Role Models!

Children are often asked who their role models are.  In elementary and middle schools many children have to write an essay of who their role model is and most children will say it’s a parent.  I think my son wrote one once about me!

I believe they say that because it’s an  easy answer, and they know it’s an expected answer.  Can’t loose with that one.  I don’t doubt that in some cases it is true.  Parents who heroically provide for their families, and the children who see the struggle and accomplishments will hold on to that for inspiration.  Parents who are accomplished and obviously have a higher quality of life than others around them have,and values that tend to live on in their children.

But for average households, or for unaccomplished households it’s honestly not the case.  It’s a false equivalency to link admiration and love, as often happens.  Like it’s obligatory to have your parent as a role model or else it means you don’t love them.  Often children admire a friends parent’s more than their own, due to the other’s character, lifestyle, or accomplishments.  That doesn’t mean  they love their parents less, it just means that the ladder they need to climb for personal development is elsewhere.  Off the top Robert Ryosaki comes to mind.

I can’t think of another way to say this but I’ve come from communities where “white people” things were often envied and derided at the same time.  I still see that today  in a lot of those same communities.  That perspective puts up a box around the child to insure that he will maintain a particular culture; foods they eat, music they listen to, etc.  That box which maintains and perpetuates a particular culture comes with unnecessary baggage and a lock.  Fear.  Fear of the different, fear of success. Fear of failure.  Fear of admiring a different role model.

James Bond was my role model.

As a young child I saw a James Bond movie.  He was fearless, heroic, educated, skilled, and worldly.  I was living in Puerto Rico at the time and was 8 or 9 years old.  In James Bond I saw what I wanted to be, to  aspire to.  It was not the being a Secret Agent part.  It was everything else I saw.  He was smooth, poised, spoke well, was charming, loved by women, respected by men, spoke other languages, was comfortable in other cultures and countries, could fly a plane, knew fine art and science, could do karate, dressed sharply.

I knew that didn’t come easily.  I knew that to be that way you had to learn, study, practice.  You had to, in what NLP today calls “modeling” start with the example before you, and build on it.  My karma was not to be afraid of stepping outside the box.  I pursued the sophistication that lay outside my box.

But those things didn’t exist in my community.  My community was largely unsophisticated.  Good hearted, hard working people that didn’t  know fine art, didn’t speak other languages, had no interest in martial arts, many didn’t even drive, and were very content in their box.  In a young child like myself at the time, those aspirations were considered quaint.  In an older child they are considered a distraction, or worse yet, a rejection of your culture, your box, your community.  That often brings alienation.

I’m sad to say the paradigm of the cultural box is alive and well in a lot of the same communities.  And more young people than not are buying into it.  Sometimes celebrating sometimes resenting their narrow constraints, and deriding the greater life around them, which they would enjoy having as well.  It just seems that they would like for it to come into their box rather than go out for it.

They don’t want to learn language and communication skills. They “ax” a question and “conversate.”  Heaven forbid learning Cantonese or French.  Music, only “reggeaton and bachata in our house” classical? folk? No way!  Food, “Ugh. How can those people eat that curry stuff?”  Job/career, auto mechanic or grocery clerk.  Spirituality, “all I know is Jesus is God nigga!”  Love, “I can’t date white people, they can’t dance salsa.”  Stray beyond these confines, try to expand your consciousness and experience and, well there’s a nonsensical term I’ve heard applied; you’re a “come mierda” you eat shit.  I know, it doesn’t make sense.

I loved my parents and family.  But they alone could not direct me to living my life to the fullest.  I found a picture of what I considered a greater quality of life outside of our box.  I would wish for the young people in our communities to become more sophisticated, more worldly, to experience more of what life has to offer, without fear of rejection and derision from their communities.  Otherwise the world and life will pass them by, and they will continue to envy and mock what they envy, when all it takes is realizing that the box doesn’t exist, it’s self created and can be self erased.

James Bond was my role model.

Even they way he introduced himself was distinct. Your name?  “Bond, James Bond!”

No matter where you are, there is a role model expressing a greater quality of life available to you.  It’s not for everybody.  But if it is for you, don’t be afraid of your community, your box.  Be brave, go beyond where those around are.  You will not be alone.  You won’t be the first on the journey, and you will have one less regret in life; you won’t regret not having stepped out of the box.

 

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Testing My Recovery From Injury

So I tore a hamstring.  Had a morphing black and blue on my thigh for 3 weeks.  Spent time nursing it hot and cold, anti inflamatories, wrapping it up, and absolutely NO stretching of either leg for a month.  It started to feel better and I started to work it.  It’s feeling about 90 percent!

SUCCESS?

People often ask “How do you define success?”

They ask as if there’s an absolute answer to this question.  Is it defined by money?  Only when monetary success is the question.  Is it defined by athletic achievement.  Only to an athlete attempting to achieve something.

