The lesson of the drum

I often tell my students to avoid acting like a drum. Reacting is also a choice and we can choose otherwise. The drum is passive, makes sound only once hit and makes sound due to the tension of its surface.

Like the drum, all of us at times are tense, reactive and it is visible both physically, emotionally and mentally.

Physically, we are able to go past this reactivity through many ways, each must choose what fits his needs at the moment.

Physical

  1. Begin with tensing the body where you would brace once pushed, pulled or twisted. Hold your breath and release the tension and start breathing as a partner or a device ( an object hanging on a rope and swung …) makes contact. Begin from a standing position and alternate as you grow accustomed to how the body works counter clockwise and how one always has a choice between the two ends of the spectrum and beyond.
  2. open your eyes wide and spread your view side to side and up and down and then in circles until the eyes are relaxed and see without excess fixation. Now have a partner or an apparatus strike you slowly at first, with you aiming to maintain your eyes relaxed, your breath even and your body alignment without flinch or brace. The goal is to recognize the affect of fear and not knowing as the body cowers and braces with awareness and choice. One cannot rush this, avoid replacing tension with tension. Use your eyes and body to see all that is there instead of just the threat. Create a path instead of drifting between options.
  3. Tie a limb to a tree with a thick rope or have a partner hold or grab you. Begin with tensing and relaxing as you are without trying to pull out or twist. Continue to move the non tethered parts of the body, one at a time and then in union. Differentiate between the perceptions of what is holding you back and what internal freedom is.

Mental

  1. When you are at rest, you know you have energy and resources to enact if need be. This is the time to build the faculties further so you are not overwhelmed when pressure rises. Find yourself at rest, perhaps before going to sleep and lie down comfortably. Feel your pulse either with your hand or by awareness in your chest and start breathing in rhythm with your pulse. Start counting one pulse to one breath phase (inhale/exhale) and climb up as far as you can with syncing matching length of inhale and exhale to a longer count of pulse.

1 inhale per pulse counts, 1 exhale per pulse counts

1 longer inhale per 2 pulse counts, 1 longer exhale per 2 pulse counts

1 even longer inhale per 3 pulse counts, 1 even longer exhale per 3 pulse counts

and so on.

Emotional

  1. Think of something horrible. Monitor your heart rate and breath as you do. Go over the motions of how you would feel and act under a tragedy and again, monitor yourself as you do. Repeat for something positive. Balance is important.
  2. Place yourself in a cowering position and tense up. Aim to think positively and shift between body positions becoming aware how alignment and the body pose affects us internally. Make the connection how both inside affects outside and vice versa.

Be safe but not too safe 🙂

The magic of wrestling with a sword

Many times, we attempt to recreate something that already exists. Many martial arts today have gun disarm drills they invented, knife defense and attack they invented and much more that was already in existence the first time a man took a rock in his hand and threw it at his brother.

Studying what worked for people who fought for their lives for millennia helps us deepen and further our own knowledge and temper our own experiences with that of our forefathers.

I suggest to you ten drills to rediscover ancient knowledge. Mo magic exceeds honest work.

Lie on the ground with your sword. Have your partner or partners come at you with their tools. Get moving with your breath, body and sword to avoid being cut down and cut them down as you go. Smile, it relaxes the face and frees the mind from worry of things that have yet to happen.

Close your eyes and stand on one leg. Hold your sword in your hand and with each breath, feel your balance shift and adjust. Have a partner push and pull on you with a stick or a rope loop. Breathe and move as one with the sword and maintain your balance through conscious movement. Let your footing start at your hips instead of at your legs.

Stand a sword stroke away from your partner and cross swords. Breathe and relax your hand, arm and shoulder tension so as to move the blade from the movement of the body. Let your partner move as they care to and sink inwards to cut or thrust with your blade. Here focus on moving from your own volition instead of being a drum making sound only when hit.

Hold your sword in your hands and have your partner grab the tip of your sword. Aim to stab and cut them as they move and work the contact to avoid being cut and thrusted upon. Focus on being the entire blade instead of having the point of contact pressed to your consciousness.

Hold your sword in your hands and have the blade of your partner placed on your body. Move from your breath to first avoid placing resistance on the blade and from there let the body movement decide the next step. Practice so you can answer several questions at the same time. Do not limit yourself to defense or offense.

Take a sword and have both you and your partner place hands on it as you both kneel on your knees. Breathe and both work to either be the only one with blade at hand or on drawing a dagger from your belt if you choose to. Never let the blade consume more of you than required.

Stand with your feet under you and start moving your blade. Have your partner aim to strike you and you in turn aim to avoid his blade, not only with your body but with your blade as well. Free your mind from conversation and exist without leaning on outside circumstance.

Place your blade on your partners blade. Keep them touching as your partner aims to break contact and slide and move on their blade as they make their intent known. Why do this ? To understand the mentality behind contact and no contact so when the desire to regroup hits you under pressure, you will not suffer a dissonance between your survival and your instinct.

