144. Drive, Cook, Wipe, Fart

Ever been to class and you were working with someone, teaching, guiding, encouraging, showing ………… and their response was, “I’m just not that coordinated” or “I’ve never been any good at anything athletic?

If you run a dojo and have done any teaching of deshi in any martial art and you tell me no ……. well then ….. I understand that hell has a special place for Fibber McGee’s.

Ever been doing kata with someone and you’re working on a kata that you know with all certainty that they’ve seen and done maybe 100 times, and they still get it wrong and they inflect a little pain on you; that’s how bad it was.  And then you correct them and they say something on the order of, “My brain just isn’t wired to be able to easily learn this”?

Ever made the same correction once, thrice, fifty, seventy, eighty times and you start to wonder WTH are they doing, or not doing, or not getting?

Yeah.  Me too.

So I’ve designed a test to counter excuses and hopefully direct the deshi to satori, or maybe nirvana ... or kensho ... or the public library.  Not sure which will work better or where they'll end up after the class bows-off.

I’ve used similar tests in the past but this one, I think, will be more demanding and will require more consideration on the part of the testee as to how they need to answer.  Over the years I have actually asked things similar to this in order to "shock" the deshi into looking at a different learning paradigm.

So the test questions are (and you can apply these to yourself as need be) are ………………

Can you drive a car and not kill yourself, your family, and the stranger next to you in the station wagon or the guy on the corner wearing the clown suit, claiming to be an unemployed Hobbit while he shakes his coin cup? 

(Yes ... really.  I never let the truth stand in the way of a good story but this one is totally true.  I live on the far west side of Houston in an upscale area known as Cinco Ranch and I pass him on the corner of I-10 and Fry at least once a week.  He’s a dwarf and just I love his costume.  I’m waiting for him to one day dress up like Gimli complete with the axe and only then will I give him money and ask to take his picture.)

If the answer to the driving a car question is “Yes” then we now know something about you and may conclude an understanding of several things.

First, you understand responsibility for your actions as you drive a 3,000 pound killing machine made of steel and plastic and rolling on four tires at breakneck speed.  Plus, you are able to multi-channel process as you push the gas, tap the brake, adjust the rear-view mirrors (sides and the one inside the cab), change the channel, talk on the cell phone, yell at the kids, pacify the spouse who is backseat driving, curse at your GPS, and pay attention to a hundred other drivers doing the same things in their car ….. AND ….. being aware of the potentialities of the “Random Event” such as a dog running in front, a board in the road, a meteor strike, the woman in the car next to you driving with her knee while applying eye shadow (this is a tradition of Houston drivers) or someone throwing a beer can out the window at Warp 7 as you look for the turn-off to Granny’s house.

The answer to this question proves that you really can do multiple things at the same time while being aware of everything happening around you and are fully responsible for your actions.

So Grasshopper ….. what’s your problem when you’re on the mat and acting like you have no idea where you are or what you’re doing?  Why are you throwing your uke into other people, why can’t you see where the edge of the mat is, and why can’t you wield the jo or the bokken like the danger that it is instead of seeming ignorant of something you’ve done in class a hundred times?

Next question, can you cook a meal for six family members including the timing of the turkey, dressing, gravy and rolls so that it all comes out at the proper time AND do so while you finish that 3rd martini (and begin speaking in tongues) and then start on the wine while blending that banana daiquiri for your ungrateful brother-in-law who voted for "that other guy" and stick your fingers in that plate of antipasta?

This “Norman Rockwell Moment” better be an unequivocal yes as all of us have suffered since childhood in this moment of eternal family frustration (er … ah … bliss). This answer demonstrates that you can control and time multiple ideas and subjects simultaneously while communicating with other participants, and that you can handle cutting, stirring, mashing, blending, seasoning, plating, and serving, drooling, licking of finger, and visiting all at the same time with no thought or mental blockage involved.  In short, all the cooking activities are on auto-pilot as you’ve done them long enough to internalize them and make them full functional on an intuitive level.

So Grasshopper ….. why did I just show you a simple waza and your response was something about your belief that your brain is not wired such that you can’t do more than one thing at a time and that something as basic as putting the correct foot forward is so complex that you actually have to look at your foot?  Internalization of responses is easy since we know you can cook.

Next question …… can your wipe a dirty baby bottom on a 3-month old and not hurt them or “smear the shared joy” all over everything?

If you answer yes, then why is it that numerous attempts to get you to stop using force and running power or hitting me with the jo or bokken or tanto is so difficult?  If you can handle a baby and not damage them, and not make a worse mess with their “gift” to you, then why did you just try to dislocate my shoulder?  Why can’t you ease up, work a little slower, and use a lot less power.  I know you understand how to be gentle and use a little less power, so do it.

Last question ….. can you fart and chew gum at the same time?

WTF?  Is Sensei serious?  WTH?

Yes I’m serious.  Did you sleep through history class while attending Wasamatta U?

Did you forget the famous comment attributed to LBJ when he was in a meeting in the Oval Office and someone asked him what he thought about Gerald Ford, and LBJ made the infamous statement of, “That guy is so uncoordinated that he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time”; a statement made after Ford keep hitting people with golf balls and banging his head on the exit door to Air Force One.

So if your answer to this serious, but seemingly ridiculous question is yes, then you, yes you Grasshopper, not the deshi behind you but YOU ….. are fully qualified to learn martial arts, in a reasonable time span, given quality instruction, competent and patient teachers, in a good learning environment.

No more excuses please.  No more, “I can’t learn because …………..”, or “My brain doesn’t work that way”, or “I learn differently”.

There is no such thing as a “visual learner” because if you are eidetic, then just copy what you see.

There is no such thing as an “audio learner” because if you are, then just listen and pay attention.

There is no such thing as a smell or taste learner, unless of course all that sweat and aroma of a gym locker room excites you.  What’s that old saying, “Judo is eating your uke’s sweat”.

And there is no such thing as a “physical learner” because WTH do you think MA is?  We learn by touching and manipulating and being attached to others so you get all the “touch” you need.  Martial Arts ARE touch.

In short, what I’m writing here is that the ONLY thing holding you back from learning is the little creature inside your head, not my head,  YOUR head, that keeps telling you that you can’t do it and keeps feeding you excuses to repeat to everyone on the mat.

Just stop that.  Tell yourself that you can do it just as well as you learned how to intjuitively drive, cook, wipe and fart.

No … More … Excuses.


L.F. Wilkinson Kancho

The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

March 2017

143. How to Wear Your Black Belt – Part II (Focus)

Once you get your black belt it’s easy to lose focus, to slack off and take a brief vacation from the intense training that you did to prepare for your demo.  In a word, “Don’t”.  In another word, “DON’T!”.  Part of Humility is the ability to understand and deal with the idea that you don’t everything (yet), likely never will know everything, and worst of all, don’t really know what you don’t know.

The basic difference between Shodan and Nidan is minimal and the time in grade (assuming that you get to class and train) is also minimal.  The longest periods between promotions can fool you because the break-points in learning (and internalization) are not where you think them to be.

The first longest period is from first-night beginner to Shodan.  This is simply due to the necessity to take someone with likely no athletic or martial arts experience and have them internalize the fundamental operating principles of the art form.  Moving off the line of attack, blending and flowing, learning attack and defense timing (Sen-no-Sen, Sen-Sen-no-Sen,  Ato-no-Sen), kuzushi, ukemi, musubi, the basic waza of striking, throwing and joint locking, etc., etc., all mean a long road to internalize and make functional the base essence (the core) of the ryu.  When you hear old players in koryu forms discuss how the actual structure of the ryu changes the deshi, then this is a part of that “re-structuring” of the person.  The deshi “becomes” the ryu.

Shodan to Nidan is, in a very real sense nothing more than setting into concrete your intuitive understanding and ability to use the fundamental principles and waza of your art form.  Shodan means you “got it” and Nidan means you “really got it”.

(Keep in mind here that I never intend to denigrate the achievement, only to set that achievement into its proper context within the larger picture which is IMO necessary to maintain the focus needed to move forward).

Nidan to Sandan has another long period although not as long as beginner to Shodan.  This is due to Sandan being a jump-point in understanding.  In our ryu Sandan is where the deep understanding of flowing, merging and of taking control of the attacker the first instant when they cross ma-ai and begin the attack sequence (and then not letting them regain control until waza termination) begins to be acquired and internalized. 

Sandan marks a demarcation as-it-were; the next really big progressive step in making a high-level Aikido player.  The timing from Sandan to Yondan therefore, much like Shodan to Nidan is also fairly brief as Yondan is more material to learn and internalize but that material is essentially the same as that learned for Sandan; except “more of the same” with added sophistication applied.  Yondan then “firms up” the jump-point; a critical necessity since beginning with the journey to Godan, really advanced material is looked at.

So the first gap is beginner to Shodan.  Shodan to Nidan is fairly close then the next big gap is Nidan to Sandan.  Sandan to Yondan is fairly close due to the similarity in the work required so the next big gap is Yondan to Godan with Godan to Rokudan being fairly close.  Then the next big (I should say “BIG” gap is Rokudan to Nanadan.

I think you see the picture.  The long and the short of it is to not lose focus, EVER!  And, humility is a part of that.  Arrogance retards learning because that arrogance, that failure to understand that you don’t know what you don’t know yet becomes a barrier, a closed door that is difficult to pass.  The phrase, “empty tea cup” does not apply solely and only to the beginner sitting in the rain on the front porch.

The gaps between major progressions is really quite minimal so once you make Shodan just go for the Nidan and quit worrying about it.  Once you make Nidan just go to Sandan because you know that once you get to Sandan then Yondan is just around the corner.

Pretty soon you quit worrying about “just around the corner” and you just “become” Aikido.

L.F. Wilkinson Kancho

The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

February 2017

142. How to Wear Your Black Belt – Part I (Humility)

Yeesss!  Today I made You-dawn-sha!

I am now an 85th Dan, a Masta’, a Stud-Muffin!

“Attention K-Mart Shoppers, the Stud-Muffin has entered the room, please look for the blue light for your personalized shikishi”.

