Monday, November 29, 2010


There is no winning or losing. Period.
I have heard this said many times. And it's true.
When we relinquish our competative view of the world we begin to succeed. For any one thing taken, another thing is lost.
In the end, your enemy is yourself and your own ego.
How does this fit into our studies? How does this make us more refined at our craft?
When we know we'll never beat another we know that we can never lose.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Discarding the Rules

Paying attention to rules--then discarding them--could be the key to basic self-defense.

For example, look closely at the rules of boxing, wrestling, tournament sparring, MMA, judo, and grappling. Some of these have a lot of rules, some have less. But the crucial aspect is that they all have guidelines in order to protect those involved in the match.

When I watch MMA, for example, I like to imagine how I would get free of someone's ground attack if I were truly pinned. So I look at the rules. No eye-gouging, no groin attacks, no finger breaks or wind pipe strikes. Why? Because they work--too well.

I am not saying a good triangle choke wouldn't be effective if an attacker held you on the ground, however, it might be the more difficult technique to attempt and it would take more practice, knowledge, and appropriate conditions to accomplish.

You want to get out of the situation--fast--and not leave yourself to vulnerable to an attack from any of the current assailant's friends.

Same thing goes for judo. I like judo, a lot. But there is a reason why a competition throw isn't executed after a strike to the solar plexus--it causes damage, and judo is a sport, after all.

Again, each sport has it's real world value--for sure--but often the simple and dirty stuff is just easier to teach and quicker to execute.

But then, an attacker obeys no rules either.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Balance - Mind Barriers part two

In Japanese systems such as judo, jiujitsu, and aikido, a great deal of focus is directed upon breaking the balance of an opponent. This can be done different ways, but the overall theory is similar to knocking over a large fridge, it can be easily done if the appliance is resting on just one corner of its base, rather than all four.

But I think the theory extends to the mental game as well. If an opponent's thoughts can be disrupted and put off balance, the physical struggle will be minimized. Journeyman spoke about a similar topic when confronted by an attacker--acting crazy or unpredictably--thereby confusing the assailant. But the concept is integral in other situations as well, whether it be sparring, boxing, or even grappling. In this way, breaking the balance can mean changing the focus of an opponent (feint, softening strike, disceptive telegraphing); it could mean intimidation or confidence; it could mean drawing the opponent into a vulnerable position by showing him/her an opening in your guard.
In judo, for example, it is common to push forward as if looking for a throw, and when the opponent resists and pushes back in response to this force, landing the sought after move through a pulling motion instead.
This becomes a merging of mental and physical balance breaking.
And momentum is crucial to both.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Mind Barrier

We need to get out of our own way.
This is a quick summary of philosopher Alan Watts’ discourse on the Tao Te Ching.
He compares this concept to the sense of hearing. When one hears well, he suggests, the listener does not notice a ringing inside his/her ears. When one is aware of such a sound, however, the ears themselves have impacted the individual’s ability to hear.
The mind, too, can be a barrier to itself.
He adds:
“On the deepest level, a person as a whole can get in the way of his own existence by becoming too aware of himself.”
The Tao Te Ching, he claims, can be used as a manual to fix this. He explains to his audience the concept of No-Mind, a recurring characteristic of ancient Eastern Thought and, of course, traditional martial arts.
“Being somehow vacant was the secret of the thing. The highest kind of knowledge is not Know-How, but No-How… It means that (one’s) psychic centre doesn’t get in its own way… it operates as if it wasn’t there.”
Again, a prevalent concept in martial training.
Age-old wisdom says that if we have to look for the right technique, we don’t have it. Mind-chatter is equal to hesitation.
Says the oft-quoted Morihei Ueshiba:
“Ultimately, you must forget about technique. The further you progress, the fewer teachings there are. The Great Path is really No Path.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Training Through The Slump

Journeyman recently discussed the importance of being able to take a hit while training. It happens, unintentionally, and makes you a better student in many ways (I can safely say I know what the following attacks feel like: an elbow to the hip bone, a front kick to the lower abdomen, a spinning backfist to the nose, and a choke that makes you gag and almost pass out from dizziness.)
Anyway, read his post for more.
This concept made me think of a class I recently had where I felt a bit down on my progress. This happens in life, so I guess it makes sense it happens in the dojo as well. We get worn down, sore, sloppy, confused, impatient.
But taking a hit is important. Right?
I suppose these moments give one much to think about, and lead to a better student in the end. I was taking a hit, mentally, and it can suck just as much as a bloody nose.
Sometimes more.