Home Training

Some of my training group members get together with each other and train on their own during the week. 

That represents a sincere interest and dedication, and is also the way you make it your own.  That makes what you are training a way of life not just a class you take.  I hear from everyone and his brother “You a martial arts instructor? Well,  I took taekwondo once”  and they are obese, stiff as an oak, and only shuffle along as a walk.

Joe and I were talking today, and mentioning Master (and I don’t use the term loosely) Jhoon Rhee.  At some TV gala thing, he took the stage, mentioned that among the benefits of TaeKwonDo training are flexibility, and while in his suit, raised his leg, grabbed it with his hand and held it over his head, after that he mentioned strength and did a bunch of pushups and situps in front of all present. 

I don’t remember when it was exactly, but it was a show hosted by Wesley Snipes.  However,  a few years ago at age 80, at a  Washington DC congressional reception, still looking fit, he performs 100 pushups in under a minute, and does a full split. That I have the link for:  Master Jhoon Rhee 80th Birthday   

His martial arts is a way of life, not just a class he took.  Even with periods of non training due to life events or medical issues, you can have martial arts as a positive and beneficial way of life.  Make it your own.

Now, on another note:  train well and practice safely.  We did a lot of lock flows, do them to a point of giving and receiving pressure, but not to do damage to each other, the joints on the human body are its weakest points. Save the snapping and breaking pressure for an assailant.  We trained a lot of disarms and tactics.  Remember, the best disarm is not to be in the neighborhood, second best is a really hard hit to the head, third is to discover it in process, without tunnel vision looking for it. 

See ya’ll next week.

Be well.


Self Expression And Value

I had a great idea in an art school media communications course for a project called “Masks.”  I would create a mask that didn’t hide or “mask.” 

It would be clear and revealing rather than disguising or shielding.  I still think the idea was great, it was an anti project, a creative rebellion against the established norm of definition. 


Mask (Photo credit: poropitia outside the box)

Alas, the execution was woefully inadequate, given I wasted my time partying, and only tried to execute it the morning the assignment was due.  My professor at the time had no mercy on me. or my excuses for lack of quality in craftsmanship.  He might have mentioned that the idea had some merit, but that was lost in the scathing criticism of unthoughtful production values and lack of gravitas. I failed the project miserably.  I think I was glad to get a “D”  that semester in that class. I had a myriad of options, materials, and other resources available to me, and squandered them with the trivialities of an unfocused young man. I was hurt. I had not realized, not “made real” what I wanted to put out.  Instead, I had treated something significant to me cheaply, and got called out on it. 

But I learned a lesson about not “half-assing” your efforts to make yourself understood.

Another time,  during a group critique session, a professor burst our academic assessments of each others works by interrupting it all, calling all our works banal, cliché, and asking why we were being petty, “Is there no deep shit in your lives?”  This time it was not a  matter of execution, there were skilled sculptors, painters, photographers and multimedia people involved.  The problem was not skills, it was worth, self worth, personal value, and value to the viewer/experiencer.  The course title was about art and self expression, and it had been described as “psycho therapy with a dentist.”  

A lot of people would drop that course after the first couple of sessions, even the first session, some of us survived more than one semester.  To those who did, what we learned could not be represented with a mere grade.

Those two episodes combined their messages powerfully for me.  Not everything you wish to express is of significance to everyone, but if it is to you, then you should consciously express yourself as skillfully as possible.

We were learning skills and increasing in  knowledge, but they were no guarantor of value.  Self expression at the level we aspired to required some value, high personal values as well as value to others.

We were made to understand that not every photo you make of your kids looking goofy, a piece of clay you mold into an ashtray, every poem you write, is invaluable to the world at large. That conceit and self indulgence is the least valuable quality in creating art, and the most wasteful of you audience’s moments of life.

What?  That photo I did of the Empire State Building was not drawing the well deserved lingering admiration of everyone who by chance cast eyes upon it!  After all, I think it’s high art.  Well, no. Most viewers would not really care, even though it was in focus, well composed, and well printed. It is one of hundreds of thousands other photos of the Empire State Building. It is a pedestrian image.  My indignation would only reflect my conceit, that my superficial value was not regarded with greater admiration.

