Thursday, November 26, 2009

No Can Do!

"Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right."

This week I had a revelation about how often I tell myself I can't do something. It started in Martial Arts. Master Ali took us through a set of exercises ranging from practicing forms to dragging your training partner accross the room (very tiring). I did these as I ussually do with confidence that I could do things. In fact, I was already observing a certain level of judgement. For instance, I wa staking pride in remembering certain things, and getting rattled when I forgot.

Master Ali did an exercise where we held two sticks and banged them togeteher while the class practiced agility by stepping between the sticks. From the moment I saw the drill I was starting to dread it. I realized that before I tried the exercise I had convinced myslef that I couldn't do it. In fact, I couldn't. I jumped in and the sticks hit my foot. Two or thre times I tried to no avail.

But this time I realized why. I was telling myself I couldn't jump rope, that I had poor rythum, that I never did good at these things, and a thousand other things I had learned from failures since childhood.

So, I made a decision to just forget that bullshit and do it.

Now by the end of class I was not doing it as well as others, but I had managed to get seven repetitions out. With a little more practice I am sure I could have done it much better.

I was pretty sore after the workout so I decided to go for a nice easy Yoga workout. Mandy was teaching. I was pretty sore from the Tukong training so I decided to go and just kind of take it easy. A little Hatha would work the kinks out.

Mandy focused on backbends that day, and then went to full wheel. She heard my little snide snort when she said "

I was essentially doing it again. Telling myself I can't do it. I was sore, tired, and have never ever ever come even close to raisning my head in wheel.

This time was particularly bad because Mandy decided to work with me in front of the whole class. So imagine the forces at work in my mind:
  • I can't do this
  • my chest is tight
  • back bends just aren't my thing
  • I am already tired and don't want to do this
  • a classroom full of beautiful women is watching me try this, oh god I look ridiculous!

Three times I tired.

Three times Mandy pushed coached instructed discussed and told me what to do.

I didn't do it, and in fact, almost cranked my neck a couple of times.

So then we went off to practice with a partner and I was lucky enough to have another yoga teacher as my partner. At that moment I realized I had once again told myself that I couldn't do it.

So I made a point to push into it, and make sure I knew I was able to do it. I was able to push up into wheel and get my head off the ground for about five seconds. It was a breakthrough...first time in my life I could do it.

So today I learned that the secret to success is to catch yourself when you think you can't. Identify that dialogue and tell yourself you can.

It sounds easy, but believe me, it is very hard. Your mind is smart, and it will come up with all kinds of logical reasons why you can't do something. It will provide you with evidence based on past experiences. It will fill you with fear of injury, humiliation and failure.

Another thing. No matter how experienced you are in your practice, this will come back. I had a break through today, but in a week, or a day, or an hour later, the mind will once again place limits on what I can do. It demands constant attention.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

10 Principles for Any technique

This is from one of Master Jay Davis' "nuggets" that he gives in classes at the Tukong Moosul Academy.

There are Ten Principles in any Martial Arts Technique

  1. Breath

  2. Keyap

  3. Self Control

  4. Space Control

  5. Inner Control

  6. Leverage

  7. Anticipation

  8. Timing

  9. Balance

  10. Speed

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Nunchaku Law

We were in class on Saturday practicing nunchaku and began to wonder how the weapon was treated in the eyes of the law.
1. Texas Law - Does someone know the specifics of Texas law? I would think that nunchaku falls under Title 10 Chapter 46 of the Texas Penal Code. Nunchaku's seem to meet the definition of a club: But that is just my best guess...I would consult a lawyer if a policeman tried to confiscate my nuncaku's. I know there was a great article on the laws of knives in one of our newsletters.
2. National Law - According to the Wikipedia:"Legality in the United States varies at state level, e.g., personal possession of nunchaku is illegal in New York, Arizona, California and Massachusetts, but in other states possession has not been criminalized. In New York, attorney Jim Maloney has brought a federal constitutional challenge to the statutes that criminalize simple in-home possession of nunchaku for peaceful use in martial-arts practice or legal home defense.[13] As of March 2009, the case was awaiting the filing of a petition for certiorari for review by the U.S. Supreme Court." [They are illegal in many parts of Europe.]
3. The Supreme Court Case (pending) - Jim Maloney's website is VERY good. He discusses the current case at:
He also has a Blog called "Forbiden Sticks, a Four Century Blog Tour" -
NPR had a great story on him as well. "Come on, they are just a couple of sticks with a string" was one of his defenses.
4. My experience - I was pulled over in Dallas and the officer saw my nunchaku's that I have had since my 12th birthday in the back of my hatchback. He tried to confiscate them, and I told him that I used them in martial arts practice and was on my way to class. He shrugged his shoulders, put them back in the trunk and proceedded to write me a ticket for expired tags. The point is that it is probably worth it to stand up for your rights if someone questions your martial arts weapon.
5. My Opinion - Using any weapon, including your pinkie finger, or even your words to threaten another is and should be illegal. However, laws specifically banning nunchaku's in a society where mass murderers go to gun shows and get weapons for their killing sprees is absurd. Our consititution specificallly protects us "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." I think our founding fathers would not pass a law banning nunchaku's and we should carry our nunchaku's with a peaceful mind and a strong heart.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Recovery from Mistakes

