As human beings, we tend to have a sense of time that is linear, as in, it moves from past to present and then on into the future. It’s the way our brains are able to make sense of things and also a way for us to put things into some kind of perspective. The way we perceive time is based primarily in the way we are brought up to see things and the constructs around which we move in our daily lives. When time is linear we really only have one way to go, into the future. Sure, we can reminisce on the past, but we cant go back. We can only keep moving on the imaginary railway into the unknown future.
I never really thought about time as anything other than a point on the calendar or on my watch (now our cell phones) that required something of me when I arrived there. Either be at work at this time, be at school, get this task done, meet this person, do this thing… That is until I had my mind opened to the concept of the only thing that really exists: the present moment.
One night while I was living in the dojo, Toyoda Sensei asked me to cut the carrots for some soup he was making. Of course, I was ignorant to just how he wanted them cut so he showed me how to slice them like match sticks and also how to keep my fingers out of the blade.
While I was cutting, I began whistling and intermittently carrying on a conversation with the other deshi. Toyoda Sensei yelled at me that I needed to focus on what I was doing and that I was being selfish by trying to do so many things at once when I was supposed to be giving all of my attention and focus to the carrots.
I questioned this wisdom of the moment saying something like, “aren’t I being unselfish by trying to talk with the others, participate in the conversation, and provide awesome whistling in the meantime?”
His response was my first real introduction to zen in daily life, he said: “when you are doing something, just do it…with all of your being! Don’t try to do or be something else when you should be focused in the moment. If you are with your girlfriend, just be with your girlfriend, if you are with your family, just be with your family, don’t try to be somewhere else. And if you’re supposed to be cutting carrots, then just be one with the carrots since your essence and state of mind is being injected into the meal. If you are trying to do too many things when you are supposed to be just cutting carrots then the meal will come out tasting different than if you put all of yourself into the meal.”
This was a very new and unheard of concept to me but one that resonated with me. I liked the concept that we were at some level connected with our food and our actions and, although I didn’t fully understand it at the time, that we could somehow influence the outcome of events by our very presence in the moment. I could, by my very presence and focus on the carrots, influence the essence of the meal and that, at some level, could even affect the flavor that the participants in the meal would experience.
It took me some time to grasp this concept and, to some extent, I am still trying to understand it. In fact, I have spent a considerable amount of time since that evening studying this idea of staying in the moment and what affect it can have on our lives further.
What I got from it though was the idea that “now is the only time”. When we project ourselves into the future, the past, or try to split up the present into too many slices of time…meaning doing too many things, we aren’t really present in the only thing that really exists, the present moment. When we aren’t really present we aren’t giving this very moment everything we can and thus, being selfish to the moment, to oneself, and to the activity we may be involved in.
Since there is only this very moment that we’re experiencing, trying to be in the past or the future takes us out of this moment. When this moment becomes the past moment, its gone! We can never get it back. It now becomes part of a memory and can never be recovered. If you’re supposed to be doing something like cutting carrots, training in the dojo, or being with that special someone, that act deserves all of your being because in a very short amount of time, this moment will be gone forever.
By being present in the moment we are giving 100% of ourselves to that act. This is what I believe Toyoda Sensei meant by ‘selfish’ when referring to my carrying on conversations or whistling. Not that its selfish to be part of a conversation or to whistle, but that by now focusing on the act at hand, I wasn’t really present for any of those acts. I was only half conversing since I was supposed to be cutting carrots, I was only half cutting carrots since I was also conversing, and If I was whistling while I was supposed to be cutting, I wasn’t giving the carrot cutting my full attention because part of me was focusing mental energy on remembering the tune I was whistling.
There is a Japanese phrase/concept very prominent in Chanoyu, tea ceremony, which has also transcended other arts. It is Ichi-Go Ichi-e, which translates as “one time-one meeting” or “one opportunity-One encounter”. It has, of course, been loosely translated as “now is the only time”,“for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a life time.” And while many will simply translate this to the “you only live once, so do it now” concept, I believe the proper way to view the concept is that there is no getting the past back and no point living in the future so ‘be here now’.
So, my challenge to you going forward, be present in everything you do, try to focus with your whole being, stay in the now instead of trying to conjure up the past or the future and remember…now is the only time!