Tense your body, from your skull muscles to the muscles gripping the ground at your feet. Let go and breathe continuously. Have your partner dart their blade at you using both thrusts and cuts as you avoid focusing on them or their tools with your eyes and movement. See the gaps in space and movement and find their timing without molding a response. Be active in touching with your blade or body while not letting their actions lead you. Freedom is always won, never without intent.

Be either in a blade on blade or with both sides touching the blade and practice the art of invisibility. Breathe as you would and let go of all intent and tension to free yourself from the current motion to become something new. An example for this can be to let go of struggling over the control of a firearm to grab a boiling kettle and emptying it on the front of your attacker or letting go of a knife to push an assailant into a moving truck. disappearing is choosing when and where to be and when and where not to be.

The four horsemen to counter commercial medicine

Ask yourself who you are. Are you a consumer who follows or a man who chooses his path ?

The four horsemen to counter commercial medicine

  1. Doctor FAST Fasting has been a successful prescription to countless ailments and promotes health and mental and emotional clarity. It is the definition of cheap and can be applied in moderation from not eating for a fixed number of hours each day to fasting for a day or two weekly. Keeping things simple will ease your entry into this highly beneficial practice and the joy of finding that we are not reliant on constant feeding may bring more freedom in other areas to your life.
  2. Doctor MOVEMENT Movement is a key ingredient in staying and building both ability and health. Physical labor from building a fence to digging a ditch helps in strengthen and harnessing the physical body and creating a more aware, healthy and happy individual. We can practice many arts from dancing to martial art when we have the time and we become more vibrant and effective in our lives in both the physical and mental plane. Breath, dance, move and be happy.
  3. Doctor TEMPERATURE heat and cold are primal catalyst for body and mind integration and health. Our bodies and minds clear the mist and release the breaks when it feels the need to stay alive and heat from a sauna or a hot shower and cold from an ice bath or taking a cold shower will clear the head, bring about great hormonal changes in the body for the better and help build a better working and better feeling machine for us to use.
  4. Doctor SILENCE Silence is often misunderstood. Any person can be happy for a little bit with the aid of drugs (sugar, spirits and worse) but long lasting happiness comes from having a purpose and being in alignment with your true self instead of following a trend or trying to fit in. When I speak of silence, I speak of the clear content of following your purpose, the silence of not listening to the screaming voices of media and fashion trying to push and prod you to fit in a mold which benefits them. Be your own man or woman. Be truly happy. I wish you all the best in this challenge and hope to learn together on the way.

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.

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.

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.

Fear itself

A mother tells her child. “Don’t be afraid my son, be a man”

That is not what a man is. A man is he who is afraid yet steps forward despite and because he is. We are not without our faults but fear is not to be feared. It is energy coursing in our veins when danger looms close and the waves cover our heads. Fear is a drive to avoid harm or to seek and eradicate the evil of cruelty and hate.

Embrace fear and find yourself on the other side, not brave, but whole. The man who hides his fear, will less inspire others to step forward and change.

One last notion. Nature does not waste. Fear is not a mistake or error but a mechanism for survival and growth. It is perverted into hate and cowardice when it does not go to its natural path of self preservation and progress.

A man is nothing when confronted by a lion but lion is nothing when confronted by a human.

The size of your heart

We can only do what we attempt and believe we can do.

How do we free space in our heads and hearts for new thoughts and beliefs?

Begin by walking calmly and paying attention to your thoughts and emotions. Start Inhaling on one step and exhaling on the next. As you are relaxed in this state and need not invest attention to maintaining it, add a step to both phases (inhale, exhale) and repeat until you reach your current limit of X steps per inhale and the same for exhale. Once there, Go down one step and then up again and then, add two steps at the same time and press the number of steps upwards until all you can do is breath and walk.

This will clear your head from outside thoughts and allow the heart to reset and release emotion that was held inside and not moving anywhere.

The simplicity of this work is deceiving and this is just the first stage.

Much more is hidden in plain sight.

The sword and the spear

It was yesterday evening, during a blade class, that a student asked me a very deep question. I enjoy these very much as they free me from what I am doing into something new, weather in thought, movement or both.

The questions was, “Is this movement for attack or defense?” and here is my answer.

Attack and defense are mental distinctions. A movement, a pose and a word can be either or both or even none. The level of movement our bodies ad minds can achieve is restricted by our emotional awareness.

The blade moves forward in a seemingly obvious attack but then spirals into a dynamic shield and causes the opposing attack to dissipate. A stick is swung at your your head and you step forward to intercept the wielding arm in a combined attack and defense. An angry teenager spits at your direction in a dirty underground railway and start moving your way, you smile at them and tell them you too have some nasty infection and they scurry away.

Attack and defense and what lies in between are all emotional stamps we place on our actions and choices. Each movement can serve both and none and it is our privilege to go inside and remove those emotional and mental blocks from our head so we are free to maneuver and operate instead of react and plow onward.