There are lessons that can be taught by words and others that require experience to blend together, thought, feeling and sensation.
One such lesson is that of the meat hook or any hook once it sinks in our flesh or makes that needle like entrance in our skin.
I recall no fondly moving through the brush during my time in the army. The thorns and stones and mud and occasional hole made moving with our gear unpleasant at best. Having to hold my rifle in one hand, the radio antenna in the other and needing three more hands to climb, descend, push and pull was a very surprisingly consistent type of torture until a very clear moment when I stopped fighting the brush and started to blend in.
Nothing changed in the brush, it still stung, rip and tear at me. I let go of the part of myself trying to force my way to it and the dance began. I bled a bit less, move a lot more silently and a type of respect started to build.
Starting the journey with an actual meat hook is somewhat unsafe. Take a clothes hanger, an S shaped piece of metal without tips and start pulling and pushing on a partner while avoiding the eye holes and behind for a while. Start so slowly as you can talk while doing so and have a physical and verbal conversation as you go about it.
Let the hook guide the partner to the ground, let it turn them around, let it shift and control what the eyes present to the partner and also have as much fun with it as you can.
Let the hook come in contact with you and move another part of the body than the one in touch with the hook first. Keep breathing when the feeling of being dug into makes an appearance. Start working from the ground, move with the wall, do it inside a car you are responsible for and move with care for all parties involved.
Let the hook come at you and guide it back to the partner. Let the hook come at you and attach it to something in your surroundings. Let it come and draw your own tool from hammer to rope.
Nothing goes beyond the basics done well.
Stay in touch
Coordination and coordination under pressure are related sets of skills.
I was playing with my son Gideon and together we came up with a set of drills for coordination under pressure.
Here is the progression.
- Stand and hold a tennis ball in your hand. Throw it from rib height to eye height along with your breath tempo.
- Repeat the previous drill and close your eyes. Feel before you see.
- Repeat the previous drill and hold your breath and throw and catch the ball continuously until pressure rises and a bit further.
- Have your son or anyone else stand only slightly out of reach and as you throw the ball, have them throw a ball at you. Catch it with your other hand and throw it back minding to continue your initial rhythm and your breath continuous.
- Repeat the previous drill but move out of the way of the incoming ball and return to your position as you throw it back.
- Walk with the ball in one hand and throw it as in the first drill as you walk.
- Have your son or anyone else throw the ball at you. Catch it as you move out of the way and throw it back. Keep your breath continuous and your eyes relaxed from fixating on the incoming.
- Repeat the previous drill only with more than one ball flying your way. Choose which to catch and which to avoid. Color of balls can help here.
Enjoy, Grow through play and live free.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Do pushups 🙂
Do breathwork and always stand for what is right.
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.
- 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…
- 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 ?
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
A car is powered by its engine and fuel but the transmission carries the power to where it is manifested.
Let’s focus also on our transmission which is our joints and connective tissue.
Here is a three month plan to build up the the tendon mind health and connection. Tendons take longer than muscle to grow and change so take care to listen to your body and never play the music out of tune. Practice the holds and movements below in an alternating manner where you spread them. Do each one three times a week to let the body build itself and come together in a new way of locomotion.
Three times a week:
- LOWER BODY – Bend at the ankles, knees and hips till you reach a ninety degree angle at the knees and the feet are under the hips. Walk 120 breaths forward and the same backwards, sideways and turning. Keep your back upright at all times and allow yourself to relax your face and neck.
- LOWER BODY – Place your feet on a sliding surface ( a sock on a stone floor or smooth plastic on a rug) as you lie face up on the ground. Inhale and lift the hips up by pressing one foot backwards and repeat 60 times per side and alternate with each step.
- SPINE – Lie on your back and arch to for a full body arch with all limbs joining the arch. Breath and rock forward and back for 120 breaths. Repeat while on your stomach and on each side. Allow one arm on the ground when you are doing the sides to ease into the movement. Keep the arch alive instead of stiff and move from your breath.
- UPPER BODY – Hang on the bar and sway forward and back for 120 breaths. Avoid straining yourself in the beginning and build to a full 120 breath of swinging forward and back. Once you can do it in one go, advance to playing and swaying in different directions and heights. Swaying is much more taxing than static holds so progress with care.
- UPPER BODY – Hang on the parallel bars for a 120 breaths. Sway the body forward and back and again, take your time in getting to doing this in one set. Make sure your shoulders do not sag and on the other hand are not tense and your entire body moves as one.
Enjoy the movement.
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.