Friday, November 14, 2014

Cause and Effect

I am starting this post with no idea where it is going to go, or how it will end ...

It's strange what inspires one to write.

Inspiration has been somewhat lacking recently (as you may have noticed). The book is done, and almost out, and I have not found, or even sought it out. For me inspiration has to come from the outside ... at least the trigger does, or perhaps better - the frame. The frame gives the thoughts inside my head a shape worthy of sharing. This inactivity may be because the book contains everything I want it to say, and to say more would just create noise. Like an over painted painting, or a recipe with too many ingredients there IS a time to stop. And until I get questions and critiques, there really is nothing more to add.

A couple days back, however, some floating thoughts found their matrix, and apparently the impetus to speak out loud again has followed :-)

It could be because of the mid term elections here in the States, perhaps conversations on line, comments overheard, or posts on Facebook I read. In any case I got to thinking about time, how we perceive it, how we use it, and far ahead (and back) into it we tend to look.

And no, this is not going to be a tirade against the supposed short attention spans of people these days because I actually think this shortness of focus has been around for a long time, at least since people moved away from the land and the progress of the industrial revolution. It may have gotten worse ... but it is certainly not new.

Everywhere I see people pointing at 'problems', in themselves, and in society, both physical and psychological, and trying to come up with ways to 'fix' them. Some even try these fixes, but most seem dissatisfied with the 'results'. Over and over again.

So the thought occurred to me - Why do people expect the first thing they try to work? And secondly, why do so many rush straight at a problem, guns blazing as it were, thinking that the 'other side' will just capitulate? (You can see the parallels  to sword play here no doubt ...)

Where's the subtlety? Where's the 'long game' Where's the understanding that there are short, medium, and long cycles to change? Any student of conflict resolution from one on one sword play to international politics knows that resolution can be a circuitous path - admittedly faster in a one on one setting with pointy objects than in major world affairs, but still, it's not always the direct path. And then there's the delusion that blurting out exactly what you want, ultimately GETS you what you want.

Everything you do and say sets up the relationship you are going to have with your adversary. The adversary is already your adversary. This we know. But what kind of adversary ....? You want them to be the kind that YOU WANT THEM TO BE and YOU CAN CONTROL THIS by how they perceive you to be.

Getting your way, getting what you want, is rarely about getting the adversary to admit they are wrong, or to admit you are right. It is about getting them to do what you want as though it was their idea all the time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Floyd Mayweather Analysis

 The guy that turned me on to most of the boxing clips that I post is, perhaps predictably, a fellow student of Sonny's. He's been boxing since he was a kid and has been studying the sweet science for a long, long, time.

He got together with a boxing friend to put together this compilation of Mayweather clips. The words are his.

I love it when someone can point stuff out to me that my own eyes cannot follow. What he sees because he understands the sport is way more than I will ever be able to, but once pointed out, the principles that underlie why you do what when, are as clear as day, and wonderful to appreciate in real time.

Like the Maestro said - "To hit is easy. To get hit even easier. To not get hit? this is where the art is."

The clip is over 20 minutes long, but spare yourself the time, it's worth it. AND the music is awesome.

This link might work if the one above does not:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Same Same Not Same

Last night was the first Hsing-I workshop with Luo DeXiu. As per usual, and still following form, he turned up looking younger and more powerful as he always seems to do.

I too follow a yearly pattern. I see the schedule of what he will be teaching, and sometimes think 'Oh, he's teaching that again, maybe I'll miss that one'. Then remember that ever year I think this, I go to the first seminar, learn loads, and can't believe I had even contemplated not going.

So it was this year. The 5 Elements. How many times have I practiced this? How many workshops have I gone to on this material? Sigh. Just go.

So I go, and of course have a fabulous time, find new things to work on, get corrections, and notice a bunch of new stuff I had never noticed before. Now, I won't say it was not there .. only that this is the first time I actually heard or saw it.