Sorry.  You ain’t none of those and neither am I, and I’m the Sensei with almost 50 years behind me with black belts in 3 different martial arts forms and senior teacher status in 2 of those.

Making Yudansha (graded dan) which starts at Shodan is, if isolated and taken strictly on its’ own, a great, repeat, great accomplishment and puts the wearer of the coveted black belt in a rarefied part of the atmosphere; but I’m a “Big Picture” kind-of-guy and in the greater scheme of things it is just another step on the way to a higher plane of existence.

I keep statistics and in the 19-odd years I’ve run my own dojo I have logged about 1,000 people who have either kept me on the phone for 30 minutes of discussion, come to visit the dojo, tried out a free class but never came back, actually signed up but never paid anything, signed up and paid money but didn’t last the first 60 days, or who signed up, lasted long enough to get a promotion or two and then quit.

1,000 people out of which I have a total of less than 20 or so active black belts and a dozen or so who would live at the dojo, if I let them.  So if one considers that the real education doesn’t start until Shodan (the term after all means 1st step) then the percentage of people who actually start the trip to Yoda-hood (and then stay with it long enough to really accomplish something with the accrued skill sets) is about 2/10th’s of 1%.  In case you slept through your high school algebra class, that’s not real high even if we’re generous by using the commonly cited statistics form various MA magazines  (of all dojo and all MA styles) of about 5%.

So why can’t you consider yourself a stud-muffin (or studlette-muffin in the case of the ladies) if you are part of that <5% who has enough self-discipline and desire to commit to and stay with a long term study like Aikido?

Humility is why, plain and simple.  Remember that Budo is all about self-improvement, about taking our natural potential and maximizing all that we can be (with the expenditure of enough hard work paid for with blood, sweat and tears), improving mind-body-spirit and by unifying them, our becoming a whole that is greater than the sum of the original parts.

Take a look at one word, “Spirit”.  It has little to do with the mind (that’s all about intellect) and it has little to do with body (that’s all about the physical).  The spirit and its’ improvement in making us a better person, is all about really old fashion things; ethics, humility, self-discipline, morality, honesty, not doing things in excess, the golden rule (do unto others…..), and all the complicated topics Aristotle writes on in Nicomachean Ethics which states in simplest terms that in order to in order to become "good", one should not simply study what virtue is; one must actually be virtuous in one’s daily activities at all times, whether those activities are comprised of issues of reputation (how one acts in public) or character (how one acts when you think that nobody’s looking).

Notice that nowhere in there are any terms like arrogance, abuse of others, taking advantage of others, demanding worship, ordering a junior student to give your left foot a tongue bath, or emotional cannibalism.

This is especially true of the halo effect that sometimes happens when we make black belt; we get a halo, or a small handful of lower level student body (kyu ranks) we just came from puts a halo on our head whether we want it there or not.  In other words we become overly impressed with ourselves (we believe our own press clippings) or the kohai begin to look up to us like a child looking at their father or a teeny-bopper looking up to the latest rock-star hero (or we imagine that they do, thus making us a legend in our own mind).

Humility, humility, humility is the only thing that keeps the new black belt from going ballistically egomaniacal (or as the pundit said, “drinking our own bath water”).

Making “First Step” to someone like me who has 50 years on the mat is nothing other than a sign that now I can really start to teach you some neat stuff.  It doesn’t mean that you are anything more than a beginner or that you are more than one small step removed from the kyu/colored belt that you used to be.

So, in order to keep that ego in check and enlarge your usable quotients of humility (and humanity) remember three things;

First, Shodan translates as “first step” so in reality, you are still a beginner with much to learn and you are a very long way from understanding all there is about Aikido and martial arts in general,

Second, since you are just a beginner, a newly minted black belt, then you don’t know what you don’t know.  In and of itself that should be enough to keep that ego in check and approach every class with an empty tea cup.

Lastly, the black belt means that someone helped you climb the ladder to get you there so you have to return the favor in the same positive fashion as the people who helped you.  Failure to do so means that few black belts above you in rank will likely want to waste any more personal time on a walking ego-trip.

Humility will get you much in life and make you many friends.  It’s one of the more important qualities we all look for in friends, spouses, ukes and the Sensei.

L.F. Wilkinson Kancho

The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

January 2017

141. MA Training-Positive Attitude

We are what we eat, or so they say.  Given that we’re not speaking of food here it would be more appropriate to say, “We are what we think” or, “How we think is how we act, and what we become.”

This should be of little to no surprise to anyone so I want you to think about it for a second.

How many times during your life have you known people who, for some unknown reason, had the ability to attract everyone to them?  You liked being around them all the time.  Being around them made you feel like you were a battery and just got plugged into the charger and now you were glowing with a full 9 volts; maybe 12 depending on whether you are running a flash light or a station wagon.

Funny thing is, these individuals probably weren’t voted “Most Popular” or “Most Likely to Succeed” since those are political accomplishments and generally have little to do with success in life.  These individuals were just ordinary people who might play sports, maybe did drama or debate (or not), who might have been the person at the water cooler at the office that everyone asked advice of or enjoyed sharing coffee with. 

The thing that made them different is that they had a truly positive attitude and a big smile about 95% of the time (all of us deserve that 5% of just having a bad day on occasion because the planets are out of alignment).  That consistently positive attitude made it easy to be around them and better yet, they glowed with positive “vibes” to such a point that if you felt bad or down in the mouth then they always had a supporting statement or gesture for you that helped just a little bit.

Now think about your life outside the dojo.  Think about each and every person that is a burden to associate with; that has a negative attitude most of the time; that enjoys, that loves, that revels in discussing politics or complaining about their boss or neighbor or co-worker; or just likes to get in some kind of hairy discussion about ANYTHING because they get to express themselves and voice opinions.  For them, the act of engaging in the discussion and drawing other people in validates (in their mind) their existence as a human being and if confronted with that accusation/reality they simply deny it.

That’s the really obvious version of the negative personality.  Now how about the not so obvious?

The not so (obvious) is what I described to my Sensei many years ago (probably about 25 years back) as an “emotional vampire”.  I coined the term when Sensei and I were discussing up and coming high Dan promotions (4th to 6th Dan and up) and one specific person’s name popped up.  The discussion pertained to why no one liked that person even though they were very competent and a highly skilled technician.  I told Sensei that I considered them to be an emotional vampire because their self-esteem was so poor that they needed other people to both validate them and to support them emotionally every time they had their weekly drama.  They were someone who so severely drained your energy by requiring your support and your continual positive comments (needed to outweigh their negative outlook) that when you finally parted company with them you just felt tired and drained (“Hey!  Is it Happy Hour yet?  Is the sun over the yardarm?  NURSE!).

I was impressed that Sensei was impressed.  It had never occurred to him to consider the issue in that aspect and we both agreed that it was pretty accurate.  I had just come off-the-cuff with that description and he took it into a couple of full discussions both off and on the mat.  He had just then formed the opinion that these “emotional vampires” negatively impacted his entire teaching effort and began to discipline deshi (or expel) those who couldn’t maintain a positive line of thought and behavior.

I really need to acknowledge here that all of us on occasion will come to train and have just had a really bad day and that’s ok.  Even as Sensei I’ve done that on occasion too because after all; Sensei, Mrs. Sensei, the Hatamoto, all the Yudansha and each and every player on the mat are all human and sometimes the daily struggles and life’s vicissitudes just get to us every once in a while.  And that’s just part of life.

The personality that I am referring to here as being the issue is the one that exudes negative vibes EACH AND EVERY TIME THEY WALK INTO THE DOJO.  They just bleed negativity, and neediness, and their shoes slosh with self-pity with every step taken as the need drips off them.

So the bottom line is this.

I, as Sensei, could really care less about anyone’s family life, business problems, or personal issues as it is likely not my business (unless you care to share and unless we have a close personal relationship outside the dojo and off the mat).  All of us, myself and Mrs. Sensei (my other half) included, have issues that we deal with everyday and that we never bring into the dojo or onto the mat with us.  Doing a “dump” so-to-speak is completely unfair to everyone in the dojo who comes only train and not to be my or your emotional counselor.  We are, after all, here to teach martial arts and not be your support group.

As Sensei however, I do care about the impact on the mat and on the other players that an “obvious” or a “not-so-obvious” negative person can have on everyone around them.

So, I’ll give everyone the self-same advice that my father and my Sensei both gave me way too long ago (time flies, one day you’re a cocky teenager and the next you’ve lost your hair and what’s left is turning grey).  My father was right and funny thing is; so was Sensei.  So please consider this:

“Go into each and every moment of your life with a positive attitude, positive outlook, and a positive & optimistic view of the future.  If you at least try to think, be and act positive all the time, even when you are in the throes of deep depression, you will eventually find that the positive begins to outweigh the negative.  Acting positive will, over time, actually produce a positive person.  You will create your own positivism and it will push away the negative vibes.  You are what you think you are and what you want to be.”

And once you get this positive way of life (“do” if you like) down pat, the dojo will become (for you) the way in which you create it.  During periods of my life when I was the most depressed, overworked, underpaid and under loved, the dojo literally became my only sanctuary because I knew that the second I walked into the door, that I would have my hair blown back by all the positive vibes coming off the mat and the smiles of people who were happy to see me and who wanted to train.  Funny thing is, more of the time than what I want to admit, I didn’t even know their last name.  We were just friends and training partners and that was all that mattered.

The positive attitude enabled me to learn faster and to actually enjoy class much, much more than I ever had before.  I looked up one day and was 7th Dan and still can’t remember how I got here.  It just happened in the midst of everything.

Let the dojo become that one place in your life where the positives throw down, pin, and then choke out the negatives.

Or to paraphrase Forest Gump, “Positive is as positive does”.

L.F. Wilkinson Kancho

The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

November 2016

140. Wham, Bam, Thank You Mam

Sempai (solo) - Now rouse her right up boys, for Tokyo town

Kohai (chorus) - Go waay, waaay, throw the man down

Sempai (solo) - We'll choke his butt out then throw the man down

Kohai (chorus) - Oh give me kuzushi and slam the man down

.......... Waaay Ho and slam the man down

.......... Slam the man down boys, slam the man down

.......... Oh give me kuzushi and slam the man down

Sempai (solo) - We fall on tatami of local dojo

Kohai (chorus) - Hi, ho throw the man down .......

