Top 9 Posts From 2014

It’s that time of the year again.  Time for the Top 10, er… 9, best blog posts of 2014!

This year saw 2 distinct themes emerge: a critical examination of what internal power really is and its relationship to martial arts training, specifically, but not limited to, Bujinkan Martial Arts training, and the importance of daily practice in fitness and martial training.  So it’s no surprise that these 2 themes are heavily reflected in the following Top 9 posts of 2014.  ENJOY!!

top-9

Top 9 posts…

 

1. Internal Power and Bujinkan Training

2.  Training in the Elements

3.  Never Take Ukemi Again

4.  The Un-Natural Athlete

5.  The Warrior’s Way

6.  Best Way to Program Your Training

7.  My Morning Routine

8.  Weakest Direction Theory is BS

9.  A Glimpse Into Internal Power Training – The Push Test

Bonus Post – Reflections on 42

Reflections on 42

Tomorrow, December 3, is my 42nd birthday.  And, as anyone who has read Douglas Adam’s classic trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy knows, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is 42.

Therefore, upon the occasion of my 42nd birthday I thought I might sit down and write out some reflections learned over the past 42 years.  They may not contain the answers to life, the universe, and everything, but they are a good start!

42-the-answer-to-life-the-universe-and-everything

 

  1. Family first, always.
  2. Brothers can be best friends.
  3. Best friends can become brothers.
  4. Nothing is as wonderful, or truly terrifying, as holding your newborn child in your arms for the first time.
  5. Those feelings do not lessen as the children get older.
  6. Life does not happen to you, it happens FOR you.
  7. If you find yourself majoring in minor things, STOP.
  8. Never be bored.  There is too much to do, too much to learn, too much to experience, and life is too damn short.
  9. Always train, even when you don’t feel like it.
  10. Especially when you don’t feel like it – that’s when the biggest breakthrough appear!
  11. Don’t find excuses, find a way.
  12. Meditate, don’t medicate.
  13. There is still nothing like the first sip of freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning.
  14. Have strong values and know what you stand for before you are ever challenged.
  15. Never compromise your values to please someone else, you will always regret it.
  16. Go to church.
  17. Pray – it helps.
  18. Have a daily health maintenance routine. Here is my Morning Routine.
  19. Workout at least 3 times per week.
  20. More is not always better.  Only better is better.
  21. Oftentimes the obstacle is the path.
  22. Life happens fast – pay attention!
  23. Be fiercely independent yet smart enough to accept help when needed.
  24. Master your craft.
  25. Read something motivational/inspirational/educational every day.
  26. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
  27. Train more than everyone else, it adds up quicker.
  28. There is a level slightly beyond excellence called outstanding – strive to be outstanding!
  29. Always listen to advice from people you respect, but make up your own mind.
  30. Use zero-based thinking.
  31. Always be kind to people, you never know when or how it will be returned.
  32. Protect others.
  33. Always buy the highest quality foods you can afford – your family’s health is too important not to.
  34. Put coconut oil in your coffee!
  35. Always maintain a childlike sense of wonder about the world, but never be childish.
  36. Remember that the only thing you can ever control is not what happens to you, but your reaction to it.
  37. Find your mission and dedicate your life to it.
  38. Never be afraid to look foolish.
  39. Do not sit around waiting for things to happen – take action to make things happen!
  40. Timing is never perfect so just do it!
  41. Know the wisdom of when to be patient.
  42. Understand that happiness is a choice you make ever day.

bday cake

Mega Warrior Birthday Sale Announcement <<==============

Research of Martial Arts (Book Review)

I love reading martial arts books.  Over the course of my career, I have probably read hundreds of them.  There are currently a dozen or more on my book shelf.  I had to get rid of some that I no longer read to make space for the ones I constantly go back and refer to over and over again.  Unfortunately, in recent years martial arts books have become boring and predictable.  They have little real content and lots of pictures of techniques that don’t really mean anything unless you are taught them in person.  I literally cannot remember the last martial arts book I read in the past few years that was worth talking about.  Until now…

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to receive a complimentary copy of Jonathan Bluestein’s new book, Research of Martial Arts
.  I am very happy to say that this book is outstanding!  I have not yet read the book in its entirety, but have perused it several times, each time stopping and reading snippets from each of the 3 main sections.  Each time I stop to read just a short piece, I end up reading more!

Part 1: From the Inside Out – External and Internal Gong Fu

This section is the longest in the book.  It is also the most detailed and well presented contrast of external vs. internal martial arts that I have seen in print to date.  Jonathan has taken an incredibly difficult and highly contested topic and broken it down into a cogent, detailed analysis of both.  I was extremely happy to read his thoughts on fascia as well as his treatment of biotensegrity and how it relates to creating an omni-directional structure, or the Chinese concept pf Peng.  The section on dantian is also extremely well put together and worth reading!

 

Part II: Contemplations on Controlled Violence

Part 2 is a series of essays by Jonathan and several guest articles by other martial arts teachers.  Some of the teachers who contributed articles are, Allen Pittman, Nitzan Oren (Jonathan’s teacher), Steve Rowe, and others.  These interesting philosophical and psychological looks into the world of martial arts.

Part III: The Wisdom of the Martial Spirits: Teachers, and the Things They Hold Dear

This section contains interviews with contemporary teachers of various martial arts.  The interviews are a fascinating look into not only the art(s) represented but also the men, the history, and the culture surrounding them.  My 2 favorite interviews were with Chen Zhonghua and Yang Hai.

This book is super easy to recommend – buy it!

