Personal keeping’ on!

High’s and low’s, we all have them.  Getting up from a down is necessary for a long and full life.

I’m looking to accelerate my fitness and conditioning and trying a new thing: a weighted fitness vest!  It’s a total of 20 lbs.  It feels heavier in the hands than on the body.  But I do martial arts with much, much younger people so, not that I’m trying to match individuals 30 and 40 years my juniors, I’m trying to be above average of my own age group.

Shees! Eight rounds is my standard workout:  shadow boxing, heavy bag, stationary bag.   I’m tired and hungry!

Death and Funerals

Português: São Paulo - O presidente Luís Ináci...

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At a recent passing, someone said “why is it we only get together when someone dies?”  Good question.

I have some thoughts on it.  In my community friends and family feel a great obligation to be present at someone’s funeral. There’s also this judgment that if someone doesn’t show up, they didn’t love that person enough, or love those present enough  to come share this occasion with them. No excuse is made for finances or different point of view.

I’ve missed a few funerals in my time, mostly due to money and distance issues.  I know I’ve been judged by some religious people for that.  However, I’ve never felt the disdain or disapproval of the dead, only the living.

I read this recently: “More than a ritual for the deceased (who is not necessarily affected by what rites we perform once he or she has passed on), funerals help those left behind make the necessary changes to adjust to being separated from loved ones.”  I think that’s a good and just reason for getting together when someone dies.  Though it probably should be ongoing help, not necessarily a one day activity.

Your presence at the physical remains of someone dead is of no merit to you, or them.  They are no longer there, so the notion that they “see” how much you loved them because you are present there is preposterous.  The show is for the living, those others that are present at the funeral.  I believe your love for them is not represented by your presence there, since love is largely an immeasurable idea.  It is the same love at 3 feet of distance as it is a 1,000 miles.  So don’t judge love by distance or money.  Don’t judge someones else’s priorities of life negatively in relation to a death.

Someone’s death is often a last minute and unexpected event. Not everybody is “ready” to go at a moments notice.  We get together at funerals to support the survivors of the deceased and that’s cool.  I like that.  If it’s no hardship to you to do so.  Last minute unexpected events like this can cause the living extended harm.  Yet, some judge your unwillingness to undergo hardship at that time more harshly than at any other time.  If you don’t want to spend time, loose money, take off from work to attend a graduation, or someone’s promotion, that’s OK.  But don’t dare miss a funeral!

I have a few words for them.  Let’s go to the bible.  Jesus said “let the dead bury the dead.”  Jesus said that in regard to someone claiming it was such an important obligation to fulfill, to be at someone’s funeral, that you should pass up the things of life, or the living, for the sake of a funeral. Look it up.

If you can and want to, do it.  If it is profoundly meaningful to you, do it.  If it is out of peer pressure compulsion, stay home.  If  the expenditure to attend a funeral is a hardship, if it will take money from your living properly, like your groceries, or tomorrow’s necessities don’t do it.

I understand grief. Grief is a personal thing.  I have grieved up close and from far away. I have also grieved for those who are alive and in suffering.  I have not grieved competitively, or for approval.  My deepest grief has been in isolation, privately, and when resolved, I have moved on. Because I have grieved in solitude I have been judged as unfeeling, and I have felt that, then laughed it off.

My final words on this are don’t stress and strain about having to attend a funeral.  Honor or grieve in your heart, that’s where it matters, not with attendance at the funeral.

Only those who are there out of a shallow sense of propriety will judge you unkindly for  it. They are the dead burying the dead.

What is the good life?

What is the good life?

It can be scary to think about this.  Fear and worry often creep into the answers.

Ever hear; “As long as you’ve got your health…health is everything!”  Some other answers include “enough to eat,”  ‘a roof over your head,” “family.”

Those are all ok but I consider them basic.  Birth into this world should include the basics: adequate nourishment, shelter, physical and mental capabilities to function, some material comforts.

Unfortunately, for reasons often beyond our control, that is not the case for the entire world. Hence why our answers to what is the good life are often tinged with fear, or false modesty and worry.

There are those who have less than us, less than the basics.  We fear that if we long for greater than what we currently have, it may be considered a sin and “The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away.”  So, many of us downplay or hide what we think of as the good life.

I mentioned the basics – adequate nourishment, shelter, physical and mental capabilities to function, with some material comforts.

What if I were to say that the good life is having lavishness to all of these? Plenty of delicious food to eat, knowing you have a stock of good and luxurious food and the ability to get more as wanted.  Or, a great and secure home, with lots ofimages space and amenities, paid for.  Optimal health, beyond your biological years, A creative mind with an expanding consciousness, and luxuries of learning, travel, experience and circles of interesting people as friends and family.

