Saturday, 27 August 2016

Goku's Newest Friend

It's no secret. I love the Dragonball franchise- right from the original Dragonball series to the current Dragonball Super series that is currently running.

I even like GT- well... a bit...

This post is about something that has happened in episode 55 of Dragonball Super. The events I relate here remind us what virtue is actually about and ought to be a lesson to us all.

Now- most good karate schools have a Dojo-Kun. I have the Taode Ching, Zen teachings and other classics. I'll get to the relevant quote from the Taode Ching at the end of this post.

Well... to those who don't know the new Dragonball Super Universe here's a quick intro:

Goku is the main character- a good hearted Saiyan (Warrior Alien) with a childlike heart and unrivalled strength.

During his adventures Goku has not only met humans and aliens, but also those deities that watch over the planets and universes, These include:

Kami: The Guardian of Earth

The Kaioshin: Beings in charge of their quadrants of the universe or in higher up places- in charge of the Universe.

Hakkaishin: Gods of Destruction

And the latest: Zeno Sama King of the Twelve Universes or as he is also called: The King Of Everything.

The first thing we notice in all knowledgeable beings of the Universe when they are in Zeno's presence is that their behaviour changes drastically. They suddenly act extremely formal. Kaioshin and Hakkaishin alike are very nervous around Zeno. 

Zeno's bodyguards also do not like anyone to approach him in person.

Now Goku is just something else. While everyone else nearly dies of fright because of him addressing Zeno casually Goku is only interested to know that Zeno is a good person and that  

it is enough reason for him to be friendly with him.

To everyone's surprise Zeno does not appear to be annoyed by Goku's behaviour at all and he silences anyone that tries to scold Goku about his way of speaking or his conduct during their meeting.

We saw in last Sunday's episode that Zeno happilly acknowledges Goku as a friend.

I am certain that all this is because The King of Everything, with his own childlike heart, is an embodiment of  the Tao.

His liking in Goku reminds me of the passage from the Taode Ching that I am sharing below.

I really hope that the Martial Arts bring all of us not only physical and mental well-being, but also the warmth of heart that I have seen in Goku and Zeno.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Better reflexes or responses

Those of you who are members of our group Martial Arts Forums, may have noticed Abisha Soans in our midst.

This bright young girl has taken huge interest in the group and is not shy to ask questions.

This week I received notification of her question about reflexes in my mailbox.

She soon had no shortage of answers.

Some of the advice Abisha got came from a very scientific approach. Some of it came from a more practical perspective.

With me, martial arts training is mostly about first hand experience.

Now- before I go into my long explanation of my answer to her- let's just distinguish between reflexes and responses. The former relates to involuntary movements of the body or part thereof in response to external stimuli. That includes blinking or that familiar kick of the leg in response to a doctor's hammer.

The latter refers to the trained responses we apply to situations. These movements are far from involuntary, but through conditioning and repetitive training they do become automated to a large extent.

Now- Bruce Lee, known for his extremely fast reactions and attacking speed said two things that seem unrelated, but which are in fact closely connected. The one was how great it would be if we were able to hit with our eyes as a lot of time gets lost between the eyes, brain and muscles.

The other was that Jeet Kune Do's objective was to destroy the ego.

Just like Wenhsiuquan- Jeet Kune Do was derived from older martial art systems and drew both on Zen as well as Taoist teachings.

The themes of absence of thought should therefore not be regarded as unique to these two systems.

Now- I do enjoy scientific analysis, but the one thing I enjoy about martial arts is the experience of doing it. All books that I have read on martial arts have gained meaning only after I have experienced martial arts training in all its aspects.

Now here's a quick story about me:

Ever since I was 9 I wanted really badly to study martial arts and at the age of 15- when I finally started- I realised that sparring was just happening too fast for me. As soon as my opponent was within reach I got hit. This was frustrating and I was on the verge of giving up. Still- this was what I wanted to do and I stuck with that dojo until my family eventually moved to where I am today.

At the age of 16 I got hold of a magazine article (from a publication called the Taekwondo Times- that article was in one of its 1994 issues.) and began spending mornings and evenings sitting cross-legged- emptying my mind. I also learnt about Zen philosophy and I must say- although I was not the coolest kid in school, I was really happy with myself at that time.

The best came when I took this empty mind of mine into my fighting stance. I realised that- not only did I see my opponent's attacks come, but I also countered them on time as well.

Someone once said that his car takes him where he wants to go, whether he is aware of how its engine works or not. In the same fashion I can say: You exist- whether you think about it or not.
We actually waste a lot of time on unnecessary thoughts which in turn can create negative emotions like fear. This in turn slows down our responses to an attack and in some cases cause us to throw out training to the wind.

Just as your technique only works when it is delivered from a firm stance- so your actions will be effective they are delivered with an undisturbed mind.

