A line in the sand

There is a saying that we are treated as worse as we allow.

I want to introduce a few physical examples of this concept but also urge you to consider where this concept comes to life in everyday life and the relationships we hold with family, friends and the powers that be beyond the people.

  1. Distance – Consider the distance we dynamically hold and mold between ourselves and the world. Aim to determine the distance between people and yourself as well as the position you are in, instead of letting others guide, bully, direct and request you at their will. In many ways, the ability to detect being bullied, guided and circled will aid in avoiding being mugged, attacked and so on. Distance is not just physical, it is a manifestation of our state of mind and the way we position ourselves in the social hierarchy.
  2. Breath control – Speaking cannot happen without breathing. Not much else can happen without it either. Notice and mind your breath as you speak and as you move withing distance and action. Avoid letting people taking your breath away by minding your own breath first and staying within the rhythm which suits you. We are either masters or slaves. There is only freedom or servitude unless you find the golden line of true cooperation or dare I say love.
  3. Conflict – Manipulation, subterfuge and plain use of force are evident everywhere in nature. The fight to feed the young, kill the competition and avoid being mud beneath the wheel of time is everlasting. Consider with each interaction, which role we play and to what extent we are in control of the dynamics. We are only human when we act human. It is easy to lose sight of our humanity when pressed and there again, recognizing the pressure, is the key to letting it pass within without passing it on to us.

Art by my beloved Natalia Friedman.

NICE is a killing word

Today we have many schools for martial art that teach very little while costing us time and even derails us from true understanding and harms us.

How do we distinguish what is good for us and what is harmful ? How do we take this lesson and enact it in our being instead of keeping the lesson in the classroom?

We ask questions and stand for what is good for us even if others call us names and attempt to shame and derail us.

For example:

Does your martial art school elevate students when time passes and money transfers hands or only when the quality of the student rises ?

Does your art benefit you outside your school ? Do you think more clearly? Do you move better? Does your awareness level and breadth rise and are you healthier ?

Does your martial art force you to look inside and acknowledge more strength of character than you thought you had ? This can come in many ways from investing in deep practice to helping others rise.

One of the earliest arts I studies was Korindo Aikido. We learned to roll and move on wooden floors, fight with hands feet staff sword and dagger and to avoid getting hid by one of many. Aikido has a bad name today in the martial art world and many say it is not fit for the ring or octagon. That is not the true test of a martial art. I have seen it help many grow as people and it has saved my skin in the service many a time both in movement, awareness and mortal combat.

I urge you to take this a step further and stop acting nice by abiding by ruling and pressure from outside and start being nice by standing tall and standing for what you believe in no matter what the outside calls you or tries to control you by trying to paint your beliefs in a certain way.

The martial way is not about who wins a bout in the ring, it is not about who has the fastest kick or the hardest fist though they are nice to have.

The martial way is about being a beneficial member in your tribe, about being free to advance your beliefs and keep learning and being able to protect and grow yourself and your loved ones. The best soldiers are leaders, scholars, innovative thinkers and people who answer the question “Am I my brothers keeper?” in the affirmative every day, not by acting nice but by being nice. Being a person of worth instead of a drone in someone else’s plan.

Also,

Do pushups 🙂

Do breathwork and always stand for what is right.

Balance between give and take

In confrontations there is no balance between the streams. There will only be a balance within the theater the confrontation takes place in.

In physical confrontations, we will gain balance once we are mindful to the internal streams of tension and movement within. Knowing the internal theater of war lets the one in conflict see with less distortion both inward and outward.

Our hips are a marvel of engineering. Crafted over eons for the perfect balance between stability mobility, efficiency and effectiveness.

I give you two drills to balance your hip nervous system activation patterns. They are simple on the outside but the multitude of possibilities make them a rich research ground.

Place yourself on both feet and hands. Make your body into an X with your feet and arms slightly parted. Use your breath to time each movement and lift each limb in turn minding to keep the body centered. There may be a slight shift before each lift that with attention will clean out as awareness grows.

Repeat the same standing up. Lift each leg in turn. Think of peeling the sole off the ground instead of lifting it like a robot. Move as if all limbs act in union and enjoy the new found balance and health this releases.

In a confrontation or when walking on a slippery surface, this will aid in maintaining and regaining your level and allow for less telegraphing motion when in maneuver.

Power allows for grace

There is a strong trend in martial art and in life where we claim technique is greater than brute force. In many cases, it is true yet there is no place for us to neglect our force production when we consider the full human or any system we are upholding and wishing to thrive, from computer networks needing bandwidth as well as proper routing tables and rules to humans needing healthy strong joints and muscles to facilitate what the nervous systems wishes it to accomplish.