If you'd like to listen to the podcast on this blog post you can click on the picture at the beginning orjust click here for the AikiCast Podcast....
The latest episode of the AikiCast Podcast special friday segment called 'Diamond Mining Friday'. Wisdom from Toyoda Sensei is shared about Aikido and Leadership
Often translated as "Fortune Favors the Bold", "Fortunes Favors the Brave", or "Fortune Favors the Strong", the use of the phrase 'Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat' was first documented in the second century BC. It was used by playwrights and emperors as a recognition of the supernatural favor they believed would be showered upon them if they were to undertake bold, brave, and often risky actions.
The Roman dictator and consul Lucius Cornelius Sulla was said to believe in the influence of the goddess Fortune in his life. He was a consummate risk-taker, achieving martial distinction by taking risks on the battlefield such as wearing disguises and living among the enemy. He was also the first of the great Republican Romans to march upon Rome — a great taboo, but one which cemented his power and influence. Sulla so believed in his favor with Fortuna that he took the agnomen Felix which means "lucky" ...
Julius Caesar also transformed his fortunes when he marched on Rome, declaring alea iacta est (the die is cast) as he crossed the Rubicon river. The utterance was a commitment of his fate to Fortune. While Caesar was a professional soldier, many of his victories were achieved by taking bold risks which exposed him and his troops to significant danger, but resulted in memorable victories.
From Johann Wolfgang VonGoethe:
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now"
So popular is the phrase Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat that its been used down through the ages as a family motto, as well as a motto of esprit de corps among military units both foreign and domestic. There seems to be an appreciation for the relationship between risk taking, survival, and success relative to bravery that has compelled family clans and elite forces alike to adopt this ancient phrase as a motto. Of course, since its doubtful these family clans and military units believe in the Goddess Fortuna, its safe to assume the first word of the phrase now refers to the universal definition of Fortune which is 'luck', thus making the meaning of the phrase, "Luck Favors the Brave/Bold/Strong".
I was reading some past journal posts I made while living at Tenshinkan dojo in Chicago in the early 90's and came across one that I wrote right after getting schooled by Toyoda Sensei on the topic of politics and risk. I call these little nuggets of wisdom 'diamonds' since I find myself mining my journals for them. I've noticed that the words I used 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 1 year ago, or even last week, are pregnant with the possibility of a different interpretation if I allow myself (and my ego) the opportunity to see the little gifts my subconscious mind may have planted within the words.
What I wrote in my journal on August 21, 1992 was this: "Sensei was talking to me about the politics of dojos and how you cant avoid politics in life. Its everywhere and in everything and you don't have to like it but you have to understand it if you want to be successful. You don't have to get involved with the politics of a situation but if you understand it and the positions of everybody involved and what they're trying to do then you can 'hover like Casper' (his words) around the situation and, if opportunity presents itself, you can take advantage (my words, read further to see what he really said). At the very least you will have choices whether to get involved or not but only if you understand what's going on and stay detached. If you don't understand what's going on, or worse, get emotional because you 'don't like politics', then you will only have one option, defense, and everybody will know your position. This is called 'weakness'!" (His words)
So what does this have to do with Fortune Favoring the Bold you ask? Everything! The 'diamond' that I mined from that journal entry had everything to do with taking risks, stepping outside of one's comfort zone and being bold...being brave...being strong. What I thought was simply a discussion about politics had much more to do with doing what others are unwilling to do. It also had everything to do with 'luck favoring the bold'. He said it pretty clearly, although it would take over 20 years for me to understand it. Again, he said, "...if you understand the positions of everybody and what they're trying to do then you can hover around the situation and, if opportunity presents itself, you can take advantage." (Actually, what he said was "draw your sword and cut swift and clean" which was a much bolder way of saying 'take advantage of opportunity')
Of course, Toyoda Sensei was one of the boldest individuals I've had the good fortune to come in contact with and there are enough examples of his bold actions out there on the internet that I didn't feel the need to repeat them here. His life, his Aikido, and his instruction are some of the best examples of his risk taking and bold actions. Some of his decisions, as told by him, weren't always the best or the right ones in retrospect, but they were nothing if not bold. I touched on this quality of boldness in the latest AikiCast podcast so you can listen to it here if you'd like.
