Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Temper, My Quads

No doubt about it now, every time I get into a pose that stretches my quads I start to feel irritated. Liz was working on Hero pose (vira sana) and I was just getting more and more angry. It started with frustration (why cant I do this pose), then fear (is that my knee?) and ended with outright irritation (why in the HELL don't we do another pose....HERO AGAIN! C'MON LIZ, DO ANOTHER POSE

This by the way is a variation with the toes bent....(photo from Downward Blog)

I really wasn't being much of a hero.

So here is my conclusion.

1. I tend to sit in a pose, much like the one I am in now. Hips folded in an unnatural chair, psoas compressed, quadricepts tightening.

I do this all the time, and have done it for quite some time.

2. The hips are supposed to contain the fight or flight mechanism. Stetching that tight muscle releases aggression.

Liz mentioned that Hero pose does a really cool thing. It connects the heart to the core.

This got me thinking of a story Grandmaster Wonik Yi told us.

"There once was a region that the king wanted to collect taxes from, but the people were fearsome fighters. The king sent a general who had strength. One year later the people sent a basket to the king with the strong generals head in it.

So the king sent a general who was smart. For three years the rebellious region sent tribute. Then one year the tribute came with the smart generals head in it.

So the king sent a general with a strong heart. The next year, and forevermore the people of the region sent more tribute than was asked.

The moral is:
Strong body is weaker than strong mind
strong mind is weaker than strong heart."

So let's think about this hips to heart thing. What would a person who had mastered Hero Pose be like? The following is pure conjecture on my part, I could be completely wrong.

Mastering Hero's pose connects the heart to the core. Or the physical strenght to physical compassion.

If one could master this they would be powerful and loved for their power. They would have a lot of strength. Their strength would emenated from the Tan Tien (a.k.a. the root lock manipura). This area holds the power that is projected in martial arts moves.

If I can master this pose (and apply the principle at all times) I can be cool under pressure
I can avoid conflict out of compassion, but never from fear
When I do enter conflict I could do so without anger, maintaining my awareness, emotional stability and strenght all at once.

This is very exciting.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

class attendance - Yoga Yoga, Repost from Myspace

I just figured out that I have access to my class attendance records at yogayoga

I took my first yoga class at Yoga Yoga with Kewal on March 7, 2006 at noon. Since then I have taken 345 classes, averaging 13.2 classes per month, or about every other day for two years. I tend to go every day, but have breaks when I travel.

My favorite class is by far Hatha (41%), I also took a lot of beginners Hatha (23%) and Hatha flow (20%). I went to Ashtanga about 7% of the time. If you don't know Ashtanga from hatha, here is a guide to the classes.

My most frequently attended teachers kind of suprised me. I really take advantage of the diversity of teachers at yoga yoga. I have taken a lot of teachers for two or three classes. Over 30% of my attendance was to a teacher I only took a few times. The number of times I went to a teacher doesn't relate closely to how much I learned or enjoyed the class.

I know I ussually pick a class because of the time, type of class, my schedule, how sore I am from other exercise and my level of energy. Teacher is about the third thing I look at. Nevertheless, some teachers consistently rose to the top and that isn't coinciedence. These teachers shaped my practice and taught me a lot.

My top teachers were:

Mandy 12%

Liz B and Sapphire with 8%

Gundega, Larrisa, Pamela B. and Chuck (5%)

I think Mandy is on top as much because of her regularity, and the amount of time she has been teaching as any other reason. Mandy is a great teacher, has taught for the past two years and teaches a lot different time slots. In contrast, Gundega who I have recently been going to has only had a few classes for about a year. Liz B. has had extended absences but would probably be the teacher who has the deepest effect on my practice.

I took classes through two marathons, countless martial arts classes, injury, sickness, S T R E S S and MORE STRESS, I even found it comforting the day my dog died.

I still can't do a headstand, full wheel (for very long), stick my toes up my nose and kiss my ass, but I think I am getting stronger and more flexible every week. I have learned to look deep in my body, align my muscles, heal sore achy muscles. In combination with martial arts I have increased my ability to balance immensely. I can relax under extraordinary circumstances, and deal with my emotions much better than before. On a more mystical level I can feel the flow of Prana (also known as "Chi", or "Ki").

I am very glad to have incorporated yoga into my life, and highly recomend Yoga Yoga to anyone in Austin.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Appropriate Use of Force

For the past two days we have been reviewing a series of joint locking techniques. These techniques consist of trapping some part of the body, like the elbow, shoulder, wrist or thumb. When you feel these techniques even lightly applied your knees turn to jello. If force is applied to that one small part of the body the whole body just melts, and in that moment you can lead your opponent wherever you want.

The key is learning how to apply that force at just the right angle with perfect timing. I was practicing one today and I went left instead of right; I noted this worked fine since I still controlled the person and my elbow was in a perfect position for a strike. Shaval (the instructor) however was not going to let me off that easy; he noted that from the position we started I had a number of strikes available to me.

"If someone grabs you with both hands" he said "I am grateful because both my hands are free to strike his face
with each word he showed a strike.

"The point is not to break our friends nose here, but to control them"


A true martial artist has a large arsenal at his disposal for any situation. He can launch a debilitating kick, or simply escape the grasp. In this case we apply pressure to a tiny joint and basically arrest their movement. This is the essence of martial arts.

