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Visitors in a Traditional Dojo

October 25, 2016 Leave a comment

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Early evening on any Monday and class is in session at a local karate dojo. There are eight to ten students in the room. Sweat is pouring and occasionally a shout cuts through the air. To the passerby the studio may look almost empty. Surely there are more students than this? The Sensei and his Senior Students (Sempai) walk through the group correcting a technique here, offering advise there. Sensei is happy. To him, this is a medium sized class. If there were very many more students he might miss something in one’s training.

 

The average on-looker judges by what they see. There is a karate school around the corner and down the street that has a class going with at least twenty students. There are a lot of children in it. They are playing games and laughing. Earlier one of the instructors was holding a hula hoop and all the kids were taking turns diving through it and landing on an over-stuffed mat. The two or three younger students in this dojo are punching and kicking a hand mitt that one of the Sempai is holding for them. Then on his command, they break away and begin working on kata (open hand forms). As they diligently work on their kata the Sensei will stop one of them every so often and make a correction on a technique. “Make your kick stronger!” “Punch to the solar plexus!” and several other commands can be heard often as the session continues.

 

After a bit Sensei shouts “Yame!” and the students cease whatever they are doing and come to attention. The teacher lines them up and calls one of his Sempai up. He then breaks one of the kata down by sets of movements and demonstrates the “bunkai” or practical applications of what they have been doing. He then tells the students to get a partner and do what he has just done. Even the children are taught the techniques and taught to use them on a partner much larger than themselves. After a bit of this he nods to his most senior student who shouts another word in Japanese and the students fall into line facing the front of the dojo. They bow. They kneel. They close their eyes and sit perfectly still for a couple of minutes. Then they do a kneeling bow to the Shomen. Sensei turns and they then perform a kneeling bow to him. They then stand coming to attention and bow to Sensei who then dismisses the class. As they head for the changing area, they pause before leaving the training floor and once again bow facing the work out area.

 

Most people who witness a traditional karate class for the first time are a little confused. They do not understand much of what they have just watched. They have come to the dojo with a preconceived idea of what is going to happen and in most cases are shocked that this school that professes to be a traditional dojo doesn’t play a lot of games with the children. They are surprised to see that the smaller students work right alongside the older, larger, stronger ones. There is a lot of bowing and a lot of words being spoken that they do not even understand. Most of them will never come back. There is no flash or glam here. There are no wildly colored uniforms. There are no hoops or bouncy balls for the children. There is only…karate.

 

Sadly, what has been forgotten (or never realized) by most people outside of the martial arts is that karate is not a game.

 

Karate is training. It is learning how to defend yourself and learning to defend yourself from attackers that are larger and stronger than you are. If Little Suzy spends her class time bouncing tennis balls off a huge round piece of brightly colored tarp with ten of her BFFs, she will never learn how to defend herself. Likewise, if Little Johnny spends his class playing Red Rover he will never grasp the concept of bunkai. If the student is never encouraged to do better, work harder, and try their best at the art they are learning, they will never grow. They will never become stronger.

 

Karate is dedication. Like the person who was checking out the class for the first time, a staggering percentage of students will take classes for a while and then become bored with the constant repetition of techniques. Every class starts the same. Bow in and do basics. Basics, basics, basics. They never comprehend that they are trying to perfect a technique. They never truly understand that they are building muscle memory. They get bored. They get burnt out. They leave. It’s a sad thing. It’s sad for the student and it’s even more so for the instructor if “growing a business” is the only thing he is there for. The student must be willing, no the student must be strong enough, to endure boredom, repetition, and constant criticism. That said, the traditional Sensei is not heartless. The traditional Sensei knows what limits are. He or she also knows what kindness and compassion are. Sensei will take the student to the edge of what they think they can do and help the student break the barriers and limitations of their beliefs. In doing this, there is growth.