I once read that all of our fears are ultimately related to the fear of death. Whether it be the death of this thing which we call ourselves (our ego) or fear of our actual extinction, all of our fears come primarily from our reactions to the memories of fears and not necessarily from things based in reality. Its with this knowledge that I, personally, have found it much easier to make decisions that once seemed like death itself.
In life we're faced with decisions daily. Most of them quite trivial like what to have for breakfast, what to wear, and what time to go to bed. However, there are times in our lives when we're faced with a 'safe' option, a 'moderately risky' option, and an option that we might never have considered due to how bold it seems based on our own particular appetite for risk. The next time you're facing these options I challenge you to give the latter option some consideration while asking yourself, "what's the worst thing that could happen?" When you come up with the answers to that question then ask, "Will any of those things lead to my death?" While the death of one's ego can feel like you're actually dying, there are millions and millions of examples proving that you wont and remember, fortune favors the bold!
The topic of self-defense is very large and multi-faceted. The last post on the topic talked about self-defense potentially being viewed as 'a recovery from stupidity' or, at least, a recovery due to a lack of awareness. I mentioned something called Pre-Incident Indicators (PINs) to violence and expanding one's awareness to become better at identifying the PINs as a better means of self protection than trying to cram a bunch of physical techniques into your brain hoping they'll be available to you in the event of an attack. You can listen to the companion AikiCast Podcast on this topic called Using Intuition for Self Defense and Supercharged Success here..
Awareness itself is kind of a benign word…it doesn't conjure up images of back alley brawls and high kicks so its not that glamorous. When most people hear the word 'awareness', ironically, I believe they tune out and become less aware of whats being said. The awareness I’m talking about is the razor sharp sensory development that comes through training and through understanding what the dangers are. It’s the trusting of your intuition and engaging all of your senses to employ one of the most effective and devastating self protection systems known to man. The PINs, or Pre-Incident Indicators are the clues and cues that are always present leading up to violence.
PINs, pre-incident indicators can be thought of like bread crumbs. They’re the bread crumbs that police investigators look for to help solve a crime. They’re the bread crumbs, however big or small, that anybody could use to determine what lead up to something occurring. Of course, there are Post Incident Indicators as well, but Post means its too late. If somebody is investigating the Post-Incident Indicators of an event they are likely drawing a chalk outline around a body or, at the very least, visiting somebody in the hospital to take a statement. The Pre-Incident Indicators of violence are, therefore, much more important to become aware of so as to avoid the post investigation and aftermath.
PINs are those clues that are out there…out in the future…that give us vital information with which to make decisions and could potentially prevent a victimization. So how do these clues, these PINs, present themselves prior to an attack or a situation that we would hope to avoid?
PIN’s are anything that can be tied back to an incident and seen as a lead up to its eventual occurrence. A useful PIN for avoiding a potential attack might be learning to recognize the many ruses criminals use to gain confidence and access to ones home, car, or even just your personal space. I’ll do a separate article and podcast on several of the common ruses used and how to identify them but just know that you are familiar with them and will recognize them when you hear them.
There are PINs all around us in our daily lives and, when recognized, can lead us to success in many different areas. For example, the PINs for getting paid at your job might be: get up on time, shower, get dressed, drive safely to work, clock in, get to work, make some kind of progress, don’t make enemies, don’t piss anybody off, clock out, etc. If you can identify these successful Pre-Incident Indicators for getting paid, then you'll get a paycheck at the end of the pay period. Do this over and over and you'll experience success in that area. Fail to recognize any of the PINs for successfully getting paid and you'll likely experience an attack on your bank account by the bills piling up.
Another way to look at PINs from the non-Martial or self-defense standpoint is to examine something we do in our daily lives, like driving. Driving is filled with Pre-Incident Indicators of an impending event. recognize them and adjust to them and you make it to your destination safely. For example: when you're driving on the highway and you identify all of the subtle indicators from the other drivers that something is about to happen. A clear PIN could simply be a turn signal. This is a clear indicator that the driver either forgot to turn off their signal from a previous turn (this is a sign to be aware of a distracted driver), or that they are intending to merge into your lane. They've sent out a not so subtle signal that they have some specific intention and you’d do well to allow them the latitude to carry out this action or suffer the consequences.