Here is a snapshot from our Friday focus on power before we worked on grace/technique

600 push ups in variations

600 inverted push ups or ropes

50 rope dips (similar to ring dips but on held rope)

50 rope pull ups (similar to ring pull ups but on held rope)

100 rolls from standing to ground to standing on one leg

50 Leg raises on dip bars

300 breaths in the neck bridge

300 breaths in the upside down bars hold ( see picture) It is a favorite of mine and very healthy when worked in progression into a routine.

Force and health allow us to be graceful. Without force, we are nothing, Without grace, we are nothing. We have to balance it out constantly and never neglect either of them.

Death and life in one step

We live two lives. The one before we know our mortality and the one which follows the understanding we are but leaves in the wind. Merits are held by both and none is better than the other.

The martial world is thus divided too. There are martial arts that come to win, harm, maim and gain superiority and those we deal with life and death. I am partial to the later and for many reasons.

To win is a story we tell ourselves and others. We bested one or more and proved momentary superiority. How nice.

To live and to be willing to take a life to defend the living and your way of live involves a more binary a choice. A nature type of choice. A father will give his life without second though for his child, a teacher will devote himself to his students and a boy will fight a losing battle in the vanguard, without hope yet with purpose.

The movements of a stick fight and a sword fight have many similarities yet start differences. To learn the sword is to learn the stick as well but the other way does not flow.

Why do I write Death and life and not life and death? It is death that gives life in the battle field. We exist in a gray world. Many would sell their souls and their loved ones for momentary crumbs. Yet, the choice is ever present in each and every step to become more than who we are. To stand for something whose value lies deep like the roots of a tree.

Breathe without pause yet without haste,

Move in a dance but without outside rhythm.

keep your heart free from following thoughts and feelings in its tempo

Hear what is said and see what transpires by abandoning the anchor of knowledge for knowing

Respect life. Even one’s own

That is all.

Running

Running a one of the movements humans excel in. Most people do not know we can outrun almost any animal on earth in long distance running and we can carry quite a bit of mass as well.

Getting there from a modern sedentary life is less of a straight line. Several factors require treatment and vigilance to fulfill the genetic gift our predecessors created in a life of hard work, hunting and war.

Let us begin from the bottom and move up.

Feet – Most stomp their feet flatly on the ground due to lack of nature time and footwear. Aim to walk barefoot when possible and to allow the foot to hug the ground. Mobilize the toes and especially the big toe to be a part of the step and to make contact with the ground without force.

The first contact is one of three keys to effortless running. A person has to move all limbs from the center and avoid pushing against the contact as much as possible. This is very simple but not easy. Moving the limbs and legs in particular from the hips and body and only moving the mass to the leg on the ground after the contact has been established and confirmed as safe.

A side note is that once of the earliest signs of a culture is a healed leg bone. Before culture, once you broke your leg, you were dead. a sure step is more vital to our survival than we know.

Stand and slowly peel one foot off the ground by moving your body and hips. Place the foot back on the ground using the same frame of mind and movement and only then, place your mass on it.

Legs and hips – The best way to learn to move your feet on the ground is off the ground. water walking as water polo players practice or hanging on a tree branch we can swing our legs and move our hips easily and without unyielding contact. Practice air or water walking as often as you can and it will translate to a full body movement that goes past pushing and pulling.

Body and head – leaning forward and twisting creates tension and disrupts the movement of the entire body as one when they don’t happen out of purpose. keep the body upright and the sight forward and open to avoid excess tension and to allow the body what it is good at.

Breath – Letting the breath lead action takes both listening and letting go. Allow the breath to be the first movement of each step, the exhale to be the channel where the ground contact ends toward the skies (nothing supernatural here, just continuous movement) and keep the breath incoming and outgoing through the nose.

If you run for fun, run. If you run because you must, look behind you from time to time and see where it brings you.

Staying Hip

The hips are the center of the body.

Moving them well contributes to all other movements and connects them in an enhancing chain of small and greater movements.

Begin:

  1. Place yourself in the pushup position and rotate your hips while in this in one side and then the next. Note your preference and always start the movement with the breath.
  2. Place yourself on one fist/hand and turn your body sideways to the ground. Repeat the hip rotation and release your eyes as well as you breathe and move. Do this for both sides.
  3. Place yourself on both fists/hands with your chest to the stars and repeat the rotation both ways. Consider how movement under slight pressure helps us learn to move all things as one.

Continue:

  1. Place yourself on one fist/hand and opposing side foot – repeat the hip rotation and work to let the movement balance you, rather than tension and bracing the movement chain. Water does not break, ice does.
  2. Place yourself on fist/hand and the same side side foot – repeat the hip rotation and focus on breathing excess tension out.