Too strong a sentiment? You don’t believe it?  I bet you don’t click on every image, video, link, and status update of your hundreds of  Facebook friends.  Then again, maybe you do.  I think a few do.

Honestly, I don’t. I scan the page, pass over the cutesy framed sayings, and videos of dogs, and people trying to look like celebrities on a red carpet.  If something looks “meaningful” I may click on it to experience more.  If it turns out to be some sort of trick to enhance that persons ego, I probably won’t give them much time in the future.

Facebook friends, don’t be too upset that others don’t “like” every picture of your cat, or dog, or child, or self, that you post/exhibit.  They’re not earth shaking masterpieces.

Working on an exhibit was a more thoughtful activity.  You didn’t exhibit everything and anything, you exhibited your best, or most meaningful, because there would be criticism,especially if the works were considered a waste of the viewers time.

Those “friends” that continually tell you “how beautiful” it all is are probably being as conceited and shallow as you are, or else they’d tell you that’s the fifteen hundredth time you’ve posted a pic of yourself wide eyed, open mouthed, with a beer in your hand, and that you’ve wasted their time.

Despite it’s great potential for communication, enrichment, and sharing of value, Facebook is largely a haven for competition among wannabe celebrities and “artists” who never have to endure the growth provided by criticism.

Interesting that Facebook friends never tell you you’re wrong, or fell short, or just plain sucked.  But then you might “unfriend” them, and they might miss that one time when you contribute something of significance to them.


Faux Family and True Friends

English: Large family group portrait at Cairns...

English: Large family group portrait at Cairns, 1886. Large family group portrait in front of a house and on the stairs and verandah at Cairns, 1886. A bird cage hangs from a beam. Creepers line the walls of the house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not all of us are from large families.

I’m not. I had a two parent household and I am an only child.  It doesn’t make me “less than” anyone who is from a larger family, in any way.

As an only child, I never had the sense that I was lacking companionship or connection, probably because I grew up in areas with lots of other children around my age to be with.  This will go to my point later.

I think the value of the big family is overstated in too many instances, and it attempts to diminish the value of the more singular individual.  The idea of being from or in a large family is also used to weaken the often more solid bonds of friendships.

When I say family, I mean it in the sense of a bloodline relationship, a large bloodline group living under the same roof.  Family in that sense comes with no guarantees and some limitations.  Frankly, I see more dysfunctional, and less self actualized people from larger families, than I do from smaller families. Larger families often perpetuate ignorance and prejudice as a duty to legacy and tradition.

The point made is that a bloodline connection should be honored over any other free choice association.  I don’t think so.

The story of Romeo and Juliet is an example of how “family” can lead to the destruction of the individual.  The Bible in spite of all the alleged family values it contains also makes a point that ” A man will leave his father and his mother and stick to his wife” suggesting that there should be a break off point to the business of the large family. It also makes references that a neighbor nearby is better than a relative far away, and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.  There’s also a reference to “who is my mother and brothers” that downplays the importance of association by bloodline.  But my point is wholly earthly and secular here.

Lately,  I see that in martial arts circles, which is an area that occupies my interest and time, much is made of the supposed fact that in certain groups and schools “we are a family,” and that’s used as a selling point: “Why, if you don’t have a family; join us.”  When sports teams win they will credit their success to god and to being a family, however not when they loose.  Many civic groups that meet regularly will say they are like family, and so on.

That annoys the heck out of me.

As if the bond created by friendship, or union by common interest or cause is weaker than the bonds of “being family.”  Whenever I hear the cliche “blood is thicker than water” my mind floods with countless examples of its untruth, and how friendships and free associations have benefited humanity more, and possibly our evolution.

I don’t think the large  family of say two parents, 3-5 children, an uncle and aunt, and at least one set of grandparents, is as great a unit as it once was, when we lived in more isolated  groupings with strained resources.