I forsee a permanent place on my bookshelf for this particular book on martial arts.  I have to thank Jonathan Bluestein for reaching out to me and generously sending over a copy of this wonderful book.  And, in case I wasn’t clear – if you have any interest in gaining a deeper understanding of  the workings of both external and internal martial arts, I highly recommend you pick up Research of Martial Arts

Stronger Than Fear

Are you stronger than your fear?

Or do you stay in your comfort zone and allow fear to get the better of you?  You can tell every time when you start to push against the edge of your comfort zone – you begin to feel afraid.  Maybe you don’t call it fear.  Maybe it’s resistance.  Maybe it’s discomfort.  Maybe it’s just a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach that goes away if you you stop pushing forward.  Call it what ever you want.  I know what it is.  I call it by it’s true name – fear.

How do you become stronger than fear?  By feeling it, acknowledging it, and doing the thing you fear anyway.  As Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.”

Mark Twain Courage

One way to face fear and push past it is by enduring brutal physical training.  This type of training is NOT for the faint of heart.  However, when you go through it, face it, and come out on the other end, you are a stronger person – mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Here is a sample of one conditioning workout with an MMA fighter I am currently training:

Like Paul Freakin’ Bunyan!

I was recently asked how one should train their psyche for martial arts.  It seems like a weird question… Train your psyche??  Upon further reflection though, it’s actually a very astute question.

Psyche is defined as the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious.  So training it must be essential.  How then do we do it?

The basic meaning of the Greek word ψυχή (psūkhē) was “life” in the sense of “breath”, formed from the verb ψύχω (psukhō, “to blow”). Derived meanings included “spirit”, “soul”, “ghost”, and ultimately “self” in the sense of “conscious personality” or “psyche”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psyche_(psychology)

Generally when martial artists talk about training the psyche, they speak in terms of mental toughness.  How your threshold of pain equals your threshold of performance and things like that.  Here’s another way to train the psyche that is a little bit different…

Train Your Psyche

When you practice your martial art, whether in solo training or with your training partners, picture yourself as a giant, like Paul Freakin’ Bunyan, standing taller than the tallest trees.  Have a feeling that your enormous stature confers a comparable sense of self confidence, super human strength, titan like power, and a strength of will that you can accomplish anything.  Balance it out with a supreme sense of benevolence like a warrior-protector.

paulbunyanbabe

Stand tall.  Breathe deeply.  Relax, yet remain full of energy and intent.  Assume a completely nonchalant facial expression like nothing in the world can perturb you.  In Japanese, this is Fudoshin – immovable heart.

fudoshin

Embody the characteristics you want to possess.  This changing of your physiology, focus, and belief  is the quickest way to change your state.  Then the question becomes, how long can you maintain it?  Practice well.

A Glimpse Into Internal Power Training – The Push Test

The push test is a very practical way of testing the quality of one’s solo training for internal power.  As explained in Weakest Direction Theory is BS, the body, when properly trained, acts as an omni-directional structure.  This allows the practitioner of internal power to neutralize any incoming force by diffusing it throughout the structure rather than having to surrender to it or resist against it.  Either you can do it or you can’t.  There’s no way to fake it.

Ueshiba Demonstrating a Push Test in Hawaii

Ueshiba Demonstrating a Push Test in Hawaii

The push test is a test of the quality of relaxation and symmetry practiced in solo standing practice. Initially it’s a static test for neutral balance; no force expression.  It’s a small portion of the final goal of internal power training, which is to be able to move freely in a dynamic symmetrical balance while expressing force in three dimensions.

The process is simple.  The person being tested maintains a relaxed body, fueled by intent, open in 6 directions (up/down, left/right, front/back).  The pusher applies force in multiple directions from multiple angles to make sure the pushee is able to express neutral balance in all directions.  The pushes start soft then gradually build in strength depending upon the ability of the person being pushed.  As they say in the kata descriptions within the Bujinkan densho, There is a Kuden.

The following 2 videos are compilations of various push tests from the past couple training sessions demonstrated by my training partner, Jaime Morrell and myself.  These are meant to give you a glimpse into one aspect of how we train.  They are certainly not the entirety of the practice, but a foundational part of it.  If there is interest, we intend to create more videos expanding and explaining how we train and why we do what we do.

 

I would encourage you to share your own training drills and practices with us in the comments section below.

 

Martial Software or Martial Hardware?

Remember in The Matrix when Morpheus downloaded those dozens of different martial arts programs (software) into Neo’s brain and he instantly could perform all the techniques from those arts?  That is a superb example of a software upgrade.  Techniques instantly available at your fingertips – literally! [Read more…]

Sometimes More Is Better

It seems that in this super busy, fast-paced world we live in many people are looking for the MED – minimum effective dose – for just about everything.  How can we train more efficiently?  How can we train smarter, not harder?  How little can I do to produce the effects I want? Quality over quantity, right?

Minimalist Training is all the rage. Mini-workouts to get it done fast and hard.  But with all this minimalist stuff going around, are we missing out on something?  Have we lost something in the exchange?  Is our abbreviated training just as effective or are we coming up short? [Read more…]

It Will NOT Change

What is the one thing that has always been constant in every problem, every failure, every fight with a loved one, every argument, every challenge, every lost job, every lost relationship, every lost opportunity that you have ever encountered in your entire life?

What is this one thing that has been ubiquitous throughout all those times?  Can you guess?  Right.  It’s YOU! [Read more…]

25 Life Lessons from Martial Arts Practice

At 41 years old, I have now been training in the martial arts for over 30 years.  It does not seem like it’s been that long!  Some days I look at the huge expanse of knowledge and history that is real budo and feel dwarfed by its enormity.  Other days I feel like I have a really solid grasp on it.  But that’s the nature of the training.  As Hatsumi Soke has said on many occasions, “If you think you have it, you don’t…”  This is one of the many lessons learned through martial arts training. [Read more…]