Would call me sinful for declaring this?  Would you consider it greed even if in having this I didn’t take anything from anyone else?

Well, that’s how I feel about it.  I have more than some, and I feel bad for them and often try to help from within my means.  But I’m not afraid of having more and having better.

But you should be content with what you have.  Really?  You should be content with ill health, shabby clothing, a cardboard box for a roof, and enough food to keep you hungry?  I disagree.

I just did a search for contentment and got this from Wikipedia, interesting insights that I agree with “Contentment may be considered as synonymous with happiness but is more basic or prior to happiness that can be derived from outer achievement or self-improvement…” I can dig that.  Although it does also speak of contentment as an attitude, but as an attitude it’s often applied to negative situations, and passive acceptance of the less than or even the worst possible.

It is attachment to materiality that is the sin or suffering, not possession of it.

I don’t begrudge those that have better than I, I celebrate that they have a better life than I, or one I would enjoy as well.  I’ve never been a material or spiritual threat to those who are enjoying a lavish life.  I look forward to it as well.

I’ve had slumps in my life, and peaks.  I really like the peaks, and when I find myself in a slump and get over the subsequent pity party we all throw, I start looking for the way back to the peak.  I’m not ashamed of that.  An old Zen saying goes “Seven times down eight times up!”

You can live at the peak, make your home there, or you can contentedly accept the slump and decide the gully is where you should stay.

I’ll tell you another really important element to living the good life: choice.

I choose the peak.  I live the peak already, just in process of making my home there, that’s all.

How?  Enterprise.  I have made my own way and will continue to do so.

There are many opportunities out here to prosper, to live the good life, to live at the peak.  Some are better suited to you than others, but you have to try, to explore, to at least be in the game.

You can’t win if you’re not in the game.  They say the chances of winning a mega lottery may be 347,000,000,000,000 to 1, but people do play and win, a greater truth is your chances of winning one absolutely zero if you haven’t bought a ticket.

I’m not asking any supernatural being to “give” it to me, to “bless” me over anyone else, I would think that conceited.  It’s no secret I’m not a “believer” in one of those.  But, there is a story in one of those books called “the parable of the talents,” a talent being a form of money or coin.

In it, it’s the guy who’s content with what he has and doesn’t do anything to improve the situation that is called “wicked.”  Then there’s this interesting comment:

“But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”  If you’re content with an less than ideal situation, it can be made worse.

That’s from the bible.  I know you can take anything from the bible and find oodles of support pro and con, I’m not saying that’s an absolute interpretation, but it’s pretty good.

So buy that lottery ticket, change your job, try a new business.  Screw contentment with the gully.  You have knowledge skills and power that are going to waste down there.

I’m in the middle of something to help me live better, and I’ll be sharing what it is in case any of you are looking for choice in your life and want to give it a try.

Be Well.


No Church For Me On Sunday, And It’s Great

I can sleep late, or not, watch the morning news shows, go to any sort of gathering I want, or have sex.  I can do it all happily, with no guilt, or shame.

I’m an Atheist.

Not a “He must be angry at god cause he didn’t get something” atheist, though most of us probably start out like that.

No, I’m an “I really started to study without fear, and think and analyze, and came to a different and satisfying conclusion” atheist. Atheism Symbol

I’ve read many of the world’s sacred writings, including those said to be from god himself, heard the thoughts and counsels of many devout people, contemplated, listened, probed as deeply as I could for the answer to my questions;  Is there a supreme creator being, who is it, does it care, and does it matter?  On all counts, the answer for me was; No!

You can be a deeply devout person to something you call god, without there being such a thing on the other end of your devotion.  I’ve known deeply devout people of various followings, and don’t doubt their sincerity of devotion.  I have been a deeply devout person.  So much so, that it pains me to see Christians, for example, who are satisfied parroting biblical sound bites, acting the part on the public stage with gestures and props, and claiming a higher standing in life over those who don’t do the same.  At least the devout person is not pretending that they’re deluded.

If they were sincere, these followers who pretend to be devout would acknowledge the emptiness of their claims (that there’s no really verifiable god), but also live strong, righteously, and honestly on the merits of their act: devotion.  That could be called faith, faith in devotion.  “Faith without works is dead” the first work in spirituality is being honest and sincere with yourself and others.