This got me to thinking. Has he always said these things but I just did not notice? Has he changed his method? Or is it me?

I reckon it's a mixture of all of them. He teaches, sees what people don't understand, and modifies his approach, he also sees people are getting things on one level, and adds some subtleties to play with, and, probably, what I notice about how he moves and plays has become more sophisticated, so I now notices more stuff. Ah! look at that, he totally accelerated and stopped dead to accentuate the draw. Or - He sheared the line, and his foot is on the outside. Never saw that before .. Of course that's why it works!

They say the old masters practice the basics over and over. They don't stand in San Ti for an hour and do complex forms, they do maybe 20 reps of a basic half step drill and move on.

When you are fully engaged in your practice, improving and reaching for better performance, you can stay with the simplest of movements and still find new ways to build skill and understanding. Thing is, it's alot easier with a teacher who is doing the same.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Luo DeXiu 2014

Luo De Xiu Seminar October 1st – October 8th, 2014

Bagua, Hsing-I, and Tai Chi Intensives

October 1st: Wednesday 7 pm – 10 pm Hsing-I Chuan – Five Elements $65
& Two Man Five Element Drill
October 2nd: Thursday 7 pm – 10 pm Hsing-I Chuan – 5 Tigers Form $65
Double Hand Methods of the 5 Elements
October 3rd: Friday 7 pm – 10 pm Hsing-I Chuan – 8 Powers $ 65
Whole Body Power Method
October 4th – 5th: Saturday 12 noon – 7:30 pm San Shou Sticky Hands
Sunday 10:30 am – 6:00 pm Weekend Seminar $235
October 6th: Monday 7 pm – 10 pm Tai Chi Push Hands $65
4 Main Energies
Double Roll Back & Double Press
Eight Skills to aid in finding Fa Jing Point
October 7th: Tuesday 7:30 pm – 10:30 pm Hsing-I Chuan $65
12 Phoenix Fist

My teacher will be here again for his annual workshop series next month.

I honestly don't think there are many practitioners of the so called "Internal Arts' who can use them so they are recognizable. Luo is certainly one of them, along with being a great teacher and fine human being.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, these seminars are highly recommended.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hitting is Just Timing ...

This is a baseball thing. I'm not into baseball, but like the knuckleball post, this is a great dip into the tactical thinking of high level players. Sword players try to prevail against an opponent whilst trying to not get hit, pitchers pitch against hitters, trying to get them to miss.

Jamie Moyer was a pitcher, and not a particularly fast one at that. Apparently, at some point during his career he got some advice from a sports psychologist that took his game into the 'mental' realm. A couple years back he became the oldest pitcher ever to record a win in the majors at the age of 49 years, 150 days.

Baseball and sword play may be two very different pursuits, but the commonality is that there are still people involved, and often it's you against them. It's actually amazing how closely Mr Moyer's tactics apply to dueling.

“If you know the way broadly you will see it in everything.”
Miyamoto Musashi

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What I Do

A friend asked me to write a quick description of what I teach so he could get a better idea of how what I do compares to other martial arts stuff. So here is what I wrote:

In essence I teach the Art of Deception: why you need it, how to get it, and how to use it.

If you are uncomfortable with the word 'deception', feel free to insert 'tactics and tactical thinking' instead. :-)

All martial arts are born of deception - Upping your own odds as much as you can whilst minimizing those of your opponent. Gaining advantage (in time/space), hiding your true intent, causing your opponent to commit an error, etc etc. Sadly most in the modern day have forgotten how important this used to be for those engaged in combat. Today there really are no consequences to 'losing', no persistent threat of death, maiming or potential for a slow, painful, decline. Now only points for win or lose, or a referee stopping the fight to prevent serious injury.

The techniques more likely to cause serious injury that form parts of traditional systems - those that could be lethal, break bones, dislocate joints etc - were long since taken out of full contact practice and sport.