Further on:

  1. Do a handstand with a partner or with your legs on a tree trunk and rotate your hips. Focus on the reversed blood flow and let the mass sync itself in balancing out movement and activation.
  2. Hold yourself on a tree branch or a pull up bar and rotate your hips. Let the body unwind and let it smile.

Enjoy.

Risk

There is always risk in a fight and there is a risk in avoidance too.

We choose by making decisions and by postponing them too. Sometimes our decisions are made out of negatives being weighted and sometimes by a higher values such as hope or a need to change for the better.

In mortal combat and in life, we choose all the time. A slave in the dark continent chooses too but his choice is meager compared to another human who grew up in a land of presumed freedom. Choosing freedom is a hard choice because again, it entails a great deal of risk.

Returning to combat, We choose to practice drills. Many of them have rules which limit the freedom and possibilities of the outcome and the outcome is what matters.

The more freedom we have, the more risk we must undertake and here is the line. Will we choose freedom now and may or may not survive or do we choose the momentary safety of self limitation and end up in a slow decline.

Take risks daily. Small risk, medium risks but those that lead somewhere or at least have a trajectory. There is a reason why a horse pulling a carriage has blinders. He is not going anywhere by his own volition.

Drills:

  1. Breathe – Take a breath before making a decision you make daily – choose to alter your action by a bit. Wear your shoes differently, take another route to work, Speak to a stranger that you see on the way to the monkey bars, choose to exercise instead of watching a video of someone else moving…
  2. Sight – Look at your day differently, what is dangerous in your day because of your choices ? Do you choose to eat something that will take you from your family before your time comes ? Do you practice being comfortable in your body ? Do you know how to speak in a convincing manner ? Do you know how to write and how to read ? Simple questions deserve to be answered daily? In the martial sense : Why do you choose the drills you do and what do they grant you ? Where are you destined in the martial pursuit ?
  3. Contact – Humans die without contact. Sometimes the body keeps living but the heart dies. Make contact with your loved ones on a daily basis when possible and engage with your surrounding so that every day you know more about the people around you and yourself. Otherwise. Read Alice through the looking glass.
  4. Null – Take something you care not for in your life and remove it from your day. Stop complaining and take small actions toward your freedom. Make your future self smile and laugh and don’t wait for him to laugh. Laughter is a powerful weapon and it can lead to understanding self governess. Be the one who decides when to say NO, not today, no more.

Seeing with closed eyes

Are there secrets that hide behind our eyes ? Perhaps so.

We enjoy a waterfall of input from our eyes on a regular basis. This overabundance overrides other input streams causing us to devote less time to our hearing, smell, taste and body sensation. A monochrome painting gives less input but allows us to see other aspects that would be lost otherwise.

Closed eyes release a great deal of mental bandwidth to process other flavors as the next suggestions suggest:

  1. Start a constant sound (sometimes, owning a smart phone is good) place the sound in a static place and navigate the space according to the distance, angle and height of the sound.
  2. Start a constant sound and have it moving in a repetitive way. A friend or a toy truck can be or service here. Repeat the navigation drill and let your mind and senses feel the path of the sound in space.
  3. Find a quiet place. Not always an easy task and listen to your own breath and heart beat. Find your own sound reflected in the trees, walls or whatever is around you. Let your sound become a part of the surroundings and with breath, let it dissipate and grow more efficient.
  4. Lie on the ground and crawl around a safe location. Find your way with your body and limbs and feel the different textures of the ground and what is around you. Let the temperature of the different materials tell you where you are and where the sun warms the surface and how. Let the smell and residue on the ground tell you again where you are. The same will work with your eyes open as the capability spans and grows with deep practice.

Breathe, move, communicate with yourself and others.

10,000

The only one that cares about the effort it took to get where we are is us 🙂

Nobody else really cares.

The shortest path between two points of learning is not to grind repetition after repetition or using effort and resistance.

The shortest path is that of deep learning. 1o,000 repetitions of a sword stroke, a roll, a strike or a choke are nothing but honing a position in time. Good for conditioning and great for building spirit but they are not advancement in skill. 10,000 slightly different repetitions of a direction or getting from A to B are accumulated learning and as such serve as a force multiplier or in economics as a compound interest where every repetitions amount to more than what it is and serves as a learning moment.

We will most likely not have those 10,000 repetitions one after the other. Many will just be empty or at the same place we were yesterday, but the aim to make each repetition, unique in some way. That is what makes us excel over time and see more than what our yesterday eyes could.

Be different constantly and enjoy the moments of joy in learning.

The blood flows either way, why not learn during the ins and outs of our breath.