 

Most people ask, “What about team building?” That’s one of a huge number of New Age politically correct terms that we have adopted in our society today. By training with each other and working hard towards a goal the student learns valuable lessons that will last them an entire lifetime. Once they have accomplished a task or reached a goal, they have something to look back on and be proud of. When they reach this state and they see another student struggling with the same obstacle they overcame, they reach out to that student and help them overcome it as well. You see, it’s not team building. It’s not a team. It becomes a family. Families help each other. I’m not sure about you but I would much rather that my family had my back than my team. Most business professionals today would have you believe that team and family are the same thing. They are not and they never will be.

 

The traditional dojo is struggling these days. We live in a society of instant gratification. We see something. We want it. We get it We do this sometimes regardless of the situation. I can’t pay my mortgage this month but I sure do have a fine new truck. Some people walk into a martial arts school these days and they want it all and they want it now. They want to be a black belt in six months. They want to run their own school in a year. They want to have the most popular self- defense course out there in a matter of months. The sad fact is that there are many martial arts schools and martial artists out there that are willing to give someone that…for the right amount of money.

 

Yet people on average take things at face value. They believe whatever hype that someone tells them simply because they don’t know any better. Those who are actually willing to do some research on something often read a huge steaming pile of bull on the internet and take it as gospel because a website said it was true.

 

So here’s some advice for any of you instructors out there that want to take it. If you have a sign on your building that states that you are a traditional stylist, be a traditional stylist. Teach your art for what it is, your art. If you have someone who walks into your dojo wanting to watch because they are interested in perhaps taking your classes, send one of your adult senior students over to sit with them. Instruct them to be there to answer questions the prospective student may have. Don’t preach to them, simply be a source of information. Be proud of your style, your lineage, and the rich history of your art.

 

Through The Dark Night

September 30, 2013 6 comments

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It has been quite a while since I have posted on any regular basis here. For those of you who actually follow and enjoy this blog, I truly apologize.

As most of you know, my wife of 18 years passed away in May from cancer. It was sudden and it was very fast. I think myself and my daughters actually held on to the hope that we would beat it until the very end. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing has never been certain in my mind or in my heart.

After the funeral was over things calmed down a bit. People stopped bringing food by the house. The visits became fewer and further between. I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. With that came time to think, meditate, and reflect. To be totally honest, that actual time period became a part of the gray “black and white” world I had found myself existing in. If you have ever been very sick, suffering from a fever, and woke up on your sofa in the middle of the night with an old B&W movie playing on the tv you can grasp what I mean. You see the movie playing in the dark. Yet there is no color. You see the people’s mouths move. Sometimes you even hear the sound of their words, but you can’t quite understand what they are saying. That was my life in a nutshell at that point.

Then something happened. I made a decision. I decided that it was imperative that I get some kind of normality back in my life. I had to do things I was used to doing. I had to be places I was used to being. Work was one thing that happened quickly. All of my vacation time and sick time was exhausted and financially I HAD to get back there. But there was something else. Like an old friend or a comfortable warm blanket, the dojo called to me.

I have to admit the first time I entered the building was rough. You have to understand that my dojo is decorated and furnished to look as much like a traditional training hall as possible. It is at least done that way to the best of my knowledge and ability. There are fans on the walls, oriental screens set around, and various wall hangings and scrolls. My wife had either bought these, been with me when I bought them, or jokingly pitched a fit when I spent what she believed to be too much money on them. There is a collage on one wall with photographs of students, past and present. Of course she is in some of those photographs because even though Carol never took one single formal lesson from me, she was very much part of the life-blood of the dojo, even to the point that a lot of people, students and parents alike, called her “Mrs Sensei”. Her spirit was as alive in that studio as it was at home.

Instead of letting it get me down I began to take comfort in it. I remembered all of the things she had done and things she had helped me do including the benefit for Family Crisis Services which had been the last event she had played a major role in. The day of the event she stayed at the dojo, working the front door until she became so tired and fatigued she was forced to leave.