The most useful tool for identifying PINs, aside from your five senses of course, is your intuition. The resource of intuition is a brilliant tool that can protect us unless we override its abilities with denial. Unfortunately, we use logic more often than intuition so we tend to trust logic more. We have developed a very sophisticated system of logic that has taught us what is likely to happen when we choose A, B, or C, usually based on experience, sometimes based on theory or something we've studied previously. But logic is slow to accept reality and spends far too much time contemplating, looking for patterns, and is burdened by judgment. Judgment slows us down as we contemplate different options, even if quickly, as opposed to a response that comes instantly from our being (or better yet, far in advance of a situation).
Listen to what Gavin DeBecker says about using your intuition to recognize the Pre-Incident Indicators of violence:
With that being said, here are just a few of the PINs to be aware of. These are cues and clues that should be taken note of to avoid potentially becoming a victim.
Here's to your safety and your success!
Self defense is a huge topic and, being a martial arts blog, an appropriate topic for discussion. The topic triggers never ending debates about which 'style' is more effective for self defense, which art will give you the tools to protect yourself more adequately on the 'street', which set of techniques is more effective on the ground, in the air, in the closet, under the covers, in the bathroom, and on and on it goes ad infinitum.
I've been studying this topic for almost 40 years now and, while my views have evolved just as my abilities have, I don't believe the underlying cause and effect have really changed all that much. By the way, I'm only 44 but I can honestly say I remember thinking about the subject in my first days of kindergarten when a girl I had my eye on pushed me down on the playground. That was my first 'awakening', if you will, about the concept of self defense as more than just knowing how to fight.
The topic of self defense can be approached from a variety of angles depending on one's experience, be that martial, life, street, prison or some other experience that offers one the ability to form an opinion on a topic. Of course, what typically follows is a bias based on that belief and any information issuing forth will typically be to support that belief system, which is called 'confirmation bias'. Typical self defense discussions often start and end while sitting on the mat after a class or around the table at the bar and one thing is for sure, everybody has an opinion!
When we talk about self defense the conversation usually starts of with a "what if?" scenario. This sounds something like, "what if you were walking through the Walmart parking lot and somebody tried to steal your...", or, "what if you're leaving the bar and somebody walks up behind you and..."
The scenarios are almost endless and there are a wealth of anecdotes to help cement (or refute) one's bias for or against a particular response to a scenario. What's almost never talked about, however, is what lead up to the 'encounter' and what were the 'pre-incident indicators' that may have lead to the confrontation. This is the part of the discussion that's almost never offered, for a variety of reasons, but the main reason being that very few people consider themselves to be a contributing factor in their own demise when a situation occurs. Its much easier and more comforting to just believe that evil exists and we were just hapless victims of its plan than to consider, even for a moment, that we could have done something to prevent, alter, or at least become aware of an impending event within enough time to make a rational decision as to the best response.
In his book, Meditations on Violence, Sgt. Rory Miller offers his opinion that self defense is "...recovery from stupidity or bad luck, from finding yourself in a position you would have given almost anything to prevent. It is difficult to train for because of the surprise element and because you may be injured before you are aware of the conflict. The critical element is to overcome shock and surprise so that you can act, to "beat the freeze". Self defense is about recovery." He finishes the paragraph with what I believe to be far more important in the grand scheme of things than his belief about what self defense is as it leads one to start asking the question of "how", instead of "what". He says, "The ideal is to prevent the situation. The optimal mindset is often a conditioned response that requires no thought..."
Is self defense recovery from stupidity? In many cases I believe it is (depending on the definition of 'stupidity'). I don't believe, however, that self defense is JUST about recovery from stupidity. Self defense is far more about awareness than it is about what to do once 'shit hits the fan', and awareness leads us to a whole new level of discussion of the "how". I'll save that for another post but, in the meantime, I'll challenge you to try this exercise:
Think up (or write out) 5-10 different 'worst case' scenarios you can imagine finding yourself in. Then imagine what your responses to those scenarios might be. Maybe your response is physical, but it might also be a verbal 'de-escalation'. It could be to use mace or to hit an attacker with your car... and that's part 1. Part 2 of the exercise is to then ask yourself, "what would I have done 3 minutes prior to that situation if I knew, or at least suspected, that it was going to occur?"