Farmers and agrarian folk that lived 20 miles from the next people would depend on having many hands to work the field and provide companionship and comfort to each other, since any other contact was a tedious day’s walk away.  Loyalty to that unit’s welfare, and work on that single unit’s behalf were of utmost importance for survival and longevity.

In many places today we can see a family who has 2 parents, 5 children, two spouses, 3 to 5 grandchildren, and throw in one grandparent,  living under the same not so big roof. They live near other large groupings of family and have no farming or herding duties to occupy them all day long.  That’s a lot of opportunity for discord, chaos, inhibition, all sorts of conflict and group dysfunction, and no one feels they need to go, because “we are family.”

Many people attribute that to economic circumstances.  I think it  has to do with an under appreciation of other types of relationships.  Able bodied youths are staying in the fold for the wrong reasons.

Some years ago I read a book that spoke of young people who were moving away from home into urban and suburban environments, and forming what the author called “tribes.”  Not a new thing, though the word is less used these days.  He described how diverse young people were gathering as several roommates. They were cutting their costs of living, sharing cuisines, diversions and recreation, knowledge and wisdom, companionship, emotional and physical comfort, on the road to success and fulfillment apart from their families of origin, and with less conflict.

In this modern setting, being from a large family is practically worthless.  You have to develop a new understanding of your value and function. You are not revered for being from a large family.  You are not considered smarter or of better moral character.  You stand on your own character and contribution, or you’re out.  No undeserving or resentful acceptance of your presence because of “blood.”

Although from different bloodlines, races, and cultures,they learned from each other by expanding their perspectives, they granted each other a degree of  loyalty, associated with other mutually sustaining tribes, and had the understanding that the goal was independence from the tribe to successfully start their own family or tribe. I think it’s a good model.

Historically, tribes are composed of many families, many units, working for themselves and the greater whole.  Today the term “Families” suggests a narrower interest, and it is increasingly at odds with the reality of societal development.

You can’t choose your bloodline or the amount of relatives, but you may be able to choose your tribe, and be the better off for it.

I mentioned earlier about growing up with lots of children.  I really had no sense of what it was to be an “only” child till I was a young man, and then it was a matter or words.  Being around a lot of children, I had plenty of companions, playmates, rivals, love interests, and many dimensions of developmental and learning opportunities.

I lacked nothing that large families supposedly provide,and may even have enjoyed more than they could understand.

Sometimes much is made of the love of a big family.  I come from a small family, that would suggest that I didn’t have as much “love” as that 12 member family unit.

I disagree. When I’ve heard people speak of the love in their big households, it almost always sounds in retrospect, like it wasn’t really evident at the time, but now, they see it.  I saw mine there and then.  There wasn’t a lot of competition for love in my household, there was a lot of love in my household.   Anyway, the love involved is not quantified by the number of people around.

The family unit has its importance, no doubt; in things like the early rearing of children, but I think friendships and free choice associations play a larger role in a persons maturing, growth, and development.

Bloodline made me what I am biologically, genetic traits and all, but friendships, and other associations, have made the larger part  of the person I am. I should acknowledge that.  I benefited from that more that I would have from just inside my family unit.

I hope I can contribute knowledge, skills, productive and positive ideas as well to someone else who crosses my path, who may or may not be part of my bloodline and continue the benefit.

To “only” children and people from small families, you are  not alone, you are not less than.

Be Well.

Six Life Lessons I Learned from the Filipino Martial Arts

Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Great Mind.

The Deadly Dance

In a few days, I will mark my sixth-month of training in the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA a.k.a. Arnis, Kali, or Eskrima).  Since I started, I have practiced with Master Cris once to twice a week, watched three tournaments, read and read, watched dozens of videos, and even started this blog.

My decision to go into it was largely influenced by my desire to get fit and to try something new. However, along the way, I realized numerous other benefits.  I found a new passion. I appreciated my heritage more. I made a lot of new friends. And learned some valuable lessons.

Here then are the six life lessons I learned from my first six months in FMA:

1. If you want new friends, find a new hobby. I have gained an entirely new group of friends. People whom I would never have known if I just stayed in my…

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