Something amazing began to happen. I didn’t even realize it at first but with each passing moment spent there I, out of reflex, began to change back into the Sensei I had lost for a long time. My focus shifted to doing what I was supposed to do: teaching. I stopped worrying about what other instructors were doing. I stopped stressing on what bill to pay first. I remembered a saying someone told me or I read a long time ago: “Treat every single class like it’s your last one and every single student like it’s the last time you will ever teach them”. Considering what I had just went through, and still was going through actually, that struck a very deep chord inside of me even though, as I said, I didn’t even realize exactly what was going on.

A few really special things happened in the process. My students sensed something different and it became contagious. Sensei was actually living up to the Go Do Shin (5 Way Spiritual Path) and remembering the “Spirit of First Beginnings”. It became contagious. They started enjoying classes again…and…they told friends who came in to try classes. Many of them stayed.

Something else that is worth mentioning. Many of you who have read this blog at all know that I have had some serious issues with the Fight Like a Girl Women’s Self-Defense program. I’m not saying that some things about it still don’t bother me however, I looked at the phone one day and there was a strange number on the voicemail. I hit the play button and it was Sensei Kym Rock, the founder of FLAG. Sensei Rock had saw my post on this blog about the guy teaching self- defense techniques that were weak and wouldn’t work and calling his program Fight Like a Girl. She had checked and the guy was NOT part of her organization and she had taken steps to rectify the situation. But more importantly, more dear to my heart, the thing that touched me, was that Sensei Rock had heard of Carol’s passing and offered me very sincere and heart-felt condolences. Because myself and some types of modern technology simply don’t get along and I accidentally erased the message and number, I never got to tell her “thank you”. So, Sensei, should you happen to read this please accept my deep and true appreciation for your time and your kind words.

I have also looked back on some things in my life and come to terms with them. Life is too short and far too precious to waste your energies on silly things or stupid bickering. It is far better to let that kind of negativity go and channel your time, energy, and emotions into helping other people with a sincere spirit of care and compassion. Carrying around hatred and other negative energies serves no purpose at all. We are put here in this life for a very short time. It is precious and should not be squandered on trivial things. You can’t live a happy fulfilled life if your spirit is in constant chaos.

Perhaps this will make sense to you. Perhaps it won’t. Either way, reflect on it for a while. We can all find a positive even in the most negative time of our lives if we simply allow it to happen.

7 Virtues of Bushido


7 virtues

You’re Doing It All Wrong

April 8, 2013 2 comments

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The dojo completed our Defeat the Darkness benefit for Family Crisis Services last Saturday standing against Domestic Violence, sexual assault and abuse. At the end of a very long day I was exhausted both physically and emotionally. We raised approximately $600.00 toward ending Domestic Violence in our community.

I learned a lot that day. One of the greatest lessons I learned was that all though some people are apathetic to the plague of violence that is rampant in our nation today, there is a host of others that are caring and concerned about the people around them that are suffering silently.

The speakers left an ever-lasting impression on me and I hope to the audience in attendance. These people, many of them volunteers, touched my heart and soul. I even found the courage to tell my own tale and all of it brought tears to my eyes at times.

There are some that turn a blind eye to the subject. There are those who want to help in the beginning, find out what a task, a battle, there is in front of them and back away. Although I understand this aspect of their thought pattern, I wish these people would at least be honest to the public and the victims.

One person related a story to me of a group who went full throttle into helping with the problem. These good-hearted, community-oriented people were great in the beginning. Then at the end of a past Take Back the Night Walk when everyone had gathered in the park (there’s a nice photo and article on this in the archives of this blog) people were allowed to stand up and speak openly. Some people publicly announced they were taking a stand against abuse. Others found a voice and told their own stories of how they had been abused.

This “community- oriented” group and its’ leaders were offended by one or two of the stories that were told. They found the outpouring of emotion and sometimes grief from these people too graphic and offensive. In what I can only consider their self-righteousness they chose to pull out and no longer support the move.

Are you crazy?

