

*sigh*

My Sensei took down my study group flyer at the dojo the other day.

He thought, because it said “kumite” on it that it meant that I didn’t like how he taught kumite and I was challenging him by teaching my own version.

[…pause for eye roll…]

Immediately annoyed, I told him, “Sensei, that’s the name of the group“.

Sensei: (kind of surprised) “That’s the name?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Sensei: (silent)

Me: (in my head) “Yeah, apparently you don’t read shit. Cause there’s a description of what the group is about on there and nowhere does it say that I’m teaching some alternative version of kumite that is better than yours.”

[Grappling Hands Circle (or Kumite Sakuru in Japanese) is a peer-taught, adult level study group geared towards open-minded students of Okinawan karate, but gladly welcomes newbies and practitioners from outside this discipline. The purpose of Grappling Hands Circle (GHC) is to provide an inclusive, non-competitive environment that emphasizes three “key concepts”: Kata Literacy, Aliveness, and Friendship (Community)*. The overall intent of GHC is to be a karate organization that thrives not upon the personality, charisma or talent of any particular individual (i.e. Sensei, Hanshi, Master, Guru, Professor, etc.) but rather, on the integration of relevant information, ideas, and practices (inside and outside of karate) which will help its members to become functional and broad-minded karate students.]

Ugh.

My therapist told me that this man relates to people through a power dynamic. Which means that either he submits (not likely though) or you submit to him. And I’m talking to him from a different dynamic, what I’ll call a “sharing” dynamic. Meaning, I want to make sure we’re all comin’ up together.

So in essence, we’re both hearing Latin. Which is no wonder why I’m always feeling misunderstood. This guy just doesn’t get what I’m trying to do. And let’s be real: I am challenging him. I’m challenging the way things are taught because I think it’s missing some crucial pieces of information.

But *sigh* again.

What am I doing?

It’s not as though I’ve discovered this applied karate stuff on my own and I’m simply following my creativity. If that were the case, perhaps it would be easier to go against the grain? Most of the shit I know now (which isn’t a lot mind you), comes from the work of other people. I feel like I’m just digesting and re-emphasizing what they’re saying and doing. I mean, admittedly, despite the few years I’ve been training, I actually suck at what I’m doing. And the purpose of the study group was to help myself learn this stuff so that maybe I won’t suck as much.

But I always have this anxious feeling inside of me like…I feel like I’m a phony. A fake. A poser. A soft guy pretending to be hard. I hate it. I don’t wanna be fake. I don’t wanna be a phony. I want my pursuits to be aligned with what’s authentic to me. So what’s authentic to me? Not fighting that’s for sure. I mean, I’m a guy who tears up when words alone hit me in the face. I’m a sensitive dude. I like playing with animals and children. I’ve never been in any serious fights or trouble in my life. Except the trouble that comes from my soul; suicide ideation and depressed, negative thought patterns and behavior. And that’s gotten me into trouble with my parents and friends. I’ve lost a friend because of that. I became a violent and aggressive bully. And I’ve become violent and aggressive with my father numerous times in the past.

It’s real difficult being human sometimes. I’ve honestly wondered what the point of me even being alive is. The pressure to do and to be and to acquire…all that gives me a headache, a knot deep down in the pit of my stomach. I’m like, “why the fuck did I have to be born into this!?” Listen idiot: Last time I checked, we’re all living on a pale blue dot. That dot is floating, literally, in space. What’s space? I don’t know, but it’s pretty infinite seeming. And I’m not so sure that the things you’re so sure about really matter. Cause while your squabbling over your little bits of whatever, this little blue dot is spinning and turning and I don’t think anyone in space really cares what little empire you’ve built for yourself. You’re a big man cause you conquered other people? Motherfucker, you’re nobody inside yourself. Instead of conquering, why not try cooperating? Why not try swallowing that fear of change and admit that you don’t know shit. Admit that despite your life experience, what you are, what you can see, is a blip in time. A blip dude. Like, come and then gone.

So if that’s the case, what really matters?

SMASH your bullshit.