Sometimes success is the journey, more than  the destination. Some will not understand that and miss the forest for the trees.

Every facet of our lives calls out for success.  Success in one area is really seldom enough to define a life as successful. The success of a promotion at work is overshadowed by loneliness.  Many athletes are successful in their sports.  But recently there was mention in the news of some “successful” athletes that go hungry because they can’t afford some meals.  There are the wealthy who would give up wealth for love, acceptance and understanding.

On the spiritual side it’s been asked “what will it profit a man to gain the whole world yet loose his soul?”

We need to achieve success in whatever area of life is calling out for it at the moment.  You may be poor, but money is not what you want when you long for companionship.  You may be wealthy but your body calls out for healing.  And, once success is achieved in one area, the call comes from another.  Sometimes several areas are calling out  simultaneously.  What to do then?

Prioritize.  This is your call.

Friends and family will counsel you according to their values, and some may be appropriate.  But our spirits speak to us in whispered intimacies meant only for us to know about and act on from our same spirits alone.  I know I have acted in ways that may have seemed unsuccessful to those around me, but my apparent failures were my own, and I can accept them.

These days the word choice is closely connected to my ideas of success.

On the other hand, I have mimicked others’ acts that have led to their successes and while sometimes they work, when they fail they are my greatest regrets. Regrets for having ignored the voice of my own soul and not being true to myself.  The regret of giving someone else the 5-handling-successpower to direct my mistakes.

There is wisdom in the abundance of counselors, but that wisdom must be checked, sifted and governed by your mind and intelligence.  Otherwise you are but a child needing to be obedient for you have not yet developed the resourcefulness of your soul.0e7ce98
How do I define success?  Right now, by not having anything underlined by spell check.

Violence & Self Defense

Self Defense

Self Defense (Photo credit: Pioneer Library System)

 

Reasons for human violence include the same ones in the animal kingdom such as necessary sustenance and mating, and are further complicated by various degrees of mental illness, avarice, baseless anger, randomness, and conceit.  The foundation for a particular act of violence is often hard to pin down, but we can all agree we don’t want to be the victim of violence regardless of the case.

What to do to avoid being a victim? I’m not sure it can be totally avoided, but we can and should try to minimize the odds against us.

First Line of Defense is: Know Thyself!  Are you a five foot one inch tall, 95 pound woman, with a baby always in tow, or a six foot four, 280 pound gun toting MMA fighter.  Are you handicapped in some way?  Are you experienced in dealing with particular types of people, are you an off duty cop, Nay Seal, or ad agency receptionist?  Knowing your capabilities and especially your liabilities can guide the level of risk you should take in particular situations.  An heavyweight MMA fighting Navy Seal who is unarmed, wearing a leg cast, on groggy pain medication, should know that at the moment he has the same capabilities as that five one woman.

Second line of defense is avoidance.  Don’t enter high risk areas unnecessarily.  You approach an elevator, the door opens, there’s a homeless looking guy inside holding broken beer bottle in his hand, and he says “what floor.”  Don’t go in!  An obvious example, but if you’re a 5’1” woman with a baby in tow, don’t go in, avoid it.  Even there; ego may make that woman think “I don’t want to seem scared!” and therefore not avoid a potentially dangerous situation.  Men are not exempt.  Men are even more likely to puff their chest, look him in the eye, get in the elevator and say “Was up?”  Then turn their back on him.  “Ill take the next one, I’m waiting for someone” is a good response short of backing away, which is a better response anyway.

Entering where there’s a crowd of drunks, a bunch of hyped teenagers who are into showing off to each other,  a dark hallway, rounding unknown corners, are all situations where if violence occurred, we wouldn’t be surprised after the fact.  Use that knowledge before the fact

Third line of defense is anticipation/preparation.  Anticipate that encountering violence in our increasingly populated environment is a possibility, and as a matter of caution, do some anticipation and preparation.  Close your doors, set the alarm at night, use familiar, lit streets and passageways, be aware of the behavior of the people around you.

Learn some self defense and fighting skills, get some knowledge along those lines.  It may be a little or it may be a lot, that’s a call for you to make.  You can do a 5 day a week, 4 year course, or a one day seminar, or anything in between.  Something is better than nothing.  Think!  Consider scenarios, what the natural response would be, what a successful response would be.  This you can do on your own and establish a loose game plan for an event like that.

I teach Kali Silat martial art, and self defense.  Learning a few punches and kicks without the context of understanding violence is only minimally helpful.  I know of a seasoned, experienced fighter, who got mugged and beat up by a couple of thugs.  Normally, he was capable of beating the crap out of them.  But in his head he had ignored the possibilities of violence in the world.  That’s why I put the physical training last in order of knowledge of dealing with violence.  The intangibles of self knowledge, awareness, avoidance, forethought, and reasonable expectations, can preclude the need for a violent physical encounter.