Want graphic? How about this…if you have a deep wound and you rip the scab off of that wound, it’s going to bleed! If you have a diverse group of people gathered together on the subject of Domestic Violence and abuse, emotions are going to rise to the surface because the thin veil that is holding back all of that pent up anguish is going to be torn away. This is the real world not some sanitary environment you have created where the boogie man lives outside somewhere. The boogie man lives right next door to you. He may be hiding in your own home. Real life is not a fairy tale where stories of dragons and monsters are told. We don’t live in the Middle Ages where priests told stories of demons and monsters living “out there” in the forests and had rituals and magics which would get rid of them which were never really used because at the end of the day no one had actually saw a monster. This is the 21st century. We have our own dragons and monsters and they are real. We really see them every single day when we watch the news or read the paper.

If you are out there, especially those of you who teach martial arts, and you have this kind of mind set, you need to wake up! The monsters are real. Violence is real. Abuse is real. People come to you in order to learn to defend themselves. Some of these people have experienced violence. They have been attacked or know someone close to them who has. They have met the monster. They have shook hands with the Devil. They are looking to you for help. For you to sit in your little make believe world and refuse to accept that is wrong. For you to teach people self-defense methods and techniques that you’re not even sure will work in real-life is wrong. Most of all and most important, for you to be angry or offended at a person for opening their heart is wrong! Don’t get angry or offended at the victim for opening up. Get angry at the crime. Get angry at the suffering! Get offended at the fact that we see this every single day an treat it like it’s “just life”. Or even worse, we ignore it completely.

In other words: You’re doing it wrong and your heart is in the wrong place. What is even worse is that in your pious indignation you are hurting the very people you claim to want to help.

Take your blinders off. Stop thinking about your reputation and your desire to make money for a moment and realize that you have intentionally put yourself in a position of authority and knowledge. People look to you for guidance. They look to you for advice. In a lot of very deep and personal ways, they look to you for compassion and understanding. If you’re going to place yourself in a position to help people then do it. If you don’t have the talent, knowledge, or courage to see it through then stop dancing around the thing. In the end you will get someone hurt either physically or emotionally.

I’m not a professional counselor. I have no degree. I do not want people to look at me in that manner. However I want to help. I am committed to help. In that commitment I have made connections with people who are professionals. I am set up so that if anyone comes to me and needs help I can direct them to people who can help them.

I suppose you could say I am a “professional” martial artist although I hate to use that term. I am trained and I have real-world experience with violence. I can, in that capacity, teach people how to defend themselves. Although I do attempt to increase my knowledge and continue to learn, I have no need for outside self-defense programs, catering to women or otherwise, to augment my teachings, line my wallet, or fatten my bank account. In that aspect I can confidently contribute to ending violence. I’m not a savior. I’m not even, in my mind, a leader in this fight. The volunteers that man those phones 24/7, the people who put victims up in safe houses, the staff who counsel and advocate for the abused, those are the leaders and heroes in this fight. I’m just a voice. I’m just a single pair of hands that are outstretched to try to help. I am a simple Sensei who refuses to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to what is going on. I have seen enough real violence in my life that I am not so thin skinned that I would turn my back on anyone simply because I felt “offended”. If you are one of these people yet you have set yourself up to be a champion for the cause; You’re doing it all wrong! And I have to wonder what else you claim to be or take up a cause for that you will simply walk away from because you find something offensive or something doesn’t fit into the nice little box of your life.

The Other Side of Violence

February 11, 2013 5 comments

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In the past I have written a lot on violence in this blog. Violence, as sad as the fact may be, is a part of life. Violence can be placed in two categories:

Social Violence

Domestic Violence

I have written quite a bit on the Social Violence side of the coin. Actually it is pretty much all I have written about here. Social Violence can be considered acts of violence that randomly happen to us. We are in the “wrong place at the wrong time” sort of scenarios are the ones that make up the majority of Social Violence cases. Like physical assault, sexual assault, robberies, and ect, these types of assault happen for the most part on a random basis. In my Common Sense Self-Defense articles I have provided a lot of information on Social Violence and how to deal with it. There is a ton of information on the subject in this blog. I intend to write more on it later.

