All the partner drills!

I hope everyone had a great workout today!  Workout, Class, or whatever we call it 🙂

Rick Vargas Kali Silat and Self Defense at Black Lightning Martial Arts.

Joe1 Joe2 R&G T&M

We added new partner drills.  Remember, there are drills for everything, lots of drills, and more being made up every day.  Some practitioners boast how many drills they know,   others, only know a few.  However, the point is not the amount of drills you know, but to develop the skills the drill teaches in order to apply those skills effectively as needed. You can learn those in as few, or as many drills as it takes to learn them. I’m not as concerned about how many drills you memorize as I am about how well you can do what they propose: a good forehand or backhand strike when needed.  To get you that skill we’ll try established and creative drills to get you there.

So, if you have trouble with one drill, don’t be discouraged, there is another you’ll naturally do better at.  I especially like to get the ones that are more “natural” through you, than the ones that take greater effort and time.  The latter become an issue of personal development and perfection, which can be lifelong and beyond the pale of my presence.  The natural ones we can achieve in a few sessions and will be valuable for your self defense.

I was very encouraged  when a master instructor I highly regarded once told me about a particular drill I was struggling with; “I don’t know that drill, but I know every move in it.”  I eventually learned the drill, but better than that, I understood every movement in it.  You can restructure the drill in any order you want and I may not know the new sequence, but I know a thrust, backhand, forehand, and blocks, and I will adapt quickly.

Once you know the moves, the particular drill wont matter.

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Kali Silat & Self Defense Training Group

Black Lightning Martial Arts

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  • Call Rick Vargas at (703) 622-0331
  • email: rickva.sr@gmail.com

Black Lightning Martial Arts
961 Diplomat Dr. Ste. 103
Debary, Fl 32713
(386) 337-5056

We are located in the Live Oak Center off of Enterprise Rd. in
Debary/Orange City.
Serving Debary, Orange City, Deltona, Sanford, Deland, Lake Helen, and Osteen.
Offering Karate, Taekwondo, Jujitsu, Kickboxing and several other martial arts to Children and Adults

KALI SILAT INSTRUCTOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO DECLINE AN INDIVIDUALS PARTICIPATION AT ANY TIME. The training is intended for law abiding, well mannered individuals of good character and sound mind, as determined by the instructor.

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Kali in the park!

Good Kali In The Park session today. Not that there’s ever going to be a bad one. Good work Gav, Tony, Red, M.A.

Boys in the Park

Kali, Arnis, Escrima (Photo credit: Boso)

We covered some progressive material, of which there are lifetimes worth of things that can be touched upon, and we stepped back to explore what the real bottom line of what we’re training to do is.  It’s not just about self defense and “Do this, this way,” or about defending the integrity of the style, but about contributing to the individuals personal growth, through some aspects of a particular training.

In a way, it’s easy to teach a martial art.  Get a belt or make one up, use a memorized chart of steps and forms, repeat. But to use martial arts training to bring joy, grace, to expand  consciousness, to create well being, to really develop holistic self confidence is another story.

That’s the story I want to take part in with my students and friends.
I’ll remind you all again, make notes, practice at home, once given to you by me it’s yours, develop it, make it your own.Sticks are in, I have 3 sets left. We’ll be presenting and training in other venues soon, make sure I have your emails for notices, or check back to the blog often.  See you  all next week (or sooner)!

Meditation Technique: So Hum

 

On Meditation 

Too much meditation practice, without physical activity is not good for you; it can leave you unbalanced and spacey. Many people today meditate using one form of it or another, but; martial arts practice makes you “put your money where your mouth is” by physically challenging your meditation to demonstrate its effect on your whole self.

Meditation

Meditation (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

When you can still the mind, you can control the mind. At the highest levels, the martial artist’s mind must be quiet, but aware, and active.  Some call this level “the unified field of consciousness,”, others call it “the gap between thoughts,” still others call it “the zone.”

Self Awareness

Sometimes if you watch the boxing documentaries you’ll see the coach and fighter watching video of an upcoming opponent.  They’ll watch and study his stances, his balance, his favorite punches, his footwork, how he covers and defends.  They want to “know” him, to reduce him to a predictable quantity for which they can develop skills and strategies to defeat him.

In spite of that, sometimes the fighter looses, because they didn’t know how he himself would respond or react to certain changes or stimuli.  They knew the opponent but didn’t know themselves.  I like for my students to know their skill levels and abilities, and their limitations.  I also like them to consider the possibilities for transcendence. To know yourself and achieve this transcendence, you need time and space.  Meditation will afford you that, and it’s why I teach and encourage it, not only in relation to martial arts, but to personal growth as well.