Be Safe.  For more information on the Rick Vargas Kali Silat & Self Defense Training Group use the contact form below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Criticism: proprietorship in the martial arts

I find the idea of proprietorship in the martial arts amusing. 

The “this is mine and mine alone, you can’t use it unless I approve,” kind of presumptuous ownership, of a muscular skeletal operation that is by nature  optional for most humans with four limbs.   Who “owns” a lead leg side kick, or a forehand slash, or the form Kusanku?  What about the jab/cross/hook combination?

Hapkido holds many throwing techniques in comm...

Hapkido holds many throwing techniques in comm…

Martial arts “styles” with peculiar moves often claim that it is impossible to learn these from anyone outside their approved lineage.  When someone else, through the same trial and error, experimentation, practice, perhaps even  glimpsing the material, that originally developed these moves achieves them, they are disavowed as inauthentic.  As if the moves originated like divine revelation to only one authorized prophet.

There are instances that I respect of imaginative concepts codified for purposes of instruction, but so far as I know, there are no legal patents for martial art moves, techniques, katas, training methods, etc.

I’ll use a Karate example.  Master Jhoon Rhee created a set of katas, forms, set to classical music. The best known of these  are “Exodus” and “Granada.”  While never a Rhee student myself, I learned Granada informally from one his students.  Is it the case that I can never teach the form Granada as I know it, to one of my students, friends, or family? Or that I can not modify it further? No it’s not.  I can, and I would not be in violation of a patent, civil, or criminal law.

Some instructors will not teach martial ideas similar to another’s, but it is done not by penalty of law.  They may say it’s out of respect, and maybe it’s also because they feel they got something better.  But, technically there is no legal violation in teaching or practicing something you learned from someone else, through personal instruction, book, instructional video, movie, or what not.  On the other hand, in my old neighborhood there were several Tae Kwon Do schools within a 2 mile radius, all different names, all teaching the same drills, kicks, and punches.  Why did they not have this sort of conflict?  Most of martial arts has gotten over all that, still some have not.

Film Production: Cinematography

Film Production: Cinematography (Photo credit: vancouverfilmschool)

To compound the issue there are training videos out there by instructors and practitioners, easily purchased, and intended for self training, and many self published instructional videos on you tube.  If you buy one, can you be forbidden to use or teach what is on the videos to others under penalty of law?  No. So what if I do?  Your ego will not be as gratified? Why the did you publish the video?

I have training videos, and a few years ago I contacted one of the instructors/publishers. I told him I had the videos, was training them, and was going to incorporate some of his material into my classes.  His reply: “I am glad you find my dvd’s helpful, if you have any questions just ask… Be Well.”  That’s the attitude to have regarding video material you put out.  In turn, my students know I didn’t originate this material and who did, just that they are getting it from me.

An instructor recently bemoaned the fact that he saw someone wearing a particular styles t shirt, and when he asked the guy where he trained (since he owns the only “authorized” school in the area, being certified by the master) the guy told him something like “nowhere, I video train.”  The instructor from that style is upset, considers that training invalid.  You’d like for him to come train those skills and concepts under your kingdom?  Oh, well.

“The times they are a changing” it’s not like it was 70, 100, 500 years ago.  It’s a smaller and faster world.  It’s the information age. Master so and so sells the training videos, t-shirts, and does short and long seminars worldwide.   I’ve been to his seminars and bought the t-shirts too. So what if the individual trains via videos?  So what if he creates his own training group based on the videos in the area?  We’re buying a video, not into a religious hierarchy and obligation here.

There’s a popular Bruce Lee story about his being challenged by Chinese martial artists for teaching to non Asians.  Bruce had been taught a style of Gung Fu, and was sharing the knowledge with others.  They tried to forbid him from teaching outside of official authorization.  Luckily for most of us, he rejected their claims of racial, cultural, and martial arts authority, and we are better off for it.

There are still territorial, stylistic, cultural, and even familial claims to some sort of inherent proprietorship of martial arts practices.  “Our style’s moves,”  “My family’s Art,” “Okinanwa’s punch”  “Korean kicks”  “Systema movement,”  “Gracie Jiu Jitsu,” and more.  It is good to acknowledge other’s intellectual innovation, creativity, and contributions to the arts, but when the recipient demands it, it becomes ego gratification. That’s not a martial virtue.