We are not street fighters who simply seek to win a conflict. We are artists who turn conflict into art; the ideal outcome could be no conflict at all.

If someone grabs you what is the best response?
Escape their grasp?
Strike the arm so they release and think twice?
Lock their weak joints and bring them to the ground?
Strike them so hard that they are permenantly injured?

A fighter always goes to the last option, they seek to fight and win. The artists will instantly apply the correct response.

This is why we must train our philosophy and hearts as much as our body. If we only go around hitting people at every conflict then you are probably going to eventually wind up in jail or the hospital; not to mention unnecessary pain you inflict on others. Yet only with a lack of fear and complete awareness can we react with the correct response.

We must use our art to get the desired outcome. Applying a small amount of force to a weak point.

Introducing....The Psoas

The purpose of the psoas is to lift the leg to the body, or move the body towards the leg. Both functions were adequately explored in the last two Anyusara Hatha Yoga classes I took.

This muscle tends to tighten and shorten in long periods of sitting. I have come to believe that this tightening leads to a feeling of stress and anxiety.

Releasing this muscle can greatly lower you stress.

Strengthening and increasing it's flexibility has some rather obvious advantages for martial artists. Most notably getting into a front stance, or long stance (ap kubi).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Three moves in a form

Master Ali helped us with forms. I can tell I am improving because this time he waited until the first move to offer correction. The last time he started at "ready position". The higher your rank the more exacting the instruction becomes. There is no end to the detail.


Liz worked on headstands last night. I am getting there, I can almost kick-up without assistance. I can't tell if it is that I lack the strength to get my legs (and ass) up or if I need to overcome fear of tipping over. I do know that I can hover tentatively for a moment before clunking back to the ground.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Letting Go

One of my current philosophical challenges is to maintain my desire and drive without getting attached to something.

Does that make sense to anyone else?

Two Steps Back, better than One Step Forward

There is an old saying:
"It is better to become the passive
in order to see what will happen.
It is better to retreat a foot
than to advance only an inch."

This is called
being flexible while advancing,
pushing back without using force,
and destroying the enemy without engaging him.

There is no greater disaster
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means loosing your greatest assets.
When equal forces meet in battle,
victory will go to the one
that enters with the greatest sorrow.

- Tao Te Ching Chapter 69

At the end of Tukong Moosul today Master Ali said that the school used to recite a saying at the end of every class.

"It is better to take two steps back than one forward".

He said that the obvious intention of this was if someone wanted a fight it is better to step back, rather than rush in.

Martial Application

Other classes have emphasized how to keep your guard up, while appearing passive. It is very funny to see my fellow Tukong students in some of these postures as they talk to each other. I was in a coffee shop talking to one of the black belts and he dropped into one of these stances. I adopted the same posture and we had a little private laugh. To the outside observer it looked like we were just standing there yacking.

These postures are good for "two steps back". I had a friend who worked in psychotic wards and he learned how to stand in a calm posture that would allow him to talk to psychotic patients; it was the same thing, the posture allowed him to block and avoid a number of attacks without seeming confrontational.

My Experience

So far I have never had to use my Martial Arts to hurt someone. It is an opportunity I hope I never have; but prepare for every day.

However, I have had a number of people confront me in threatening ways. I have found that my attitude and demeaner often defuse a situation. I simply look the person directly in the eyes, without tensing the muscles, calmly, and without fear. Very few hotheads will go off on you if you adopt this demeaner.

It is not easy to take two steps back. Once an angry guy cussed me out in Best Buy for no reason other than I was standing in the aisle looking at something. "Get your ass out of the way!" he shouted.

I turned and looked at him.

"You better get your ass out of the WAY!"

I stared at him.

"y' you shouldn't stand there"

and he walked off.

Part of me was afraid; he was a big guy
another part enraged; I could have hurt him

But mostly I was proud to have stood up to his threats, making violence uneccesary. If I had backed down I would have felt weak, defeated, and probably would allow myself to be bullied in other less threatening situations. Further, the thug would have been more likely to threaten others and may have wound up doing something stupid. But if I had fought him, what would I have gained?

In the words of General Tzu

" Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your
troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless
the position is critical."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dinosaur Tail

Sometimes the practice of a mind body exercise elicits humor. I particuarly find myself laughing in hatha yoga classes.

Take last week when Rebecca was teaching a hatha beginners class. We were doing a pose called cat/cow, and she wanted us to loosen up our hips. Her instruction was

"imagine you have a great big dinosaur tail behind you" she continued to say "now wag your tail back and forth, but not fast, smoothly, remember it is a dinoaur tail"

I started guffawing. The thought of everyone in that class having a dinosaur tail. I saw great big brontosaurus tails sticking out. Then my mind went through a series of images:

  • women worrying that their dinosaur tails were too big

  • J Lo and Beyonce got some good dinosaur tails

  • It would be so nice to have a dinosaur tail when standing, you could sit back on it.

  • it would be really cool in sparring and wrestling adding a whole new limb to your body

  • Let's see, in downward dog it would point out at a 45 degree angle, in half moon it would go straight up, in tree it would wrap arount you, full wheel would be interesting

It just went on and on. In fact, I walked around the rest of the day with a big dinosaur tail.

About Mind and Body

This is a blog for exploring martial arts and yoga. I plan to fill this blog with insights of my mind that are gained through the physical practice of Tookung Moosul and Yoga.