In this article I want to touch a bit on the other side of the coin. I want to talk a bit on the dark and very personal torture that is Domestic Violence.

What is Domestic Violence?

A pattern of abusive behavior in an intimate or romantic relationship where one person chooses to control the relationship through the use of force, intimidation or fear.

This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.

Domestic Violence’s abuse can take many forms. It may range from physical, emotional, sexual, economical, or a combination of these. It can be extreme as we often picture it, or it can be very subtle. In a relationship, it knows no boundaries or age limits. It happens in straight or same-sex relationships. Either sex can abuse the other (yes, women can be abusers to men). It can, and does, happen to teens as well as adults.

We often picture it as we have seen it in movies but Domestic Violence isn’t just an argument every once in a while. Domestic violence describes an ongoing pattern of abusive behavior when one person chooses to control the relationship (most often a romantic relationship) through force, fear, pressure or intimidation. Sometimes it is not even noticeable. Put-downs in public can only be the tip of the iceberg. It can very often be subtle even to the point of withholding money or taking paychecks.

That romantic relationship can be between two people who are married, divorced, living together, dating, with kids, without kids. It can be between teenagers, young people, adults, the elderly, between a man and woman, two women, two men, two people from any race, culture, nationality, religion, and from any neighborhood, economic status or educational level… Domestic violence can affect anyone.

It is important to understand that people commit domestic violence because they choose to do so, not because they can’t stop themselves. I think our modern society too often wants to place blame for something anywhere except the place it needs to be…on the person who committed or is committing the negative behavior. Abusing someone is a CHOICE.

We should all know the signs of Domestic Violence, not only to protect ourselves but to possible warn or protect others.

What are the Warning Signs?

•extreme jealousy or insecurity
•constant put-downs
•possessiveness or treating you like property
•telling you what to do
•constantly checking in on you
•explosive temper
•making false accusations
•isolating you from your friends and family
•preventing you from doing things you want to do

What Can be Done?

If you suspect someone you know is being abused, what can you do? The answer is not as simple as one might first think. Unlike in the movies we can’t just storm into the home and stop the violence as much as we might like to. Unlike Social Violence self-defense courses do little good because many people either do not realize they are actually being abused or refuse to admit it.

How can a person not realize they are being abused?

You have to understand that a lot of Domestic Violence / Abuse is psychological as well as physical. It is a pattern that over time has become, in the victim’s mind, normal. If possible pull the victim to the side, get them away from their abuser, and have a serious talk with them. Try to educate them and explain to them that what is happening is wrong. You can also inform the proper authorities. Help Lines and Hot Lines are abundant and easy to find. One thing to keep in mind: you are involving yourself in a very volatile situation on both sides. You absolutely have to use some discernment in how you act and the actions you take. You also must be willing to accept that the victim may not be willing to listen to you or accept your help. Remember, they think in many cases that nothing is wrong. The abuser is already a violent person in one form or another and may at least verbally assault you. In reality you must have a great deal of wisdom and courage if you attempt any form of intervention.

If you are being abused you need to:

Realize you are being abused.

You are in a cycle. You have been brainwashed to certain degree. You have to come to grips within yourself that you are a victim. Most importantly you have to realize that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Remember what I said earlier, people CHOOSE to abuse someone. The idea you have done anything to deserve abuse is part of the cycle that the abuser has set into place in your mind. They have put you, your life, and possible the lives of your children in a nice little box…or cage.

Get Help

There are many organizations out there that are ready and willing to assist you. I support and work with such an organization that not only offers support and counseling but can also offer abuse victims and their children a place to go, a Safe House so to speak. Find these people and accept their help. No matter what you have come to believe, you are being victimized and you need help and support.

Get Out!

Just as it is with Social Violence you need to separate yourself from the thing that is harming you. You need to “escape”. If there are children involved this becomes even more critical. Perhaps your abuser isn’t harming your children physically but there are mental and emotional scars they are enduring that will last them for the rest of their lives. You may believe with all of your heart that things will get better. You may think that eventually you can change that person. Things will NOT get better. You will NOT change your abuser. In all probability without professional help, things will get worse.