............ Sung to the tune of a Merchant Marine Chanty, circa pre-1890's ....

When I first left my old dojo years ago and was asked to open my own dojo and begin teaching independently I approached a YMCA and used their gymnastics floor and then later, when I had the chance to open a stand-alone dojo I worked with people with engineering experience and designed a floor based on an old Kodokan design.  We built it 45 by 50 feet and put canvas and Olympic foam mats on top of a wood frame topped with plywood; but the part that mattered the most was the suspension system, 800 specially designed steel springs, custom drawn and spun to a uniform draw weight to support the floating floor.  Some folks use valve springs and I've even seen designs that used blocks of foam between the lower and upper plywood layers or even car tires laid on their sides.

Regardless of the exact design of the floor the fact remains that in order to learn Aikido (or any throwing art form) you absolutely must do two things and do them consistently over a sufficiently long period of training time.  First, have a floor that will let you throw (and be thrown) hard, with vigor (force) and second, use it for regularly scheduled powerful ukemi practice and not just for walking, rolling, some half-hearted "soft” ukemi/floating leaf falls on it.

Sound repetitive?  Yes it is; that’s the importance of ukemi, real ukemi and not some geriatric version.

I've been to many dojo of the kind my ex-Sensei referred to as "country dojo", as opposed to what he referred to as "professional dojo".  While he never spent much time expanding that discussion topic, I and others interpreted his remarks as setting forth the difference between a dojo that approaches everything as soft and slow (almost like a form of soft, geriatric Aikido) and one that has a more serious, powerfully dynamic, "take another 100 ukemi and throw a little harder please" approach.

Looking back on it now, years after leaving his tutelage, I now realize several things possible about his avoiding (for the most part) this topic and the protestations (and indeed arguments from proprietors of “country dojo”) it can create;

  • First, you have to have a good falling surface and the simple fact of the matter is that most dojo simply don't and never will.  They train anywhere they can whether that be in the back area of a BJJ school or on folding mats at a gymnasium or gymnastics school or they use crude wrestling mats like those at a dojo that I ran a seminar at years ago; dirty, hard, punishing.  They do the best they can but pro-level facilities are just beyond their resources.
  • Second, most of their student population is older or off the bad end of the BMI tables.  Old, overweight players can't take the physical punishment so the entire curriculum is slowed down to something that could be called "NHB" (Nursing Home Budo).
  • Third, they teach a fluid crowd.  That is, they find it difficult to retain more than one or possibly two senior ranks, so for the most part no one sticks around long enough to develop really high-level ukemi ability which retards the development of those who actually do hang around.
  • Lastly, they follow the "internal power" ideas and "soft off-balance" ideas to the point that they forget to do Aikido; instead, training incessantly in arcane exercises designed to teach internal power while barely moving their feet and developing overly cooperative ukes.  They become wonderful at holding hands but unable to do dynamic Aikido.

Any one of these ideas can (and did all those years ago) create arguments, as the Sensei from any dojo that fits one or more of these "country dojo" descriptions will protest since they view themselves as teaching "real Aikido".  The first three I certainly understand (and understand well) since I started at a community ed center myself with really bad folding mats on concrete floors but we still found a way to do better and threw hard onto crash pads and also worked on fast and hard attacks and kuzushi but pulled back just before we blew uke into the floor.

Bottom-line; we do what we can with what we have at hand.  I consider myself lucky to have a large, professional-level dojo with the best falling surface possible.  Others don't have my resources and if I didn't have them I'd probably have a dojo less than half the size I have now and would with a small group of dedicated players but I would still do dynamic Aikido and would still require everyone to throw hard and take hard ukemi; even if I had to aim their flying corpses at crash mats on the other side of the room.

The impact of ukemi (bwaha … small pun) will, over time help develop a strong, adaptable (to stress) and resilient body; one that can take a lot of punishment while enabling the uke (the "receiver") to simply get back up and keep going.  Sensei used to say, and I find myself repeating him in this regard, that each and every time you fall (get thrown) every single muscle, tendon, ligament and organ in the body, including the connective tissue and fascia receives a very brief but powerful isometric tension, even the eyelids, that strengthens the body in  its entirety.  It gives you what he used to call a "hard body" as your innards' strengthen to meet the performance demands put upon them.

I also believe (although he never addressed this aspect) that when we are thrown we briefly hold our breath which serves to "pressurize" the body from the inside out, strengthening the circulatory system with the temporarily increased pressure.  This has been described before by researchers including Moshe Feldenkrais in his writings on Judo.  Plus tactically, we don't really want to fully exhale as we hit the floor since the person throwing us could land on top, crushing our chest, and aside from pushing any last air out of our lungs, totally compress the rib cage and break ribs since the chest is not momentarily locked, but is instead collapsing.

So what else can taking dynamic and powerful throws teach us, and give us ability in?  How about this:

  • When you learn how to take falls as they are honestly and powerfully thrown you begin to learn an intuitive feel for countering those throws because you know when the throw is there, and when it is not.  You learn to intuitively feel the difference between him controlling your balance and posture or only seeming to.
  • When you train, and you are thrown by your uke honestly (and not as pre-arranged "jumping" or "dropping down") then you in-turn get to throw him so you practice both the tori and the uke side and gain a deeper understanding of both, and what each feels like as the "giver" and the "taker" (person throwing and person being thrown).
  • Once you fully understand these aspects then randori takes on a whole new level of sophistication.  If you attack and he attempts a waza using little to no kuzushi then you immediately sense it on an intuitive level and you simply "walk out" of anything he does.  Frustrating for him perhaps but it pushes him to clean up his movements and it makes you "unthrowable" in the sense of every legendary martial artist you ever read about who had control of "internal power".
  • Every time he hits that off-balance you absorb the shock and develop the ability to redirect that impact whether it be a kuzushi, an atemi or an attempt at a joint lock. As your body learns to absorb it, it adapts and controls the attacker via tai sabaki and self-control of posture and self-control of internal power (position of spine, muscle tension, etc.)
  • You learn the ability to push his power back into him. The simplest example would be he takes kuzushi and enters for wakigatamae so instead of resisting, you intuitively follow his power and motion and "feed" him the armbar and take Gedan-ate or Sukui-nage.  By learning to not resist, by learning to relax which in turn better enables you to absorb his energy you become able to combine his energy with your energy and throw him with less effort than you could have otherwise.

So the question should also be posed; should you ever do "soft" Aikido and study little intricate, slowly developed ideas of "soft off balance" and "soft touch" Aikido?

Of course.  That's all part of the broader picture in my view.  However, the "soft" side without throwing dynamically is only a small part.  Even people like Ueshiba who was reported to have once commented that he got to be as good as he was after 60 or so years of hard training used the bigger picture of start hard and end up soft. Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei: “I am what I am because I trained hard style for 60 years. What can you do?”

Many Aikido players, being raised only on a diet of "soft touch" never learn these basic ideas and thus their Aikido is forever flawed to a certain extent due to their never having experienced what true dynamics can be.

Go find a mat and ask your partner in geiko to slam you into the mat, and in return, you to him as you both sing a couple of choruses of a sea chanty.

L.F. Wilkinson Kancho

The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

November 2016

139. Wakey-Wakey Eggs n’ Bakey

Wakey-Wakey Eggs n’ Bakey.  How many times did I hear that as a youngster growing up in a South Texas household?  Too many times it seems. Eggs (usually fried in the bacon drippings).  Toast on the side. Butter.  Jam.  Cold milk.  Yum (or as the ‘net geeks say today …. Nom-nom-nom).  65 years old and I still don’t know what the hell “nom-nom” really means.  Must be Martian-Speak ‘cause I just can’t see how that replicates the smackin’ n’ droolin’ that occurs during breakfast (at least at my house some 60 odd years ago with two little boys and parents pressed and in a hurry to get to work).

So what is about bacon and eggs that causes pigs and chickens to be such an important part of our existence?  Why does four legs laying on a plate next to a two legged bird-spawn have such an impact on us?  Basic.  Primitive.  Fundamental.  Primal.  That’s why.  Simple.  Easy to fix.  Not complex.  Easy to eat.  Tastes good.  Real down home country style comfort food.  Not like that plate from the Earth Gaia-Mother food mart.  You know the one.  Granola and yogurt with green tea. Green tea?  For breakfast?  Are you a Communist or do you just hug trees?  Everyone from Alley Oop the caveman to modern man in a business suit can look at abstract paintings and still identify the pig and chicken.  I mean ……. what else could there be.  Compare bacon and eggs to say, haggus (“Hey, that looks like swollen road kill”), sushi (“Isn’t that supposed to be deep fried and served with a side of chips and vinegar”), or coq a vin (“Can’t find the chicken bits there’r being so many mushrooms”).

Bacon and eggs.  Quick and fundamental nutrition; quick to do, fast to digest, puts meat on your bones, just like kihon.  Not complicated or taking days to prepare.

Huh?  “Sensei ……. Chotto matte kudasai ….. How does bacon and eggs compare to kihon”?  So ………. you weren’t listening the first time?  I said ………….. easy, quick, fundamental, nutritious.  Much faster and will put meat on your bones as opposed to the hours, days even it take to prepare much more complicated fare that doesn’t have near the level of basic nutritional values. 

Bacon & Eggs (equals) kihon and fundamentals.  Bacon & Eggs does not equal internal power or ura level kata.  Bacon & Eggs.  Most all the nutrition you need for the training table. Heavy protein and vitamins.  Calcium and potassium.  Why do you think that athletic meals for football teams and the like seem to always encompass some variation of bacon and eggs?  I remember playing high school football and even if it was a night game the coaches always fed us bacon, sausage, eggs, milk, etc. before the game because it was easy to digest and gave energy for the 4 quarters of the game.  The heavy meal (the deep fried chicken platter or the chicken fried steak ……… see the theme here?) only came after the game was over with and everyone had been bandaged and taped and showered and was ready to go home for some sleep before getting up the next day for “Two A Day’s” and prep’ing for next weeks game.