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Feedback Loop

That’s the term I like using to refer to when our study group sessions are over and we all sit down and go around in a circle and give some commentary on what we’re thinking, etc. It helps me obviously to gauge what people are taking away from this group and any possible suggestions on how we can run it better.

So that’s what we did after our session this afternoon. And I always love hearing comments from one of the members, Juan. He and I were educated at the same dojo and in talking to him in the past, I always felt that he had a mind for this stuff. So I’m very glad and happy that he’s been a regular at these sessions. Anyway, just wanted to talk about something Juan commented on which made me feel like, 1) Quietly confident in my ability to successfully transmit information, and 2) Very happy that another fellow student was able to gain some clarity on what karate is about. Paraphrasing what he said:

“I can see now how karate is not just punching and kicking someone. There is a goal.”

Yes! Goal! Key word here. Or as Sensei Wilder explained it when I asked him to clarify for me in an email what he meant when he talked about being “sticky” versus “entangled”:

“Entanglement is confused it has no direction. Control has a goal, right in its name. What McCarthy is doing is not entanglement. The next question you ask is in essence, “What is his goal[?]”  [I]t is all context. What he is doing as a SAS member infiltrating an enemy post – perfect. A citizen trying to make the bad stuff to stop happening, no.”

(“McCarthy” refers to a Patrick McCarthy video I had sent in which he demonstrated a kata application. “SAS” refers to the “Special Air Service”, a British special forces unit.)

Anyway, so what Juan said for me really was like “Wow. Cool!!! You’re getting it!!!” This kind of clarity of understanding is what makes the difference between people who kick ass with what they’re doing and those who aren’t. And that feeling of not knowing what you’re doing is at the root of my training frustration and searching. I needed to gain clarity for myself about what I was doing. I am not a happy camper anymore when it comes to following rules whose only legitimacy is “Because Sensei said so”. That’s bullshit. Straight up. If I’m gonna spend my money and my time to learn something, then I wanna know what the fuck I’m doing. Dig? Yeah, so hearing that from Juan was like, “Awesome!!! We’re getting somewhere!!!”

And that’s something that brings me a lot of light and joy. It’s like I’m witnessing the other person’s mind opening up. It’s really a great feeling. But again though, as I mentioned in a previous post, the key isn’t just my personal ability to successfully transmit information in a streamlined and understandable manner. The other half of that is the learner him/herself. Without first having a mind for it, the information just sort of sits there. But having an inclination or an attraction towards wanting to understand something, the information becomes a doorway into another world. Which is why I call one of my three key learning pillars for the group, “kata literacy“. To be literate is to be fluent in a language. You are able to maneuver around. Get from one place to another successfully (for the most part). To be illiterate is to be lost and bumbling. You can’t speak the language. You don’t know what’s going on. You’re relying purely on some kind of faith or luck. Not really something you wanna rely on in a dangerous situation.

So yeah, this study group is really cool. I mean, not just cause it’s my idea. I mean more that it’s cool that I’m able to finally have some training partners to learn from and with. I feel like my mission is basically to get in the ballpark of where McCarthy, Abernethy, Enkamp, Wilder, etc. are at. I don’t expect myself to master any of this anytime soon. I think it’s more accurate for me to say that I’m like a guy/gal who likes to tinker with their car on the weekends. An amateur mechanic of sorts. A karate mechanic.

Anyways, I gotta go to sleep now. I got work tomorrow.

Peace y’all.

smashin’

Juan and Anthony playing a game called “Escape or Submit”. Juan has zero ground experience. Anthony is a regular BJJ practitioner.

 


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Reflections on the study group

I don’t wanna write this down
I wanna tell you how I feel right now
I don’t wanna take no time to write this down
I wanna tell you how I feel right now…

Mos Def

So it’s been a little over a month now since I’ve started my study group. We’ve had eleven sessions so far. What began as a once a week thing then doubled into twice a week. What originally began in my Sensei’s dojo has since moved to another location. And what began with one person has now become three people, albeit not all at the same time.

So I should be pretty satisfied with this fair amount of progress in such a short amount of time, shouldn’t I?

Kinda sorta.