You Are Not Alone

As I said, there are people out there that can and will help you. You are not the only person that has had to endure the pain and suffering you are experiencing. Inside of each of us is the heart of a warrior. That heart can take many different shapes and form each warrior differently. One of the main characteristics, the main traits, of a warrior is courage. You have to embrace the warrior within you and find the courage to act. You have to find the strength to reach out for help. Once you can do this you will find that you are truly not alone.

27 Trees

December 25, 2012 3 comments

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I have wrestled within myself as to whether to write about this or not. I have simply not wanted to use a tragedy to promote myself, my art, or this blog. Today, as I look out at the beautiful white blanket of snow that covers my little corner of the world I can’t help but reflect on what Christmas must be like in Newtown Conn.

I have been hearing and reading that there are all kinds of memorials there today, all kinds of services taking place. No words I can say here can possibly put in perspective the sadness that this nation feels at this senseless tragedy. As I have, over the past couple of weeks, looked at the faces of those precious children whose lives were so abruptly taken from us a great sense of sadness and loss overcomes me and I am at a loss for words.

If you notice I titled this “27 Trees”. There is a victim of this craziness that has seemingly been left out. We must remember that Adam Lanza also murdered his mother, Nancy. She was the first victim on December 15th. There are 27 Christmas trees in Newtown with presents underneath that have no one to open them.

I am accustomed to social violence. I have lived through it. I worked in it for almost 25 years. I have saw human beings do unspeakable things to each other and had to defend myself from them attempting the same level of violence on me. Yet even with the understanding that evil like this exist in the world looking at the faces of those innocent First Graders, it is difficult even for me to wrap my mind around what happened.

People, family and friends, those who know me, have asked me questions about what I would suggest.

Quite frankly I don’t know if I have anything.

Improve security in schools? That is certainly a good idea. I do think we have to use some caution and common sense with it.

Allowing teachers to carry firearms? That’s a tough call. There are a lot of pros and cons to the idea. I think it’s a very slippery slope.
Of course there has been another outpouring of opinions wanting to crack down on gun control. For those people wishing to do that let’s keep a few things in mind.

First of all remember that Adam Lanza was only 20 years old. He did not purchase any of the firearms he used. They belonged to his mom who was a gun enthusiast. I was a Federal Correctional Officer for 21 years and in that capacity considered Federal Law Enforcement. My credentials, even now that I am retired, are a Concealed Carry Permit. That being said, I obey the laws concerning carrying a weapon. Should those laws change I will continue to follow them. I’m a “good guy”. I obey the law. Most people who use firearms illegally are “bad guys”. They disregard the law. That’s part of their make-up being a criminal. The saying “If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns” is very true.

This blog is not, nor will it ever be, a forum for Second Amendment rights. It will also never be a sounding board for gun control. This blog is about martial arts, self-defense, and martial philosophy.

Which brings me back to the question of what I suggest.

What I suggest right now is for anyone reading this to quite simply stop. Take a deep breath. Pause for a moment and send your hearts, prayers, and positive energies to those people gathered around those 27 Trees. If you have young children go right now and give them a hug. If they are grown and living away, call or text them and tell them just one more time on this Christmas night how much you love them. Tomorrow take time to look at the people around you. If there is someone you see that you believe may be hurting emotionally let them know you are there and make an honest effort to reach out to them and help if you can. You may never know what kind of difference you have made in someone’s life by doing something so simple. A wise man once told me to teach every single karate class like it was my last one. To treat each student like it was the very last time I would ever teach them. Those words resound in my spirit here as I type this.

If anyone is reading this there in Newtown, know that my heart and soul are very sad for you. I know your loss. My mother was murdered when I was 8 years old. I understand what you are feeling and I pray that you find some sort of peace and comfort in the midst of your sorrow.

Laughing at the Beast

December 12, 2012 3 comments

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Laugh at the cleverness of the beast and the beast will defeat itself.
~David Carradine~

We’re off to see the wizard.