I’ve been off the blog now for about two years but, have been re-posting all the past blogs which has allowed for a review of the old and the inspiration of the new. Seeing what you wrote a decade ago is interesting.  Funny thing happened tho’ on the way to the forum (dojo actually) and that is that some things never change.  When I first began to blog ten or so years ago I wrote that everyone was in love with material that was too advanced for them to really understand, much less become fully functional with.  That is still the case unfortunately but the tendency to ignore the hard work in favor of the quick and flashy is still with us and I suspect, always will be.

So what is the purpose of eggs and bacon?  It’s a fast, cheap, easy way to feed the family for the long day ahead in the fields or the classrooms and it takes little time to prepare; time being one of the most precious commodities these days.  So what is the purpose of kihon?  It’s a fast, cheap, easy way to prepare the deshi for the long randori ahead in the dojo or the theme park outside the dojo and it is the most efficient means by which the foundation of more advanced material can be taught in the least amount of class time.

How much kata and how many waza do we need; really? The concept of tokui-waza demonstrates that out of possibly 100’s of waza, you only really use less than a dozen consistently over the long-term.  By consistent, repetitive practice of the basics done literally thousands of times, the few waza that are truly useful can be made most effective.

Look at more advanced material?  Absolutely, but spend most of your time on the basics; and then have some bacon and eggs to sustain yourself and put some meat on your bones before going after all that exotic, high level but low protein food (granola) and kata (or internal power).  You’ll get more benefit.

Pass the coffee pot and another side of ukemi please sir.

L.F. Wilkinson-Kancho

The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX

October 2016

138. A Long Comment On The State Of The Budo-Verse

When I started martial arts in 1969 it was with a fresh faced innocence and a totally open mind.  Like most of my generation, I had been raised on Bruce Lee in the tv series “Green Hornet” (“Hey Kato, get the car!”) along with steady doses of The Pink Panther who had his own Kato for comic relief (“NoooooOOO Kato, Not Now!), and David Carradine in the tv series “Kung Fu” (“Ah yes grasshopper, man who stand on street corner and hold sandwich in hand soon find many 4-legged friends”).

 A lot of folks remember those cultural guideposts but the difference is that I was there for the premiere and not the re-runs.

 Basically, martial arts of all kinds were still pretty new.  It was only the 1960’s and most MA were being taught either by Orientals who emigrated here after WW II or by American servicemen just back from posting in the East.  My Sensei began his MA career in Judo as an Air Force recruit and was eventually posted to Japan where he met other servicemen and training partners who were part Douglas MacArthur’s SCAP (Supreme Command Allied Pacific).  Those senior military and Judo people were part of the larger group responsible for the lifting of the ban against the practice of MA in Japan.

 In a very real sense then my Sensei and the others were the ones who saved MA since at that point they had been outlawed.  One Japanese Sensei I trained under extensively (in Aikido and Jodo) once quietly spoke of training at night by candle light in out of the way locations because of the threat of being arrested by American M.P.’s in search of ex-military fighters and enforcing the ban on the practice of martial arts.  She never liked talking about the war very much having lived through the worst parts of it and when we took her to Washington, D.C. on a training tour she refused to visit any monuments pertaining to the Pacific conflict and turned her head away as we drove by, but at the same time seemed to respect (but was very solemn) when we took her to visit the National Cemetery; that was how strongly that time period had impacted her life and how much each side in the conflict had lost.

 So I relate this by way of illustrating how little was known about MA of any kind when it came out of the East and entered the West in a big way, post WW II.  It was so new to Americans (everything known or suspected about it being mysterious) that almost all the information we had access to contained two very curious but important ingredients;

 FIRST, it was all true, complete and pretty accurate (as far as we were concerned) since no one knew enough to begin to lie or invent myths about it (that came much later as the commercial value manifested itself).  We were all totally ignorant.  All the information was coming from people who were “fresh from the source or head-waters” as it were and because of that there were few skeptics on the mat.  No one even knew enough to be a skeptic when the person teaching had been "over there" and no one else in the room had.  We were all sponges soaking up any drop of knowledge that hit the floor and were completely enthralled by anyone who had actually made the pilgrimage TO Japan; much less actually being FROM Japan.

 SECOND, everything was “magical” with the stories from our teachers containing all the wonder of people flying over cars and into walls and of Sensei being able to control any opponent with one finger only.  The only thing anybody who heard stories like that said was something to the effect of, “Great!  When do we have that lesson and where’s my uke?  I’m ready!”

 So now amplify this by the fact that we all, to one degree or another, were “flower children” of the 60’s; the actual beginning of the very first Indigo/Crystal Child generation, looking for meaning and purpose by abandoning our Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Agnostic, Atheist upbringings and looking to the East.  Rebels all, each in our own way.  My parents never understood and in all the years I trained they only saw me practice once, and afterwards my father walked out of the dojo shaking his head and mumbling something about a "tire tool" being a better weapon.

 The East was different because everything was or seemed non-logical and intuitive in execution.  The terms “total immersion training”, “intuitive assimilation”, “aiki”, "ki power",  “moving Zen”, “reflexive response”, or “intuitive reflexes”, "internalization", and the like were common and regularly heard in the dojo’s of that time period.  Everyone came to the dojo to train in Aikido or Judo or weapons forms with a completely open mind, with no negative or skeptical attitudes and a willingness to do the research (both in and outside the dojo) that was necessary not only to learn but to excel.

 All of us at one time looked into and briefly pursued things such as Transcendental Meditation, Zen, Buddhism, Taoism, Arica, Gurdjieff, Mikkyo, EST and the like.  We all jumped at the chance to take Tai Chi and acupressure massage/joint manipulation when a teacher came from Japan and offered it and some eventually became professionals at various forms of body manipulation that studied manipulating energy flows because we believed her when she said it would improve our Aiki-do and enable us to become stronger both internally and externally.

 We (all of us) searched and looked and experimented and tried it all.  The net result was a large group of us who finally became senior players, some of whom now teach and run their own dojo and MA organizations.  Others are now dead, some are spiritually lost individuals, at least a couple in temple as life-long Buddhist Monks ("Hey!  Bring me a bieru!")  or literally on the reservation as Indian Medicine Men and others have gone on to become part of clans with secrecy clauses backed by literal blood oaths.

 So why do I relate all of this and how does it impact each of you and pertain to lessons that I have found myself falling into of late?

 During that period of discovery and growth of both the MA in general (and within each of us individually) we all were at the spring or the head-waters.  It was all pure.  It was all new.  It was all in the original forms.  Nothing had been watered down and it was all still pure art form, having not yet been distilled, canned and commercialized.

 Perhaps most importantly, all the Sensei and their first couple of generations were taught and understood the foundations, the principles and the benefits of MA as they came directly from the East because if for no other reason than most of it was still under the supervision of the "old guys"; the Tengu; the grizzled Japanese (and Americans who had trained directly under them) who didn't talk much but who could dribble you on the mat like a basketball and never break a smile or a sweat.

 Everyone who walked into those dojo back then got the pure “cask strength Scotch” as it were, not the watered down well-liquor variety where the bar tender takes a bottle that should only pour 32 jiggers and waters it until it will pour twice that.  So all players got a good education in the MA from the technical, strategic and philosophical sides that were fairly complete in the panorama it painted in all of our heads, and in the dreams that it raised in all of us to strive for.

 Today unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.  Over the last 40 years various forms of martial arts have now “gone Olympic”, “gone Hollywood” or gone "use this website and fear no man".  Innumerable books, comics, video games and tv shows have taken their toll on the truth and as a result, almost no one today walking into a dojo has anything approaching a clear picture of what the MA are supposed to be about, much less what they can teach, how powerful they can make the long-term practitioner; and even less of what the ultimate potential of ability and knowledge is for anyone willing to spend 20 to 30 years or more in the steady pursuit of truth and the personal development of mind, body and spirit.

 Everything has been perverted and distorted to the point to where sometimes even I have trouble seeing the true picture.  It has become so commercialized that it's like buying the Mona Lisa in a Paint By The Numbers set that only vaguely resembles the art and has no life nor depth; like a creature from a two-dimensional universe.

 This is one reason why as we steadily move our dojo here in Houston more towards a koryu-type dojo (or at least the closest we can come in an American cultural setting with people who work for a living) I decided some time ago that we will begin to educate everyone in the same classical concepts that I was taught.

 It's time because we finally have (after 15 years of working towards it) a large enough group of committed black belts who will stay around long enough to make that possible.  I can’t teach really advanced ideas unless I have a core of advanced players to assist me in “down-flowing” the concepts to the entire dojo group as a whole.  Without that core of advanced players ready to learn, you are forever stuck at teaching the same fundamentals over and over again because it just won't stick.

 So my players know to look for long lectures on some of the more arcane aspects of Aiki-do and Budo, and on how to open the mind and begin to enlarge ones' life-panorama in a quest for “the big picture”.

 Some of it will be technical but much will be philosophical as it has always been my view (and the view of my teachers) that fully understanding the technical is simply not possible without a firm grounding in the philosophical and the spiritual.  The three cannot be effectively trifurcated and if they are, the net result (given a sufficient time to mutate) becomes the “martial nonsense” that surrounds us today.

 "Internal Power".  "Combat Ready".  "Reality Training".  Pfffbbbtttt.  Get a life for God's Sake.

 This is also a prime reason as to why we require that all new players decide to train only at with us, not be "dual-dojo", and not attend seminars put on by other Sensei in other styles or in other organizations unless discussing it with me and getting my approval first.  I may allow someone who is a brand new beginner to briefly train at their old school in an effort to help them in the transition to us (which granted, can be troublesome at times esp. if their old "dojo" was in a garage or health club) but I will very quickly demand that everyone make the choice of us or them.

 I approve these requests when the material to be taught at a seminar matches what we already do, such as "internal power"; a phrase very much mis-used today and one that 40 years ago was only known as "aiki".  Regardless of what you may call it (I personally like the older term as being more classically descriptive in defining but simultaneously "not-defining" it);  things of this nature are not new and not magical but have always been a part of the fabric of Aikido.  So if some other Sensei has a different way to view and discuss it, I am largely open and have been to a couple of these seminars..