A little review.

The term meditation is used to describe both the activity and the state of being.  Context will easily tell you which is which. The most mystical part of meditation for most people is not the act itself or the technique, but the lingering after effects: mental and emotional calmness, clarity of thought, diversity of views and approaches to situations, self confidence, and more.  The more you practice, the deeper and more consistent the benefits.

Make time for the practice.  One teacher told me that if you meditate for 24 minutes a day you infuse 24 hours of the day with that blessing or power, and that it didn’t have to be all at once!  You can do like 12 minutes in the morning or afternoon, and 12 minutes in the evening, of course you can do more, but always remember moderation!  That said, here’s a couple of techniques for you to try out.

Meditative technique one: So Hum.

This is the very first meditative technique I ever learned and one I still use as often as I want or feel I want it.  It involves the use of a mantra.  A mantra, is a sound, often a word or even a name.  In this case it is a word, but the meaning of the word is not important with this one.

The significant aspect of this mantra is that is mimics the sound of calm, deep, breathing.   It is an “silent” or internal mantra, meaning the sound is not made with your voice.  You imagine the sound in your head, “so” as you inhale, “hum” as you exhale.  The “sound” doesn’t even have to be precise.   Do you pronounce the sound in your head with a hard O and soft U, or soft O like with “ohh”, or U as in “hum”, or “haam?”  It doesn’t matter.

The variables of language, and accents, and speech, make this one much more flexible than what is taught about some other mantras.  You are mimicking and echoing calm deep breathing. You are creating a metronome of one pointed consistency.  Thoughts will come and go, passing in around and through your inner chanting of this mantra, like when a pianist is playing a melody, and the metronome is still clicking in the background.  With practice and consistency, the melody of thoughts will turn its volume down, and even off, but the metronome of the calm deep “So Hum” continues, it can even fade away, and return.

You do this in a casual and relaxed way, with no stress even about doing this “right.”  Generally, you will be awake, aware, and alert.  This is not for going into a trance, this is for developing one pointed mental focus, whether for one fleeting second during the meditation, or the entirety of the session.  Do not grade yourself about it.  Enjoy the relaxed stillness you are practicing.  Set a timer if you can for whatever time you want.  I recommend starting with twelve minutes twice a day, but don’t stress this either, how about once a day to start? Sure.

So here it is:

  • Find a reasonably quiet time and place.
  • Sit in a relaxed posture, get comfortable but don’t slouch.
  • You can place your hands on arm rests or on your lap, one trick is to place them on your lap palms up, so if you start to drift off into sleepiness and nod, your arms flinch and keep you “up.”
  • Take a couple of deep breaths to get going and oxygenate your body and mind.
  • Feel, listen to, or pronounce the sound “So” in your head, or with your imagination as you inhale.  Sometimes there’s a pause at the end of the inhale sometimes not, don’t stress on it.
  • As your exhale begins feel, listen to, or pronounce the sound “Hum” in your head or with your imagination. There’s often a longer pause upon the exhale, but again no stress on length, sometimes you may be excited and it’s shorter breathing till you settle, just relax and let the meditation relax you as well.
  • Upon the start of the next inhale return to the sound of “So” and continue repeating the process till your timer goes off of you feel like stopping,  but I warn you, at the beginning a few seconds can seem like a long time, so I recommend setting a timer and starting to develop discipline in this.

That’s it!  This is a well known meditation technique that never looses its value.  Among the benefits of it are overall relaxation, developing one pointed focus, the ability to isolate thoughts, stabilizing of the circulatory systems, and a sense of peace and calm.  These are some important elements in how the mind works and the critical thinking process, among the reasons meditation is helpful overall to living and functioning in the world.

For martial arts purposes, in a high speed high, stress situation, like a fight or a self defense situation; the ability to function spontaneously, reflexively, with a clear head, without preconceptions, and without the confusion of the constant swirl of competing thoughts in your head may mean the difference between timely and effective action or having to endure harm.  This meditation technique sets you into a practice of calm, active, alertness that can come into play as needed.  The balance to improve on this is to actually train the physical skills as well.  As I said at the start “Too much meditation without physical practice is not good for you; it can leave you unbalanced and spacey.”  As much as possible, be rounded and balanced.

A final note on this technique:  Our teacher was once asked “I often fall asleep doing it, what should I do?’  The teacher replied, “don’t worry about it, it is a Holy Sleep!”  With regular and consistent practice you won’t often fall asleep, but if you occasionally do, enjoy it.