Some non-theistic Asian religions accept the fact that there are several different acceptable paths to the personal fulfillment and salvation that practice of a religion offers.  The path of devotion is one path.  However, not everyone is of a devotional character, so studiousness is another path.  You may not be of devotional character, and perhaps not studious, or even illiterate, then the path of works, or, just being nice to people is another.  You may be introverted; therefore, the contemplative path may be yours, and so on.  The god religions, theisms, only acknowledge one path, devotion, regardless of your innate type or characteristics.

Then there’s the matter of belief.  While some espouse the idea of just belief “saving” you, it stands in opposition to the easily verifiable fact that belief will not save you in anything else in our existence.  You can honestly and devoutly believe you can float and fly in mid air, but any who try plummet to the earth in unsatisfactory ways.  Carry that over to anything else, even to scriptural assurances that if you drink poison, handle snakes, etc; and it’s easily apparent that belief doesn’t work enough to bet your life on.

Some religions claim that belief in a particular personality is the requirement for communion with god or a salvation, but that concept is usually tied to obedience, and obedience is usually connected to a spokesman for the religion.  That’s a sticky situation because several spokesmen for the same god often disagree on some essential added particulars.  With all that come the edicts of exclusivity.  Someone put it best by saying (my paraphrase):  “Many teachers will invite you to come, they will show you the light, and when you come they pluck out your eyes of reason.”

These are the god believing religions that demand you put blinders on and not look to the left or the right, upon any other possible source of knowledge, wisdom, or salvation, but to put your stock in what they tell you is there that you cannot see, though that’s all you’re looking for.

These religions will also claim to make you “better.”  That runs the gamut from making you healthier, wealthier, and wise, because you are one of them, to making you morally superior.  Some claim you cannot be moral at all, or that your morality has no value, unless you are one of them.  They suggest that all of your righteous acts are “like filthy rags” according to one of their scripts.  Yet few live any higher a morality than the average Joe.

They have the talk, but can’t walk the walk any better than anyone else.  Ah, but wait, there’s an out for that.  Christians say “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” as if that were a really good god authorized excuse for being selfish, inconsiderate, or harmful to others.  Or they’ll say “I’m a work in progress” with a “ha, ha, I get away with it and you don’t” attitude for being indistinguishable from any jerk anywhere.  So much for being religious or “in a relationship” with god making you a better person.

But, that’s for another post.

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NLP & Martial Arts



In the literature and studies of self improvement you’ll find the concept of Neuro Linguistic Programming, that’s a mouthful, so it’s commonly referred to as NLP.  NLP is a recent branch of applied psychology, and has high profile proponents in the field of self help.

Originally used in psycho therapy, its concepts and tools found their way into business,and personal development.  Car salesmen were using NLP principals to increase their sales, people in sports and various fields were using it’s concepts to improve their performance.

So what is it?  The words themselves bear extended definitions as well as simplification; Neuro refers to the brain and its relation with mind and body.  Linguistic refers to language and communication systems, how we communicate with ourselves and others. Programming refers to patterns and change.  It’s a process for establishing patterns and making changes that improve our condition.

How can martial artists and use of NLP work together?  Without going into a comprehensive study of NLP, it’s still important to cover a couple of things, one is the Four Pillars of NLP.   They are:


  • Outcomes
  • Sensory Acuity
  • Behavioral Flexibility
  • Rapport  


Another important element I’ll mention is called “Modeling.”

For Instructors.

Instructors can benefit from understanding what a student’s goals are (outcomes), how students learn (sensory acuity), adaptability to help the students achieve their goals (behavioral flexibility) and, in order to communicate effectively, rapport.

Can instructors do their work without these pillars?  Sure, and they have for a long time using traditional methods.  NLP is a relatively new science, and it offers the potential not only for significant change, but of accelerating the process of change over the older methods.

Traditional instruction methods often rely on a one way street of pitching and catching; I throw material at you and it’s up to you to catch it or not.  NLP invites a partnership between instructor and student, an effective giving AND receiving. There are a myriad of constantly evolving tools that can be used for this, all driven by individual outcomes. This method is more properly called coaching.

A friend and instructor, Neil Ehrlich, a few years ago set up a martial arts school with a few unique concepts going on, and one of them was that we, the instructors, were now “coaches,” not Sensei, Shihan, Sifu, or Grand Master.  “Coach Neil, Coach Jimi, Coach Rick…” We coached to help each student succeed in achieving their goals.  For some it was competitive, others combative, others defense, others just recreational and fitness.

This coaching method of instruction is different from traditional instruction where there is only one way to teach, only one type of student, and only one outcome; the glory of my martial art, or myself.