Living in the Moment

When you make a mistake don't hold on to it. Once I was practicing moving hard blocking, which is a series of seven sets of moves designed to move your body in unconventional ways. They are also sometimes refered to as "confusion forms". Even after practicing these forms for many years I still have days where I miss a move. I take an extra step, or miss a punch. It is like my mind plays tricks.

So on this day I tried to do moving hard blocking 1-7 and on the 3 series I made a mistake. Then the 4th, then the 5th, then the 6th. By the 7th series I was totally befuddled. One of the black belts said "don't let the mistake carry forward."

Master Ali has emphasized this before several promotion tests. He says, "If you make a mistake while testing either reset and say 'permission to do again', or carry on through."
"Don't stop and go ugh!" he usually mimics someone in a front stance shaking their head in frustration "no one wants to see that."

When you make a mistake, go to the next moment fresh and with an open mind. Live in that moment, don't waste a micro second on regret. This is particularly important if there are high stakes. In a combat situation regret and self examination will get you killed.

Learn from Mistakes

Even though you live in the moment, don't be accepting.

Grandmaster Yi saw the whole class was having a hard time with a sequence he was teaching. At the end of class he emphasized the need to learn from your mistakes. So while you shouldn't dwell on your mistakes, you should learn from them.

One thing he said that stuck in my mind was "don't smile when you make a mistake" . Smiling says it is ok, or that you are making the mistake, but don't care. Don't be accepting of mistakes.

Don't Understand, Do It

A few days ago we were working on an intense set of sparring moves, and I just wasn't doing it right.

Master Ali told me how to do it,
I missed the move.
He told me again
and I said,"Understood"
"Don't understand it" he replied,
"Do it"

Nothing could have summed it up better. It is not about dealing with mistakes, or fixing something wrong. It is about doing it right!

Don't understand....DO IT!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A momentary lapse

One of the great benefits of training in a mind-body system is that you learn to handle mistakes better than most people. This point was made by one of Shaival in a Tukong Moosul class. We practiced observation of the breath. This is an incredibly difficult exercise to do corretly.

Observation of Breath

In this exercise we observed our breath. This involves sitting still, closing your eyes and observing how your breath goes in and out accross your upper lip. It is not relaxing your breath and controlling it, nor counting slowly while you breath in and out. This is somewhat difficult, but much easier than simply observing your breath.

In my practice I find this a little disconcerting. If I ignore my breath it takes care of itself. But if I observe it, I need to focus on the in and out, controlling the length and depth of the breath.

Observing without interfering is disturbing to me. I feel the breath go out, and in that moment before it returns I jump in and tell my lungs to inhale. So far I have not been able to watch such a fundamental thing without letting the mind control it.

Martial Arts Application

In Martial Arts there are many tests. The tests may be for a promotion. You may be tested by tring to do something new or simply trying to do a form you have practiced for years. I have noticed that many people are unable to get past a mistake. They are worried about what people think, or concerned about how poorly they do, or how hard it is.

A good martial artist is unconcerned about the past or future. I once read something from Musashi that said a true warrior does not go into battle considering the outcome. If he considers the outcome he will surely fail. *

If, heaven forbid, you are ever in a conflict, the ability to live in the instant of conflict could save your life! Ideally you would never be hit by someone else. A good martial artist has the ability to spring to their feet after being knocked down and continue fighting as though nothing happend ---- of course, a master is never knocked down, but that is another subject.

Yoga Application

My inability to observe my breath is at the core of why Savasana is so hard for me. I will have to work on this.

*I read this and pondered it in Book of Rings. I have since been unable to find the exact quote. If someone can find it, please pass it along.

Application in Life

How powerful would every business dealing be if we live in the moment? If we were unconcerned about our promotion, lay offs, and how good we look to others we would be highly effective in all of our dealings.

Consider how many ventures have been cancelled because people were more concerned with the outcome of the undertaking. In your personal life I encourage you to take Musashi's advice, be a warrior who is unconcerned with the outcome.