 I don't permit anyone to "dual-dojo" however because I become concerned that a player could come to us and receive good information that is almost immediately negated by someone else telling a different story.  The difficulty then becomes the point at which they begin to go schizoid and bi-polar; Aikido player today and mixed martial artist tomorrow, or Ki Society today and Tomiki tomorrow, as they switch back and forth with no touch-stone or benchmark to gauge themselves against and with no firm foundation upon which to build their life and their martial arts career.

 When I began this rule after opening my dojo 17 years ago it made total sense based on past exeriences.  When I was a white belt and started training in old-style Budo it was expected without a lot of lame discussion.  Today it seems that everyone wants to train everywhere which (when you view how that player performs) results in a clear and total inability to do either Budo #1 or Budo #2 correctly.  What's that saying, "Jack of all martial arts and master of none."  There was a reason behind forbidding the idea of "dual dojo" or of mixing Aikido cum' UFC cum' whatever way-back-when that hold true today regardless of the levels of ignorance out there today in the Budo-verse.

 While I don’t pretend to know it all, or even to understand as much as any of my original Sensei, the simple fact that I’m almost 65 and was there in the dojo when Tomiki personally approved the foundation of his Aikido in the US and anointed my Sensei to run it for him, simply means that I was able to absorb material that is no longer readily available.  Tomiki dictated and Sensei obeyed resulting in a purer and more complete form of transmission.

 I’ve been around so long that all of my colored belt certificates were issued by my Sensei only as a means by which to encourage us because to the Japanese, to real players, a  colored belt was invisible on the mat.  Only a black belt held any real value back then and all of my early black belt diplomas were literally hand carried by special courier from Japan.  Do your demo in front of a Japanese-style grading committee with the grading cards and video tape being sent to Japan for approval,  and assuming you didn't fail, then 6 months later a limo from the Japanese consulate would pull up outside the dojo and a guy in a black business suit with white shirt and black tie would climb out holding a black brief case full of promotional certificates.  And he didn't smile when he walked into the dojo door, bowed, and asked for Sensei.  The first time I saw that I knew that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore (or South Texas either) and it only confirmed that I was both in the right place at the right time, and that I needed to focus and understand the difference between wheat and chaff or the serious vs. the un-serious.

 Today, some 40 odd years later, everyone running a dojo that did not have exposure to those times, teachers and information (or who haven't managed to pick it up since) have an incomplete education in their chosen art form.  We’re now about 4 generations removed with each successive generation resulting in less knowledge being passed on.  They simply don’t have the picture in their head nor the information to pass on that would otherwise inform their students of what old style martial arts are all about (or are supposed to be all about).  They might be very competent in their style of competitive Tae Kwon Do or MMA or kickboxing or Kiddie Jiujutsu or whatever; but none of those are martial arts, instead being modern derivatives based in martial techniques but now totally formulated for sports purposes, military training, law-enforcement or just plain old capitalist marketing and profit seeking.

 This is why in the world of Aikido for example, teachers such as Chiba, Saotome, Ikeda, Tissier, Geis, Loi, Miyake and others like them are so highly regarded and respected in their own right.  People who have trained with them and others like them put them first on their martial resume thus lending credence to their Curiculum Vitae.

 Those senior teachers, and those who studied under them like myself and my peers, came out of those times and today for the most part strive to teach a complete picture of Aikido as being classical, technical, traditional, sophisticated, combat ready and self-defense oriented, but simultaneously a means by which we can grow and mature on a personal and spiritual level; something not possible while preparing for tournaments and international level competitions or doing massive repetitions of techniques more suitable for building aerobic conditioning than improving one’s spirit.

 As a line (paraphrased) in an old movie script written by Bruce Lee said, “That would be true if pigs had wings and could fly”.  However, referring to a pig as being an eagle (or even putting lipstick on it) doesn’t make it so and referring to today’s activities and calling no-contact karate, kickboxing or mixed martial arts (for example) a true and complete martial art, doesn’t make it so.  A true martial art in the old sense works on your body, mind and spirit all at the same time.  A single minded focus on street fighting, tournaments or aerobic conditioning does not.

 So my teaching lessons have for a long time now have essentially dealt with everything that I have discussed above.  When I began martial arts and Aikido many years ago I went into it with several expectations.

  • I would learn self-defense.
  • I would learn and develop a way of looking at the world that would improve my life by teaching me to be more relaxed, more focused and less ADD.
  • I would learn a life-philosophy that would take away my negativity and enable me to think in a more positive fashion; not just sometimes but all of the time.
  • I would become more self-confident in learning something that would allow me to fear no one (or least to fear few).  You can never become bullet proof or invincible but you can begin to greatly minimize the number of people that you are concerned about.
  • I would learn to trust my intuition and not strictly rely only on the dogmatism of logic or the pedantic pedagogy of worn-out maxims, memes and life-motto’s that are often repeated by out-of-work motivational experts and over-sexed/over-paid men of the cloth whether that cloth was spun from King James or Bodidharma.
  • I would learn something that for all intents and purposes was “open ended”.  That is, there was so much material on the technical level and so much inquiry possible on the personal and spibeceome infinite.  It would no longer have a goal or end-point.  It would  become a life-long process of training, learning and improvement of every aspect of my life and by extension, the lives of those around me.

 True martial arts are a process that has no ending in sight so here is the underlying, purely distilled intent; one that speaks both to the technical side (how to train) and to the philosophical side (how to view the role of each training partner) which in and of itself addresses how to set up and consider the training scenario.

 The last time I saw the woman who was my (and my wife's) primary Japanese Sensei she was boarding the plane to fly home after giving Lynn Sensei and I both some very specific marching orders for our training since all of us assumed (quite correctly as it has turned out some 17 years later) that we would likely never see each other again.

 “They (the Japanese players) forgot that the sword exists.”

 What this means is that they began to focus only on the role of tori; and uke became a training dummy and not a very intelligent one at that.  The assumption became over time that uke would never attempt to block and counter, much less counter-attack.  Tori just moved through the kata assuming that he would always win and that uke would always be defeated.  Openings began to appear in what tori was doing because now the mind-set changed from “combat” to “choreography”.  Tori became careless and non-attentive and uke never once thought about what they could do should tori become sloppy and ineffectual.

 In a sense, tori began to develop contempt for the role of uke (and by extension, the person playing that role in training).   Contempt leads to lack of respect, which leads to disregard for the physical well-being of uke, which leads to …… the shadow side.  And once you cross over to the shadow side, all the philosophy and spirtual growth that should be a part of Budo goes away.  The failure to understand the primal nature and fundamental essence of Budo and martial arts makes the philosophical and spiritual no longer visible.

 When considered in the Aikido paradigm we should look at it this way.  I talk about the kata being set up so that tori always follows through and doesn't “pull the punch”.  This idea develops the intuitive ability to not think, just complete and over time it becomes automatic.  Tori throws uke or takes a joint lock and the follow-through to completion becomes so automatic that it can’t fail (due to “pulling the punch” or getting careless).  In fact, once in a panic situation tori not only doesn’t “pull the punch”; the adrenaline surge in their system becomes so massive that they apply maximum power within the confines of principle; that is, they do the technique correctly and now they apply every ounce of power they have, making the technique even more effective.

 But, uke has a role also.  Uke takes the ukemi to escape the striking technique or the joint lock.  Uke, in the case of Oshi-taoshi (a common elbow waza) drops out from under the arm bar as tori begins to apply the lock.  Tori can now follow-through to completion, actually passing through the point at which the elbow would otherwise dislocate if uke were to simply stand in place.

 Uke, by allowing the arm bar to develop but “going with the flow” and dropping down to the floor, trains their subconscious mind to automatically move with the attack, thus avoiding the elbow dislocation that would occur by resisting by dropping to the floor and allowing tori to complete the waza.  Uke now learns that by not resisting and by dropping down or flowing with the execution of the waza, they get to that point at which the most likely opportunity to counterattack occurs and by that flowing with the waza, subconsciously learns whether tori even has the necessary kuzushi.  If tori has it then the waza just "feels" effective and not "resistable".  If tori does not then uke can just (by not resisting) "walk out of the waza" and then easily do a kaeshi waza.

 Thus, both tori and uke learn to internalize all the facets of the technique and how to both take it most effectively and how to escape it most effectively.  This is one manner in which true martial arts were taught.  Both tori and uke learn, understand and through repetitive practice internalize an intuitive response that leads to understanding BOTH sides of the coin; not just the one so many focus on; to wit, how do I win?

 True combat ability, true self-defense, true martial arts should be taught in such a fashion as to enable one to understand that a focus on only one side is incorrect.  Both tori and uke have a role to play and both therefore need each other in order to go beyond mere technique and to emcompass the philosophical mind and the spiritual being with the physical and technical. 

Tori must respect the role of uke and uke must respect the role of tori.  Neither role is more important than the other.  This respect for the role eventually extends to respect for the individual playing that role.  Mutual respect leads to trust and mutual trust leads more effective and greater and faster dynamic training once that understanding of each role and trust is well established.

 Additionally, the understanding should be acquired that although we talk safety, safety, safety, ethics, honest attitudes, trustworthy behavior, trust in each other, respect for every belt either above us or below us in seniority and grade, in the end we do martial arts  and  those martial arts were designed to dismember and incapacitate the opponent.

 Aikido teaches combat arts in addition to ethics.  Losing sight of Aikido’s origins (and failing to properly teach to them) loses sight of the “big picture” that Aikido makes possible so part of Sensei’ job is to relate all aspects of Aikido including those that may at time sound crude or blunt.  In this fashion you gain a more in-depth understanding of Aikido and additionally, why we are so fanatical about safety and trust and how the mind and spirit functions in conjunction with the body; the whole obviously being much larger than the sum of the parts.

 This was the lesson and the directive that was given us and what I will continue to emphasize more and more as our Yudansha develop into real Aikido players.

 So Come to Class, Stay Lean and Stay Hungry.

 L.F. Wilkinson - Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas

October 2014

137. The Feral Kid - A Spengler-ian Operetta in Three Parts

San Antonio.  The center of the Texan Universe has been taken over by urbanity on the Fourth of July (aka people who prove that Darwin was right but who haven't won the Darwin Award yet .... just give them time).