So- yeah! I am a big advocate of meditation...

Besides meditation (because we are men and women of action and not just of stillness) I enjoy sparring and parrying drills. For the times I train alone I bounce one of these rubber balls off a wall and catch it repeatedly. By now I can even catch it with my eyes closed. :D

I don't regard these exercises as exercises, really, but rather as tests of my mental conditioning. Believe me- if your mind is busy it will show in your performance during these tests.

This calm, alert mind that is cultivated through training does not only give us good "reflexes", but also makes us happier, braver and stronger persons.

Well- these are my views on reflex training in martial arts. I wish everyone a great week until we meet here again. Train well!

Btw- this photo below is part of this week's part of my book that gets posted here at the bottom every week.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Some tips for a better throw.

Hi, everyone!

I am typing this post while taking a nice break from a 2 and a half hour long gasshuku (training camp- I have only heard this term used by karate people, but maybe some students of other Japanese martial arts know it too.)

The Olympics are on our TV's and we get to see some Judo amongst other things.

I wish somebody wants to post more videos of Judo kata on Youtube and stuff, because that is much nicer to look at than the competitions. If you have not seen a Judo kata before- here is an example:

That looks pretty cool, doesn't it?

Now- most of the time we see something like this going on-

The sequence below shows one of my favourite throws that is a good way to get someone acquainted with throwing techniques. You can see that for one thing- I am not on one leg when I am pulling my partner into the throw.

Let's go through the essential elements of a good throw:

1. Keeping your stance: It looks as if Judoka never learn the value of a good stance. A good stance alligns the body in such a way that the centre of balance is lowered. It also employs the legs to provide not only rooting, but drive as well. In Japanese martial arts the term "hara" is often heard. It mostly refers to what the Chinese call the "Dan Tien", which is generally the abdomen (many will say it's that spot beneath the navel, but to the Japanese the "hara" is the whole abdomen. Maintaining the "hara" in throwing techniques mean that the centre of gravity is lowered and kept in place so that the body is immovable. This is also why I sink into that horse stance as I set my parner up for the throw.

2. Disrupting your opponent's stance: Throwing is as simple a matter as you remaining rooted while upsetting your opponent's rooting. In Taijiquan we talk about "sinking the qi" and "raising the opponent's qi" when engaging in qin na (grappling) techniques. In the throw above I disrupt my partner's stance by doubling him up with an elbow to the ribs. In competition Judo you will off course not be allowed to do this. From what I understand thrusting your hip into the opponent is allowed. Whatever method you use- it is a bad idea to try to throw somebody who is firmly rooted.

3. Keeping the legs firmly planted on the ground during the throw: Swinging a leg wildly at your opponent's legs does not amount to much other than putting you on one leg to make throwing you easier for your opponent. If your throw involves a trip then keep the tripping foot planted on the ground and push or pull your opponent over it. 

4. Letting your hips do the work instead of the arms: If the base is firm a quick twist of the hips would be all you need to send your opponent tumbling. The only thing the arms do is to follow the body while you maintain your hold on the opponent.

5. Getting a firm hold: This sounds too obvious, but I often see loose clothing being grabbed while an arm or a torso would have been much better to grab hold off. If you want to tear your opponent's gi off you will do well by grabbing those loose lapels, but if you actually want your opponent's body to go to the floor you need to get a much firmer handhold.

Below is my version of Taijiquan's "Snake Creeps Down." just to show that the Japanese do not always have the coolest throws.  

That's is for today. Hope you all have a great week until we meet again! 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

When the Emperor interferes in the matters of the military...

When I am not practicing martial arts- I am at work. I find my occupation as a litigation attorney quite suitable to my personality as a martial artist and have applied the principles that I have learnt through not only training, but also education in martial philosophy, with great success.

Most recently I have met a fellow litigant in Court who got sent to court with a file on which he has no knowledge of his clients' instructions, but only had his employer's instructions to proceed with the motion.

It has also happened before where my employer instructed me to fight and I ended up wanting to settle.

Because of the above I have a strong dislike in lawyers who consult with their clients only to hand the work over to candidates or support staff. That is not necessarily where the fault lies, though.

If we look at what Master Sun is saying the problem is ignorance, not handing over of work or giving of instructions.

In a one-on-one fight knowing what you have at your disposal, where you are fighting and who you are fighting determines whether you will win that fight or not. Attaining any goal is not that different. When you have to work through other organisations or with other people to attain your goals a careless attitude towards the circumstances under which those people or organisations are working will give you anything between an average chance to no chance at all at reaching your objective.

Knowing how those to whom you entrust work actually do that work actually helps you with your planning and execution of various tasks.

Well- that's my post for today...

Have a great week ahead until we see each other again!