Can you imagine this happening with boxing, gymnastics, chess, or any other skill or practice?  “This is the Bobby Fisher technique and you must be certified by an official Chess Master Bobby Fisher school/instructor in order to use it, teach it, or win a match by it.” Preposterous, right?  My point exactly. It’s silly and insecure.  I can freely get and use the U. S. Marine Corps fighting manual, but not Joe Blow’s method of punching with a fist attached to an arm…

It also strikes me as a contradiction; there’s a form of fear evident in this type of proprietorship.  Contradictory, because one of the virtues expected to develop in  martial arts  training is that of overcoming fears.  But there it is: fear, mostly, of losing money.  Fear, of losing influence.  Fear, of lack of recognition.  Fear, of losing “purity.”  Some will talk of sharing the art, while being utterly and monetarily selfish about its dissemination.  I say get over it, the paradigm of exclusivity in martial arts is over.

I could be wrong, but I think somewhere along the line it was lost that these skills and knowledge are for for the individual’s benefit and development, not for the glory of one person’s  legacy or corporation.  Given a little time, that attitude begets idol worship and dogma.

Do your practice, share or hoard as you want, but it’ll be increasingly futile to try to pull the idea on others that this is feudal Japan in the 12th century, and you can lord over knowledge and sharing.

There is also a side argument made sometimes, the one about preserving “quality.”  Some instructors would have you believe they’re concerned with the skill levels of “their” art.  But physical skill is an individual phenomena, not a corporate one.  There are higher and lower skilled practitioners in every art, as well as at every stage of learning.  I believe it has less to do with skill levels and more to do with money and ego.

Another point often made by “owners” of a martial arts is that you cannot learn their stuff if you don’t have loyalty to them.  Bull.  It’s they who need to have loyalty to you if they accept you as a student.  Loyalty to give you the best they can in as quick a manner as possible, because tomorrow is not guaranteed to either instructor or student.

When I teach, I teach like a mini seminar.  Everything I teach is “homework.”  You take it with you, refine and develop it, own it, and pass it on as you wish.  If you come back, I may try to optimize it for you according to my understanding of it, and off you go again. I coach.  My humble material is yours.  I am not the “sole proprietor” of martial secrets,  or a select franchisee of anything martial arts.

Until the patent office issues a “martial arts” patent, neither is anyone else.

Good people interested in martial arts should seek instructors who want to share the art, rather than recruit members to their kingdoms.  I’m glad I’ve found some like that.

POSTSCRIPT:

Really interesting, and for further consideration, I found one other significant discussion of this proprietorship as I call it here, so do click on it: Can martial arts moves be copyrighted?

Well Being

Mackay Beauty

Mackay Beauty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How we define living well is a first step to better living, and understanding that living is an active verb is an important part of that.  Physics gives us the understanding that everything at the atomic level is in motion, and vibrating.  By extension, all existence, all of life, is constantly in this vibrating motion, and therefore in a state of continual change.

The pace of this change may be slow or faster, and often it seems sudden, but it’s been in process all the while.  This is especially noticeable when we go from what we consider doing well, to misfortune of any kind like financial, physical, or psychological.  We generally call those things a loss, because it is related to losing our being well, loss of health, loss of money, loss of peace and calmness, loss of harmony.   That throws us out of whack because our innate desire in life is to live well, and we want to get back to that as soon as possible.

Our values and thought systems direct our actions in dealing with unpleasant changes, and how to navigate back to well being.  We are not born with a life manual or easy indexed reference guide, and our knowledge at any one time is limited, so we experiment arbitrarily, or we seek the insight and example of those who have navigated these changes successfully.  It happens on many levels.  Sometimes it’s a mechanical fix, like your car engine shut down, and all you need to do is change the oil, or a belt.  Maybe it’s an environmental fix; it’s cold outside, and putting a jacket on returns your sense of well being.

But often the necessary fix is internal, and may not be achievable to the original degree.  This is where some people compound their loss, increase pain, and fall short of returning to any semblance of well being, by kind of shooting themselves in the foot.  Rather than accept incremental steps on the way back to well being, they take an “all, or nothing at all” stance.

On the physical passing of a loved one for example, the pain of loss is extended when you cannot transcend the single thought that you “just want him back.”   Demanding that as the fix for your well being is impractical.  The emotional and psychological drives within would like that, but that’s not going to happen in a single miraculous sweep.  Being complex creatures, the answers to these situations, the path to returning to well being, is not the broad and gross singular action we’d like.

But incrementally, we can grieve freely, recognize that by our desire they’d still be enjoying life, know that we can summon their presence by memory at will, and step in the direction of our own well being one step at a time.

Well being often relies on our approach to it, turning in its direction, taking little steps towards it, not standing in the place of pain and calling well being to come to you.

Do you believe you need to participate in your own well being?  How much do you participate?  Take your vitamins, think some scenarios through beforehand, study wisdom teachings, try to help guide others to well being when they are standing in pain, change the oil in your car regularly, recognize that change is inevitable in finances, health, relationships, and machinery.  Make your values and thought systems effective guides to your well being, realizing they may need to direct many elements at once.

Be well.