During the three days we were there on July vacation (having survived the Valley of Moo - post #135, and the Valley of River Sardines - post #136 .... go back and read those first and in order if you haven't already) I was doing my normal ("Hey Honey .. look at him ... look at them ... see that family .... ooooo ... would'ya look at that") routine in which I people watch.  

I people watch A LOT and I classify everyone I see.

All good Budoka should engage in people watching.  Serious people watching.  Not just sometimes but all the time.  It should be an embedded part of your being in which you always have your head up and you watch everyone around you in order to not become a victim of assault by sub-humans and barbarians, or to prevent yourself from just walking off a cliff, a high curb or into oncoming traffic; or in the case of the Riverwalk, literally the river.

People watching is more than simply not using your cell phone or looking across the street before you cross or walking around a group of people who seem marginal.  People watching is looking beyond the crowds of badly dressed Goths's or nihilists who carry a certain "aroma" around them; for within the crowds of "urban-ity" who may be watching the oblivious tourists, drunks and silly teenagers were the true feral population.   The Lone Wolves.  The real sub-humans.

I tend to classify people into several slots at first glance and then leave it up to them to convince me to change their classification.  I don't apply this to friends or co-worker necessarily or even to my agency clients (some of whom I would tend to put at the bottom rung) based on how they treat their employees when I conduct enrollment meetings.

I tend to use this system pretty extensively for strangers tho' and for prospective deshi when they walk into the dojo, or for that matter when I teach at seminars away from home where I might walk into a room with 100 people there, 90% of whom I simply have never met before.  You have to do this otherwise you could find yourself cold-cocked by some Budo-Wannabee who is there to prove a point by taking you out.  First time it happens to you or you see it happen to the guy running the seminar then you learn really quickly what "people watching" and placing them into instinctive classifications really means, and why it's necessary.

So as a rough draft (and I reserve full right of modification as I get older and hopefully a little smarter about all of this and I don't claim total omniscience in the arena of people classifying) is:

Uber-Human:  Able folks, open-minded, ethical, moralistic, ex-military or LEO's who kept up their training, profession martial artists, high rank Aikido, Judo, Daito Ryu, Muy Thai, etc. who are smart, trained, skilled, alert, aware, and act it and wear it.  Ever seen a prospective student walk into your dojo to join your classes and the second he pulls off his shoes, puts them into the shoe rack and walks over to introduce himself you just know that he's trained by the way he walks, how he holds his spine and how his feet grip the floor and how he precisely and succinctly expresses his goals and desires about everything from MA to his career to his family?  That's Uber-Human.

Human:  Basically lots of potential to become Uber-Human but still raw material and unkneaded dough.  They just need a good Sensei, some good co-Aikido players to work and train with and a lot of nurturing.  Anyone who's a senior player, a Sensei or who runs a dojo was here at one time and we just got lucky in who we signed on with.  There were likely a lot of humans on the Riverwalk who were just as observant as we were while strolling thru' the Valley of the Sardines (really crowded) but they were, I think, greatly outnumbered by the People.  Most humans will likely never be serious martial artists because they lack the drive or they start with the drive and then at some point are overtaken by career, family or other issues and never make that leap to "Uber-dom".

People:  I love all the vampire shows on TV these days and the terms they use (not to mention all that hot "vampire sex").  "Meat Sack".  Very descriptive in how the vampires view their walking plate-lunch but in this case it's the guy who walks into the dojo to ask about classes and he's done everything, been everywhere, but knows (and can do) absolutely nothing at all.  A dabbler with a loud opinion and a lot of short training stints at every type martial art in existence. 

Or, another example would be a female I ejected a couple of years ago who claimed she wanted to learn and begged to be on the mat so I thought she's harmless enough and I let her try.  Three months later she's still trying to figure out how to take even the most basic of ukemi and every time we put her on the mat she says she's too tired and every time someone grabs her wrist for a technique "It hurts".  But she loves the idea of Aikido and just wants to be around the people who do it so that she can claim that she too, is an Aikido player.  

Basically "People" have no potential and don't want to have any potential and view life as a series of texts on their cell phone, the Sunday ticket on cable, another plate of greasy french fries and three McRibs with a side of diet Coke in the gallon container.  They can be friends and family (so you gotta' love some of them in spite of the total BS involved) but they can just drive a high level player crazy with their inane comments and off-kilter unrealistic view of the world and weird views of what self-defense is .... and ain't.

I once got into an argument with a family member who fits into this category with the argument centered on the danger of certain dogs and how genetic selection for aggressive predisposition could be selected and seen in some breeds.  I even cited Gregor Mendel and the response was "Who?" causing me to understand that he slept through AP Biology in high school.

No use.  He still thinks that having a chain saw on a lease around children is a good idea as long as you "love the dog" because the dog is just "misunderstood".  So with this attitude how can you think that he would understand the use of force and when and how to apply it, or the idea that some people are ...... just ...... evil...... and like the evilness because it completes them.  He'd likely want you to "discuss" the issues and reach a "mature" agreement about your impending butt-rape with your assailant; as opposed to reaching for the nearest club to crease their hair with.

Barbarians:  These would be the nihilistic Goths  and Urban Animals and high school punks that we saw everywhere on the Riverwalk.  Dangerous in a groups but for the most part little more than obnoxious bags of hot air if encountered singly and faced down.  A few could be dangerous individually due to background and/or training at your local Karate Bob's Nail Salon and Self-Defense Emporium.  Poorly educated, or well educated and lacking purpose, direction, manners and self-respect.  Dressing to irritate daddy or to prove that they are not part of society, but by doing so become part of a new societal tribe with few civilized rules of behavior (think a pack of drunken high school jocks or college frat-rats).  The kind of people who cut in line to buy movie tickets and dare you to object.  The kind of people who drive bouncers at night clubs and sports bars crazy with their out-of-control drinking and wild aggressive actions.  The kind of people who may have bullied you in high school and that you still run from at your 30 year reunion (unless you have since become Uber-Human).  Loud attitudes based in no knowledge of anything of importance (but they're completely willing to tell you what you are doing wrong and if you object then they'll do the Knock Out Game on you and steal your sack lunch, bag of Oreo's and your beer and have no guilt).

Subhumans:  The Feral Kid.  I saw him probably a good half-dozen times every day that we were in San Antonio.  There are two primary types of subhumans.  Those who are really smart and who do well at blending into the crowds of barbarians so that they are less noticeable; but who are really very dangerous lone wolves; and those who are so far off the scale that they don't fit in anywhere and run alone on the fringes of everything.   As a famous movie character once said (paraphrasing), "There are just some men in the world that you can't talk to or reason with.  They are just different from everyone else and they want to watch the world burn".

I discount the bums and the usual street people from this category.  You could argue that they also are sub-human but in my view most of them are just down on their luck or have unfortunate mental issues.  The one's I'm concerned about are the one's that very, very few people in the crowd saw and who basically embody evil and all it's traits and who have the ability to harm others without concern, without guilt, without hesitation.  Very dangerous even for well trained players since a decent person might have a moment of hesitation before pulling trigger while the Subhuman has none of that consideration or hesitation.

Barbarians get old, married and hopefully mellow-out.  Subhumans on the other hand just get more experience at being evil and correspondingly become more dangerous.

The danger to people today is that of walking blind and not seeing the feral kid.  Every time I saw him he was alone, walking fast, sliding in and out of the people on the side walk so easily no one seemed to know he was there and quickly gone.  Uber-Humans with training would be aware of him immediately because he just didn't fit and his body actions and posture were just different from everyone around him.

The look in his eyes, intensity, focus, obviously not on drugs, athletic with that lean, wirey type of body, moving like a cat (or black panther due to his clothes).  Dressed all in black but his clothes were clean so he wasn't a street person and had somewhere to sleep and bathe.  Hair combed and well kept.  Clean shoes.   A lone wolf because while there were Goths like him everywhere, he was different .... on the hunt .... and since he moved alone I would suspect that the other Goth's saw that he was different enough from them to cause them to fear him and to stay away or, he looked at the others dressed like him as not being worthy and in his mind, being lesser beings than he and refused to accept them.

When I started this blog several years ago I began by stating up front that I wanted to be different in how I wrote and that I wanted to deliberately provoke thought.  Any fool can write about ki or internal power or the ethics of Budo or ria or sen or maai and indeed, the blog-o-sphere is full of those type writings, some from competent teachers and some from foolish wannabee's; such is the internet in its' ability to allow global audiences to the boring and the incompetent.

My goal and purpose with this blog is to discuss the mentality of martial arts.  I may on occasion roll over into a diatribe on technique or running a dojo but once you learn your system in full, what is martial arts, really? .............. other than the mental work?

 So next time you go out, start to build the habit of classifying everyone around you.  Don't feel guilty about and don't follow the idea that all people are good at heart and deserving of consideration.  Accept that some are just ..... evil and conduct yourself accordingly.

Did the Feral Kid make his score at the Riverwalk on that 4th of July Weekend via assault, robbery, rape, theft?  I mean, I saw him everyday we were there so he had obviously, for whatever reason,  picked the Riverwalk as his hunting ground and apparently had success because he kept returning day after day.

I don't know if he scored or how many times he scored or who his victims could possibly have been.

I just know that because I saw him, and because more than once I looked into his eyes as he walked by and held his gaze to deliberately let him know that I saw him, his score wasn't us.

L.F. Wilkinson - Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas

August 2014



136. Clothes Make the Feral Man - A Spengler-ian Operetta in Three Parts

San Antonio, Texas.   The center of the universe for all Texicans; and if you ain't a Texican then you wish you were.  Teddy slept here.

Drive to SA, cerveza and late lunch at Mi Tierra, then check in at THE Menger and on to the River Walk.  SA actually made a smart move decades ago and took the river that runs through the center of downtown and built sidewalks at the level of the river, which runs one story below street level, and put in shops, hotels, restaurants, eateries and bars.  It has, over the years, become a real upscale attraction that tourists come from all over come to see after going to The Menger and raising a toast to Teddy. 