In the beloved classic, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends set off on a perilous journey to the Emerald City to see the Great and Powerful Oz. Their hope is that the mighty wizard can help them. Dorothy wants to go home. The Scarecrow wants a brain. The Tinman is in search of a heart. The Cowardly Lion seeks courage. When they arrive they are met with a scary and horrifying visage of the wizard. They are also sent on a mission to prove themselves to him. After completing the mission they return only to be frightened once again by the terrifying image of the wizard. All seems hopeless until Toto, Dorothy’s tiny dog, pulls the curtains aside exposing a small, weak, and scared old man controlling all of the effects and projecting a false image of the wizard. Exposed for what he really is, the wizard becomes a totally different person.

Wizards in our life

I think a lot of us have people like the wizard in our lives. There are people out there who portray themselves as something that they are not. They frighten us or intimidate us. There are a lot of bosses like that. Sometimes people we compete with in the business world are like that. Sometimes they simply act as something that they are not in order to promote themselves.

We often take this image at face value. We let it get to us, let it intimidate us. We wring our hands and worry about it. We are stunned when we discover that it was all a charade. We don’t know how to react to it.

I think this is partially what David Carradine was talking about when he wrote the quote about laughing at the Beast. That quote was part of the Twelve Rules found in his book, Kung Fu. Many people have discredited Carradine in the past. Some have said he wasn’t truly a martial artist. Others have taken his personal life and held it under a magnifying glass especially after the events that led to his death. I grew up with the television series Kung Fu. It was probably the first sample of the martial arts I was exposed to. Luckily it was filled with as much philosophy as it was action scenes and fighting. I think in a lot of ways more so. Naturally when Carradine wrote a book on the subject I bought and read it. I kept it for many years and finally passed it on to a student some time ago never to see it again.

Carradine said to laugh at the cleverness of the Beast. I think that means more to not take everything you see exactly as it is presented.

Pulling back the curtain

I recently had my very own “Oz Moment”. A curtain was pulled aside and I was allowed to see some things as they truly are and not how they had been promoted to be for so long. For days I had no idea how to think or act. I had been baffled for a long time as to how to deal with…we will call it a McDojo for lack of better description. After having coffee with some other instructors and talking about some things, including this, I stumbled on some YouTube footage that threw me for a loop.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about it. What I saw was some very substandard karate no matter what style you practice or what level you are. It was a student testing for a beginner rank. It was terrible. Don’t get me wrong; I am NOT blaming the student. A student will do what the teacher tells them to do. They will do things as they are taught to do. I saw terrible technique, awful stances, no power. I saw a beginning student attempting to do techniques that were too advanced for the level they were at.

I sat back. I watched the video again and again. I was, for lack of better word, dumbfounded.

Laughing at the Beast

I have learned something from this. Surprisingly, it is something I already knew and it disappoints me to no end that I have allowed the Beast to intimidate me or fool me. I learned that I should never lose confidence in myself or what I do. I realized that people will do and say things to make themselves appear in a certain light. And yes, there will be many people out there who don’t understand what something truly is or what something truly means who will believe the hype simply because they don’t know any better.

What to do?
Like myself, all you can really do is believe in yourself and what you do. If you are right, you are right. If what you are doing is right, it is right. You have to be an example. You have to let your light shine. In time your light will cut through all of the darkness and hype. Most of all you have to STAND.

Take a moment and look at all of the people in history who have stood steadfast in the face of adversity. If Winston Churchill had believed Hitler’s hype, where would Europe be today? If George Washington and the Founding Fathers had given in to the British army we may have never gained our independence.

The Wizard was a bully in the beginning. He was just a scared little man. The Beast is no beast most of the time. We give it that power. We allow it to have that place in our lives. Let the intimidation roll off of you. Forget the fear for a moment and look at things for what they may really be instead of what you have been led to believe that they are. Refuse to sacrifice yourself and what you think is right in the face of fear and intimidation.