I think, if you're anything like me, this exercise will lead to a new way of looking at the concept of self defense. It should at least get you to think about self defense as more than a nice set of techniques or moves to help you vanquish that billiard stick wielding biker who just attacked you at the pool hall or the crack addicted carjacker who is trying to pull you out of your vehicle. All of the preconceived scenarios and predetermined responses we can come up with have nothing on the practice of foreseeing a potential scenario before it happens and then asking, "what could I do (or have done) to have that not happen to me?" I have also recorded a podcast talking about self defense. You can listen to it here... or here...
"Kei ten Ai jin" was the personal motto of the famous Saigo Takamori. Takamori has been called the last true samurai and was instrumental in bringing about the Meiji Restoration. Much has been written about Takamori so I'll save this space for the more important stuff...ART and FRIENDSHIP!
This calligraphy depicts the characters for "Kei Ten Ai Jin" and was brushed by one of my friends, Esteban Martinez. Esteban has become, in my humble opinion, one of the best calligraphers around brushing some of the most beautiful calligraphy I've seen, and I've seen a bunch! Not only is Esteban an amazing calligrapher, he's also a great Aikidoka, teacher, father, husband, and all around great guy! I highly recommend checking out some of Esteban's calligraphy work at his Gohitsu Shodo Studio when you have a chance. He makes some really nice videos of his calligraphy work and is very giving when it comes to showing others how to do calligraphy as well.
I met Esteban through my good friends, Bob and Jen Caron, who own and run Zenshinkan Dojo in Worcester, Massachusetts. Bob and Jen also own and operate a wonderful acupuncture and wellness business called Body Therapeutics. I received this amazing piece of calligraphy as a gift from Bob, Jen, and Zenshinkan Dojo after leading a weekend seminar at their dojo.
What makes this piece of beautiful artwork special to me is the circle of friendship that it represents. While I really love and appreciate nice artwork, and have a special affinity for nicely done calligraphy (I've collected several really nice pieces over the years), I am especially moved by the connection this artwork has to some amazing people that have become some of my best friends over the years. What makes this circle of friendship even more cherished is that they've all come through the practice of Aikido. The variety of people we meet at seminars, our travels, on the mat, and through others in Aikido is astounding and to find people who share the common language of love and friendship that Aikido encourages and embodies is a true testament to the art and to our teachers.
A most sincere thank you to my dear friends, Bob and Jen Caron, to Esteban Martinez for brushing such a beautiful piece of calligraphy, and to Zenshinknan Dojo for the wonderful friendship we share. As the calligraphy states...Revere heaven (but) LOVE PEOPLE!!!
I was rummaging through some boxes in the dojo after our move to a bigger building and came across this old gem. Its my Shodan (first degree black belt) certificate that I received from Toyoda Sensei back in 1993. For those of you who know me, these kinds of things are not a big deal to me. I don't place much value in pieces of paper with fancy writing on it regardless of where it came from or whose signature is on it. The only reason its framed is because it was given (back) to me as a gift from my students several years after starting my first dojo. I have three other certificates that have never seen the light of day still wrapped up awkwardly in the poster tube they're sent in from Hombu Dojo.
Not that I advocate this attitude for anybody else, I mean its typically a big deal when one receives recognition of an achievement like attaining a black belt, I've just never been big on collecting things and find little value in "the thing" and much more value in the act, or memory of the act, as well as the journey I took on my way there.
What struck me, however, when I pulled this dusty relic out of the box it had been sleeping in was how the ink used to write my name, the date, and rank was fading (likely a permanent Sharpie marker, how ironic!) . The once strong and bold black ink was now a pitiful yellowish orange hue and on its way to becoming roughly the same color as the paper it was written on.