If you take the boat tour then it's easy to imagine that you've left the city and are somewhere out in the county because all you can see by looking straight ahead or to the side is trees and little shops and people sitting by the water drinking cerveza and feeding the ducks and pidgeons.  It becomes a real get-away and a fantasy that can only be broken by going back up to street level where you face the traffic and the people. 

At night it becomes a true fantasy journey because everything is lit up and if you look up at the office towers and tall hotels that peek through the overhanging trees all you really see are stars and far-away lights.  It's just magic sometimes (and it really becomes magic if you have too many margaritas and fall over in the boat face-up and stare at the sky slowly going by).  It's not Holland or Venice but then we're drinking cerveza and wearing huaraches and not siping wine and wearing wooden clogs or silk slippers with little bells on the toes.

In fact I may have to make a Christmas one year since I've seen photos of the entire river decorated.  Mmmmm .... floating down the river in the boat, smoking a cigar, sipping some really fine Margarita's (try the new prickly pear M's ... really good).  "Pass the guac' please and don't forget the chips".

When I was raised up from being knee-high to a jack rabbit I was taught that it's ok to dress down but dressing down was still supposed to show some level of sophistication and self-respect and retain a certain level of individuality.  Moms universally used to tell you that how you dress is how you act and that when strangers meet you for the first time it takes them about 30 seconds to immediately form that all-important first impression of you as a person. 

If that impression is bad then it becomes difficult to change without some real gyrations and intelligent conversation; that being how important appearance and dress really is.  If you don't believe this then go buy the book, Dress for Success.  Way back yonder (about 1980 or so) I worked as a bank examiner and met Malloy (the author of Dress for Success) who was at the bank we examined that week; selling books and discussing the importance of dress.  Even casual or "dress-down" styles can be done in such a way as to still make that all-important first impression; but if you have a "fail" then it impacts more that just that first impression by strangers.

Dress affects behavior.  The worse the dress the worse the behavior, and vice versa.  I personally know many people (most young, dumb, and full of .....  but what do they know) who will, if asked, tell you that it's "just" a t-shirt or "just" a pair of shorts or "just" a hat or "everyone is wearing this."

Bwahahaha ....... "Son.  They cheated you out of your money.  You need to take that hat back to the store where you bought it 'cause they put the bill on ass-backwards.  The bill goes in the front and not the back."

Research suggests that clothing can have a pronounced effect on our behavior if that clothing has a symbolic (e.g. "tribal") meaning and if we actually have the physical experience of wearing the clothes; the clothes in effect coming alive and enveloping us in an aura that changes how we think and act.  Researchers at the Kellogg School of Management (NW University) call this “enclothed cognition” and in order for enclothed cognition to occur both factors (symblic meaning and wearing them) must occur.

So we get to SA and hit the Riverwalk on the 4th of July so we have to expect an influx of "locals" since one of the biggest fireworks displays in the country will be at dusk and only about 4 blocks away.  Little did I know just how powerful this enclothed cognition was.

Yes.  I am a child of the 60's & 70's.  Hey Dude.  Cool.  Far out.  Like wow ... cowabunga.  Hey man.  Got a light for my joint.  I'll share, just don't Bogart it man.  You know.  Laid back.  Mellow.  Love.  Peace.  Flowers. Free Love.  Beatles and Iron Butterfly and Grace Slick.  Everyone dressed about the same with tie-dye and bell bottoms but for the most part the entire ambiance and environment was pretty calm and mellow with the police being a lot more dangerous than the pot heads.  You could walk thru' a concert at the old SA Memorial Colisium with the smoke so thick you could cut the air with a katana and never fear for your life (although you might have to compete for dance space with the Hari Krishna's and duck all the dozens of frisbees and painted weather balloons being thrown thru' the air).

Not so this last 4th of July at the Riverwalk.

Tribalism.  In all it's fearsomeness.  Even my 15 year old who is still a white belt working on her first promotion could sense it.  The black shirts with pictures of zombies.  The urban hats with the flat bills (front and back).  Hand held speakers Bluetoothed to the cell phone playing Lawrence Welk (well, actually the lyrics uniformly had something to do with "tappin' that", "slapping yo' B__", "killing The Man" and selling enough drugs to buy a new car and get a new tat).

Jewelry with dead faces and skulls.  The black pants with black shoes.  Tatoo after tatoo; not like a sailor wearing a tat that says "I Love Mom" but tats' of dead people, of knives stuck thru' heads, nightmarish tats of death, vampires and zombies.  Nihilism run amuck.  Cell phones taking pic's of everything like these people had never seen normal clothing before or had never been to a real restaurant.  Urban "culture" in all it's vainglory (and that's putting much, much too kind of a face on it).

And the stench from the black bedecked tribal members.  It wasn't mildewy like someone wearing the same clothes for too many days and it was beyond a hot Texas day in the sun.  It was primal.  The smell of pure body odor that was so thick it took me moment to put a label on it.  The stench of women in heat and of men ready to fight.  The stench of arrogance, fear, sex and aggression.  It was occuring naturally based upon the mood of the crowd; but the summer heat of a Texas July served to amplify it.

And it wasn't just one or two people.  It wasn't a couple of small groups.  It was dozens and humdreds of people.  None with families.  Most appearing to be at some level of feral development with many of the smallish groups of 2 to 3 having one individual who was the obvious alpha, with all the aggression that position within the "in-group" entails.  Here in Houston gang experts write that a group of 5 to 6 or more is simply too obvious.  The really serious guys run in packs of no more than 3.  It takes 3 to handle a victim (who has any level of fighting ability) but more than 3 may attact the attention of the police.

It (the stench) finally got so bad that I had to walk closer and closer to the wife and kid because of the subtle aggressive movements and body language I began to see as the night wore on and dark began to fall.  Finally we had enough and the wife and I (she's a 7th Dan in her own right and could sense everything I was sensing) both agreed to get out of the Riverwalk and back to street level and to the hotel.

This I am certain that this was why European royalty invented scented kerchiffs and eventually perfume in the attempt to mask the primal stench in an effort to create a more polite social setting and why in some courts you were not allowed to enter or beg favor without donning the proper clothing first.  (Do you remember in school how all the rowdy little boys suddenly got all-quiet-like and said lots of "Yes Mam's" and "Yes Sir's" when everyone was forced to put on a coat and neck tie for the first time?  See.  Enclothed cognition at work even on a pack of wild sweaty 10 year old boys.)

Here is the scary part.

It seemed that only the three of us were aware of how the atmosphere was changing as the influx of the local "urban" culture coming in got larger and denser.  The rest of the tourists with their wives and husbands and little kids just seemed to keep walking and drinking beer and not noticing how the crowd was changing and becoming more dangerous.  I was waiting for a semi-intoxicated tourist in a loud Hawaiian shirt to accidently knock a beer out someone's hand and have an attempted apology turn into a fist fight which would have likely ended up in the river since there is no railing for most of the Riverwalk and the water is literally one stumble away.

We saw no police.  No undercover officers were apparent.  No bouncers or private security.  And the moment was prime because in some fashion the merchants had received permission to sell beer for carrying around outside; as long as you stayed below and on the Riverwalk itself.  You weren't allowed to carry it up into the street level.  I guess the city fathers had calculated that if anything happened then they could just roll the body into the river and that would be that, and they'd find you days later floating face-down with ducks riding on top of your back.  "Quack, quack."  (That's duck-speak for "where's my tortilla chip".)

 Tribalism is always something watch for.  I don't care if you are the monitor at recess at the local elementary school, if you're shopping for a fur coat at Macy's or you're at a fireworks display in a city not where you normally live.  What we found ourselves in the middle of was like frozen orange juice concentrate.  You remember the commercials on tv.  "Now announcing Uncle Orville's Orange juice.  85 dozen fresh squeezed oranges in every little can."  It was thick and concentrated and really obvious ................. assuming of course that you actually had your head up and was watching the people and the flow of ki (both negative and positive).

Remember.  This blog is about martial arts and how it should impact daily life both on and off the mat so I just gotta' throw some talk about ki into somewhere.

How frustrating it is when you are the only one who seems able to see how evil and sneaky someone is while everyone else is blind to it.

How many authors who write or blog about self-defense throw in scads of commentary in every article that talks about watching where you are, leaving the cell phone in your pocket, being aware of where othere people are, knowing where the exits are. 

Some of the better authors even write about what this blog is concerning; that of looking at how they are dresssed.  Do they look like they are going to church, to a peace rally or something more nefarious?  Are they self-actualilzed idividuals or members of a tribe?  Pay attention to these little things because what Malloy wrote is the same thing that your mother SHOULD have told you.

  • Clothes make the man.
  • If you play with shi-yeet it will rub off on you.
  • Would you jump off the cliff if your "best friend" told you to?
  • And, you can still be an individual and show your independence from your family without wearing depressing Goth or "urban" clothing because if you do, how long will it take for the "enclothed cognition" to kick in and then be exacerbated by the Nihilistic attitude of your "friends"?

Evil really does exist and in a very practical sense (leaving religious ideas completely out of it) you can admit it into your being; and clothing (combined with peer influences) may be one avenue so you should always look around you to see who has succumbed to the temptation and who could be a danger to you.

Our jobs as Sensei includes teaching students to watch for it, be aware of it and to avoid it.  But if it finds you then be ready since Budo and martial arts is not just about wearing pretty clothes.

Part 3 - "He's So Feral" or "The Feral Kid"

 L.F. Wilkinson - Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas

July 2014

135. Moo - A Spengler-ian Operetta In Three Parts

Part 1 - Moo! ....  or ...  Which Way Am I Going, What Day of the Week Is It and Who's My  Daddy?

The family and I took a vacation over the 4th of July Weekend and drove to San Antonio, also called "SA" (not to be confused with "esse") which, when I was a kid in high schoool and college in far S. Texas, was a common destination for us young pups, er, ah, studs looking for excitement.