Using NLP for martial arts instruction doesn’t lend itself well to an en masse approach with an easily followed instructor’s manual.  It’s been said before and bears repeating, not every skilled practitioner is a skilled instructor, they may know the material, but not the effective teaching of the material.

For Students.

On the student side, the individual can facilitate and accelerate the process of learning using NLP.

The Four Pillars apply:

  • Outcomes. Having a goal, knowing the Outcome you expect, and having a driving vision of it.
  • Sensory Acuity.  Receiving, storing, and applying of information important to your goals/outcomes.
  • Behavioral Flexibility. The ability to re-route, to take detours if necessary, on the way to your goals.  If something isn’t working in an appropriate time frame, change might be in order.
  • Rapport.  This is important. An easy definition is “friendliness” or “getting along.”  A deeper definition is: understanding, understanding others, and understanding yourself. It is also about trust and connection.  In a teacher student relationship, it is hard for a student to learn from a teacher they don’t like, or thinks aren’t liked by.  Why?  There isn’t sufficient trust.  If the instructor or coach cannot elicit trust from you, or you can’t give it to that person, move on.  The point here is to learn, to improve, efficiently and speedily, and lack of trust is an obstacle to that.  That’s right, you don’t have to automatically trust every karate/kung fu/martial arts school owner in the world.  Trust is earned, given, and shared.


Another helpful NLP technique is called “modeling.” It’s not quite imitation, it’s more applying from observation the successful behaviors, strategies, and practices, of someone’s exceptional performance.

This modeling is used as a higher starting point to achieving your own excellence.  Modeling acknowledges that we recognize a level of performance excellence or success we want, and we start our own process as close to that as possible, not from zero.  Modeling is a powerful tool in accelerating skill development and performance on the way to your outcome/goals.

As instructors or students, I hope you’ll consider exploring NLP and how it can bring you greater and speedier success in your personal and martial arts development.

Coach Rick

Coach Rick




Solo Martial Art Training

You can’t always train at the gym. 

Training in a state of the art gym or dojo is a great thing.  There you’ll likely have space, time, equipment, partners at different levels, and coaching.  But not being able to get to one for whatever reason (money, responsibilities, time, distance) should not stop you from training and even making progress on your own, at home.

If you don’t have a lot of stuff you can do calisthenics and bodyweight exercises (pushups situps, pull-ups, etc.) anywhere.  There’s your cardio and strength straining.

You can shadow box in front of your shadow or a mirror.  When you do, do several rounds, start slow and easy, and progressively add realism and intensity.  I consider this a really important part of martial training; rehearsing your moves with intent and energy will bring them up with intent and energy.  Practice at three speeds:  1. slow and mechanical, 2. Half speed and smoothly flowing, 3. Twitchy, super fast or “red line” speed.

Hit something regularly, a punching bag, a makiwara, a makeshift Item you can hang or post to practice both intentional hitting, and casual hitting, I mean hitting without preparation, no stance, no telegraph. Why?  Because you may not always be in a position to do a perfect hit, but should do a hit anyway.

Visualize the techniques and try them with your eyes closed (in a safe space of course).  Practice from different positions, standing, sitting, lying down.  Try to train both under duress, when tired from cardio and strength, and when very relaxed.

 Rest.Training under too much continual stress may burn you out, and actually make the practice less beneficial.

Train and practice under less than optimal conditions.  I wear glasses.   I train with and without glasses.  A shooting instructor brought this home when he asked; if in the middle of the night I hear a break in at home and a rush to the bedroom door, can I just grab my gun, point, and shoot to 15 feet in the dark  without bothering to look for my glasses?  I can now, thanks to dry fire practice and taking off the prescriptions at the range.  Sometimes, I may be sluggish from a cold/flu and medication.  Yes, I’ve looked to see how effective I am in those conditions, what I can and can’t do, and how fast.

Research other methods beyond what you are taught at the local school.  Some places just teach one thing, say Mesopotamian Kung Fu, that doesn’t mean you can’t train Jiu Jitsu for yourself on your own time, or a spin kick, or a particular kata.  Who are you doing this for, the school/instructor, or yourself and your family?

Speaking of family, is there someone that might help you out A LITTLE BIT at home,  If they’re not training for themselves they probably won’t want to be your training partner, but “help me work out this  move for 5 minutes” might be feasible.  Don’t hurt or aggravate them, and they might help you again.

I tell my students over and over, that they are taught in the gym but learn at home, and that everything is homework.  This is what makes a martial art yours, and part of your lifestyle not just a “class” you take.