I realized as I looked over the certificate (and remembered fondly the day, the test, the smells, sounds, and people who were there that day) that the writing would likely one day be unrecognizable and unreadable. Shit! What would I do once that happened?! How would people know that I had obtained a first degree black belt under the world renowned Shihan Fumio Toyoda? Would my Aikido be null and void once the last of the ink disappears? Is it going to be like the movie Back to The Future where, as Michael J. Fox's family begins to fade from his pictures, he realizes that history itself is being altered?
The answer is a simple no... nothing is going to change when the ink finally disappears from the piece of paper. The ink disappearing, in fact, is a recognition to me that things have already changed... a long time ago. When I saw the disappearing ink I was instantly reminded that the person I was back when I took that first black belt test is long gone. That person, good or bad, is merely a shadow and a memory. I have been training continuously since then and have had many more accomplishments, black belt tests (several of my own and many more of my students), many setbacks and failures, a few regrets (yes, regrets too), and many more experiences that make us who we are on any given day.
To be sure, I'll be sad on the day when I can no longer read my name on that certificate. But it will remind me that I am no longer that person and that its time to go to the dojo and train. Another day, another class, another throw, another challenge, another uke, another goal... just another day. All things fade and that's a good thing...it forces us to renew the commitment or move on to something else. The piece of paper, like an old photograph, is just a reminder of how we were on that one day...way back when.
The vibration through the thin branch of the birch tree would be imperceptible to most living things as this creature makes a vital transition from one stage of life to another, only to move to yet another vital stage. The end of one stage becomes the beginning of the next, only to become the end and beginning of another, and another, and on it goes from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly. For eons this cycle has continued unabated and, unless we really screw things up from here, will likely continued for eons more.
Cycles occur everywhere and in everything. Even when the cycle is almost imperceptible, like what occurs inside the cocoon as earthbound creature inherits the ability to move heavenward, the end is always in the process of becoming the beginning of something else and vice versa. This is the very definition of a cycle and, although the specific processes will vary whether we’re talking about the life cycle of a living thing, a product, an enterprise, a residential neighborhood or a human being, one thing we can always be sure of is that the beginning will eventually come to an end and the end will be intimately connected to some other beginning. Or, as my mother always says when things aren’t going so well, “this too shall pass”.
I might be dating myself a bit with this reference but I’ll take my chances. The 1989 song Closing Time by the band Semisonic speaks to this Universal process it quite appropriately with the line, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”. Of course, it should be noted that the song is talking about the bar closing and the band members hoping “you have found a friend” to take you home, but they had the foresight to throw in a couple of Zen-ish lines that speak to the cycles of life. Every new beginning certainly does come from some other beginning’s end.
Being a martial arts instructor as well as a business owner I find this concept to be one of the most helpful whenever I catch myself getting mired in the minutiae of a particular task, challenge or problem that, at first glance, appears to have no simple solution or clear path. Remembering that all things are, in that moment, at some point in a greater cycle allows me to step back and take in the whole picture. In fact, it has become part of my daily process to take some time, usually during a morning or evening meditation, and simply try to be grateful for whatever or wherever in a “cycle” I may find myself, knowing full well that wherever I am in the cycle, wherever my business is in the cycle, wherever a particular Aikido student is in the cycle, is all part of a greater whole that deserves recognition. That recognition lends itself to having a more complete perspective on the myriad issues we all face daily.
All of life is process, a cycle of becoming. The only constant in the Universe is change. This is the one thing that we can all truly count on. Nothing ever stays the same and every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Nothing stays the same for a day, an hour or even a second. Each moment is a continuous spiral leading us from one beginning’s end to yet another ending in the process of becoming a beginning. Night spirals into day spirals into night spirals into yet another day. We are born and eventually we die. Birth, growth, decay, death and rebirth…the cycle of life. We could say that “life is change” or we could say it another way that “change is life”. Change is life and the ability to change is the essential element of growth, as one of my Aikido mentors is famous for saying. He was also famous for the follow up to that saying, “…the acceptance of this truth, that nothing stays the same, is the source of the power of true creativity”.