I always feel sad and mildly disappointed when people have to cancel or don’t bother to call when they don’t show up. It makes me feel like I suck, that I’m not doing enough or that maybe I’m following the wrong path in life. And there’s always this smoldering anxiety, more intense on some days than others, that I’m just not good enough or skilled enough to even be doing what I’m doing, despite my explicit intention not to make this group be about that. The way I like to see it sometimes is like: I’m in a punk band; I can only play three chords on the guitar; my voice quality is less singing and more screaming; and I can only play songs at one tempo…barely.

But I happen to like those qualities actually. I’ve always enjoyed tinkering and putting things together. I like making do with what I have. I like the idea of being a “bastard”/DIY martial artist, musician and filmmaker, but kicking ass none-the-less. I like proving to people that you don’t need tons of money, prestigious degrees or loads of charisma to bring your vision forth into the world. I mean, those things can help you of course. But the quality I find to be most important in any endeavor is integrity. Why do you do what you do? What is at the root of your pursuit? In a world where just looking like the part can get you the part, who or what is the real thing? It’s like, you can have big name actors in your film, a big budget, a big studio to financially back you, a big everything, and if your basic script/storyline sucks, then what do you really have? You have a lot of make-up to cover over the blemishes. A lot of chemical freshener to cover up the smell. A lot of paint to hide the rot.

Well, like I said, I like the idea of being a DIY-bastard artist, but shit ain’t always so fluffy if you know what I mean. My analyst wondered aloud at my last session why it was that I seemed to lack self-confidence and self-esteem. Together we speculated that maybe it had something to do with the fact that I’ve always moved around as a child and into my adolescence. Always a feeling of instability and uncertainty and temporality. Settling down and making friends in one place, only to move and have to do it all over again. Yeah, it would be easy to blame my father for this, for it was his job that forced me into those circumstances. But, no. It’s not anyone’s fault. Viktor Frankl could have easily blamed the Nazi’s for a shitty life, but then he wouldn’t have had the impetus to write Man’s Search for Meaning.

Anyway, back to my study group reflections. I’m really curious to know how far this will go. I’m surprised that things have actually been working out well. Having a space to do this in was the biggest thing. Where we’re at now is on the second floor of a music rehearsal studio. The guy who owns it is a guy whom I used to know in my early twenties when I rented out a drum room from him. I never thought over a decade later I’d be using his make-shift gym for my training or that he even did martial arts at all. And if I hadn’t gotten this job I currently have, then I wouldn’t have jammed with my co-worker at this very studio which is how I found out about the space in the first place. It’s really kind of a trip actually. I mean, if I just rewind all that, I wouldn’t even be doing any of this if I hadn’t made the decision to move back to Torrance (aka, the little village from which I left back in 2012). It’s really quite amazing actually.

Wow.

So wherever this group is going, I don’t know. I certainly do have a better, more evolved vision for it than I did back in Oakland. I think it lasted about a month over there before I stopped it and then made my way to Seattle. If anybody’s interested, here’s a link to the Meetup site I created (again):

www.meetup.com/Grappling-Hands-Circle/

Yeah, that’s right, I graphic designed that fairly cool logo myself. Although I basically copped the format from something else. Well, cool compared to the original logo I had, which now just seems like a stick-figure drawing in my eyes. The logo doesn’t matter anyways; I just needed to have something that could visually represent the group. Although, I always have an eye for aesthetics. I mean I think form is less important than function, but form can look good too no? It’s like the logo for a band or the font titles for a movie. You could have the best made album/movie in the history of music/film, but if your packaging sucks, then I don’t wanna own that shit. Sorry, digression…

One last thing to leave you with: a video clip of me and my training buddy Anthony tinkering with some made-up applications for Fukyukata Ichi. Not sure that Nagamine Sensei incorporated any combative strategy when he thought up this kata; not to say he didn’t. But we decided to pick apart this kata because it’s so basic and because it’s so stereotypical of what karate looks like to laypeople (down blocks/upper blocks and straight punches in the air). Here it is (it’s okay you can laugh; I’m new at this applied stuff):

Peace.
– Quantum