Throws in Judo that would break arms, or rip knee tendons were taken out. Neck and spine breaks caused as a result of throw angles have been adjusted to contain an escape. We don't allow strikes to the brain stem area because we don't like to kill our training partners or fellow competitors nowadays. We also tend to avoid 'cheating' - eye gouges, nut grabs etc

This is all cool, but systems that purport to be 'functional' outside of a sport setting have to work against someone actually trying to kill or maim you, or at least against someone who does not care if they do.

Swordplay is one way to bring these historically ever present 'consequences' back, and provide an arena in which to explore these ideas. There is no real incentive to do this empty hand as hits are rarely lethal. Cover, and use of muscle power make it less of a problem to cause damage even if you have to take some to prevail. Both take a few hits? No problem.

Adding edged weapons takes power out of the equation, and the in built lethality makes everything matter much more. The smallest mistake can cause maiming or death, so the incentive to NOT make a mistake is very high. (And before you ask, no, I don't train with live weapons, much, but all trainers should be handled and respected as the real thing otherwise the training is meaningless).

My teacher said "To kill is easy, especially if you do not care for your own health. To die is even easier. But to live ...? This is where the 'art' is".

This is also where the deception is.

Deception buys time, and time is space. You need enough of it to dispatch your adversary AND get back out of range (If you can reach them, they can reach you - No one 'dies' instantaneously), which is tricky when they are trying their best to do the same to you.

There are a few different types of deception:

Spatial deception - Basically sleight of hand, playing with geometry and relative positioning,

Temporal deception - Playing with the perception of time by varying speed, and related to spatial deception

Psychological deception - Possibly the most interesting, and combining elements of both spatial and temporal deception by using faking, baiting, and causing freezing and looping, or other errors, in the opponent.

That's what I teach, and I use the blade work of the Visayan Style Eskrima of Sonny Umpad as the way to do it. This just means using short, single edged, single handed swords, with no hand guards, made of crappy steel whilst wearing no armor. Basically the shittiest options available whilst still carrying, and facing, a lethal weapon.

The combination of the sharp but fragile sword and the lack of protection, make the necessity of engaging the frontal lobe before moving essential to one's well being.

Previous knowledge of some kind of sword art is a bonus though it is actually not a prerequisite to learning to think this way.

What is a prerequisite, is an interest in strategy and tactical thinking, and a maturity of thought that understands that the goal is to get away as unscathed as possible, not to fight until both parties are dead because you 'got them too'.

I teach these concepts (a.k.a. getting away) through a series of drills and partner practices that students can take away and refine on their own. What I don't teach is technique, knife fighting, how to go to jail, or the '154 deadly disarms of doom'.

The material works best in small groups - Up to 6, 8 at most.

3hrs just scratches the surface. A day gets you a bit further, but either will hopefully expand peoples' imaginations enough to start them thinking smarter.

In effect I am using weapons work as a tool to understanding something much bigger: That in any one on one interaction, whether it be adversarial or not, there is always an 'other'. You cannot necessarily control them, but you can control yourself, and you can control the relationship.

This plays in a little to Rory's plastic mind exercises, and also into his Concom material, because much of that control rests on your ability to recognize who your opponent is, what they want, what they see, and use that information to get what you want. The drills I teach help you to do that, with or without a sword in your hand.

As a bonus for sword practitioners, if it is of interest, I also teach how edged weapons work. I talk about the sword and the different parts that make up it's design - The cutting edge, the tip, the flat, the back edge, the shape of the blade, the handle and the ways to grip it. How it moves and how to use all the parts, and how the shape and design of each blade dictates how it is used. I like to compare different swords from different cultures, though really enjoy the myriad swords of the Philippines and Malay peninsula. I have studied Toyama Ryu Battodo and western style foil and sabre fencing and believe that the design of the blade and the way that it is used are inextricably linked.

Swords are cool in and of themselves, but they are even cooler in the effects carrying one, and facing one, brings out in you, and other people.