If I were to issue a challenge to anyone reading this it would be in the form of a statement: If you want to have a greater understanding of life, love, business, or anything else of interest to you, study the movement of the Universe. Study the principles and forces that govern it, the flow and function of nature’s energy and the movement of the galaxies. In this study you will find a greater connection, and thus understanding, between all things. The cycles that govern the movement of “no form” into the realm of form, the ebb and flow of the earths large water bodies, the movement of the earth around the sun, the changing of the seasons, the spiral helix in the structure of amino acids and, of course, the movement of egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis to butterfly, are the same cycles that exist in our own lives as we move from birth to and through whatever stage we may be in at this very moment. One thing is for sure, whether we like it or not, this stage too shall pass.
Steve Jobs gave the 2005 commencement address at Stanford University and the last few (now prophetic and sadly ironic) paragraphs stuck in my memory for their face slapping honesty. He spoke of the cycles of life and death by saying, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away… Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish!” (Emphasis mine)
So for now its closing time, but remember that every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…
So, you’ve now scheduled some visits with martial arts schools in your area. Hopefully you’ve been following along through all of the previous lessons and have been able to gather some good information. Remember, choosing a martial arts school in your area should not be a quick decision. You will be investing your valuable time and money into something that should be fun, exciting, practical and enjoyable. If you make the wrong choice right out of the gate you will, most likely, be turned off to martial arts forever. We want to make sure your first experience is a positive one and that takes a little bit of research on your part.
Now that you are headed off to visit a few schools there are a few things you need to know. First, although I would think this is common sense, we find many clients do not: make sure you schedule your visit DURING a typical class time. If you happen to just “drop in” to a dojo or dojang that you’re driving by and theres no classes going on, you can still get a good feel for the facility and possibly the owner or staff, but you’ll still have to watch the instructor in action before you can really decide if its the right school and right martial art for you.
So, here are the basic rules for visiting martial arts schools in your area.
1st. Dont go alone. Not that you necessarily need to be worried about your safety, its simply that having another person with you will help with your decision. The other person will typically be more objective than you since you may be too invested in “wanting” it to be right.
2nd. Use the question list from lesson 3. Its one thing to watch a class and get a good feeling about the facility and the instruction, but there are still a bunch of questions you’ll need answers to before you can make an informed decision when choosing a martial arts school in your area.
3rd. Trust your gut! This is a big one and its actually a good self defense lesson as well. Most attack situations, and their avoidance, can be traced back to a “gut feeling” the victim had but ignored. You will get some gut feelings while you are visiting martial arts schools and the best thing to do is to trust what you’re feeling. If the place feels good and right to you, give it a try. If the place has an odd feeling that you just can put your finger on, get some more answers or maybe schedule another visit.
So, See you next time for another lesson to help you better choose a martial arts school in your area.
To recap the last installment, we talked about calling around to different martial arts schools. You might be interested in Karate, or Aikido, or a mixed martial arts school in Grand Rapids, or wherever you may live. Using the list of questions in the last post to ask the person on the other end of the phone, you’re going to gather some vital information about the school, the martial art, the instructors and their beliefs, and pricing. You, most likely, were able to shrink your list a bit using this process but hopefully you didn’t base your initial decision solely on low price.
Now you’re ready to schedule some visits to local martial arts schools to watch some classes. This can take some time but I guarantee it will be well worth it since you are the best judge of what you’re looking for and you really wont know until you start visiting some martial arts schools to see how things are run.
I recommend that you print out the list of questions from the last post and bring it with you when you visit the martial arts schools you have on your list. This may sound silly and common sense, but I have to say it anyway, please make sure you visit schools when they are having actual classes. This will be mostly in the evening. You want to see a couple of key things: how big are normal classes, how are the students behaving with one another, how are they interacting with their instructor and whats the overall feeling you get from the whole “scene”. This process should take 45 minutes to an hour (or more) per visit to get a good idea of what martial arts classes are like at this particular school.
Remember that each martial art and each martial arts school will have some things in common but will also have vast differences. Only you can tell what style, art, and practice suits you. Some schools are very strict and will call themselves “traditional” while others are not as strict and tend to be a bit more loose and, in my opinion, “fun”. However, even though I’m turned off by the so called traditional and strict schools, you may very well be looking for that kind of experience. You’ll find out when you’re there if it “moves” you one way or the other.
In the next installment we’ll talk a bit about what to expect when you are watching a class. See you next time!