 

Meditation And Martial Arts

I meditate almost daily. Mostly in the mornings before starting my day, sometimes a little later.

I stated meditating in earnest when I was 20 years old, that makes it about 37 years now.

Meditation

I’ve been taught by a Jain Guru, A Zen Master, a TM renegade, and a couple of other gurus. I’ve been in the presence of the Dalai Lama, followed the teachings of Yogananda with Kriya Yoga, and been hugged by a Yogi/Saint named Amma. I once took almost a year off training martial arts to devote to yoga and meditation.

How do I blend meditation and martial arts now? Like I said, I meditate almost daily, but I don’t meditate just before a practice session, or even right after. I find the two activities counterproductive. It has to do with what I feel is the goal, and after effects of meditation.

Some clarification is called for at this point. Meditation refers to both an activity, and a state of being, and often both simultaneously. As an activity, it is not “wordy.” It is not telling yourself a message over and over, that is affirmation and is a different thing. It is not “talking to god” or praying. It is not reciting prose or scripture. Meditation as I’ve been taught, regardless of method used, is about stillness, awakened, alert, stillness.

I once visited a Zen master after having already studied some meditation with others. When in the meditation hall, before we started, I asked what technique should I use, a particular breathing pattern, a visualization, an internal or external mantra..? In classic Zen master fashion the answer came: “Shut up, don’t move muscle, don’t move mind!” It was a shock to my system. It also helped solidify the idea that meditation as an activity is mostly non activity. You don’t do affirmation, you don’t “psyche yourself up,” you don’t go into trance or do self hypnosis, you don’t read or memorize texts. All these other activities have their own merits, in their own time, but are not truly meditation. Attempts to define them as meditation are wrong, and including them in the slot of time we give for meditation is a disservice to the practice.

So why don’t I meditate right before or after practice? I’ll mention a few reasons.

First, spending a bit of quality time in the practice of stillness should have a lingering after effect of calmness and tranquility. My martial arts practices are very dynamic, energetic, driven, physically and mentally demanding, and often require a quality of explosiveness. Usually coming out of a meditation session I feel a kind of bliss that I am not eager to just toss aside. I want as much bliss as I can get for as long as I can get it. But I am a a reasonable person with a material life, and can’t go about my day with a spaced out look in my eye, smile on my face and holding a flower. So for a couple of minutes after meditation, sometimes longer, I’ll ease my way into my worldly affairs. I don’t just bounce from meditation to sparring, like I know some do or try. I think its kind of a waste of the meditation activity.

Second, one of my gurus understood that we are not in the time and place where everyone can just retire to a cave and just come out with a begging bowl for daily food. He taught us that your meditation activity (and state of being) should infuse your whole day and life, not occupy it. He taught us that 24 minutes meditation a day could be sufficient to affect your 24 hours. Sure, more is better, but how much more? For what? If you really want so much more then become a monk…

Third, I accept a distinction between concentration, meditation, and absorption. They are all part of the meditation experience. When we start the training we generally start by concentrating, whether on a sound, sight, idea, breath concept, or even on “not move mind, not move muscle.” Concentration can progress or morph to the state of meditation. This is where what you were concentrating on has arrived, where stillness is not a word or an attempted goal, but the state of being. You are still, alert and aware, tranquil. Absorption is a deeper still state, and one that you might functionally carry with you 24/7, the meditative state and your “normal” state are one and without conflict.

I don’t have my reference handy, a translation and commentary on Patanjali‘s Sutras called “How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali by Swami Prabhavananda, Christopher Isherwood”  but somewhere in there they state something like a few seconds of the meditative state may be called concentration, a few minutes of the meditative state, may be called meditation, and longer may be called absorption (samhadi for those into exotic words).

That all said, I meditate regularly but not just pre or post martial arts. That, I think, would be like going on a diet this afternoon to look great on a date tonight, or exercising the whole body to loose weight on just one arm…

For martial arts practice and training I take a couple of deep breaths, “psych myself up” sometimes, affirm my goals or desires, all this taking only a few seconds, then go into raising my heart rate, oxygenating my blood and brain with breathing, warming up my muscles with bouncing and stretching, then proceeding to the learning and practice of explosive, violent, combative skills training I also have as a part of my life.

Meditation, I did it eight hours ago, I still have some of that with me and I’m on to other stuff, like hitting and trying not to get hit…

Next time, I’ll post an actual meditative technique…Meditation Sticker