Back then, in the Greater Cretaceous Era, it was the only place to go to see concerts by real rock & roll bands (like Bloodrock, Jefferson Airplane or Jethro Tull) and was my first exposure to the Hari Krishna group that to this day still exists in SA and that we actually saw in front of the Alamo .... wow ..... was I surprised after 40 years ....  (boom, boom, boom, "Hari Krishna, Hari Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hari, Hari" ..... dance like a maniac in heat ... jump up an down .... ponytail swinging ....).  My 15 year old got shy when I volunteered to take her over to introduce her.  I wanted to pay the boys a sawbuck for quick dance.  She may never fully understand Dad's sense of humor.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

In fact, when I was was in college and was in a fraternity (an official "Frat Rat" as-it-were, still got the pledge and actives' pins to prove it) SA was known as a "One Case Drive"; that is, in a car with 2 to 3 Frat Rats, we went thru' a case of beer each to make the trip, ergo, a "One Case Drive".  Back then (well before the open container law stopped everyone from drinking and driving) we had the ice chest between the two rats in the back seat and the junior had to dig out the beer cans and open them for us.  We measured not by miles but by case with Corpus Christi being a  mere 6-pack (each) and SA being a full case each (oh man we ..... watered ..... a lot of trees ... on the trip).

To go Full-Tilt-Zen for the moment; SA just .....  "IS" ... assuming you're a Texican and if you're not then you wish you were.  It "IS" the Capital City of the Galaxy.  It has The Alamo, the one true place of true sacrifice and heroism, and The Menger Hotel which is right next door to The Alamo and which is where Teddy Roosevelt recruited The Rough Riders who went to Cuba and kicked some serious Spanish Booo-taay.  Plus it's where Mi Tierra is which was founded the year I was born (they knew I was coming).  When such notables as Mushashi and Zeus are in town they always stop in for plate of nachos and a can of Tecate with a slice of lime on top of it.

So if you're a Texican then SA (or San Antonio) "IS" the center of The Universe and the hub of what it means to be Texan.  AND, all true Texicans have to raise a toast to Teddy while sitting at The Bar at The Menger before they die while drinking a Spanish beer (glass of wine .... phfffbt).  The place has old Teddy clothes and pictures on display everywhere and is pretty amazing.  Even Bill Clinton had to make the Mandatory Pilgrimage to The Menger when he was POTUS and he signed his picture on the wall and wrote that eating Mango ice cream at The Menger is to die for.

So we're driving from Houston/Katy to SA and just getting out of the city limits is an effort, what with all the people trying to escape Houston and get to The Capital of the Universe (SA).  I can't blame them because while Houston has more jobs, SA has more class and pizzazz and elegance and soul so who wouldn't want to escape?  Even Dallas pales in comparison.

So we finally hit the edge of the city and the speed kicks up to about 85-90 (I can't drive at anything less than about Warp Factor 4) and we're cruising, we're making time to get there and we're playing tunes and we're talking about lunch at Mi Tierra (their chicken mole is ..... ummmmm ..... drool ..... gawd the mole is just ORGASMIC .... whimper ..... ) and suddenly the traffic just .... stops!!

So I'm going with some major WTF"S and the wife is going "Huh" and the kid is going "Hey Dad are we there yet?"  Are we there yet?  So do I strangle you now or strangle you later?

And we crawl, and we crawl, and we crawl and the kid looks up and says, "Hey Dad!  Look at that!" and someone WALKS BY ON FOOT AND THEY'RE GOING FAST THAN I AM!  And I'm going WTF and we look over and people are actually driving their Mercedes and Beemers up the side of embankments and thru' ditches and down the shoulders and then coming back again because the creek is blocking them and people are honking and screaming and I'm telling the kid to keep the doors locked and windows up because I'm thinking any second now ......

And we finally get to a rest stop and there is like 30 or 35 semi-trailer rigs parked there waiting and we see one trucker sitting under his trailer in a lawn chair reading a book and drinking.  And teenage girls in short-short cheek-peekers are running from car to car knocking on windows and talking to people and cars are in park and people are opening ice chests and firing up BBQ pits and drinking beer and having sex and  ....... well .... to be honest they weren't really having sex but I can guarantee you that somewhere out there in the brush .............

So after about two full hours of this snail-like safari thru' the wilds of central Texas we finally pull up next to a guy in a grey pickup and the wife and he exchange "WTF's" a couple of times and he says that based upon his crystal ball (maybe he had a single sideband in his truck) that a truck had an accident and had caused a HazMat issue and the highway was going to be closed the rest of the day ..... oh ..... joy ..... were're still 150 miles outside SA and in the middle of  NOWHERE! and Mi Tierra has my cerveza on ice with waitresses waiting to take my order.

So literally, no exageration, after a full TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF JOY we start to pick up speed and the walkers and joggers are being picked up by their rides and we start to roll and we get to the HazMat accident and ......................... grrrrrr ..... it's on the other side of the road.

It was NEVER on our side.  We're on a divided highway with the divided lanes a good 100 yards apart with a steel cable fence between with a posted 75 mile speed (which in Texas actually translates to 85 mph minimum speed with a max of no more than 100) and the damn rubber neckers have LITERALLY backed up traffic from the location of the wreck to a town called Flatonia which is a good 30 miles behind us.

Hmmm ..... pull out the slide rule .... 30 miles x 5,280 feet per mile = 174,600 feet / 18 average feet in length per car = 9,700 car x 2 lanes = 19,400 cars backed up behind us.  Oh - My - Freaking - Gawd.

O - M - G  ....  a frakkin' 30 mile traffic backup because the damn rubber neckers have to stop to look at what?  A tanker truck that didn't even turn over but only sprung a leak?  A bunch of firefighters spreading sand and chemical disperant foam on the highway?

Woo Hoo .... a chemical spill. 

Now a gun fight between cartels on the side of the road using rpg's and SAW's, a herd of brahma cattle being riden by Lady Madonna in drag as the cattle have sex, a conjunto band in tight pants led by a Guatemalan Tom Jones look-alike playing ranchero music and giving out free cerveza ... now THAT'S worth stopping for  ........... but a bunch of guys in baggy pants spreading sand? 

And ergo part 1 of this blog.  People today have uninteresting lives with little to no meaning such that a simple chemical spill is enough to catch their interest and have them stop their vehicles in the middle of the road so that they can gawk and look and pull out their cell phones and Pin Interest and Instagram and gawd knows what else.

...................... "Moo.  Moo-Moo.  Moo I said.  Hey Mabel, why are we stopping?"


"Because why?"

"Because the Official Wearer of the Cow Bell has stopped to look at a coyote."

"Ok.  But I'm hungry and thirsty and need to get the calves home so they can eat."

"That doesn't matter.  The Cow Bell stopped to look at coyotes."

"What are the coyotes doing?"

"Taking a nap."

"But coyotes are too small to bother us and they are taking a nap and are not important and getting the calves home is."

"Doesn't matter.  Hand me my cell phone so I upload a picture of a sleeping coyote to Cow-A-Gram."

"How do I do that?  I don't have any hands."

"So use a couple of teats."     ...................

See.  Like cattle.  Herd moves.  Herd stops.  Herd moves.  Herd stops.  No reason.  Just "is".

Once upon a time people had real interests, real hobbies, real interests and understood the difference between things that matter and things to be ignored, and that higher-class of people would have just driven past after a brief look to be sure that help wasn't needed and that people weren't in trouble. 

"Ok folks.  Now moving on to something more important!  Keep the hands inside the ride at all times please.  Little Johnny, roll up the window and stop slapping your sister.  And pass me a cerveza with some lime.  We have more important things to do and people to see."

Once ascertaining that the crisis/incident was contained they move on because it is not important to their life, safety or existence and not worth the effort or time.  Instead we had a herd of cattle 30 miles long.

I have become convinced that most, the majority of people today are completely unable to understand the difference between the important and the unimportant.  Their lives have become shallow and have no meaning and the least little difference (like the movie where the dog says, "Squirrel") attracts their attention and causes them to focus on that event, no matter how insignificant even if it means not being aware of something much more important; like the car overheating or the gunfire from 4 cars back or that 747 taking out the cornfield.

Their lives are mundane and blah.  They have not developed outside interests and they are living colorless lives in b&w.  Their lives consist of wake, job, get drunk, have sex, sleep, repeat.

They have no imagination and no view of the scope of their own potential and they have a  limited vide of just how far out the horizon is in terms of what they could accomplish.

And this in my view has become a problem that as Budoka, people like us don't have.  Budoka, because we deal with a more serious view on life can tell the difference between what needs to be Instagramed and posted to FB and what does not.  We deal with joint locks and sticks brushing our eyelashes so we compute pretty quickly what matters and what does not as we progress and make the connections between life in the dojo and life outside the dojo.  It just changes all your reference points and they become universal and distinguishing the critical from the mundane becomes just a little easier.

You can discuss all kinds of reasons for its' importance but since this is supposed to be a blog about martial arts I guess I should stay on that topic ..... at least a little.

I, like every other Sensei in the galaxy get regular calls on a weekly/daily basis from people who want to learn martial arts but really have absolutely no idea why.  Some of course immediately blurt out, "Self-defense" or "Self-improvement" so I immediately say, "Welcome home" and we get them on the mat because they have actually made the effort to do some research and have decided that martial arts should become an important part of their lives for set reasons of physical fitness, self-defense, intellectual study, historical significance, whatever.  They have actually looked at it and decided it is important to devote time for the long term can tell that Budo is important and beer down at the sports bar or passing a dead dog on the side of the road is not.

Quite a bit different from the dog in the movie ..... "SQUIRREL!" or the people driving, who should be focused on the joy of the trip and thinking about time with the family and watching the road as they make 85 mph instead of having their attention diverted by .... "OILSPILL SQUIRREL" and almost plowing up someone's rump.  Those that don't know why they want to do MA, I think, just looked at a picture or web site and went "SQUIRREL!" and their focus and attention lasted until the next Pin Interest or Tweet came across their cell and they went to get a new tatoo.

Think about it.  You're walking down the street and the magician (aka the gang member says) "Now watch my right hand" as his left hand guts you because you were unable to distinguish the important from the trivial and were unable to focus longer than ...... "SQUIRREL!"

"Martha!  Get out your cell phone and take a pic and upload it quick!"

Part 2 next ... "A Lack of Class"

L.F. Wilkinson-Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas

July 2014